Forget the idea of dusty red earth as far as the eye can see, the Central Australian landscape offers an extraordinary chance to see unique plants and animals
Source: Inspiring vacations and re-produced with permission. Click here to view original article.
Five seasons in one year
With very little rainfall each year (just 291 mm on average), it would be easy to assume that semi-arid Central Australia has only one season: dry and hot. Or maybe two: dry and very, very hot, and dry, hot and freezing. In summer, the temperatures can be extreme with scorching days and cool nights, and in winter milder (but still hot) daytime temperatures are matched by icy nights. While extreme and potentially dangerous for unprepared travellers, the climate and remote location means that most visitors are lucky enough to experience the crisp clear air, cloudless days and starry starry skies Central Australia is famous for.
While the concept of summer and winter may give visitors a rough idea of temperatures at different times of the year, it misses the nuance of the changing landscape and weather.
“The colours on the landscape change along with the plants and animals, you also have to consider that Anangu recognises five seasons compared to our four,” says Steven Baldwin, Manager of Park Operations and Visitor Services at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Instead of two distinct seasons, the Anangu prefer to describe these changes in five periods of various lengths that take into account the wind, breeding seasons, availability of food and water, animal behaviour, cloud formation, and frost and rain that in turn informs the way they live, eat and manage the land.
Rain in Central Australia? It does happen.
“It does not rain very often but when it does it’s incredible,” says Baldwin. “The waterfalls off Uluru are spectacular. You have around 15 minutes after it stops raining to see the waterfalls. There can be dozens and dozens around the rock.”
Wet weather transforms the national park says Baldwin. “[There are also] amazing wildflowers that can come out after rain or the cascading waterfalls on the monolith and the sounds of hundreds of frogs.”
Land in bloom
As the year passes, a wave of colour moves across the plain that surrounds Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Depending on the time of year, you may see purple, yellow and endless varieties of green. Up close, winter brings tiny desert flowers in white, pink and red while the horizon is dotted with the mulga’s (wattle) fluffy yellow blooms.
More than 400 types of plants are found in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park including Sturt’s Desert Rose, a cotton plant named after explorer Charles Sturt, who came across the flower on his exploration of Central Australia in 1844. Known as kalpir-kalpir in Pitjantjatjara, the bright pink Sturt’s Desert Rose will be familiar to anyone who knows the Territory well – it’s the official floral emblem and decorates the flag.