Sunday, 9 August 2009

How ya' doin'?

We've been pretty busy since the last update.
Yesterday we went to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Shar and I walked the 5.4km round trip to Lookout 2 at the head of the Valley of the Winds. All that walking and cycling practice did not prepare us for the rock scrabbling involved in reaching the look out point. I now know I've got muscles where I didn't know were there previously!

I was mistaken about the geology of Ularu and Kata Tjuta. They are not the two ends of the same semi buried monolith I'd been led to believe. As explained by our guide these were started as two very large sink holes, some 450 million years ago. Ancient rivers washed debris from the eroding Peterson mountains (these were as big as the Himalyas in those days) filling the two sink holes. Kata Tjuta, being closer to the mountains, filled with the larger boulders and in-filled with rubble. Ularu, is further away (40km from Kata Tjuta) and it filled with finer grade silt. These were BIG sink holes. When the area was covered by an ancient sea some millions of years later the debris in the sink holes was compacted to form rock. Later still the seas retreated and erosion exposed the rubble in the sink holes. Erogenous (!) movements of local fault lines caused the exposed rock to tilt so that the layers are now inclined at about 15 degrees at Kata Tjuta and a fantastic 89 degrees at Ularu.

Today the Kata Tjuta domes are over 300m hight with an estimated 6km of unexposed rock still under the ground. The Kata Tjuta rock is made up of very large boulder aggregate. It is possibly the more spectacular of the two sites.

Ularu is composed of much finer, almost scale-like, sandstone which has weathered well but has many fine shallow caves and suspended depressions.

Sunrise and sunset over these monoliths is every bit as spectacular as we were led to believe. The shifting colours just have to be seen to be appreciated.

Many of the legends of Ularu and Kata Tjuta are kept secret by the local Aboriginals and we'll never know all their stories. However, the reported sacred status of Ularu is a little exagerated and you are not only allowed to climb it, you are positively encouraged! After all the walking of the last few days I limited myself to a short stretch of perhaps a few hundred metres just so I could say I'd climbed Ayres Rock........and got the certificate to prove I'm a Minga......

So, tomorrow, it's off to King's Canyon and another long walk.

BTW, I did photograph the HF antenna on one of the coaches. I did not recognise the little HF radio but it looked remarkably like any VHF mobile I've ever seen. The HF vertical is presumably remotely auto tuned as there is a separate multicore cable connection near to the base of the antenna.

Today the daytime temperature reached 30C, but will fall close to 1C this evening. Tghis place never ceases to remind you it is a DESERT.

Sam at the Red Centre

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