Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon), Red Center

Watarrka National Park, Red Center

We began a two-day tour beyond the West Macdonnell range, heading south-east 450 kilometers southeast of Alice Springs to three destinations, Watarrka National Park, Kata Tjuda, and Uluru.

We drove 250 kilometers to the station, Erldunda, a gathering spot where commercial tour buses stop for gas and let passengers stretch their legs, get a cold drink, and see the emus behind a fence.  The larger commercial bus companies also us Erldunda as a place to have passengers doing multi day tours of the Red Center switch vehicles.

At Erldunda switched to  a smaller tour bus for the 200 kilometers drive to Watarrka National Park to hike in Kings Canyon, recommended in the guidebooks for it’s stellar red rock formations.

This was our second tour with Emu tour company which has a small fleet of large and medium size tour buses and experienced drivers and guides. Our Emu driver, Calvin, was an entertaining fellow, with a rich Australian accent and self-deprecating sense of humor.  Calvin shared geological information about the Macdonnell Range and Kings Canyon, remnants of 900 million year old sea bed pushed up from the center of the earth during volcanic eruptions.

Lucy with Calvin, our Emu driver and guide

The road to Watarrka – 200 kilometers across red desert

We pulled into the Watarrka National Park parking lot, filled up our water bottles, lathered on sunscreen, doffed our hats, and headed for a rock staircase to begin our four-hour hike along the top of Kings Canyon.

A casual afternoon hike begins here

Calvin had advised us that the hardest part was at the beginning, going straight to the top of the canyon by climbing 352 steps up a rocky staircase.  But these weren’t flat wooden steps you’re used to at home, they were 352 rocks placed in the side of a mountain, more or less in ascending order.  In reality, some were flat, others rounded, placed at various heights up the mountain.

The base of the 352 red rock staircase we’re about to climb

Yup, those are red rock steps we climbed

Half way up our ascent, we took a rest break to look over the valley and the rocky ridges where we would hike later that afternoon.

View across valley, halfway to the top of the range

We’ll be on that ridge in about two hours . . .

Rest stop, halfway to the top

Again, the predominant composition were the red boulders and rocky hillsides we had seen at the West Macdonnell Range.

Once on the top, we walked a couple of kilometers where we saw amazing rock formations.

Two ancient seabeds collide, 900 million years old, one on top of the other

We reached the top of the canyon after about an hour of steady climbing in the broiling heat with no shade, temperature around 38 C, probably about 104 F.  And we kept hiking along the ridge . . .

Top of the ridge, looking back on trail where we began

Top of the ridge, looking across where we will descend in two hours

We looked across the canyon at hikers who started a couple of hours before we did.  Calvin assured us we’d be where they were later in the afternoon, after hiking down into a canyon then back up to the other side.

Hikers on the ledge across the canyon where we’ll be in two hours

We kept hiking across the ridge for another hour or so, the sun blazing down, with no shade.  Arduous, but exciting hiking past incredible rock formations hundreds of millions years old.   An outdoor geological museum.

Intrepid Outback hiker on Kings Canyon ledge

Desert oasis

We finally reached a ledge of the canyon and began a descent into a narrow canyon, climbing down stairs to a small oasis with a pond, palm trees, and a bit of shade.

We climbed down steps across the canyon to the small patch of Eden at the bottom

Crossing across a small oasis called  The Garden of Eden.

A patch of Eden in narrow gorge off Kings Canyon

Bridge at bottom of canyon

We began our second ascent of the day, climbing up steps where canyon walls were too steep.  After a few minutes, we reached the remote side of the canyon where we had seen hikers earlier in the day looking across at us.

Edge of the cliff

We had another incredible view of Kings Canyon, looking down into the floor where boulders  had fallen years ago. Another thrilling experience in a day filled with them.

Looking back at canyon ridge where we had hiked an hour ago

Rocks and boulders had peeled off walls and fallen into the canyon

Standing on a cliff ledge looking into the canyon

Making our descent

We began our second descent of the day, limping down more rocky steps into the park’s rest area where we refiled our bottles with cold water and continued on our way.  We passed an interesting formation, walls of unusual dome-shaped rocks that looked like huts called The Lost City by aborigines.

Dome-shaped formations, The Lost City

Making our second descent into another boulder-strewn canyon

We finally arrived in the parking lot after our four-hour exhilarating hike.

Sweaty, tired, weary after our four-hour hike across Kings Canyon

Feral camels in the desert

On our drive back to Erldunda to spend the night in a ‘deluxe’ motel, we saw feral camels walking in the brush near our highway.  Australia has some two million feral cames who roam in the Outback, descendants of camels brought from Afghanistan in the 19th century when the country was young and settlements were being built in the harsh environment.  Amazing beasts, perfectly designed for living in the desert.

Feral camels in the Outback

* * * * * 

Next:  Kata Tjuta National Park

As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.

I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.

I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan.  I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.

I have a few posts on another blog,  Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller.  I’ll add more posts there as well.

Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.

Find my books in Apple’s iBookstore
At Amazon including # 1 Kindle best seller “Perfect Crime” 


2 responses to “Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon), Red Center

  1. Before youmentioned the temperature I thought what a fantastic day, truly a canyon for Kings and Queens. But 104? Wow, that’d make it hard to stay upbeat. I noticed Calvin was sweaty even before the hike, did he wait for you in the parking lot or hike too? Wild CAMELS? How bizarre, that’s worth the trip alone.


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