Alice Springs Stories and Tips

Sentinels of the Desert—Olgas/Kata Tijuca Springs

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member

I think I enjoyed the Olgas even more then Ayers Rock.

I felt I got closer to the desert here. I felt part of the Outback as we scrambled up slopes of scarlet scree, wandered through scrub and gum trees and gazed up at the biggest monolithic rocks I have ever seen. There is something primeval about The Olgas. They are standing like sentinels in the desert over 400 miles from the nearest city. The Olgas are just so powerful. Colossal orange mesas and domes looming out of the flat Outback. The Olgas was once a mesa ten times bigger then Ayers Rock, but over the millennia it has been broken down into 36 towering domes.

The Olgas is even further out into the desert then Ayers Rock. In fact it is another 50 miles to the west from Uluru. The combined ticket for $25 lets you into both sights as they are within the same national park. The best advice I can give you is to hit Kata Tijuca early. For those taking the trail walks there is a real chance of dehydration. In fact they shut the park to visitors when the park hits 35ºC  - and in summer it can reach 45ºC easily. There are two walks within the park. The first is Olga Gorge Walk, which is a simple one kilometre walk taking you in between two of the monoliths. More impressive is Valley of the Winds - a 7km loop trail that takes about two hours. No prizes for guessing which one we were encouraged to try?

Its when you step out of the four wheel drive then you get a scale of these monsters. Up close they are very impressive - intense red domes stretching hundreds of metres into the air and broken up by smooth high valleys. The same orange/red that makes Uluru so distinctive permeates here and there is never a cloud in the sky. The contrast between deep orange and bright sapphire makes the Olgas one of the most visually stunning things I have ever seen. And you are dwarfed by their size. Like Uluru, when you get up close you see they are made of little orange platelets covering the soaring walls. You get the impression the Olgas are more permanent, more in tune with nature. This was brought home to us by our Aussie guide, Carolyn, who took us along the trail describing the flora used by the aborigines. The aborigines used the plants for medicine and one prickly thorn was exceptionally good at getting rid of warts. Carolyn swore it worked as the properties of the thorn work on the wart for two weeks. None of us felt confident to try this.

The trail circumnavigates the first dome. You slowly move up a rocky trail - your body is diagonal to the ground as you tentatively put one foot in front of another. You have to angle your shoes to the slope and tread gingerly - the alternative is a nasty slide 40 feet to the bottom. At the end of the trail is the an oasis surrounded by three enormous domes which soared 550 feet above us. Each one was as bare as the moon and a striking orange that almost overpowers you. We were then to take the "Valley of the Winds" trail and found ourselves on a very lonely stretch where we were the only human beings. Carolyn led us up; past streams gurgling down the face of cliffs and the trail became backbreaking. My calves ached and I would stop once in a while to catch my breathe and take a swig of water. But the summit was worth the climb.

We had reached the Karangina lookout - a natural rock balustrade/dam between two enormous domes. On the other side another trail dropped steeply into a gorge overlooking a valley housing the rest of the domes. Mountainous domes, one after another rolled off into the distance. Sticking together the group (sans Carolyn) took the vertiginous trail down into "The Valley of the Winds". In parts it was quite difficult with much slipping and sliding. At the bottom of the gorge it opened out into the valley. The floor of the valley was peppered by gum trees and the 50-feet high Olgas stretched in a massive ring about the floor of the valley. I have never felt such a sense of space and emptiness as I did then. I was awestruck by the barren beauty of it all.

It took another 2 hours to return to our 4-wheel drive but I loved every minute I spent there. If you make the effort to reach them- the Olgas will make you smile at the memories for years to come

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