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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
Crossing across a small oasis called The Garden of Eden.
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.
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.
We finally arrived in the parking lot after our four-hour exhilarating hike.
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.
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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.