Alice Springs was not a one-street town which is what I imagined after reading “A Town Called Alice”. Some 28,000 people live here. Why? KFC, Subway, McDonald’s and a street full of tourist shops along with an op shop and a couple galleries. We had one day before leaving at 5am on our 3-day Uluru tour.
Journal notes: it’s 6:15am and we’re on our way to Kings Canyon. Loud music is blaring overhead and I hear small group conversations in the back of the van. Darkness is being pushed aside by a crimson slit to the east. Flat land in all directions. Sky is mottled grey. Soon sky is beginning to lighten. By 7:30am sky is pocked with bits of blue, no rain. Periodic hills appear as islands in a sea of scrub brush. Infrequently a car passes.
We stop at Mt. Ebenizer for gas and food and had our first look at local aboriginal art. We rode in the bus and all our bags, food, water, and supplies were in the trailer. Swags (for sleeping) were on top of the trailer. Our guide was fond of window decor. On the far left of the windscreen is the bug grid. You pick a number and the winner is the one with the most bugs. It was pretty funny until…the police pulled us over because it’s against the law to have any writing on the windshield (windscreen). The good news was he didn’t get a ticket. The bad news was we got stuck. Continuing the bad news, we had to push a bus and a trailer full of gear after our guide tried to dig us out, The good news was the police were willing to pulled us out.
We arrived at Kings Canyon. Heart attack hill was aptly named – a series of steep stairs (500?) to get to the first lookout. Yikes. Then easy (relatively) walking over flat rock in stair-step formations to cross the rim. Going down was long and hard but my knees survived. The rich red rock is sandstone which collects water that evaporates leaving minerals, mostly iron, to rust. Exposed rock is the rust layer but inside is white rock. The canyon is really a gorge formed from volcanic uplifting. Our guide gave us several visual enactments of geological formations. Something about the rains eroding sandstone to form the gorge.
More journal notes: After hiking stopped for gas and ice cream, then long drive. Another stop for beer, cider and toilets. Finally stopped to collect firewood along the road. Arrived at campsite way after dark, filthy from collecting wood. We all pitched in to make dinner and sat on rocks around a huge bonfire to eat and warm up. Very cold. I made beer batter bread baked on hot coals in a dutch oven. Chili, rice and veges were also cooked that way. Swag demo. After checking for hidden treasure (and critters) the sleeping bag is inserted. A protection ritual was demonstrated, draw ling around swag in the sand, then sprinkle salt and pepper to keep snakes and spiders away. We were so gullible. “Cleaned” dishes in soapy water and towel dried in ambient light from the bond fire. Exhausted we conked out early while most of the 20 somethings partied all night. No toilets.