Greetings and Happy Holidays to all my followers and friends around the world!
Before I take you on a pictorial tour of Kata Tjuta, please keep the folks in Australia in your thoughts as they battle the bush fires that are affecting every major population area in the country. In addition, they’ve dealt with record high temperatures this past week (averaging over 105º F with some temps as high as 122º F). I saw a photo of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House where one could hardly make out these landmarks due to the heavy smoke. I was in Australia from mid October to mid November when there were a few days of light smoke and hazy skies but nothing like they are experiencing at this time. Sad to see and my thoughts are with them and their beautiful country during this challenging time.
Now on to Kata Tjuta (pronounced “cat a chew ta”), also known to the locals as The Olgas, part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I chose to go on a sunset tour because it fit best into my schedule and it offered the best photographic possibilities. The bus, ably piloted by Paul, picked up passengers at the resort at 4 PM for the 19 mile ride out to the domes.
Our first stop was at the sunset viewing area where we would return later in the evening. The viewing platform gave us the broad view of this huge formation that consists of 36 dome rock formations spread over 20 kilometers or about 12 miles. Kata Tjuta, in the aboriginal language means “many heads” and is considered sacred by Anangu peoples especially for men. The highest dome in the chain is named Mt. Olga after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. These domes are believed to be created over 500 million years ago from sedimentary rock including granite and basalt, cemented together with sandstone. Here was our first look, the first photo a panorama with my iPhone 11 Pro and the second with my Canon 7D II with a Canon 24-105 zoom lens.
We then reboarded the bus to head into the park for a closer look. There are two hiking trails among the Kata Tjuta domes. The longest (4.5 miles) and more scenic trail is the Valley of Winds walk, however that was closed the day of our visit due to extreme heat (above 36º C). So we took the shorter walk, about 1.6 miles roundtrip, up the Walpa Gorge. Please note from the sign below that the Anangu people welcome us and ask that we show respect for their traditional lands.
At the trailhead, we could see the domes reaching up out of the desert to the blue sky and the puffy white clouds.
As I got closer, the patterns and textures in the rocks became more apparent. The holes in the rocks are due to erosion over the millions of years and today serve as catchments for water and homes for animals.
Along the trail, the Park has placed informational signs about the plants and animals that survive and thrive in the Park.
As we traveled further into the canyon, it became more obvious this is where water collects during the infrequent rains serving as water sources for the indigenous peoples, animals and plants. We were told that even a small amount of rain will create waterfalls off the domes and flow into the valley.
On the walk back to the trailhead, the sun became lower on the horizon, hiding behind the clouds. It looked like rain to me but Paul said that it was unlikely. He said there wasn’t much rain this year, a check of the rainfall data indicated about an inch of rain has fallen in the area during 2019.
After our walk in the Canyon, Paul took us back to the sunset view platform for some sunset photos. However, heavy clouds moved in and didn’t give us that golden hour light that creates the more dramatic photos. We did observe a wind storm out on the plains between the domes and viewing platform that gave us a bit of a reddish color on the horizon. While waiting for the sun that never came, I chatted with a young woman from the Melbourne area on a break from paramedic school. She grew up on a farm so we had a good talk about all things agriculture. She’s also a budding photographer so traded some thoughts about the state of the art.
I should point out that from the viewing platform we could see Uluru some 25 miles away. That’s emphasizes the flatness of the Red Centre of Australia.
We rode back to the resort as the sun was setting and finally made an appearance over the horizon.
The week after my stay in Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and King’s Canyon, my Friendship Force host, Rod Williams, reminded me of the story of Lindy Chamberlain. Lindy was born in New Zealand and married a minister who later served Australian parishes in Tasmania and Queensland. The Chamberlains were on a camping trip to Uluru in 1980 when their two month old daughter, Azaria, disappeared from their tent. The couple reported that the baby was taken from the tent by a dingo (a wild canine prevalent in the Outback). After a massive search, a jump suit she had been wearing was found with blood stains around the neck. The chief ranger in the area stated that the dingo population was on the rise and the animals had become “cheekier” approaching and biting people. The initial inquiry supported the theory that a dingo carried off the little baby. However, the evidence presented during the first inquiry was squashed and a second inquest was held that resulted in Lindy Chamberlain being charged with murder and her husband with being an accessory to the murder. After a trial where lots of circumstantial evidence was presented, Lindy was found guilty of murder and sent to prison. (I should mention that I left out a lot of details that you might find interesting, just Google Lindy Chamberlain and learn the whole story). Lindy always maintained her innocence and stuck with the dingo story. In 1986, new evidence emerged when some hikers in the Uluru area found the baby’s jacket near a dingo lair. Within five days of this finding, Lindy was released from prison. After a commission found inconsistencies in the evidence, the Supreme Court of Australia acquitted the couple in 1988. The story doesn’t end there however, another inquest was held in 1995 that supported the hypotheses that a dingo could have took the baby but couldn’t prove it beyond a shadow of doubt. After a push from the couple to be fully exonerated, a fourth inquest was held in 2012, 32 years after the baby disappeared. After reviewing all the evidence, the coroner ruled that the baby was taken by a dingo, amended the death certificate and apologized to Lindy and her husband (by this time, they were divorced). In a 1988 film titled “A Cry in the Dark” about the mysterious disappearance of Azaria, Meryl Streep played the lead role as Lindy. I recall hearing about this long crusade and didn’t see the movie but will look for it on Netflix. An interesting story to say the least!
In a future post, watch for a similar fascinating story from US.
Up next week, my year end Reflections and Resolutions, followed by more Australia in January.
Until then, happy travels!