The Red Centre – Kings Canyon

Our first stop after crossing over into the Northern Territory was the gas station town of Erldunda. Here we said goodbye to our wonderful tour guide Woody and awaited our next guide to pick us up. Little did we know that we would not only be splitting from Woody but our group was being divided as well. 7 of the original 18 or so people were left behind, myself included, after the first tour bus picked up the others. We had to wait a bit longer until a second bus rolled around and scooped us up. The 7 of us were a little perturbed, feeling a bit like cast-offs from the original group. Why this happened, we never were really sure. Our new tour leader Sarah welcomed us to the bus and we made ourselves comfortable for the long ride ahead. We were heading to the Red Centre of Australia.

As it turns out, the Red Centre isn’t anywhere close to Alice Springs. The town of Alice Springs is pretty much in the dead centre of the Outback and the major hub of the region. It is still ~450km from the Red Centre. This country is massive…

There are 3 main stops in the Red Centre. We’d spend our first day in the region exploring the first area, Kings Canyon.

The bottom may look slightly like the Flinders Ranges but the views changed drastically as we climbed in the mid-afternoon heat.

After about 20 minutes of climbing from the valley we had gained the top of the Canyon. I was still surprised at the greenery present in this area. It isn’t quite a desert climate but it is close. These are hardy, tough plants to grow in such a place.

But the greenery gives a great contrast between the plants, sky and red rocks. It was a gorgeous spot to walk around and we haven’t even seen the main part of the canyon yet!

Eventually we funneled through a low point in some of the rocks and came to a clearing.

To our left were more interesting red domes.

To our right…would have to wait as we stopped to learn about some of the flora of Kings Canyon. This was one of the trees that managed to grow here. It’s a neat tree, not only because it’s root system is absolutely immense, but that it can selectively kill off branches as drought continues. The black branches are not due to fire or outside interaction, but by the tree no longer feeding nutrients to those branches.

Finally, the view to the right. Kings Canyon, stretching out in both directions.

Most certainly one of those spots that you have to be there to really appreciate the scale of things. The drop here is significant, and it goes straight down. The expanse is huge.

We continued our loop track walk and came to another interesting area. We detoured down into some greenery.

And found a large pool of water! This area is called the Garden of Eden. Even in these harsh, bone dry conditions the water still remains. During the rainy season (what there is of it in the Red Centre), this area wouldn’t be a stagnant pool but a moving river with waterfalls. We enjoyed a break in the shade and had some cookies.

From there we climbed back out and continued enjoying the splendid scenery of Kings Canyon and the surrounding area.

After about 2 hours we got to our main viewing area of the Canyon itself. I was surprised just how smooth the rock looked. The far side is where we had been walking just an hour earlier.

To the left is the start of the main canyon, to the right is the Garden of Eden.

A full view of the far Canyon wall. Again, pictures can’t really do this place justice as the scale is on the GRAND size of things, effectively dwarfing you and the group.

With the sun making it’s descent for the day we made our way off the top of the Canyon. Shadows got longer and the rocks became even more strikingly red.

Our final view as we descended to the carpark.

Tired from our walking and well deserving of a meal, we headed to our nearby campground for a large fire and some pasta. Myself and two others got to make some ‘damper’, which is Australian campfire bread, made using the coals of a hot fire. I won’t say mine was the best tasting (they all tasted a bit ‘floury’…but much to the chagrin of a frienemy Brit named Lauren, mine certainly was the best rolled.

Everyone got to setting up the beds for the night. Because of the conditions in the outback, tents are rarely needed here. Our campsite, though permanent, had none. Instead we slept in ‘swag’, which are rolled mattresses contained within a zippered canvas type bag. You unzip the top, toss your sleeping bag on top of the mattress and then zip things back up. It kind of looks like the old-fashioned style sardine cans, where you roll up and down the lid. That was how we slept.

Having brought my excellent sleeping bag over from New Zealand, I slept in comfort. Others found the conditions a bit chilly, but there was one thing we could all agree on – falling asleep under a brilliant blanket of stars (as there is NO light out here) is incredibly memorable.

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