This is the first large cave on the Mala Walk. I think it is Malaku Wilytja, the Waveform Cave. The huge slab of rock in front of the cave was made by Mala women and children to sit and rest, and inside you can see the children's hand marks on the ceiling.
The Mala Walk (2 km, 1 hour return) is probably the most popular of the Uluru Walks. The well-marked trail passes caves and two rock art sites on the way to the Kantju Gorge and Waterhole, including Malaku Wilytja (Waveform Cave), the sacred triangular cave for women called Mala Puta (which means the pouch of the female rufous hare wallaby), and Kurpany's Cave. The pictures here include Google Earth maps annotated with the sites that we saw. See also other Things to Do tips, three videoclips and a travelogue.
It is easy enough to do the Mala Walk yourself as a self-guided walk, following the booklet "An Insight Into Uluru - self-guided walks," which is available at the Cultural Center for 2 AUD. However, a free, guided Mala Walk is conducted daily by Park rangers (October – April at 8 AM, May – September at 10 AM). Meet at the Mala Walk sign. A ranger will take you along the base of the rock, stopping to tell the stories of the Mala and the Itjaritjari (marsupial mole). They will discuss the rock art, and traditional Anangu culture, and will even show you how to make a dish, a spear thrower, and a fire the Aboriginal way. Your guide will mention the complex concept of Tjukurpa. The fundamental principle of Tjukurpa is that people and the landscape are inextricably one (see also a Local Customs tip). Each feature of Uluru has a meaning in Tjukurpa. There are also Aboriginal guided tours of the Mala Walk by Anangu Tours in the Cultural Center (~3 hours, 75 AUD). The Anangu have a special philosophy about sharing. It is "Ngapartji Ngapartji," which means "this is our culture; we share it with you; it benefits us all."
I had made it back up to the Kura Lookout and was walking down the trail toward the trailhead around 16:45 on 12 Aug 2010. This is a fairly remote spot in Kata Tjuta (Olga Mountains). There was a group of people coming up the trail. I heard one of them talking. The accent was American, so I asked her if she were from the USA. She said, yes and asked me where I was from. I said from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said wow, that there were three people from Albuquerque in her group! After telling my fellow Duke City residents hello, we had a picture taken. I forgot that my camera was still set on video, so there is a short videoclip too. Unfortunately I did not get the names of these nice ladies. Coincidentally I even saw one of them with her boyfriend riding bikes on the Uluru Base Walk the next day, when we were doing the Kuniya Walk.
Just Zyg and I did the Valley of the Winds walks. The other 2010 VT "survivors" had done the Walpa Gorge Walk. We all met at the sunset viewing area to watch the sun go down and see the colors of the Olga Mountains change. There were even a couple of helicopters flying overhead doing the same thing. The sunset viewing area has a picnic area, several benches along a viewing area parallel to the mountains, and toilets.
The Karingana Lookout is on a saddle between two ridges that run east-west. The views are really nice both ways. The steep trail that starts back down to the east is the continuation of the Full Circuit Walk. After this steep part down, most of the rest of the Full Circuit (3.1 km) is on relatively flat ground. Zyg took the Full Circuit back to the crossroads. I went back from the Karingana Lookout the 1.0 km way we came. He caught up with me before I got back to the trailhead (but I walk slower than he does). See also a videoclip.
The trail from the crossroads to the Karingana Lookout (1 km) starts out relatively flat but soon hits a place where the stream runs over a small cliff. Yes, the trail goes up that cliff into another valley and then turns east. The water was not flowing when we were there in August 2010. See also a panorama videoclip at the top of the small cliff.
The Karu Lookout is 1.1 km from the carpark. It is a moderately difficult trail with some of it over loose rocks. The trail starts off flat but rises to a saddle between two ridges where the lookout is located. There are very nice views to the south on the way up and into the valley to the east from the lookout. See also a videoclip.
After going up a small cliff and through a relativity flat valley, the trail to the Karingana Lookout turns east. The part of the trail to the east is steep and continues up to the saddle where the lookout is located. There is some difficult climbing in places but the views from the lookout are quite nice.
It is 0.6 km down a steep trail (remember you have to go up on the way back) from the Karu Lookout to the valley floor to the east, where the Full Circuit Walk (4.1 km loop) starts and the trail continues south (then east) 1.0 km to the Karingana Lookout. This is near where the two drinking water stations and the solar powered First Aid phone are located.
There are several walks at Kata Tjuta: the Dune Viewing Walk (1.2 km, 30 min return), Walpa Gorge Walk (2.6 km, 1 hr return), and three choices for a Valley of the Winds Walk. The choices are the Karu Lookout Walk (2.2 km, 1 hr return), and Karingana Lookout Walk (5.4 km, 2.5 hrs return, includes Karu Lookout), and Full Circuit (7.4 km, 3 hrs, includes both the Karu and Karingana Lookouts). Because of the difficulty of the walks, when the temperature is forecast to be or reaches 36 C (97 F) or greater, only the Karu Lookout Walk will be open. There is drinking water at the trailhead but the nearest toilets are 2 km away in the sunset viewing area. There are also two drinking water stations and a First Aid phone in the valley past the Karu Lookout where the Full Circuit Walk starts. All of Kata Tjuta is still a sacred Anangu men's area; therefore, they cannot share any of their creation stories and also ask that you stay on the marked trails.
One of the advantages of not taking a guided tour is being able to appreciate the beauty and quietness of Kantju Gorge. It would be even more spectacular after a rain when the waterfalls are pouring over the near vertical walls. Evidently the waterhole is one of the few reliable water sources around Uluru. The waterhole was relatively small when we were there in August 2010 but I am sure the pool can get quite big. That is no doubt why the trail and two viewing spots in the waterhole area are on raised platforms.
This first rock art site on the Mala Walk was under a rock overhang on a short path to the right of Malaku Wilytja, the Waveform Cave. Although this is a much smaller site than the other rock art site on the Mala Walk near Kantju Gorge, it has many more rock drawings.
Unfortunately when I was at the Cultural Center, I did not know to get one of the "An Insight Into Uluru - self-guided walks" booklets for 2 AUD, so I don't know the name of this site for sure. However, I think it may be Itjaritjariku Yuu, the place that the marsupial mole woman called Itjaritjari made for herself. She is old, but playful and industrious. Yuu means a windbreak. The holes were made by her so she can poke her head out and watch the Mala women and children gather food in prepartion for their ceremony. Itjaritjariku Yuu is located right at the beginning of the Mala Walk and has a path going over to it. Actually there are far fewer self-guiding information signs on the Mala Walk than in other places we went in Northern Territory. This is probably because most people take guided tours.
The first picture shows the trail to Kantju Gorge and also the turn to the east side entrance for the Second Rock Art Site as you are entering the gorge. The gorge has more trees and much of the trail is shaded. There is even a curved wood bench in one spot where you may take a break.
This second rock art site had two sides. The west side entrance is next to Kurpany's Cave. You must leave the main trail and climb up a small rock slab to get to the platform inside the cave. The cave is formed by a tall cavity much like the Waveform Cave, but there are large slabs of rock on the outside leaning against it, making it more enclosed. There are fewer rock drawings on this west side than on the east side.