Trip to Uluru – Day 3 Kings Canyon
Another early morning start. By this time we have gotten used to the bright start and quick breakfasts and a quick run to pit toilets. You don’t fancy reading books there, so do the job and come out. :-). Readers who may not know what pit toilets are, please google. All I can say is that they are environmentally better waste systems, used by remote campers and third world countries.
We were ready for another hike. This time it was the Kings Canyon. Located in Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon known for its 100-meter-high sheer cliff walls. The idea was to take a guided walk (Rim Walk) to see the towering walls, crevices, and plateaus of Watarrka. Soaring 270m above sea level, this canyon has been forged over 400 million years and is made from layers of sandstone with hard shell between layers. The Rim Walk took us on a 6km circuit transcending down into the ‘Garden of Eden’ and back to the top to get a 360-degree view. The start of the walk was very difficult. From the base, we could just admire the steep climb, somewhere around 500 steps to climb. The first thought was not to do it at all. But that’s what we were there for and not doing it didn’t make any sense. So we began the climb. After few steps, we all were exhausted, panting, looking for some shade and looking down where we started. We were already high up and still more to go. With all the panting and huffing, we ultimately reached the top. The view was breathtaking and magnificent. It was worth the climb.
Continuing our walk on the rim, through Priscilla’s Crack (made famous by the classic Priscilla Queen of Desert) we came to our first lookout at across the canyon. From here, we were exposed to all the elements and were experiencing the grandeur of our surrounding. In front of us were the marvelous sandstone domes (a mini-Purnululu) known as the ‘Lost City’. (I wish I could share more photos so you can experience what I did, but have to restrict due to the storage capacity.) After a long walk, we now started our journey towards the ‘Garden of Eden’. The name sounds interesting and we were all looking forward to it. We undermined and were skeptical of how could there be something sounding an Oasis in the middle of such a harsh geology. I thought our guide is bluffing just to raise our spirits. But in no time we were all proven wrong. There was literally the Garden with lush forestation and shimmering water. This is the picture taken from above a cliff. The water had a strange copper color due to the iron deposits in the sand and probably many other elements from the Periodic Table…!!.
We took the stairs down to the picturesque Garden of Eden filled with lush greenery, where plants thrive along the line of permanent rock pools. Crossed the secured bridge over the sacred watering hole. It was a welcoming relief from the blistering sun and the soaring temperature hovering close to 45-degree Celcius, probably more. We all sat down in the shades taking it all in. This place is very serene and of a great significance to the original landowners, whose only request to visitors is NOT to swim in these waters. It was so tempting but we resisted. It was time to make a move so left with heavy-hearted back to our descent. We had another adventure waiting for us, rather planned.
The group left Kings Canyon to travel on the famous Mereenie Loop Road. The 93 km loop road lets you drive directly from Kings Canyon to West MacDonnell Ranges. This is an unsealed road with pretty bad corrugations. We shook all the time through the entire journey praying it would stop soon. The road took us through the Aboriginal Country and a permit is a must. You are not allowed to do anything here. Shouldn’t leave the road, shouldn’t park and go walking, no picnicking, no camping, no nothing. We were all by ourselves on the red road with just one or two camper vans passing by. Aircondition was on full mode inside the van but wasn’t sufficient. If we chose to open the window, the red dust settles in very quickly, so no chance of doing that. Glad that I wasn’t wearing complete whites that day. Our guide and his accomplice were cool like cucumber and were smiling and laughing at our predicament – the shaky state we were in. This area was far from any habitat so much so that the nearest accommodation options or fuel station were at 197 km and 225 km (source: Internet).
While looking out into the nothingness, I could see scores of dead animals, vultures swirling around and an occasional red kangaroo. The thought of being there all alone was too scary. What if we get stranded? What if the van breaks down? Every bad thought crossed my mind – most probably everyone’s – along the journey. The shaking stopped and the van was now back on the paved road, a great sigh of relief from all the passengers. Today’s trip was about to end as we approached another permanent camp located at Glen Helen.
Glen Helen is a sublime gorge carved through the MacDonnell Ranges by the Finke River. A truly beautiful waterhole edged by red quartzite cliffs. It is known that the first pastoralist in the district, Alan Braeden called the home he established on Ormiston Creek, Munga Munga. The Arrernte Aboriginal people called the gorge ‘yapalpe‘ and knew the Finke river as ‘Larapinta‘ which means serpent, a powerful Rainbow Serpent. (source: http://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/glen-helen-nt)
As soon as we arrived at the camp, we picked up our tents, as usual, left our belongings and stretched a bit before beginning the evening rituals. Don’t remember if there was a facility for a shower, but must have. Once we were ready, all of us took on our duties. The woods were half collected on the way collected more from the surrounding (remember, at no time we cut the trees, only picked up what was fallen on the grounds) and built a massive fire to make coals. Cooked our dinner, dined around the fire, chit-chatted for a while, picked up our swags and soon we were all snoring…!!. Though I was very tired, I had a feeling of achievement, a certain sublimity. Was already looking for the next day adventure.