The Larapinta Trail is the Red Centre’s famous Outback walking track and is one of the four highlight sites we visit on our Larapinta, Kings Canyon and Uluru in Comfort trip.
The 223 kilometre Larapinta Trail takes a path through the West MacDonnell Ranges, near Alice Springs. Featuring gorges, chasms and stunning waterholes, the trail ends near Mount Sonder (1,380 metres) It's an unforgettable experience to walk to the summit to see the sunrise over the surrounding landscape.
The geology of the region will amaze, with its astonishing colours. The Ochre Pits are a standout, with their walls of gold and crimson layered rocks, which are ground down and used in Aboriginal ceremonies and for protection against the sun.
The ranges themselves evolved around 350 million years ago and is made up of granite, limestone, sandstone, siltstone and is known for its red quartzite peaks and gorges. Enjoy a swim in Ormiston Gorge surrounded by the towering red rock walls.
Head south 300 kilometres and you’ll find Uluru, the largest monolith in the world, dating back some 500 million years, around the same time Australia was formed. It is made up of composed arkose which is a coarse grained sandstone. The rock colour is red due to the oxidation of the iron-bearing minerals within the rock.
The large single upright block of stone is a sacred Aboriginal symbol, who believe it was created during The Dreaming by 10 ancestral spirits. It is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks and at 348 metres towers above the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Chrysler Building in New York and Eureka Tower in Melbourne.
A great way to experience the scale of Uluru is to walk around the 9.4kilometre base at sunrise, when the light on the rock is spectacular.
Uluru is in the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, it is here the Anangu Aborigines live and have so for thousands of years. You’ll see the traditional owners dot painting, performing story-telling, dance and song and gathering bush tucker in this area as the national park is a living cultural landscape.
The first European settler to see Uluru was explorer William Gosse in 1873. In 1993, after decades of campaigning, Uluru was officially renamed its original, indigenous name (from Ayers Rock) and the nearby range, known by Europeans as The Olgas, was renamed Kata Tjuta.
In 1987, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for its natural values. In 1994, it was also added to the list for its extraordinary value as a living cultural landscape.
Kata Tjuta, which is about 30 kilometres from Uluru, means ‘many heads’ in Pitjantjatjara, the Anangu Aboriginal language.
This striking group of domed rock formations is made up of a mixture of gravel, peddles, cobbles and boulders. One of the tallest boulders is 546 metres in height, taller than the One World Trade Centre in New York.
Within the park, there are approximately 21 different species of mammals, 73 reptiles, 178 birds and 4 desert-dwelling frogs. When it rains in Central Australia you’ll find in the waterholes and rock pools the Shield Shrimps (triops australiensis). These tiny tadpole-like crustaceans have an unbelievable way of coping with the environment. In the hot months the shrimp eggs dry up after the water has gone and they remain dormant for years until the next big rain and when they hatch.
As well as the animals, there is an abundance of flora in Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, with some 400 varied plant species. Plants such as Eucalypt woodlands, Desert Quandong, Desert Heath Myrtle, Mulga and Spinifex grasslands and many more are used as bush tucker, to make tools and medicine by the locals.
Another standout formation is the area of Kings Canyon, which is positioned roughly mid-way between Alice Springs and Uluru in Watarrka National Park, about a 3 to 3½ hour drive between either point.
It is thought Kings Canyon was formed about 440 million of years ago and the canyon rises 270 metres above sea level with plants - mostly palms growing up from the canyon floor. A walk around the canyon's rim gives an insight into canyon's geology with the remnants of the inland sea that formed its unique walls visible.
The Luritja people have lived here for around 20,000 years and know the area as Watarrka.
As well as these natural landmark highlights, there’s so much more to see in the Red Centre.