Canyons, Camels and Cheers to Ken (Day 177)
Everything is big, long and many in Australia and today we saw the huge Kings Canyon, and many camels on our long, long journey back to Alice Springs.
Another early start – even earlier 4 am – perhaps this is good, it will get us used to the timezone in England when we return briefly next week. I didn’t mind too much, I didn’t sleep well unlike the previous night, I was a bit cold, however, the scenery of the twinkling stars made the sleepless night a wonderful experience.
After a very quick breakfast, we piled into the minibus and drove 30 minutes to Kings Canyon, or Watarrka, as the local Luritja people have named this area after a common local plant. We walked under the night sky, some with head torches, we used our phones and eventually reached the gorge just before sunrise. Ken had instructed us to keep 3m away from the edge and proceeded to inform us about a few tragic deaths in this area. We kept clear!
The area used to be sandbanks of the huge lakes millions of years ago which became the salt lakes we saw yesterday. In fact, on some of the stone, we could see the grooves that you see on the shoreline. As the sun started to pop its head above the gorge the huge cavernous hole came into view. Incredible with the sheer rock face. We could see massive square smooth areas on the side, the outcome from enormous slivers of rock being weathered and crashing down to the surface of the Canyon. And people still walk to the very edge of this deep ravine? – Mad!
Once the sun was up we could clearly see the Lost City, I can imagine this location being used in a Star Wars movie. These dome-shaped rock formations are formed from layers of sandstone that used to be large square blocks and eroded by the wind and rain in the last 20 million years. Along the path, Ken showed us a bush that the locals use for healing and punishment. The milky white sap is used as an antiseptic and coats the skin forming a layer like a plaster. However if someone in the tribe has done something wrong, such as been somewhere off limits, then the sap is dropped into their eyes, sending them blind for a couple of days and they are banished from the camp until their sight is restored.
Sadly, time was tight, people had flights to catch, so we didn’t manage to get down to the Garden of Eden at the foot of the Canyon. It will still be there for us to visit another time. Back to camp to pack up and have the earliest lunch ever – 9 am, we were then on the road to Alice Springs a mere 473km by road!
We had a few stops, saw some emus at a petrol garage and visited a camel farm – apparently, there are more camels in Australia than in the rest of the world. A few years back, 750,000 camels were roaming wild here causing a host of problems as they were drinking waterholes dry. The original camels were brought over in the early 19th century to be used for transport and heavy work in this harsh environment, but when vehicles took over their function, thousands of camels were released into the wild and they managed to thrive.
Ken is so good, whilst driving this extremely long journey he would occasionally give us snippets of local knowledge, such as Finke River being the oldest river in the world. We passed the Cannon Ball memorial, which was erected in 1994. An annual Cannon Ball Rally Race was set up for the elite with their flashy cars, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche etc whereby they could drive along this road as fast as they could. On the inaugural race, a dentist from Japan lost control of his car on a bend, killing himself, his co-driver and 2 of the marshals. That was the end of the Cannon Ball Race.
We arrived in Alice Springs, Ken dropped us all off at our various accommodations. We are staying in a nice small house owned by 2 young ladies within walking distance to the town centre. Got the pile of washing on and connected with my sisters to catch about our Mum’s funeral. Again, the incredible benefits of technology. We then walked down to town to the Rock Bar to meet most of the group. Great place, Tim ate Kangaroo steak, but thought it tasted just like beef rump. There was a great hillbilly bloke singing and playing his guitar, eventually Sue, John and we got up to dance. Great fun. Onto the bar next door with a whole load of paraphernalia; boots and half a car hanging from the ceiling, tractor seats as stools etc. Tim got chatting to John, an Ambulance driver and Steve a Nurse and wandered off to sit with them chatting. After a time, I joined them. The music was loud and due to the flow of alcohol they were drinking, we couldn’t quite work out much what they were saying, however what we did catch was fascinating; the relationship with the aborigines, which doesn’t sound good, living on a several hundred acres of land as a child and being educated by radio, trips on their Harley bikes around Oz and other journeys around SE Asia.
What an amazing few days on our Rock Tours. Ken certainly made is fun and informative in a magical place. Cheers Ken.