Our anticipated sunrise at Kata Tjuta dune viewing area was unfortunately a washout because it rained almost all of today… the best things always come as a surprise in the end! The locals we had met said apparently Kata Tjuta was “even more beautiful” than Uluru in the rain so we were pretty excited. Once again, we wanted to get the long hike out of the way first, so we drove a quick 35 minutes to the Valley of the Winds hike. With 3 different options, we picked the longest one, the full circuit which is about 8 kilometres and 3.5 hours. Luckily it wasn’t raining when we walked but this one was probably our hardest hike, because there is a lot of rock scrabbling which is really hard when all the rocks are wet and slippery.
I’m not just saying this in an attempt to appease myself for our rainy weather, but I think Kata Tjuta was more beautiful in this weather. Of course in photos, the blue sky backdrop against the fiery red rocks is pure satisfaction for the lens, but hiking around grey, towering rocks with the tops hidden by layers of mist, and hearing the trickling of streams in between the crevices gave it a much more complex sort of serenity and mood that the grey photos can’t capture. Also in a practical sense, it meant that we were hiking in a comfortable high teens and low 20s temperature instead where you biggest risk is slipping instead of heat exhaustion.
The full circuit is 100% worth it – the first part of the hike up to the second viewing platform which most people do is probably the toughest, but the unexpected twists and turns of the views at every angle make you want to keep powering through. Once you pass the incredible 2nd viewpoint – Kata point, the second half descending is much nicer and you’re rewarded with views of the massive rock domes surrounding you in an expansive, safari-like field. The viewing platform itself was shrouded in a mystical fog and as we glanced up, the tiny shadows of people in the distance reminded me of Slender Men.
A short drive away is Walpa Gorge which is a quick 1 hour hike, mostly up via a gently sloping rock face. Easy when dry, but a bit precarious when wet. Nevertheless, the gorge was formed by 2 of the massive sloping faces of the rock domes with a large crater like section at the end.
A visit to Kata Tjuta takes half a day, leaving the afternoon for another chance to spot a Uluru sunset!