Saturday. The bus collected me from my hotel at 5.30 am. I loved these small Hop On Hop Off shuttle buses because they carried a maximum of around 14 people, so I never felt I was part of a mass impersonal movement. That morning the bus was not full.
Kata Tjuta was my destination. On 26 October 1985, title deeds to Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to Anangu traditional owners who then leased the land to the federal government for 99 years. Since then the Anangu have been working with the Director of National Parks to jointly manage the place. During this time, the park has been recognised as a World Heritage Area for both its natural and cultural values.
Firstly we were driven to the Kata Tjuta Dune viewing area to watch the sun rise over those hills. Seeing sunrises and sunsets seem to be an integral part of visitor experience and expectations. I suspect, the world over, some people come and look at the dawn or dusk spectacle and seldom walk or explore or try to find meaning in what they do. What are they seeing? What is it that is important in seeing a particular landscape under the conditions of the rise or setting of the sun? What makes that view more special than other times of the day? Why? Why? Why?
In taking that first bus of the day I could not go directly to my destination, rather I had to stop for a special viewing of the sun hitting Kata Tjuta before I could go any further. That was the way things worked. En route, I loved the changing sky colours for the dramatic impact they had across the landscape. I loved the way the increasing light revealed the landscape incrementally. The variable light offered an air of expectation, places of unknowns, expanses of possibilities.
Clearly Kata Tjuta is a composite of dome shaped monoliths separated by deep ravines and gorges. Apparently there are 30 of these domes spread over an area around 35 square kilometres, and only an aerial view gives the full picture of the large scale of this rocky configuration. Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads’ in the local language. This area is sacred under Tjukurpa and Anangu men’s law.