The “Red Hot Center” of Australia is a natural park region made up of three main attractions: Uluru (Ayers Rock), The Olgas and just outside of those two is King's Canyon. These are three natural sites that are so beautiful, millions of people migrate for days, driving through the middle of nothing just to spend a few days exploring these jewels.
Our second day in the Red Center led us to Uluru's nearby relative, “The Olgas”, or Kata Tjuta, which means “many heads” in the native's language. The Olgas are comprised of huge boulders that sit very close together. They are smaller than Uluru but still massive. I honestly thought it should be considered a mountain instead of a rock but later I found out that mountains are made up of dirt, trees and lots of smaller rocks but places like Uluru and Kata Tjuta were big masses of solid rock.
The Olgas have a few hiking trails around the base of it, something that I thought made it seem more authentic than Uluru. The trails in Uluru were crowded and extremely well marked, where as Olga's trails hardly had signage at all.
The first little trek from the parking lot to the first lookout is a few hundred meters. Matthew and I wanted to see the second lookout, another 3-4 kilometers away and possibly continue around the diameter for a total walk of 7.4 kilometers. What happened was a little bit different.
After making it to the first lookout we stopped to take some pictures and then walked towards the second lookout. There wasn't a clearly marked trail so I pulled my map out and had a look. Meanwhile, some Aussies in front of us seemed to be loudly questioning the same thing. They looked at me and my map and asked if they could have a look. There were three grown men trying to decide which way to go. There were lots of kids and three wives wandering around them waiting for directions. Matthew joined in their discussion and eventually everyone agreed that the map and the trail we were looking at were most-likely the same thing.
We walked on the vague trail for about fifteen minutes before stopping to question ourselves again. The path had disapeared and the women in the group were starting to get worried. One of the younger boys said he found a good track so we all followed him. One of the men in the group said, “you know, the good book says we're all like sheep...” We all laughed and admitted that it was extremely true in this case.
Matthew and I hiked with this huge group for over an hour. We got to know the families. They were from west of Sydney on school holiday. They gave us advice about finding work in Darwin and we learned quite a bit about their lives and careers as well. When we had walked somewhere around 5ks the group stopped and reassessed my map. We definitely should have been at the second lookout but there was no sign or path or anything to show that we had made it. The group had other plans for the afternoon so they couldn't waste any extra time. They wished us good luck and made the wise decision to turn around and go back the way they had came. Matthew and I talked it over and decided we were already probably half way around the base so we might as well keep walking in the same direction and make our way around the entire thing.
That lasted about twenty minutes before a huge storm cloud rolled in. The weather dropped significantly and there was still no path to be found. We had walked out into the wilderness, scraping our legs and ankles on the wild bush. We'd walked up high on the side of the boulders, trying not to slip off the side. We'd even walked down a creek, hoping a sign of a track would pop up. Despite our searching, we never saw a sign, a mark, a trail or anything and now it was starting to rain and we had no one around to ask for help, no cell phones and no means of knowing if we were even on the right pack to begin with. So with all of this piling up, we decided to turn around and head back towards the way we came.
On our walk back we saw lots of signs that gave us hope. Things like skeletal remains of animals, lots of fog gathering around the top of the mountain and a lack of water supply around us. We laughed at all these things and wondered what the headlines would say if two tourists died on a 7k walk at a well-known attraction. To ease our minds, we quoted popular travel quotes like, “it's about the journey, not the destination” and “take the road less traveled by.” These were quite comical when you are close to being stranded.
Finally, after several hours, we made it back to the main path we were very hungry and very thirsty. Maggie had stayed behind to work on her designs but when we reached her she was anxiously looking for us, having been worried about what took us so long. I guess sometimes the misadventures make for the best stories.