We got up at 3:30 in the morning and at 4 we were already on the road, with a bus and a guide as there was no time to lose if we wanted to see the sunrise in Uluru. Today we have to visit the Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park, a natural gorge that combines beautiful views, strange rock formations and the last garden of Eden that is known. Kings Canyon is more than 300 Km from Ayers Rock.
We left to enter the National Park again and after passing again by the same place of the previous day, we continued the road going around the entire Uluru. The Sunrise Point is located just opposite the Sunset Point, therefore we can see the opposite side of the rock.
This point is a little high on some dunes and also at a distance to observe it from the distance. Slowly more people were gathering and what we could see apart from the beautiful sunrise, was again the change of colors on the Uluru that we had seen the previous day but in reverse, of course. From here we can also see the Olga or Kata Tjuta Mountains on the left which, despite being almost 50 km away, gives the feeling of being next to us.
This is what makes the rest of the surface of the area practically flat. We had a good time to enjoy that wonder until we took our vehicle again to go to the Olgas without hurry but without pause.
The Olgas Mountains are located 40 km from Uluru. On the road, we enjoy the view of both geological formations. Just before reaching a few km we find the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing area, a viewpoint to be able to also see from here the sunrise and sunset or rocks at the time that one pleases. We saw that between the bushes began to leave a lot of pigeons that approached with great speed to surround the vehicle and waiting for us to open the door.
As soon as we got down and without any fear, they surrounded us to see if any food fell and we gave them some bread crumbs. These pigeons were rare because they had a vertical pine bun in the head! We approach the platform located at a certain height from where we observe the Olga in absolute silence since there was no one.
Kata Tjuta is composed of 36 large rocks that look like heads, of which the largest is Mount Olga. Almost more beautiful than to see them from afar is to go inside. When we get closer to the base, the two paths that can be made to enjoy the place are perfectly indicated. The first one, located just in front of the road that reaches the Olgas, is the Walpa Gorge, which runs a short 2.5 km straight route.
We opted for the walk called Valley of the Winds that perhaps was a little more diverse in terms of landscapes but also longer. It was still early and as soon as we started the hike we could see that the name of Valley of the Winds fits perfectly, because even though it was sunny, the wind blew hard, making our trek even harder. Once surrounded by big red rocks, the wind seems to have disappeared and we could better enjoy walking along the path.
We arrived at the Karu Lookout. There was a presence of some tourists but the silence took over the whole place. The little birds swarmed around the different points to try to drink the water drops that fell to the ground. Later we reached the Karingana Lookout from where the central valley of the Olgas could be seen. We were thinking whether to continue or return as we still have to get to Kings Canyon.
Finally, we decided to go back. For those coincidences, we were lucky to enjoy something that we did not think would ever come. It was to see a kangaroo in the open!
We were back on the same path when we heard the characteristic jumps between the bushes on our right that suddenly stopped. We entered a few meters in silence and suddenly there was jumping again. There was a beautiful kangaroo that ran at the speed of lightning. We were very surprised by the speed they reach! The balance between the tail and its trunk forward form a perfect balance.
In less than a blink of an eye, the animal climbed the crest of a rock with us trying to continue to see where it was going. We arrived, unconscious of us, at the top of that rock full of scratches from the brambles. With the views provided by the position we could see a wide area but we did not see it. It had escaped us in a flash. Suddenly we saw it again just on the other side of the road, going up the ridge contrary to our position.
Without making the slightest noise we move uphill slowly as it sniffs the area and gives us a few minutes of presence to make our camera happy. It was a goal fulfilled that made us leave the Olgas with a sea of happiness.
On the same road back towards Uluru, we stopped for a final view of the rocks from the Sunset Viewing point. Unlike the viewpoint that we had seen in the morning from here, we can see the typical image of the Olgas from the front, from which the rounded shape is perfectly appreciated. Very close to here comes the road that goes to Western Australia, in a very long way by the Outback.
Unlike the previous day, just two cars were around the place and we could say goodbye to a place that we had seen so many times in photos. Although we would not have minded staying a few more days observing one of the largest rocks in the world, our trip through the northern territory had to continue.
We returned to take the Lasseter Highway back to begin to travel the 300 km to Kings Canyon. This time we stopped at Curtin Springs to refuel and take a photo since the gas station is really authentic with an old style worthy of better times past and in the middle of nowhere. When we enter the bar to pay for the gas to the owner we were stupefied looking at the rough decor of the place. About 100 km back and past Mount Conner, we find the detour to the left of the Luritja Road that leads directly to Kings Canyon. We could sleep a bit on the way. The road was full of camels. At one point we saw more than 20.
Late in the afternoon, we arrived at the Watarrka National Park, of which Kings Canyon is part. The Watarrka National Park is a name derived from the aboriginal word that refers to the umbrella bush that abounds in the region. It was the home of the Luritja Aboriginal people for more than 20,000 years.
We have two routes, one easier through the bottom of the canyon and another over the canyon. The shortest is called Kings Creek Walk. The longer one is called Kings Canyon Rim Walk. After an important rise, it crosses the highest part of the cliffs, surrounding both sides of the canyon with walls of more than 100 meters. Due to the extreme heat, the guide insisted that we do not do the hard one if we were not in top shape. But it did not convince us since it goes all the time down the bottom and what is worthwhile are the views.
The guide also tells us to take at least one liter of water per person. We were amused by two Japanese who, in addition to not understanding any English, went with a small bottle of 100ml of water. The guide tried to make them understand that with so little water they could not make the route. In the end, they found several bottles that they could fill with water. They thought they were going for a ride.
Well, despite the fact that we were in bad weather at first, we took the risk and started to go up on what the locals call the Heartbreak Hill or Heart Attack Hill. The truth is that they are a bit extreme and for a moment we thought about not doing the 3-hour route. The tough part was at the beginning till a climb to the highest part of the canyon, but in 15 minutes we were up.
It is not surprising that the succession of steep stairs that ascend to the top of the canyon seems never to end. This first climb costs a bit but once we get up there are incredible views of the entire canyon. We can see dense vegetation below, watered by the stream that runs through the center of the canyon.
Our guide was a beast. He went up like a goat. Despite being very young, he had made the journey hundreds of times. And he offered to take pictures of us in all the corners that were worth it. There are almost no shady places here. I also wear a baseball cap, which is always blown from my head by the wind and I give up at some point.
The route consisted of crossing the canyon to the highest part. The views were impressive and the guide was telling us things about nature, and the life of the aborigines in those lands. We found it curious to know that if you rub a eucalyptus, it releases a powder that was used to paint the skin. As each zone has different types of eucalyptus, it served to identify between tribes.
In addition, it turns out that said powder has properties similar to a sunscreen, so the rate of skin cancers among aborigines is very low. The canyon is formed by sand rocks, which have solidified. The red color comes from the iron, and when we break a rock we see a brown color. All that area was under the sea before and we could see a fossil of a crab in the rock. It was also curious to see the watermarks on the rock, similar to what is formed in the sand on the beach when the tide rises and falls.
There was not a soul left and the only thing that was heard was the birds and the constant steps that we were taking. We were aware that some dingo could appear since they are usually active at dusk but we did not have that luck. More or less in the middle, there are some stairs and a wooden bridge from which can descend to the bottom of the canyon.
Then, we begin the descent of more than 300 meters into the canyon until we reach the Garden of Eden. A large pool of underground water gives life to ferns and other prehistoric plants. Even today this small green paradise that gives life to some rare species of amphibians, as is the case of the Centralian Tree Frog, a native in this area.
It is a kind of oasis in the middle of the dry land. It is an area of permanent water that overflows in the rainy season and creates a stream. It is curious to see on the road many areas marked as a flood zone. In the rainy season (by October) overflows occur and can cover the road, cutting off traffic. There we sat down to rest a while.
The Garden of Eden is a path that leads us one kilometer into another gorge down to a water hole. In fact, it surrounds us with a strange silence and tranquility at this waterhole. It feels good here, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs, palm trees, trees, shrubs and this water pond like in an oasis. We stay awhile and enjoy.
Lo and behold, we suddenly see one of the great, very rare Black-footed Rock Wallabies. About 50 meters in front of us. It stops and looks at us. At the next moment, it jumps over the steep rocks with an amazing ease. Fast and supple it had disappeared and we were overwhelmed by so much elegance.
We go up the stairs again to take us to the other side of the canyon from where there is a long gorge in which there is no protection. We reached the top of the south wall to enjoy the views from there. We crossed Cotterill's Bridge, a striking bridge and reached another bridge with a door and a signal to keep it closed.
In this part, we find innumerable lizards that took advantage of the sun's rays on the hot rock but that ran terrified as soon as we approached. Luckily there were some less fearful who posed for the camera as movie stars. Slowly we went down with a nice descent in which the Sun caught us in front giving us a beautiful sunset. In the parking lot, there was no one left.
The guides indicated about 3 hours for the route although we managed to do it in 2h 30 min without any hurry and stopping as much as we wanted. We thought for a moment that it would get dark but we were lucky. Already in the van, I was still wondering if that intrepid boy who approached the edge of the canyon to take a photo, will one day know how close he was to the abyss.
About 5 km away was the resort. From huts to campgrounds with and without electricity, there is something for every traveler. It has a swimming pool, a tennis court, a campsite, a bar, a restaurant, a gas station and a store. We stayed at the campsite. Unfortunately, I have forgotten to confirm my reservation request. Therefore, all powered campsites were gone.
We had to get by with a campsite without electricity. We have a barbecue dinner and after a peaceful day, we go back to bed at 9, as the next day we had to get up early again. The next day we were going to have a hard time going back to Alice Springs. We had all the chance to lose the flight that had to take us to Sydney.