Kata Tjuta, meaning “Many Heads”, may be less famous than Uluru, but is equally spectacular. Kata Tjuta consists of 36 steep domes rising abruptly out of the surrounding plain. Formed at the same time as Uluru, in the same sedimentary basin, Kata Tjuta nonetheless consists of conglomerate rock rather than the fine-grained sandstone of Uluru. The tallest of the domes, Mt Olga (we don’t know its traditional name) rises 546 metres above the plains, almost 200 metres higher than does Uluru. A walk through this area leaves one in awe, speechless and certainly feeling a little less self-important. It is one of nature’s places of power.
Under Tjukurpa (traditional law and spiritual belief), Kata Tjuta is a site of secret and sacred senior men’s business, so we are not allowed to know the stories of the area. We are, however, allowed to walk through Kata Tjuta, able to marvel at its awesome and, dare I say it, slightly intimidating beauty.
There are two walks taking visitors into Kata Tjuta. The first is into Walpa Gorge. Walpa means windy in the local language. The second is a more challenging walk through the Valley of the Winds. So you probably get the idea – quite correctly – that Kata Tjuta is a windy place.
I first visited Kata Tjuta in 1989. That was in mid winter, and it was windy and cold. Last year, in September, Nirbeeja and I were buffeted by hot winds as we battled along the walks. For me, both previous visits created an impression of a powerful but slightly harsh place, forbidding and unforgiving.
But this year gave us a totally different perspective. Our walk up Walpa gorge in the late afternoon, in warm but pleasant conditions, revealed verdant fields and trees covered in new growth.
Our walk this time through the Valley of the Winds was in mainly overcast conditions, with the slightest of breezes. We couldn’t imagine more benign conditions in Kata Tjuta! The birds were singing, the flowers and cliffs glowing, and we completed the walk with a spring in our step. One of nature’s most sacred places had revealed a softer face to us this time.
28 November 2010