Simpsons Gap

Returning from Uluru to Alice Springs, we passed some stunning landscape

as we headed for Simpsons Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Flanked by towering cliffs,

5.Creekbed Walk6.Creekbed Walk7.Creekbed Walk9.Creekbed Walk

we followed the Creekbed Walk along the edge of Roe Creek.

10.Roe Creek

It’s hard to imagine how this sandy bed

12.Roe Creek

managed to carve the gorge that is Simpsons Gap.

14.Simpsons Gap15.Simpsons Gap

The permanent waterhole attracts an abundance of wildlife

16.Simpsons Gap

and is home to the black-footed rock wallaby. I think we were there at the wrong time of day to see any.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, meaning ‘many heads’ in Anangu language, is otherwise known as The Olgas, a group of 36 domed rock formations 25km east of Uluru.

The tallest peak, Mt Olga, is 198m higher than Uluru and was named in 1872 in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas I.

2.Kata Tjuta

We set out early and spent the morning exploring the magic of Kata Tjuta.

3.Kata Tjuta

The first part of the Valley of the Winds walk was quite easy along a gravel track

4.Valley of the Winds walk

with some stunning scenery.

5.walk

8.Kata Tjuta

Karu Lookout gave a hint of the extent of this spectacular rock formation.

9.Karu lookout

We continued on past incredible escarpments

10.escarpment

and rock faces.

The path became narrow and rugged

13.path

as it meandered within the domes,

over trickling creek beds.

16.creek

In places, the trail all but disappeared and we had to scramble up the steep slopes.

The rock domes are the remains of erosion that began over 500 million years ago and extend six kilometres into the ground.

The track improved a little

22.track

just before we reached the gap in the rocks that is Karingana Lookout.

24.Karingana Lookout

From there, the path descended very steeply to the bottom of the valley to complete a circuit walk. We opted to retrace our steps instead, our feet sighing with relief as we drove away, with fabulous memories of Kata Tjuta.

25.Kata Tjuta

Sounds of Silence

One of the highlights of our stay at Uluru was the Sounds of Silence dinner. It began with a bus ride to a sand dune in the middle of nowhere. We indulged in canapés and sparkling wine

1.us

as we watched the descending sun

2.setting sun

change the hues of Uluru.

3.Uluru4.Uluru sunset

Behind us, Kata Tjuta was transforming

5.Kata Tjuta

as the sun sank lower. Sol finally slipped below the horizon

6.setting sun7.sunset

and while trying not to take our eyes off the spectacle around us,

8.Uluru sunset9.Kata Tjuta sunset

we made our way along a path to our restaurant. The kitchen was well equipped

10.kitchen

and the formal table settings contrasted sharply with the surrounding landscape.

11.table setting

While we got to know our fellow travellers

12.tables

we listened to the stirring sounds of a didgeridoo

13.didgeridoo

and enjoyed some of Australia’s finest wines. The bush tucker inspired buffet included barbecued barramundi, kangaroo, emu & crocodile. The last glow lit up the horizon

14.sheoak sunset

and the dark sky came alive with stars.

The resident star talker introduced us to the wonders of the universe and we had the opportunity for a close up view of Saturn and the Earth’s moon through his amazing telescope. The lighting around the perimeter created a warming ambience

and as the desert evening cooled down, the gas heaters were welcomed.

Replete with food, wine and good company, it was a very quiet bus ride back to the resort.

Uluru

For many years, a visit to the centre of Australia was on our ‘must do’ list. After yearning to experience an iconic landmark and finally realising that dream, sometimes we are disappointed with the reality. As we approached Uluru, I was wondering if that would be the case this time. It wasn’t. The rock is awesome.

1.Uluru

Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. William Gosse first sighted it in 1873 and named it Ayers Rock in honour of the then Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Since then, both names have been used. Because of its great spiritual significance, the Anangu do not climb Uluru. The visitors guide suggests, ‘the climb is not prohibited, but we prefer that, as a guest on Anangu land, you will choose to respect our law and culture by not climbing.’ Alas, human nature is what it is.

2.climbing

We decided the best way to see the top was from a helicopter.

3.helicopter

The perspective from above showed the diverse features of this amazing sandstone formation. Standing 348m high, most of the bulk lies underground.

4.Uluru5.Uluru6.Uluru7.Uluru8.Uluru

The vastness of the desert was absolutely breathtaking, with Kata Tjuta rising from the landscape to break the monotony.

9.Kata Tjuta

The township and holiday resorts of Yulara offer an oasis in the desert.

10.Yulara

We then embarked on the base walk, 10.6km around Uluru. Visitors are asked not to photograph certain sections for reasons related to the traditional beliefs of the Anangu people. Prior to our visit, I had expected the rock to be quite featureless. On the contrary, it is truly remarkable.

11.rock

19.rock

The walk was exhausting on a hot, dry day

24.walk

but the rewards were many.

31.rock

With the sun descending, we bid farewell to Uluru

36.rock

with a long, cold beer in our sights.