What do you do with three days off work when you’re living by Ayers Rock (Uluru, or just the Rock) in the middle of nowhere Australia? You drive four hours down a big long road and find Kings Canyon. Another fantastic natural feature of Australia’s middle, and only slightly closer to any kind of civilisation than my home by the Rock was.
My friend Gareth and I rented a car, and after a delayed start, found the road to Kings. Okay, it is the only road out of Yulara, so I guess it wasn’t that hard.
In two months living in the desert, I never got sick of it. It takes your breath away every time you get a real chance to see it – to see how truly vast this place is. Our first stop was Gareth suddenly pulling over on to the shoulder to see the herd of wild camels that were loitering by the side of the road. I always expected to see kangaroos around here and there are a few, but mostly we get camels by the dozen. They eventually ran off after I tried getting a little too close.
We eventually arrived and headed to the pub. Kings is a much smaller community than Yulara and we quickly identified the staff table. Gareth found a friend who had transferred from the Rock to here, so after enjoying a few we headed off to bed a bit later than intended as we wanted an early start for our hike around the canyon.
We had good intentions, but nothing ever happens as planned, especially when it’s early in the morning, so we headed off around midday. We stopped by reception to get a map and guide, and all the staff insisted that we were starting too late; the sun was at its height by now of course and the climb was going to be too hard in the heat. Thing is, we were leaving the next day and gambling on the fact that we were going to be able to get up early again would have been pretty stupid considering our failure that day.
After thinking about it, we decided to go for it anyway and just load up on water. The hardest part about the Kings Canyon climb is the very beginning. Before you get anywhere, the first thing you have to do is get up to the top, since the walk starts in the valley. No easy staircase here – this was Heartbreak Hill. After being appalled at my own fitness level, we made it to the top eventually. The walk around the rim is stunning. Simply stunning. Unlike the Rock, Kings isn’t a sacred site for the Aboriginal tribes around here, so there’s no controversy connected with walking around. Climbing around the edge, and sitting on a ledge hundreds of feet above the ground – unreal. If I’m honest, while I love the Rock, the scenery you get on the Kings rim walk is far superior – it is NOT worth missing if you head to the middle. We checked out the domes, created naturally over years by erosion, and sat by the water in the Garden of Eden. I can’t emphasize enough how fantastic the hike was; we were definitely pleased to have decided to go for it. Especially the next morning…
We woke up the next day to rain. It rarely rains in the Outback (it is a desert…) but when it does, it really does. It poured. I was the lucky driver, so I had to navigate roads that were completely flooded since the ground here hardly absorbs anything. A small comfort was the fact that even if I hydro-planed off the road, there wasn’t exactly much in the way for me to hit. I didn’t though. I did have to drive off road around a herd of cows that didn’t feel like moving however.
We stopped at Curtin Springs on the way there and back – a huge cattle station with a tiny pub and guesthouse that owns another fantastic wonder – Mount Connor. The Rock has become famous because of its historical significance to the Aboriginal people, but the fact is that just about everything else around here is far more impressive, visually. The Olgas, Kings Canyon and Mount Connor are all a lot more fantastic. Sorry to disappoint if you all thought that Ayers Rock was the greatest thing around these parts. Not the case. Kings Canyon flooded that day and closed down.