Uluru/Kata Tjuta/Kings Canyon trip report

The tour included transport out to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Two nights and three very busy days. We camped in tents or you could do swags which was cheaper. All meals and passes were included. Pick up and drop off from your hotel. Knowledgeable and friendly guide and camp cook.

Day 1-Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta (a Pitjantjatjara word) is the name of one of the largest rock formations in the world. Ernest Giles arrived in the 1870s and named it the Olga’s. But it’s always been Kata Tjuka and now it has reverted back to its true name. It has 36 domes and is made from Conglomerate rock. It’s very different to Uluru and considered a sacred aboriginal men’s site and because of this visitors can only access two areas.

It’s 436m high (100m higher than Uluru). Around 550 million years ago the Peterman Orogeny occurred resulting in a big mountain range which came up 10kms high and was made from sandstone. There was an inland ocean at that time over the whole area because it was lower than sea level. So what we were walking on was originally the bottom of the ocean!

Kata Tjuta contrasts

Erosion occurred and this left Uluru and Kata Tjuta standing. Kata Tjuta continues down under the ground about 6kms in addition to the portion on top of the land. The sediment layers (stripes in the rock) trend on a 15 degree slant, due to how it was pushed up when the Peterman Orogeny occurred.

The first people have been in this area for 60,000 years and are called the Anangu people. I bought this wicked painting from a woman called Marlene Smith. There was an intense sadness about her but she was proud of her work and explained what it was to me. She seemed happy I bought it. I told her I would put it in my lounge room and think of her each time I looked at it. That made her smile.

Aboriginal dot painting of two Womens with bush tuckers

The painting has the following in it- Bush tucker- tomatoes, quondons, and bush bananas and two women (semi-circles) with a bowl (piti) and digging stick. Women hunt goannas for their flesh and eggs. The middle piece is a water hole. The word for women is (minma) and water is (kuppi).

Day 2-Uluru

Monolith- one big rock that is 338m high and 9kms around the base. It is 1.4 kms across the top and 2.5kms of it hidden underground. The climb on Uluru will thankfully be closed on 26th October, 2019. The indigenous people have been requesting tourists not to climb it for a long time because 36 people have died doing it and it makes them very sad that their sacred site is a place people die. They call it ‘Sorry business’. So they are closing it because people are too selfish not to honour their wishes.

Uluru an amazing monolith

There are interesting caves and paintings around base of Uluru. The Aboriginal people attended Uluru during times of ceremony or during nomadic travels. There was a massacre there many many years ago, and they ask you not to take photos of some areas or of respect. All photos in this trip report are in sanctioned areas.

Interesting Uluru erosion

Another monolith in the area is Attila (Mt Connor) which is similar to Uluru but it squares off and has a different feel I thought. It used to be passed off as Uluru by guides as it’s much closer to town. (Uluru is 4 hours away from Alice Springs). You can’t access Attila as it is on privately owned land.

Local aboriginal boys playing AFL

Day 3-Kings Canyon

A great 6km hike can be done that takes you over and around the canyon. There is also a 1-2 day 21km option. It’s worth taking yourself down to the Garden of Eden, so lovely and peaceful. The walk is steep and there are lots of cliff edges and stairs, so not for those who have a fear of heights!

1000 year old Cycad
Kings Canyon Domes

The area is closed when the temp reaches over 36 degrees for safety and National Parks has a compulsory 3L water rule, as people have died there from dehydration.

Yes you can hire a car, and wander around yourself. But the distances are long, sometimes 4 hours between sites. Also, with a guide I felt I learnt so much more than just reading about it on the signs. The people who guide these areas have a unique sense of humour and resilience about them. And just for that it is worth being around them and learning about their passions.

Audrey explaining the rock formations in the are

Thanks to Audrey and Kristy, such an amazing experience. One I will always remember!

PJ 🙂

Northern Territory Trip Report – Larapinta Trail

I had a little too much city in me…

I could feel it tightening my neck muscles and loosening my character.

So I booked a trip with Women Want Adventure on the Larapinta Trail. I’d never heard of it before, but it looked remote and that was the hook for me. I’m not fit enough to do it on my own. While some of my friends are at the more extreme fit level, other friends are not as adventurous as I am. I didn’t feel fit enough to do it solo. So I found a company to make it achievable for me.

The Larapinta Trail is arduous and relentless. I’m rarely speechless but I was often on this trip! The views are spectacular. But also those bloody hills are also hard core! Also you are walking on rubble, which is often unstable. So every step requires consideration and concentration. But like anything, if its hard, its worth the reward.

We did 5 days of the trail- Sections 1, 10, and 12. There are a total of 12 sections, potentially taking 12-16 days to complete 223 kilometers.

You can find detailed information on a quality FB page called Larapinta Trail. There are loads of tips and tricks people share plus local information on the condition of the trail, water supplies and fire issues. Very helpful if you are planning to do an unsupported trip! You’d have to consider the following gear and its weight if you want to do it unguided:

  • Three season tent
  • Quality insulated sleeping mat
  • Thermal sleeping sheet
  • Cooking set up
  • Phone and power banks
  • Food (and food drops)
  • Hiking boots and spare sneakers
  • Water purification set
  • 3-4L carrying capacity
  • Warm/cool/wet weather clothes
  • Emergency beacon
  • Emergency first aid equipment and training
  • Good quality walking poles
  • Adventurous, can-do attitude

Women Want Adventure

To be clear from the start, I have no affiliation with Women Want Adventure. But I do admire people with a solid philosophy and tenacity. WWA’s pioneer and owner Monique Farmer is creating such a great community for women to get among the harder stuff, but with an inclusive and positive vibe. She’s a peaceful and energetic leader, self-assured and authentic. You can find our more about WWA on their website.

Getting the low down from Monique

We slept in swags, which we were responsible for setting up each night and getting back on the truck in the early morning. Surprisingly comfortable! Each night, the fat wichetty grub (me) would wiggle down in my leaf (the swag) and absorb the millions of stars and a crescent moon. Sometimes I would wake up and have no idea what was going on but good old Mr. Moon was looking over me. So I would drift back to sleep peacefully. Was a great way to re-balance myself and calm my fractured city spirit.

Camping in the river bed

Each morning the guides were up before us to cook a hot breakfast. The first morning I woke up to the smell of toast and I thought “who the hell is making toast in the middle of the night! Crazy people”. Then I realised I had crashed out and it was 6am already! Each day one of the four WWA guides moved the 4WD truck and camp to the next location, where hot meals were ready and a fire blazing.

Hard core hiking means serious eating!

Hot, tasty and plentiful meals were provided with plenty of vego options. Amazing desserts were on offer, as was tea/coffee/juice several times a day.

Even in the middle of a hike a hot thermos was produced for a cuppa as we looked over the McDonald ranges. Cheese, biscuits, cakes, fruit and nuts; you name it, we ate it! And with the most incredible views. Wine was offered with dinner each night and as much laughter as you could handle!

Campfires and loads of laughing

Day packs

These included 2-3L of water, medications, morning tea, lunch, protective equipment- such as a wind breaker, down jacket and fly net. The weather can change quickly from cold to rather warm even in winter. Most nights were 0-2 degrees and days 20-22 degrees.

Dangers

It’s remote, so there’s plenty to be aware of:

  • All year round- exhaustion, blisters, rashes
  • In warmer weather, snakes and hyperthermia
  • Spinifex! Imagine spears imitating grass. Nasty stuff if you fall or sit on it
  • Hypothermia is real; you need to layer up with thermals and down jackets
  • The trail is closed during the hotter months. You would probably croak it if you tried it then
  • There are dingoes, but no issues with them as long as you protect your food supplies sensibly
Don’t mention the flies! So so many flies!

Day One – Section 1

Telegraph station->Wallaby gap
14kms.
A total of 790 meters elevation to Euroridge.
Difficulty- medium.
There were toilets at the end.

We saw lovely Wedge Tail Eagles and spirited Rock Wallabies. The key highlight for me was walking along an incredible ridge line with a deadly drop off.

Ridge line with a deadly drop off

Day Two – Section 10

Ormiston Gorge->Glen Helen
16 km with an elevation of 720 meters to the hilltop lookout for lunch.
Difficulty- Medium.

The flies were feral- a net is a must! Toilets are available at Fink river. Swam in the gorge, which was very cold but amazing!

There’s a great bar at Glen Helen with food and some supplies. Flush toilets and showers. Camping/Caravans only. Water and electricity available.

Glen Helen Gorge was beautiful, but freezing

Day Three – Section 10

Glen Helen->Davenport creek
19kms
Elevation of 1000 meters to hilltop lookout.
Difficulty- very hard.

Great views. Rocky and rubbly++ This is one part you definitely need hiking poles. Camping in the creek bed was very peaceful and remote. The creeks are just sand. The waterways are called “upside down” in this area. You can dig down only 15cm and find wet sand. No real chance of flooding according to the guides. Drop toilet 1 km away.

Lunch and a midday nap

Day Four – Section 12

Davenport creek->Redbank creek.
13.6km and mostly flat and winding.
Difficulty- easy.

Lovely gorge 1.2 km away at the end of the day- very rugged access but some great rock wallaby’s. Camp in river bed. Drop toilet and water tank.

Stunning country

Day Five – Section 12

Redbank creek to Mt Sonder
16kms with an elevation of 1390meters and an 8 hours return
You can go half way for good sunrise views though.
Difficulty-very hard! But equally rewarding!

Great bunch of humans

A common thread

There are lots of different types of people on the trail, but we all seemed to have a common thread. Often we saw no one at all, except a solo hiker with a full pack! Some people do sections of it and come back finish it the following year. What I did notice is the happiness in our WWA group, particularly the support, laughing and kindness.

Also impressive was the organised nature and quite leadership of our guides. Nothing was ever a trouble. They were authentic, knowledgeable and relaxed. They genuinely loved being out there. They helped us be brave and feel safe in a very rugged environment. Their depth of knowledge about the area and a real respect for the earth and indigenous culture was brilliant.

Thanks to Monique, Sue, Claire and Liv for a life changing experience. Just what I needed!

Made so many awesome friends

Massive thank you to PJ for sharing this trip report.