Kata Tjuta

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February 16th 2014
Published: February 16th 2014
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Kata Tjuta

Sleeping rough, or ‘camping’ as some call it, never lends itself to the best night’s sleep. I was therefore a little relieved when we got the 5:45am alarm call. I had gone to sleep practically fully clothed so I was all over the breakfast before the others could say ‘g’day’. We were moving campsites today though, so we had to move quickly to pack up the swags. To see a dozen or so people leaping and bouncing on their former beds, wrestling the air out and taking it to our guide, then to be told it’s still not tight enough – is a rare and precious thing. Red dirt found its way into all kinds of places during my own swag-wrestle. I knew it wasn’t perfect but hoped it would pass muster first time as I took it up for inspection – I still had to brush my teeth. No worries, it did and we all crammed into our bus bleary eyed and bristly tailed.

Our first stop is to watch the sunrise at Ayer’s rock. I’m picturing wide open skies, deep burnt oranges and purples and the so well marketed feeling of spirituality that comes with such things. Tchah. In reality we herd onto this viewing platform, so far from Uluru that even the maximum zoom on my camera can’t make it look impressive, and the colours are some pale imitation of my imaginings. Somehow the worst of it was sharing it with the others – not just our tour – but a couple of dozen others who were putting their cumbersome selves between me and my money shot. I’m only short – cut me a break will you? My friend is more assertive than I and commands a front row view of proceedings, serene and contemplative. Perhaps I was over-thinking it. Why are sunrises suddenly so significant when we’re on holiday? I don’t know.

We were set to tackle ‘the Valley of the Winds’ walk that day. I was already getting antsy with the whole group tour situation though. I remembered first arriving in Oz in a pre-ordained group and while the initial company was comforting, I couldn’t wait to get out on my own. That was the whole point of the gap year anyway. So I fairly leapt of the tour bus, creaked my joints back into position and trotted out to the walk starting point while the others were all queuing for the dunny. I had the urge to climb on some of the picnic furniture there, ostensibly to get a better angle for a photo, but really I just wanted to climb on it. That’s about the extent of my rebelliousness when it comes to challenging authority. However, when joined by my comrades they all followed in my stead and also clambered atop the benches and fence poles. So much for making a stand.

The thirty or so ginormous round boulders of Kata Tjuta are the heads and bodies of various animal-people, according to Aboriginal culture, and the wind that blows through the valley between them is the breath of the giant snake Wanambi. Somehow, out there in the wild, it’s easier to believe than the explanations of slow and steady geology. And it’s much more fun. We constantly pick out shapes in the rocks and claim they look like a tortoise, or a rabbit, or a dragon. The make-believe passes the time nicely and before Wanambi has the chance to wake up we’re back on the bus and headed for the new campsite.


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