"Destination Unknown" Day 8 - Exploring Kata Juta & Uluru

Friday, Jul 08, 2011 at 18:57


8th July, 2011

It didn’t take me long to realise that climbing the rock today may be an issue. Although the day dawned bright and sunny, there was a fair breeze whipping about at ground level. This no doubt meant that the climb would be closed. On checking with the park reception, we were indeed informed that this was the case but that conditions would be assessed again at midday. This simply prompted the reversal of the days planned activities.

After a leisurely breakfast and clean-up (and a few more loads of washing), our little convoy made its way to the Uluru Park. We went through the ranger station and then suffered a little hiccup as Hugh had still been carrying a bag of timber on his roof which wasn’t allowed into the park. This prompted a retreat of a few kilometres and the bag was stashed in the bush by the roadside (as advised by the park ranger…odd that).

Due to the climb being off-limits, we opted to drove to Kata Juta first. Unfortunate that the first camel of the trip was a not so recent piece of road kill but a few short kilometres on, we spied a mob of camels running along the dune top to the south of the road. There were certainly skittish and didn’t hang round but we were able to secure the odd photo before they disappeared. The viewing area was next on the agenda and I do love the views of the Olgas and the rock taken from here. The view across the desert oak plains to the ochre coloured domes has a surreal feel about it. It’s like being in a giant Namatjira painting with the blue tones of distance seeping into the red of the domes. It is magnificent though.

Arriving at the valley of the winds car park it became apparent that many other visitors had similar ideas to our own. The car park was absolutely chokers forcing us to park beside the road, thankfully not to far out. The wander along the rocky path to the valley of the winds was an exhilarating one. There were plenty of other people about prompting a lot of chest puffing and strutting from our teenagers should one of those groups contain ‘chicks’ of a similar age. It’s hilarious to watch them suddenly draw up straight and concentrate on “lookin’ good” rather than where their feet should be going. We were lucky not to have an accident. Jack-a-bags managed to perfect the “steep-climb strut”. This is where you manage to puff n’ strut while actually walking up a steep rock face. Something he did ably on his later assault on the rock. I often wonder if we behaved that strangely when we were kids. Probably.

Heading up the rocky slope, we stopped firstly at the Karu lookout before descending into the valley and then along the winding stream into the domes proper. There was plenty of water to be had in the creek that is fed by the Valley of the winds. It was a good walk and we stopped to catch our breath at the top of the talus slope that has build up between the two domes. The views in either direction from the Karingana lookout are stunning. At this time of the year with the sun below its summer zenith, the majority of the Valley remains in shadow making it fairly cool, particularly when the breeze is blowing. It soon cools you down so we didn’t linger retracing our path down into the main valley and the sun and lingering a while on the well made wooden couches in the shelter at the start of the walk. Their wooden features have been oiled and polished smooth by the many thousands of people sitting on them in any given week.

No camel sightings on the trip back but we drove a circuit around the rock returning to the car park at the base of the climb area to find then ranger opening the climb. It was a hurried lunch when the climb team assembled at the base of the rock to commence the assault.. Having already climbed the thing six times previously, and still coughing from the chest infection I had picked up in Greece (and knowing what a stiff bloody climb it is!), I opted not to climb this year. Hugh and Justin had also made the climb previously so returned to the park for an afternoon of leisure. The Crown Prince, Jackabags and JB would lead the charge being supervised by Pete while Johnno and Riley bought up the rear. The first three were out of the blocks like a thoroughbred on cup day. Pete was up pretty quick as well.. I knew this wouldn’t last and the line of climbers gradually stretch out as they moved ever higher. Riles had had enough about a third of the way up and returned to the base with dad. Joining me who had ensconced myself comfortably on a chair to watch proceedings in the car park, I think Johnno was secretly relieved that he had been unable to coax Riley further. It is a stiff climb.

As the remaining boys became small dots and then disappeared all together as they crossed over the apex of the climb, Johnno and I enjoyed a cuppa and biscuit until 90 minutes later when the UHF crackled to life and Pete indicated they were commencing their descent. More photo opportunities until they all arrived safe and very pleased with themselves back at the base. They’d had a good climb and did a bit of exploring along the way. It was 3.30-ish by this time so we decided to get in early and stake out some suitable viewing positions at the sunset strip. A wise idea in my mind given how quickly the area fills up at sunset.

A very civilised afternoon of wine and biscuits as we watched the rock change hues with the setting sun. As the shadows lengthened to eventually touch the rock, we packed up and headed back to camp retrieving the firewood along the way. This was given to our neighbours who were remaining a for a few days longer than us. We fuelled and picked up a few items at the supermarket then back to the campground for a hearty feed and a bit of organising to facilitate an early start in the morning.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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