We decided to only stay one night at Kings Canyon because, frankly, I was sick of paying exorbitant fees to camp. If ever there was an argument for competition, camping in central Australia is it, but more on that in another blog.
We arrive mid afternoon yesterday and did the Kings Creek walk before heading off to the camp ground. It was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to tag along with a group who were getting a guided walk with one of the rangers so we learned a lot about the plants, the wildlife and the geology of the region. I don’t know what it is, because while I do enjoy gardening I’ve never been what I’d call an avid gardener, yet once again I was looking at all the plants.
That anything grows at all in rock is amazing enough, but there were even gum trees on the side of the cliffs and at the top where there’s no soil at all, not even sandy soil. And again, the flowers were beautiful, with yet another new wildflower – the holly grevillea, a small grevillea with leaves that really were like holly leaves.
When we got to the end of the Creek walk, we looked up to very high, sheer cliffs. And at the top was a group of young boys skylarking about right on the edge, doing star jumps and taking each other’s photos. My blood ran cold and I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m terrified of heights, even of seeing somebody else on them. I remember when we were in Wales when my girls were 4 & 21 months old respectively. There was a keep in one of the castles (Cardiff?) that my partner took my older daughter (the Outdoorsy One) into while I waited outside with the baby. I heard a shout from the top and looked up. There they were, with him holding her seated on the window ledge. Even though the sill was about 5ft thick, I almost threw up! So looking up at the shenanigans on the cliffs above made me go pale.
Yet I got up this morning and did the Kings Canyon Rim Walk.
It starts with a very steep climb to the top. Even though it’s all firm, with steps carved or cemented into the rock, it’s a difficult climb. But once up there the view is magnificent. And, yes, I got a photo taken on the edge (or close to it) of the cliff. At one point I was lying on my stomach with the camera over the edge to take a photo. I had to sit with my head between my knees after that one!
And just as we were ready to leave, the sky darkened and raindrops started falling. It rained during the night as well, so I was a bit worried about the Mereenie loop road. It’s advertised as 4WD only, but I knew others who had done it in 2WD, and the ute is high clearance so I really wanted to do it. Besides, it cuts hundreds of kilometres off the trip back to Alice and takes you straight into the West MacDonnell Ranges.
I walked into the service station “Is the Mereenie road open?” I asked
The instant response was “Do you have a 4WD?”
“Only 2WD” I responded, “but it is high clearance?”
“Well, no. You need a 4WD.”
I persisted “But it is open?”
“Well, I know other people who have done it, so I’m going to try.” I said “That’s my car out there, I should be ok in that.”
Reluctantly she gave me a permit.
I gave Helen the booklet to read the important information out to me “The Mereenie Loop road is a 4WD road, though in ideal conditions 2WD vehicles can get through.” she read. “Easy” I thought “It’s not quite perfect, but we’ll be fine.” When I saw a road train coming the other way I was even more confident.
It started fine, tar for a while then well graded gravel. Then the corrugations started and they were bumpy. Still the rain continued. It wasn’t heavy but by this time it had been going for a while and I started to feel mud beneath my wheels. We were 75k in by this time so still had another 75k to go. I was silently willing the rain to stop, if things didn’t get any worse I was still confident I could make it.
Still the rain kept up, and the track got slippery. Helen grabbed the door handle a couple of times and gasped. But she, wisely, didn’t say anything. Finally, just when my knuckles were seizing up from gripping the steering wheel, we got back to gravel and firmer road. I breathed a sigh of relief, a shortlived sigh of relief.
It might have been firmer underneath, but the gravel was loose, and it was very, very bumpy.
“Can we stop and put something in that camp oven?” Helen asked
The camp oven travels behind my seat, in a little section under the platform Doc made. And of course driving over corrugations it rattles. I’ve put a couple of magazines between the lid and the oven, but it still rattles. It rattled over the gravel. So I stopped, and Helen put her ugh boots and a jacket in to try to stop it. To no avail. If anything it was worse.
But we were nearly to the end, there was only another 20k or so to put up with it.
We got into Glen Helen gorge and set up camp, then sat beside the fire with a glass of wine and biscuits and cheese and watched a brilliant sunset over the West MacDonnell ranges. Tomorrow is enough time to start walking gorges and canyons – my glutes are killing me!