Valley of the Winds Walk

Viewed from afar Kata Tjuta appears to be a clump of domes, but from above it is revealed as a cluster, much like a curled hand resting on its side. This loop walk is a journey into the secret space held in that palm. Kata Tjuta is sacred to the Anangu: the powerful ancestors who created this landscape formed many ceremonial areas where young men are still initiated and educated. For that reason we have not included any pictures along the route. Rest assured, there are narrow gorges, sheer rock walls and a broad, grassy valley to discover, along with the changing habitats of scrubland, creek bed and cool canyon, each harbouring different plant and animal life. This walk is a must!

 

Walk directions

Step 1

From the eastern edge of the carpark, follow the path past a shelter to where a panel explains the habitat offered by this puti or scrubland. A section of the broad path here is paved, making it easier to look around at the shrubs – senna, mulga, witchetty – and any desert flowers in bloom, quite likely emu bush and feathered mullamullas. As you gain height, you get a glimpse into the chasm on your right.

Step 2

Karu Lookout is at the top of a rise and gives a fine view into the valley, edged by the heads of several sphinx-like domes. The ongoing path is closed here on very hot days but, if open, it switches back downhill and then continues east, passing close to a rockwall where you can inspect Kata Tjuta’s conglomerate more closely: the explorer Giles described it as rocks ‘mixed as plums in a pudding’. The path descends between the two domes to the valley floor where you cross a creek bed via a small bridge.

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Step 3

The junction marks the start of a loop; turn right, signed to Karingana Lookout, and soon pass a water tank. The path now climbs between domes, passing an intermittent waterhole and hanging gullies, and then leads you steadily up over a bare flank of conglomerate and across a water course. High above, lines of dark algae show where water cascades down the rock after rain, sculpting a series of pools. Here in the enclosed canyon, the moister ground supports shrubs such as desert lantern, mint bush and butterfly bush. The path swings east and climbs a passage between domes to a rocky saddle, edged with wild figs.

Step 4

Karingana Lookout is a place to linger, enjoying views back down into the complex of domes and also east to the broad valley edged by distant, smaller domes. Most visitors turn back and retrace their steps from here, so your onward journey should be quieter. Once you’re ready, pick your way carefully down the steep rocky slope and weave through more vegetation. Cross a creek bed and emerge in open scrubland. Now, to the east you have a fine view of a shapely dome ribbed by channels and topped with spinifex.

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Step 5

Pass a clearing used as a helipad for rescues and follow the track as it heads north and then veers northwest. It climbs a series of steps with erosion barriers and levels out on a ridge. From here, you have a sweeping view back down valley; if you have binoculars or a zoom lens on your camera, it’s worth panning slowly over the distant domes to appreciate their detail before losing sight of them. The track now descends to a water tank.

Step 6

The route now heads south and follows the creek bed, lined with river red gums and bloodwoods, to complete the loop and return you to waypoint 3. Turn right to retrace your steps past Karu Lookout and back to the carpark, enjoying the different perspective and changing light on the domes of Kata Tjuta.

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Walks book cover 

Text, images and maps taken from the guide book, Best Walks of the Red Centre, courtesy and copyright © Woodslane Press, John & Gillian Souter. For 15% off your copy (and other great Red Centre books) visit here.

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