Sun, 16 Oct 2005

Kings Creek to Yulara and Uluru // at 23:59

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A ridiculously early wake-up call this morning — we had to get up at 4:30 to eat breakfast, pack up, and be in the bus and on our way to Kings Canyon for the walk before it all got too hot. This is one of the good things about going on a tour that someone else organises, if Jo andI were left to ourselves there's no way that we could get up in time to see a sunrise!

There's a steep climb up from the carpark at Kings Canyon, then most of the walk is around the canyon rim admiring the rock formations. Apart from a large busload of students from a Melbourne girls' school it was fairly peaceful, the girls shrieked and squealed and could be heard half-way around the canyon, the rest of the time we met small groups like ourselves. At one point a Euro dashed out from behind some rocks and bounded away over the broken ground — astounding that they never misjudge and plummet into the canyon — or maybe they do!

Stairs and a boardwalk lead down into the canyon, the recent rains meaning that the waterholes and creek are flowing at the moment. A pair of black ducks and their ducklings were swimming about, according to the guides the pair are resident here. One or two members of our group decided to go swimming, the steep sided canyon and little sunlight in here make for very cold water! They were also joined by a dozen or so of the school-girls, with ear-piercing shrieks as they jumped in. Back up to the rim of the canyon and continuing on around, we came to an immense smooth-sided rock-face. According to geologists this huge slab fell away only some 70 years ago — we joked about whether anyone was here at the time, and whether they are now spread very thinly under the rock! The freshly split rock is an almost whitish sandstone, the iron in it oxidises to give the browns and reds when it is exposed to the air.

At one point Sandy stopped and beckoned us over to a gum-tree growing out of the rocks. Kneeling down low, if you press your ear against the trunk you can hear water trickling around down in the rocks — an amazing trick of acoustics considering how dry it is up at the top!

Continuing on around the canyon we eventually came back to the carpark, then back in the bus for another long drive to take us all the way down the Lasseter highway to Yulara. After an hour or so of cruising along the flat roads a bump appeared on the horizon, gradually increasing in size. “Is that Uluru?” came into my head, “Can't possibly be, we're still two or three hours away, and it's completely the wrong shape...” A few more minutes, Sandy quietly grinning to herself in the drivers seat as more and more people murmured and pointed, before she had to give the game away. “Over there on the left is Mount Conner, we'll be stopping at a roadside lookout for lunch and to take photos.”

Several hundred kilometres from anywhere else, Mount Conner and Lake Amadeus rest-stop contained two buses and the two touring cyclists we'd seen yesterday. Still on their way towards Uluru, the distance we cover in an hour, they cover in a day. They didn't look too impressed to be sharing the tables with us. From my memories of cycle touring I think I can understand why; every day the same questions, all the same noisy inquisitiveness, when all you want to do is sit down off the bike and have a relaxing meal. Drive into Yulara and then around and around the campsite. It hadn't struck me until we got here just how many people visit Uluru. Five campgrounds, two dedicated solely to bus tour groups, with permanent parking lots and shelters for each tour company. Drop off the bags, then into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for a visit to the information centre and a drive around the rock itself. Wet and glistening after the rain, it is an amazing sight rising up out of the flat landscape.

...

Arriving at the “Sunset viewing carpark” I had no idea it was all so organised! I guess I should have realised from the numbers, there can be up to sixty full-size coachloads of people here at peak times. Everything from minibusses of backpackers with an esky of beer, to busses from the resort with their trestle table of champagne and suit-jacketed waiters! Once you've walked around the viewing area a few times, then up the track along the dunes to get a slightly different angle, and taken a few photographs, there really isn't much to do but stand around and chat and wait for the sun to go down — hoping that the clouds will part and that we'll get to see some of the famous colour changes. I was standing with my back to the rock sipping a beer when all of a sudden the crowd let out a uniform "OOooo!", almost comical in effect. I turned around to see that the setting sun had shone in under the clouds and lit up the rock as though from footlights. Everyone started running around taking photographs, even the park ranger was standing on the back of his truck taking photos, so I guess it must have been a good night!

Where?

Kings Creek station, Kings Canyon, Yulara village.

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