Hiking at Kata Tjuta/The Olgas

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO MY READERS AROUND THE WORLD! I’m sure that travel is high up on your resolutions list, Covid permitting. Me too. Meanwhile, I’ll continue on with this travel blog that I began last year as my ‘keeping occupied’ Covid project!

It has kept me busy – sixty two stories posted so far in 11 months, covering Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Singapore and Turkey – places I’ve enjoyed over the last 50 years.

I’ve travelled a lot further afield, but not all my photos over the years have survived well. And many – taken before digital photography – are tucked away in cupboards in slide boxes and hard copy photo collections.

I prefer not to write about a travel destination unless I can accompany a story with interesting photos that I’ve taken on my journey – all the photos you see on my blog have been taken by me – or if I’m in them, by someone using my camera.

A viewing point to Kata Tjuta/The Olgas

I finished 2021 with a blog about Ayres Rock – today known as Uluru. So I thought I’d kick off 2022 with my late 2019 trip to its close neighbour, Kata Tjuta – known also as the Olgas. I got the trip in just before Covid hit!

Early morning at Kata Tjuta/The Olgas
Designated tracks lead walkers between the domes

This magnificent natural landmark – with 36 domes – is only around 40 kilometres from Uluru on a sealed road – so, as they are both in the remote outback centre of Australia, it’s very much a two for one deal! Visit one, visit the other. It is about a 40 minute drive from the accommodation village – the Ayres Rock Resort – which offers everything from camping, hostels, family and luxury hotels, along with cafes and restaurants.

Which do I like best? Actually, the less well known Olgas – a stunning rock formation that I find more impressive than Uluru.

Geology dream!

The highest point – Mount Olga – is higher than Uluru, and its circumference is about 22 kilometres – bigger than Uluru. Its shapes, stunning size and ever changing colours in various lights fascinate me.

Dwarfed by the rock walls

The original name was in honour of a daughter of the Russian Emperor Nicolas 1. She went on to become Queen of Wurttemberg – yes, I had to look that one up! The Kingdom was a German State from 1805 through to the end of the First World War.

And her connection with Australia? Well, it’s a bit of a stretch! A distinguished German botanist Ferdinand Mueller was Director of the Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, and was made a Baron by Queen Olga.

When British born explorer Ernest Giles came across the Kata Tjuta group of rock formations, he was asked by the Baron to name the highest peak after Queen Olga.

All very nice for Olga, who probably never visited Australia – and its no wonder the formation has been given back its aboriginal name meaning ‘many heads’.

Lots of vegetation tucked along canyons

Since October 2019 – when I was there – you can no longer climb either the Olgas or Uluru. Both are sacred sites to local aborigines. But you can do some wonderful walks on marked trails.

Climbing no longer allowed
We arrived by 7am, and there was already a line of people on the track ahead of us!

And here is my big hint! Get there as early as you can – before dawn if possible! The place in the peak visiting season can become packed with walkers, carparks quickly fill up, and you’ll be trekking with a lot of people! Plus – in tourist season – you need to get on a track at the Olgas before the heat of the day sets in.

You will be rewarded with some wonderful sights that will stay with you long after you leave.

Kata Tjuta/The Olgas are surrounded by a very flat landscape

Take water, a hat and sturdy shoes! Don’t forget your camera! Binoculars are handy too because this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, chosen because of its rare species of plants and animals.

Best bush hat of the day!
Good walking shoes are essential – even on designated tracks!

Kata Tjuta/The Olgas has a thriving community of mammals, reptiles and birds. Watch out for dingos (don’t go near them), kangaroos and wallabies, marsupial moles, spinifex hopping mice, the prehistoric looking thorny devil, lizards and — snakes (don’t go near them either)!

Birds to spot include parrots, brown falcons, honeyeaters, cockatoos, rainbow bee-eaters, red backed kingfishers and black faced wood swallows.

Black faced wood swallows

There’s also a wide range of seasonal plants, including spectacular wildflowers.

The best time to visit is between May and September when temperatures are between 20 to 30 degrees celsius. Nights can be quite chilly though!

The wet season sets in from October through to February – with spectacular lightning shows put on by nature. This is a very hot time of the year. Tomorrow, January 3, its expected to reach 42 degrees celsius – the same for Tuesday. That’s nearly 108 F.

If you are game to go during the wet, you might luck in on stunning lightning shows put on by nature and spectacular waterfalls cascading down the rocks at both Kata Tjuta/the Olgas and its neighbour Uluru.

Waterfalls cascade down here in the wet season

They are both iconic places to visit. I’ve been twice – and I just might go again!

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