I swear it’s all Rolf Harris’ fault. I had always wanted to see Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) as a child, and I’m pretty sure this was stimulated by something he said during an episode of Rolf’s Cartoon Time (link is not the actual episode). In any case, my Round the World Trip would have to have a visit to Uluru. I considered the visits to King’s Canyon and Kata Tjuta as of secondary interest, not having really researched either in much detail. It was on this day that I realised just how incredible one of the secondary sights actually was.
My alarm went off at 5am, and I rushed down to the front of the hotel to meet the tour minibus. I was about to embark on a three day, two night “Rock the Centre” tour with a company called Adventure Tours Australia.
Our first day was to feature quite a lot of driving (over 300km), and a visit to King’s Canyon. Thankfully, the six hours or so on the road was broken up with a few pit stops, as well as a visit to a camel farm. Camels were introduced to Australia during the 19th Century to support the colonisation of the central and western parts of Australia. As railways and cars were introduced, the camel became unnecessary and their keepers (often also imported with the camels) were ordered to shoot them. The keepers released the camels into the wild, and with no predators to keep their numbers in check, the camel population has grown to about 1,500,000. Camels pose a threat to native species and are now being culled, as well as exported to, of all places, the Middle East. Camels are also farmed for their meat, their skin and for racing.
Our tour guide, Jerry, was a pretty jolly sort with the usual big personality required for the job of taking a busload of strangers around the middle of nowhere. To pass the time on the bus, Jerry got us all to take turns on the microphone at the front and give a little talk about ourselves. It turned out that the group was very mixed, with people from China, Japan, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Jerry claimed to have quite a good connection with the Aboriginal community and to have been let into the knowledge of many of their myths and stories, which were not to be shared, she said. Jerry also took great delight in stopping the bus suddenly whenever a fascinating sight looked likely, such as the time we saw a wedge-tailed eagle in a tree:
It was well worth stopping – it turned out the eagle was watching some crows feasting on the corpse of a kangaroo, and was plotting its move. Within a few moments of taking the photo above, the eagle swooped down on the crows and took its place as head of the table:
There was still some distance to travel, and we needed firewood for the two nights we would be camping, so we stopped to collect some and load it onto the minibus trailer. The flies out there were numerous and persistent. They didn’t bite, but they were a real annoyance, and I began to understand the origins of the stereotypical Australian hat with corks, even though I never saw one: it wasn’t the high season for flies, and most people now wear nets over their heads instead.
We finished loading the wood onto the trailer and strapping it down, and then proceeded on to King’s Canyon through the red desert. It really is very red, mostly due to high amounts of iron in the earth.
Our arrival at King’s Canyon wasn’t climactic at all. There wasn’t anything unusual to see beyond the incredible scenery around King’s Canyon, aside from a hut with water and a map, along with warnings about proper hydration to prevent heat exhaustion. The planned route was going to be around 6km and in a loop, so we would end up where we started. It was only once we had begun the steep ascent up into the rocks around the Canyon itself, that we began to appreciate the vast beauty of the site. Incidentally, the ascent is locally known as “Heart Attack Hill”, and I could understand why once I got to the top.
I really lost track of time out there, and I was also by far the biggest dawdler of the group, spending a lot of time snapping photos (have a look at the gallery below. This was fine, because I as joined by a new chum from Holland, and occasionally another from Japan, and later by a couple of people from Italy. We had a lot of fun at these rocks:
On one occasion, we had lagged so far behind that we took a wrong turning and found ourselves ready to scale some rocks overlooking a deep ravine to get back on course. This didn’t stop us from faffing around with our cameras some more:
As the sun moved through the sky, the light began to change dramatically. I could have shot the same set of rocks a dozen times and created a dozen different pictures.
We walked through the canyon and the surroundings until the breathtaking sunset. At this point, we really needed to get off the rocks and to the bus so that we could pitch camp. Once on the bus, it was a relatively short drive to camp under the stars.
Have a look at the gallery below for more photos: