Uluru's big secret

Uluru's big secret
PHOTO: Shutterstock

When you're somewhere as remote as Australia's outback, "over there" can mean a three-day drive to the state border.

But when you're standing in front of the region's now famous spiritual icon, Uluru, "over there" could easily refer to the silhouette of remarkable proportions just 25km to the west.

Bigger, wider and taller than Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a spectacular collection of 36 enormous rocks.

It's also, arguably, one of Australia's best-kept secrets, barely talked about among most Australians, let alone the world. Even today, pre-planned itineraries to Uluru rarely take in this magnificent sight.

"There's a general lack of awareness in Australia about Kata Tjuta," conceded Andrew Williams, CEO of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, which operates Ayers Rock Resort, the area's sole resort.

"You only have to look at the number of tours heading to Uluru versus the handful that visit Kata Tjuta to get an idea of demand. For many, even most Australians, it's just not on the radar."

In part, it's the sheer unlikeliness of Kata Tjuta's existence that makes this natural masterpiece so extraordinary. Like Uluru, Kata Tjuta is made of rusting rock, but the latter is a series of several domes, rather than one massif, that rise unbidden from the flat red surrounds, an oversized collection of marbles balancing on top at improbable angles.

And they really are oversized. Uluru might be taller than the Eiffel Tower, but Kata Tjuta towers another 200m higher than that; it would dwarf even New York City's Empire State Building.

In Pitjantjatjara, the language of the local indigenous Anangu community, Kata Tjuta means "many heads", and so they seem, crowded together like giant, sleepy children, their magnificent tops dusted with minuscule, feathery-golden trees.

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