I woke up to the twinkling sounds of gentle raindrops on the tent, still pitch black outside. Drifting in and out of a light doze, with the beautiful pitter patter continuing on our ‘roof’, I ‘slept in’ till 7.30 and after sunrise for once. The day was cold, windy, drizzly and quite unusual for this time of year apparently. Big rains came through the region two weeks ago and the desert was now relatively green, complementing nicely with the deep reds. We packed up the tents in the drizzle, stopped off to post some postcards and grab some morning tea from the awesome supermarket at the resort, and off we went. 

50 odd kilometres down the road and we filled the tank (it was about halfway on the second tank) at 1.66 per litre. Nearly $200 on fuel. Definitely our biggest expense but at least we aren’t towing and I’m thankful for the long range tanks. Kings Canyon ended up being about 3 hours drive away from Yulara but it was very cruisy. Not quite as many vans head into the Canyon so it’s a lot less touristy here than Uluru. The resort is pretty awesome. A little less than Ayers Rock Resort at $40 a night for an unpowered site but I prefer the facilities. Nice patch of grass to pitch the tent, easy access to amenities and a great camp kitchen which may not be as big but at least it has a stovetop! I can cook tonight without using my own gas. The playground and pool are right next to our tent site and Charlie is off on his bike exploring straight away. The pool was a wee bit cool today (it was only about 20 degrees when we arrived, but warmed up a little in the arvo) so no jumping in today. Too fresh even for me. 

At 3pm the Rangers of the National Park (Watarrka) were running a guided walk along Kings Creek so we popped 6km down the road to the KC carpark and got taken on a wonderful little tour along the creek bed. It was lovely and cool down there, but not cold. The Rangers (Holly and, I think, Alyssa - forgive me!) were really informative and friendly and the kids and I learnt a lot about the park and the species that lived here. Definitely recommended and we were lucky to arrive a) just in time and b) on a Monday, as they only run Mon and Wed May till August. 

Photos below by Toby:

Again the day was cloudy, but the sun peeked out to glow on Carmichael’s Crag at the far end of King’s Canyon in Watarrka in the evening. The sunset viewing point is great and everyone converges in the evening for a beverage of choice and a chat. The boys rode down the hill trails over and over - I think I have to get Charlie out on the Kalamunda circuit when we get back (and improve his bike!). Within two weeks he has turned into a speed demon and a crazy mountain biker! I rode down after them towards the end of sunset at high speed and went flying past them yelling ‘wheeee’. Charlie seemed quite impressed with my mad biker skillz haha!

Day 2 at Kings Canyon

We started our day with just a little stroll - a 6km hike around the rim of Kings Canyon. It was absolutely amazing, one of the best hikes I have done, and I’ve done a few in my time. It was so interesting and varied - of course the views were fantastic, but for me the little intricate bits and the waterhole at the Garden of Eden, including the steep staircases down into the canyon, were the highlights. The kids had an absolute ball and I don’t think Charlie whinged once. Well, apart from when he jumped over a rock and smashed his shin, but I put a bandage on it - ever prepared - and suddenly it got better. Hopefully no one thought I was making my kid hike with a broken leg or anything….

I’d made the decision thanks to mates on Facebook to go on the Mereenie Loop, a 4WD-recommended, unsealed track that led from the Canyon to the West Macdonnell Ranges, which we're exploring, and eventually Alice Springs. Going off resort fed information, they are obviously trying to put people off going down there. I can understand it is isolated, with no mobile phone reception (not that I had any at Kings Canyon either), and you have to be prepared.  We ended up seeing many a tyre on the side of the track! But the road isn’t too bad, or at least not when we did it today. Perhaps it had recently been graded. There were a couple of shorter sections that were quite corrugated but I’ve been on far worse unsealed roads! I had used my compressor for the first time, deflating the tyres a tad to 25psi. I’m sure I looked like I had no idea what I was doing, but I got there in the end! 

I highly recommend the Meerenie Loop/Red Centre Way - the landscapes are just stunning and it just adds a bit of excitement, I was getting a bit sick of all the bitumen (and all the caravans). There was barely any traffic on the road. A 4WD tour bus and a ranger overtook us, as we were taking our time and enjyoing the drive, and two other 4WDs towing offroad type caravans came in the other direction. So that was it, we had the road to ourselves most of the time. We had seen one wild camel yesterday coming into the resort at King’s Canyon and I was hoping to see brumbies. A few dips excited the kids and Charlie let out a little squeal as we splashed through a large puddle in the road, splashing muddy water all over the windscreen. 10km down the track I was the one letting out a squeal as we spotted our first brumbies. Chucking Toby’s telephoto on my camera quickly, I popped out of the car and stood behind it. They were only metres away, none too worried about me, just off the side of the road. Looked to me like a stallion and his mare and their colt/filly. When he’d had enough of me hanging around, he nodded his head up and down at me and then looked over at his girl. She came to him with the baby as I watched from behind the car and then gently walked off together. I know brumbies are a pest (although camels are far worse according to the rangers at KC), but gosh they were so beautiful and healthy. Glossy coats, flowing mane and tail. It was glorious country. I do wonder what they do when it gets really hot, perhaps go more into the Ranges and into the valleys where it is cooler and there would always be a source of water, but for now they roam on the grassy plains below the ranges. I had a big grin on my face. It’s a personal thing, but for me this beat seeing Uluru. Seeing horses in the wild has always been a dream of mine, since I was a wee tacker. 

On and on we went, but the drive was never boring. I would do it again in a heartbeat and was quite sad when it ended and we got back on the sealed road leading up into the West Macs. We stopped at Tyler’s Pass lookout (views of Tnorala/Gosse Bluff - crater caused by a comet impact!) and were greeted with lovely weather, a fantastic view and a peace and serenity that just didn’t happen at Uluru-Kata Tjuta. It had not cost us anything to get into either Watarrka NP or West Macs NP, and yet Uluru Kata-Tjuta was $50 for 3 days. Absolutely insane. Most of their advertising is still showing $25 for adults and kids were supposedly free. But this changed on the 1st April this year, and now kids are $12.50 each, so I got my pass price doubled. Just a little bit more than inflation, one would think. But here I leave my rants about the tourism mecca that is Uluru. All I will do is encourage you to see more of the Red Centre because it only gets better quite frankly. 

Holly the ranger had yesterday told us not to camp at Ormiston if we wanted a bit of peace and quiet and some lovely bush camping. Apparently Ormiston Gorge had got rather touristy as well. She recommend Redbank Gorge, so that’s where we ended up. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Great little bush campgrounds, still with basic amenities, wonderful views from the Ridge and a relaxing Waterhole walk along the mostly dried up river. I’d love to come back in the wet and see the difference. The kids loved ‘walking in the river’, Toby was hunting (photographically speaking) for birds and Charlie was jumping across rivulets and paddling in what was left of the waterhole. 

I cooked bacon and egg burgers for dinner. I may have had a couple of glasses of wine. I watched the boys race around the campsite together on their bikes with a couple of other kids. Perfect end to a perfect day. All was well with the world.