We awoke to the sound of Dingoes howling. An iconic and special outback experience. There’s is a stance that the dingo is not a native species, and you can chase that argument back as far as you like. At the end of the day it’s basically a cultural debate in my opinion, I’ve never thought of them as anything but Australian animals. Sometimes I feel we are trying to preserve nature (or the idea of that) as we see it. Not grasping that we (humans) are part of nature, and our introducing species is just part of the natural process.
Nature has always been a cruel mistress. Does this mean we should just give up on ‘native’ species? I don’t have the answer unfortunately.
A quick scout around the small sand dune we were camped at the bottom of revealed a hive of activity of the small kind overnight.
The golden hour.
An easy drive out, maybe an hour or so back to the main dirt road.
Across a dry lake.
Then a minor dust storm.
Now we were on the ‘Red Centre Way’ a tourist route that encapsulates many of this region’s highlights, partly bitumen and partly dirt road.
Wide, but again super rough dirt road, due to the volume of traffic it sees (all at road tyre pressures). You have to pay for a nominal $5 permit, for the Aboriginal land part of the route passes through, I would have happily paid $50 if they could send the grader through a bit more often…
I figured remote bush camping, a la – last night, was probably going to be off the menu whilst we were on this route. So this meant we would either be staying at Kings Canyon or Glen Herron Resorts (resort is a relative term…). After a big day yesterday and our tolerance for being beaten up by corrugations wearing thin, we settled for the (much) nearer Kings Canyon. This is often talked up as being (at least) the equal of Uluru, I’m not really into making these things a competition, but as we did Uluru back in the last century. Let’s check out this bad boy.
On the road in we passed a turn off for Kathleen Springs, this is my Mum’s name. So even though I know there were going to be many, many of these little turn offs coming up, if I was going to do any of them, better start here! One of the permanent water holes in the region, treasured by the indigenous people, initially abused by the settlers. Now many are strung together to make the Laparinta Trail, a hike that seems worth coming back for – I was hoping to hike a small section of it on this trip, but events overtook us in the end).
Kathleen Springs, certainly a pretty detour.
Oh yeah, now we’re into this sort of country…
We checked into the campground at the resort. Lots of facilities, restaurants, etc. The campground seemed pretty quiet all things considered, although it was still early afternoon. Once we got set up, the first of three coach loads of school groups rolled in and set up their tents, maybe not so quiet after all.
I’m not complaining. You can’t expect to pitch up at the Red Centre’s second biggest attraction and expect to have the place to ourselves. Anyway, it was a bit of entertainment, also watching the servo getting emptied of ice cream.
We kicked back, did some writing and reading. I went down to take a few shots of Kings Canyon from the back of the campsite – not the actual canyon itself just the outside of the rocks. The weather wasn’t quite playing ball in terms of letting the setting sun bask on the rocks, but it’s still a mighty boulder.
Being careful to clean up well after dinner. There are warnings of Dingoes coming into tents in search of food.
I set my alarm for the first time in weeks. Planning to get into the canyon for sunrise.
As usual the alarm wasn’t required, I was well awake in time. Coaches pulling back in serves as a pretty good alarm clock anyway. Leaving N and the boys snuggling up in the bed I take the short drive into the canyon. I try the new spotlights, wary of the feral camels we saw yesterday driving in, you do not want to hit one of those… New lights are good, too good with lots of road signs reflecting back at you. Arriving at the car park for the canyon I am pleased, although slightly surprised to find it is completely empty. It is only about half an hour before sunrise, having been to Uluru, I expected it to be busier.
Still properly dark, I grab some water and a torch, and go take a look at the signs to work out where I need to go. There are various trails, but the one that goes straight up the canyon wall seems the go. By the time I get to the ‘up’ bit I switch iff the torch and decide I can see well enough. It is properly steep, but a well worn path, so I can make good time on the ascent. I do have to stop for a breather, and take a few layers off around halfway, as is the steepness of the trail.
I get to the top, find spot to watch the sun crest the canyon.
It becomes apparent that that big bank of cloud is going to deny me a sunrise, it will just get light. Oh well, that’s just how it is sometimes. I can tell you this was still a special experience, just me and a few spirits of times past.
I crack on, round the top of the canyon to see what I can find before the hoards show up. It is a beautiful landscape.
Right on cue!
There were about 4 groups being guided up the canyon side, I had a few amusing exchanges as I was coming down the canyon – ‘yes, it was dark when I got here…’
I had a wander up the path that runs along the bottom of the canyon, it is a mighty thing, but also mighty hard to photograph. Anyway, I gave it a shot – I noticed later the the postcards in the servo at the resort weren’t much better, some things are just too big to take in really.
I headed back to the now full car park. Tourist box ticked, it was time to move on.
Following the Red Centre Way, which was still tiresomely rough on the long dirt sections. The occasional normal car or car-like SUV limping along at the very side of the road, trying to run two wheels in something approaching a flat surface, we thundered past trying to keep the speed up enough to smooth the ride out.
We stopped for lunch at the ambitiously named Glen Herron Resort (more of a dirt campsite with a bar), which sits at the feet of the West Macdonnell Ranges, from here it is bitumen road back to Alice Springs, with many small detours into the ranges for the spectacular water holes. A few of which we did detour too, all very pretty, all very busy. Car parks full of ‘built’ 4x4s, must be to handle to 500m of smooth dirt road leading to the car park…
Ochre pits – not as vibrant as the ones we saw in SA.
Ellery Creek Big Hole.
This was our last stop-offs, we could either head back to Alice or have another night in the bush. Bush got the vote in this small democracy..
We headed into the Owen Springs Reserve, this should be a fairly straightforward tourist dirt drive close to Alice Springs.
Firstly some ruins, all the more distinctive for being marked out in white.
We were on Stuart’s original route, which was cool.
Driving into the Waterhouse Range, we started to hit a few fesh-fesh (bull dust) pits. Like a sort of dry mud, they can test your vehicle’s articulation and traction just as much as the wet variety, they just look like nothing.
We rolled into the camping area at Redbank Waterhole, another truck based camper was already there. However the area is expansive so we just dropped in and out of the dry river bed until we found our own little spot.
A simple set up and a cauliflower and lentil curry, just as the sun went down. Definitely glad we took the extra night in the bush.
The morning light was good.
On my morning check over of the Land Cruiser I found that the exhaust mounting bracket had finally succumbed to the corrugations, or maybe those bull dust pits yesterday. Anyway, I fixed it up with some genuine Toyota fencing wire.
Our oldest dog Alby had been a bit under the weather the last few days. However now his breathing had become quite laboured, so once we got back to Alice we took him to the vet. The vet diagnosed him having fluid on the lungs, and we should be prepared that we might have to put him down if he doesn’t get better. We made the decision then just to head for home. Although obviously stressful, he is somewhere from 15 to 115 years old so it’s not totally unexpected.
Of course by the time we’ve completed the day and a half drive home, the little bugger is on the mend and looking at us as if to say ‘what are we doing here?’ and running back to get back in the 4×4!
Anyway, at time of writing he is back to his old self, so hopefully around for a bit longer yet. We are due to head out again in a couple of days, so he’ll get back to his favourite thing, touring Australia.
Thanks for reading.