The morning came around 5 am next day, with a wash, a breakfast, and some achy heads and tender tummies of those who stayed up drinking until midnight. You know who you are! I was very glad of my choice of an early night, when we heard that our Rim Walk at the King’s Canyon started at the canyon floor, then headed up what’s called the “Heart Attack Hill” to the rim for a 6 km walk along the rim. There was an actual defibrillator waiting at the top! Well, I had survived Grand Canyon hikes a few months earlier in the US, so this was a relative walk in the park in comparison.
Our trek wound its way up and down rocky faces, some stair cases, across streams that usually run dry but were now bubbling merrily, and we even got to visit Garden of Eden along the way! Quite aptly, our snack there was apples. The Garden of Eden is a natural gully that ends in a dead end with a little stream and a permanent well at the end. The gully floor is shaded by gorgeous white barked eucalyptus trees, and due to recent rains, was now lovely, lush and green.
In the canyon, there are wild kangaroos and rock wallabies, but they keep sensibly away when large groups hike past, so we didn’t see any on our trek. No worries mate, the hike was fantastic by itself, and had some of my favourite scenery of all three locations we visited. It would be nice to hike there alone, to take time to sit and admire the views and listen to the birds. Our three day tour of the three rock formations seemed like a luxurious amount of time, but due to distances, we were always under clock to complete. But we still had time in each spot to complete the most popular walks, and indeed, usually these were the longest walks in the spots.
As we had started our walk again before the sun rose, we were rewarded with the experience of watching the sun rise over King’s Canyon, and the colours of the rock changing every moment. This also meant that we completed our walk before 10 am and then headed to a nice spot for lunch under a 900 year old tree. At this spot there were also camels, cows and horses, so we ate quickly and then went to take photos and pet the animals. Only the cows, mind, as camels can be testy.
After lunch we continued on our way, and stopped at Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse, where we had stopped on the way to Uluru. This pit stop was my favourite as they had an emu farm and you could buy a generous bag of emu pellets to feed them with. Emus are big birds, not quite so big as ostriches, but easily taller than a human when they stand stretching their necks. And the have beaks, which are at your head hight. So holding these pellets in your hand for a mob of emus all intent on a snack is a daunting experience. They also peck really hard, so after our first attempts ended up in squeals (from our side), we started to drop the food pellets on the top of the wooden plank atop a wire fence and then quickly take our hands away as the emus battled who could get the tasty treats. Some thought the emus were ugly, I thought they were adorable, if slightly scary.
One last stop on our way, at a camel farm, where we could have a short camel ride around a paddock. Sounds tame, yes? Ha ha, no! The first thrill is climbing on the kneeling camel, being told to hang on and end up squealing again when the back of the camel suddenly rises to almost 2 meters in the air as the camel straightens its back legs first. Then up come the forelegs and you are good to go. The first part of the walk around the paddock was easy, although the camel sways in unexpected ways due to its walk pattern of moving both feet on the same side and then the feet on the other side, and back again, and back again. It is not the steady gait of a horse you might be expecting. Just as we had gotten used to this motion, the nice lady leading the camels started to run the camels towards where we had got on the camels. Our camel really got into the spirit of it, and after the first alarming jog, erupted in full gallop with me and my tent mate holding on to dear life, and at least me screaming and laughing in fright. What an experience to end our 3 day tour of the outback!
Despite the cold nights, and cold mornings, trying to have a shower in unheated shower cubicles, I again preferred to have this experience in the winter time, rather than in the full heat of the summer sun. The cold evenings kept the mosquitoes away, and we weren’t too much bothered by flies during the day either. I was actually so cold in the mornings that I was wearing all my clothes, with my leggings under my thin hiking pants, a merino wool T shirt under my long sleeved hiking shirt, a fleece and a windbreaker, and I kept shedding layers during our hikes as the days got warmer. So, I was in no danger of getting a sunburn, swaddled up in all those clothes, as well as my sun hat.
All three rock formations are fabulous, but my favorite was perhaps King’s Canyon. The three day tour does mean a lot of driving, but since you have such early mornings, this does mean nice naps while our guide/driver is taking us from place to place. My hat off to the guides, actually, since they have to organize it all, herd us through the walks, keep us hydrated and from falling off cliffs, wake us up very early in the morning, rush us through our meals and pit stops, shuffle things around when the unexpected occurs (rain, no sunrise, flooded camps, and even a flat tyre!) and all this with little chance of napping during the day. Add to that driving back 475 km to Alice Springs from King’s Canyon, after three busy days, all in the company of strangers. It takes a calling, I tell you.
Well, it was a fabulous three day excursion to the blooming outback. Now I am looking for a lovely couple of days taking it easy in Alice Springs, before continuing my road south to Coober Pedy.