Visitors come to the center of Australia – called the “Red Center” (or, for you Brits and Aussies the “Red Centre”) to view and hike through some of the most wondrous land masses in the world: Australia’s most recognizable landmark, Uluru is also known as Ayers Rock; next to Uluru is Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas; and a few hours down the road is the stunning Watarrka, or Kings Canyon.
We were originally just going to hike around Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but then decided to add Kings Canyon to the mix since we are here, and it is, too! We were very glad that we did.
With the temperatures getting up there to around 100 degrees F, we knew we needed to get an early start, as the trails are closed if the temperature is 36 degrees C (96 degrees F).
Sunscreen, hats, water, bug juice, snacks – check. Let’s do this!
Kings Canyon is part of Watarrka National Park, with walls about 350 feet high. With three hikes to choose from, we started with the longest, a 6 km trail that goes from the base to the top of the canyon, with a dip down into the Garden of Eden, and finishing through a sandstone landscape that made us feel like we were walking on Mars.
Reading some of the placards on the trail, we learned that this canyon is an aboriginal sacred site in places, so we were encouraged to stay on the trails. After visiting the Alice Springs Reptile Center (https://rvgetfit.com/2016/05/05/alice-springs) you can rest assured that we were not going off trail! We found it interesting that the first European expedition to explore the canyon was in 1872 – which, once again, reminded us of how “new” Australia is to us non-aborigines.
The hike starts with Heart Attack Hill – and there were plenty of people looking up the winding steps wondering if they shouldn’t just wait for their tour partners in the bus. This was steep, and not for the faint of heart!
The colors of the rocks were just amazing.
And we felt that we were pretty much the only people out there
The route would take us up to the top of the canyon on the left side, around the rim, down into the canyon to the watering hole and oasis called the Garden of Eden, then back up to the rim for the right side view, before returning to the parking lot.
The canyon walls started to come into view
and we could see hikers on the other side
There were some steep ledges, with warning signs:
And it might have been the heat, but we were cracking up when we saw this one:
Some other highlights:
the textures were amazing
the stairs and the Garden of Eden
And, on the other side of the canyon, as we walked along the…
We were met by another goanna, as seen in the photo at the top of this post. Yup, two days after being bitten, David must have been sending off some serious goanna pheromone, because we had not seen much wildlife on the hike, and then this 6 foot long specimen saunters on by. Here is another view:
We finished up the main trail, and noted that the path going the opposite direction was closed due to the temperature.
The hike proved to be quite the challenge, with the heat and the flies! Oh, the flies. They were so pestering that we stopped at a visitors center to buy fly nets to put over our hats for the hike around Uluru and the Olgas the next day.
We consulted our free camping app, and found a nice place to shower for $3 AUD, and then went on to camp at the Sandy Way Rest Area for the night.
The next day, we were up early again and on to see Uluru and the Olgas. As we drove in, you could see it in the distance:
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a sacred part of aboriginal creation mythology, and is considered one of Australia’s most recognizable natural icons. A large sandstone “island mountain”, it is an isolated remnant of the slowly eroding mountain range, and is thought to be roughly 800-850 million years old. Seriously.
We got to the big rock, and suited up! It was already hot outside, and the flies were relentless, but we were ready this time:
It should be noted that we intended to walk AROUND the rock, not to climb it. The aborigines have asked that visitors not climb their sacred rock, and we saw no reason to go against this wish. Some believe that if they are going to spend the $25 AUD entrance fee for the park, they are entitled to do whatever they want. Yes, it is a struggle for the park. There is a huge sign next to the carpark explaining the history and the position against climbing. And still:
The base walk is 10 km, or 6 miles, and we really enjoyed it. Once again, we went counterclockwise, and saw only a handful of people during the 2.5-3 hrs we took to explore.
So glad we had our nets, as they kept the annoying flies off of our faces; the rest of our bodies, not so much. David felt compelled to take this shot:
There were some caves
Some really cool erosion marks
Some shade structures if one wanted to take a break
The texture of the land was so interesting, and the colors changed as the sunlight shifted
We finished the Uluru base hike, and then drove the 53 km/32 miles to Kata Tjuta. There, we took the Valley of the Winds hike, which was another 7.4 km. Most people probably don’t do both hikes in the same day, but it is late Summer/early Fall, so we have the daylight to do this.
Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas, is a collection of monoliths. The hike was much more strenuous than the base walk of Uluru.
Here is some of the scenery we enjoyed:
According to my fitbit, this was a 37,775 step day for me! I don’t plan on surpassing that anytime soon, but you never know where this Australian adventure will take us.
The big question we had for each other after the hike was, “How do you pronounce ‘Uluru’?”
It’s always a G’day Down Under,