On the way to King’s Canyon, we met a red dirt road that went forever. With diversions such as Palm Valley, “just a bit off the main track”, it took us about 10 hours to go from Alice to King’s Canyon Resort, 50% owned by Aboriginal shareholders. The Palm Valley side-trip was only 22 km. How bad could it be?
But when our 4-wheel drive vehicle was challenged on a barely-a-road full of rocks, hardly a dirt path at all in some places, that 22 km. took forever. Well, only much of the afternoon. The twelve-mile equivalent times two for the round trip reqired about three hours of very careful navigation through the rocks, dips and mud holes.
Soft sand turns out to be as hazardous as deep snow, and though my 4WD skills are quite good, we spent a good hour before the first palm showed up in our line of vision.
Short story was that we arrived at the trail head mid-afternoon, when the temperature was about 40 degrees Centigrade . . . perhaps 104 degrees, and the short, fairly easy hike became a sunstroke threat for this woman. Neil, Ashley and Justin completed the walk, while I retreated halfway through, found the car, and practically plunged my face into our water-soaked washcloths.
Once recovered, having collected my companions, we headed back up the rutted trail toward the “main road” if one can call it that. The permit-required Mereenie Loop. Fortunately there were no permit checkers on the way, but there were groups of camels on the sides of the road, along with the wild horses and foals running back and forth in front of our car, all headed to the potholes filled with rainwater from occasional showers as we moved down the Loop. The photo at the header of this website was taken on this part of our journey. It was actually quite exciting! I hadn’t considered sharing an Australian road with camels . . .
As the sun hung lower in the sky, our collective nerves began to rattle a bit. There was NOTHING out here . . . absolutely nothing. No streetlights, no houses, huts, tents, no gas stations, no cars, nothing but us, and beyond us a continuous show of sheet lightening with surprise instant rain showers. And when the dark came, we were plunged into the black, but for the now inadequate light from the front of our car. “Trusting the process” took on a whole new meaning. We were on the red moon, or Mars, and though we knew we couldn’t get lost, because there was no other road, King’s Canyon might as well have been weeks away.
By about 9:00 p.m., we arrived at our destination, checked in, got to our room in the darkness and took turns learning our way down the path to the communal bathrooms. Getting ready for an early hike the next day was our first priority after we settled in, because the heat of today’s hike let us know we did not want to be away from heat shelter by noon.
The next morning, we were out by 7:00 a.m., headed toward King’s Canyon for our hike. The drive to the trailhead was only about a ten-minute one, and we parked in a large lot, along with the other cars and tour busses.
A fairly easy hike, said the book, but for the first 20 minute climb. Again, I asked myself, “How bad could that be?”