Kata Tjuta - The Olgas, Australia, NT
The rocks and gorges of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Kata Tjuta, formerly calld "the Olgas", is the second major feature and attraction of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. (The main one is of course Uluru.)
Kata Tjuta consists of 36 steep sided monoliths, which, just like Uluru, look most impressive at sunrise and sunset.
And just like Ayers Rock, the Olgas also have an official sunset viewing area that you have to use if you want to see the spectacle.
There used to be twelve different walks here, winding through the valleys and gorges between the rocky domes. Today only two remain. The others have been closed, in part to protect the fragile environment, but mostly to allow the Aboriginal owners of the land to conduct their ancient ceremonies.
The area is not only closed for white people, it is also off limits for Aboriginal people who have no business there. Only those who are inducted to the necessary level are allowed to access certain places and only for the required ceremonies or as otherwise specified by the cultural law, Tjukurpa.
As you can probably imagine, no more traditional ceremonies are held amidst the carnival at Uluru... The Anangu have shifted everything over to Kata Tjuta.
Uluru is impressive to look at, but I have to say, in my experience Kata Tjuta has more power.
I felt that way long before I found out about the ceremonies, and I had similar experiences in other parts of Australia: a certain place would touch me and make a big impression for a reason I could not explain. Just that it had "something".
And invariably I found out afterwards that it is an area where the Aboriginal owners still have a strong connection with their land and still look after it.
Call it the dreamtime spirits or nature spirits, call it what you like, there is something that disappears when too many people trample through a place that they neither understand nor truly appreciate for all its values.
By the way, I regularly receive email from readers who report similar feelings: that somehow the Olgas were the stronger experience for them....
Ok, after that little interlude, lets get to some more practical information.
(If you want some background information about Kata Tjuta, say how old it is or how it was formed, that is explained in the geology section of the Uluru facts page.)
Where is Kata Tjuta - the Olgas?
The Olgas are part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, about 460 km south west of Alice Springs by road.
If you come from the main highway or from the Ayers Rock Resort, as you enter the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, turn right/west shortly after the gate. There is a big sign and intersection. You can't miss it.
If you are coming from Uluru, just head back towards the park exit and turn left at the intersection before the gate.
The Olgas are a 53 km drive from Ayers Rock and about 51 km from the Ayers Rock Resort.
And don't worry, those roads are all wide and well maintained bitumen highways...
Beyond Kata Tjuta the road continues as the unsealed "Great Central Road". If you have a 4WD you can leave the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in this direction and drive through the desert to Western Australia and Perth... (permits required, more info here).
And of course, if you come from that direction, Kata Tjuta will be the first thing you see as you enter the national park.
The Walks through the Olgas
Walpa Gorge Walk
2.6 km return/1 hour
This short, easy stroll leads up a rocky, gentle slope and then into a shady, moist gully.
It ends on a viewing platform between the towering domes.
Valley of the Winds Walk - 7.4km circuit/3 hours
To me this is by far the best walk in all of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It retains a sense of wilderness and the scenery is just spectacular.
Kata Tjuta is nowhere near as busy as Uluru. If you pick a good time (like very early or late in the day) you could be alone for most of the walk, even during the busier times of the year.
The Valley of the Winds Walk is a little more demanding than all other walks in the park.
Rather than being a wide, well maintained gravel path as you find around the Uluru base, this one quickly turns into a narrow trail.
It involves a fair bit of up and down, there are some steeper sections as well, one even requires a little bit of scrambling (for three seconds or so).
If you are running short of time you can also do just a part of the walk.
The first section is not part of the circuit. The first lookout, Karu, is only 1.1 km from the car park.
To get to the second lookout, Karingana, follow the southern part of the loop walk.
This is the more difficult section (difficult for unfit people or people who never walked anywhere but a formed path...) but the effort is worth it.
This second lookout is a narrow gap in the rocks, high above the valley that stretches beyond it...
You can see in the photo where the path continues at the bottom of the valley.
At this point you have done less than half of the circuit, but the second part is a lot easier, so you may as well continue...