Despite being equally as impressive and just as beautiful as Ayers Rock (some say more beautiful), The Olgas are the less-visited geological formation at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia. Located just 27 miles from Ayers Rock, the Olgas are a series of rounded domes that poke their heads above the sand dunes covering the valley floor – thus their Anangu name of Kata Tjuta, meaning “many heads.” Determined not to miss this step-child attraction, I boarded a shuttle bus early this morning, bound for the hour and a half Olga Gorge Walk.
I stepped off the bus into the coldest temperatures yet and was immediately chilled to the bone. With my head lowered against buffeting winds, I made my way down the canyon passageway, Kata’s Tjuta’s giant red “heads” held high and and unfazed by the weather. This was a landscape reminiscent of Ayers Rock in some ways – the red rock, the desert floor, the scrub landscape, and the water catchments carved out of rock – but in other ways Kata Tjuta is a world apart. Ayers Rock is composed of iron-rich feldspar sands that were compressed by geologic forces over time into Arkose sandstone. Kata Tjuta is comprised of conglomerate, a mix of granite and basalt pebbles, cobbles and boulders that have been cemented together by mud and sand over the eons. From a distance the two formations look similar. Up close there is no comparison, yet the source of these two geologic formations is identical.