The rocky staircase (“Heart Attack Hill”) that takes you to the rim of Kings Canyon
19 July 2015
Today we visit Kings Canyon – it was an easy decision whether to take the hard climb to the rim of the canyon, or walk along the boulder strewn canyon floor! Most of us chose the latter, although a few (younger) fitter people chose the 3.5 hour climb to the rim. The image above shows two tiny people beginning the climb, to give some perspective as to how high the rocky staircase is! Our walk along the canyon floor was about an hour, and the vista looking up at the towering cliffs of the canyon was quite spectacular.
Because we chose the shorter walk we had time for a more leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and didn’t have to leave until 7.45am. It was a cool morning although sunny with a bright blue sky by the time we reached the Canyon floor.
Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park. Sitting at the western end of the George Gill Range, Kings Canyon is approximately midway between Alice Springs and Uluru. This ancient formation of tall red rock faces that soar above dense forests of palms is an important conservation area and refuge for more than 600 species of native plants and animals, many unique to the area.
The soaring sandstone walls of Kings Canyon were formed when small cracks eroded over millions of years. Derived from an Aboriginal word referring to the umbrella bush that thrives here, the Luritja Aboriginal people have called the Watarrka National Park area home for more than 20,000 years.
The colours in the cliffs are quite breathtaking, from a deep red to light apricot, and it is amazing the plant life that grows among the rocks and clings to the cliffs. Our guide, Carl, was again very informative especially about the flora as he explained the plants used by the Aboriginal people as a food source, and also for medicinal purposes. He said he had used one of the plants for headaches, and it worked!
The day had started to warm up by the time the walk was finished, and we met up with our hardy Rim climbers and boarded the coach for our long trip back to Alice Springs. First we headed to Kings Canyon Resort where we had lunch, they specialise in Camel Burgers but I chose a ham and cheese toastie instead! We had made friends with a young camel at the resort, and I just couldn’t imagine eating camel!
Once we resumed the trip we had a rendezvous with another coach to enable some of our passengers to change over to head off in another direction (below right). The spot where we stopped had a very interesting and quite famous tree – it had Vegemite jars stuck on most of its branches, supposedly placed there by American visitors who didn’t think much of our iconic spread! (below left)
We still had a fair way to travel, so off we set again (sleeping a fair bit of the way), until we reached Erldunda Station. Located 200 kilometres south of Alice Springs, halfway to Uluru, this working cattle station offers accommodation in a three-bedroom cottage, near the homestead. Owned by the Kilgariff family, the station is one of the oldest in the Territory. We had a quick stop to buy an icecream and say hello to the emus and wallabies there, then headed off for Alice Springs and our accommodation at Doubletree Hilton hotel.
Tomorrow we have an easy morning (time to do some washing) and in the afternoon will enjoy a tour around Alice Springs.
Some Northern Territory trivia :
Road trains are a common sight as they frequently run between Adelaide and Darwin bringing supplies. On an average the trains are 54m long (with 2-4 trains, usually 3), they have 64 tyres at a cost of $500-$1500 each, and they eat up one litre of fuel per kilometre. Most also have refrigeration units. Very expensive vehicles to run and maintain!
A “Was-a-roo” is a kangaroo that has been a victim of road kill. They usually provide a meal to the wedge-tailed eagles, the third largest eagle in the world, with a wing span of 7′. The circle of life!