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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Heads Up! (Day 176)

Heads Up! Here's some interesting geology of how Uluru and Kata Tjuta was formed.

We were up at 5:20 am, well, Tim was up at 4:50 am; he’d forgotten to change the time zone on his phone, then I got lost after visiting the ladies – wandered around what seemed like ages, ended up retracing my steps – what a pair!

We drove to the National Park, breakfast time in front of the sun rising. Ken had a fabulous contraption for toasting bread, like a giant cheese grater that stands over the gas flames, heats up and the bread sticks to the angled jagged sides. And how magical filling our bellies whilst watching the sky turn from deep blue to fresh yellow with Uluru in front of us. We drove onto Kata Tjuta to walk the Valley of the Winds – phew, I know why it is called that. With puffer jackets on and carrying plenty of water (it is so dry here that it’s as if the atmosphere sucks the moisture out of us), we were ready for this trek.

Kata Tjuta means in the Pitjantjatjara language “many heads”. What a great names. It looks like 32 giants with various size heads have been buried up to their necks. We walked over dry creek beds, stepping up over rocks and along stony uneven pathways, the mixed colours of the rock were beautiful, deep reds, rust, purple tinge. After a while, we had a pause from walking and Ken drew a map of Australia in the sand to explain the geology from the last 550 million years.

When Australia was connected to the Pangaea, the supercontinent, an event that the geologists call the Petermann Ranges Orogeny caused the crust to buckle and huge mountain ranges 7km high plus a large basin with 2 holes were created. Gravity and erosion knocked large rocks down, eventually rolling into the first hole (Kata Tjuta) and the sediment flowed into the second hole (Uluru). This resulted in the two rocks to be of very different texture. Kata Tjuta is a conglomerate of mainly granite, basalt and quartzite rock held together by sandstone, whereas Ulura is much smoother as it is mainly just compressed layers of sandstone.

A few million years later, there was another major folding called the Alice Springs Orogeny, which raised the area above sea level. Kata Tjuta conglomerates were tilted by about 20 degrees and pushed up like a slice of mango being inverted producing the “heads”. Uluru tipped by 88 degrees and so what we see today is just the tip of the iceberg – 863m high, with about 5km under the surface.

I find understanding how rock formations are formed so interesting. Such a shame that my geography teacher just used to read out from a book. I remember one girl Josephine falling asleep the lesson was so boring. I wonder if that teacher had done any travelling herself, or did she leave school, go straight to teachers training and then straight back to school, with little variation of experiences from the world. However, as Tim would say for us “every day is a school day”.

Back to our walk, we ended up at Karingana Lookout via a gap of two domes; an incredible amphitheatre, huge towering rocks surrounding us on three sides. On one side, the wind had weathered a feature that looked just like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. It’s fun to look at the rocks and see animal shapes, one was like the head of a baby elephant. What a magical place.

Eventually, back to the minibus. Oooh, both my knees were achy, I’d better do some more lunges and squats to build up the muscles. We had a number of stops before camp, Curtain Springs, huge Salt Lakes, and the multi-named Mount Connor (also known as Australia’s Table Mountain / Toothbrush / and even Uluru – yes, some people have travelled there from Alice Springs, and thought it was the Big Red Rock, not realising that they had a good few kilometres to go!)

Just before sunset, we stopped to collect wood. Ken found a good area with lots of dead wood so we got busy collecting long branches, even tying a dead tree to the minibus and pulling it out. I keep finding tiny bits of thorn stuck to various clothes since then!

I am sure you can imagine that we had a fabulous fire that evening while eating our chilli, rice and veggie bake before another night under the “Starry, Starry Night – Paint your palette blue and grey” (I often break into singing this beautiful Don Maclean’s song under a night sky and am listening to it right now, whilst typing – sending shivers all over me)

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