I wanted my final sightseeing in Ayers Rock to be an all day excursion. The SEIT company were running a tour called the Cave Hill Safari, which promised “a full day cultural immersion experience exploring the Aboriginal Songlines (stories)” from an Aboriginal guide. Unfortunately, the guide wasn’t available the day I had, so instead, I opted for hiking the Kings Canyon instead through AAT Kings costing $199 for the day.
I’m a little crazy when it comes to walking, hiking or running conditions – I always like to test the limits. As a young boy, I remember on a 3 week summer holiday with my parents in the Greek mountains, running a good 30 minute return journey down the mountain to the shops to buy ice cream. I had also recently ran the Angkor Wat 10k whilst I was travelling through Cambodia.
Without doubt, this was probably the hottest walk I’ve done in my life, with temperatures in the sun as you hiked around 44 degrees (taking into account direct sun and the heat coming off the rocks). The advice from the guide was to take 1 litre of water for every hour you’ll be walking to prevent dehydration. For the 3-4 hour walk I chose, I had to sign a disclaimer that given the conditions, any medical attention during the hike would need to be at my own expense. My guide insisted on checking everyone’s bag and my 5 litres of water was enough let me join. Given the conditions and the fact the canyon was a 3 hour drive away, meant a harsh 04:00 pick up from the hostel in order to do the majority of the walk before the midday sun.
The Kings Canyon belongs to the Watarrka National Park which was about 3 hours drive from the Ayers Rock Resort. There a couple of routes to walk. You could walk 2.6km into the creek (taking about 1 hour return) or you could climb up the rock and walk around 6km on top of the canyon (3-4 hours).
Although the route is fairly well sign posted, there were two reasons I was glad to have a guide. Firstly, the temperatures that day were not to be messed with and secondly the sandstone in some areas is wearing thin and is thought to be close to collapse.
The start of the canyon walk has a series of 500 steps leading up to the top.
Once up at the top, you’re given 360 degree canyon views with plenty of vegetation for something a little unique.
You get to see some crevices and the famous creek from the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
One of the most interesting piece of wildlife was this tree. This tree constantly makes decisions about the amount of water it has to maintain its life. When it decides a certain branch is taking too much water/resource, it will internal starve it of water and kill it off. You’ll notice in the photo a handful of branches that are blackened. Those have been killed off my the tree.
There’s plenty of evidence that tallies with Uluru and Kata Tjuta that the area was once a huge water bed. Fossils of water creatures and rippled grounds are just a few.
The first explorers of this canyon were walking around it and stumbled upon a huge watering hole. Being hugely relieved to find some water in the hot desert, they named it “Eden”. You can walk right down into the garden. The water collects from the rain and only leaves through evaporation given the impermeable rock that lies underneath.
It’s hard to believe you’re on top of a desert canyon when you get to see pools of water like this too.
Even after drinking almost all of my 5 litres, we were all feeling some effects of the dehydration. We were told that was normal, in that even with enough water like I had, the loss of salts and the extreme heat were going to have an effect, regardless.
Once you get down from the top, towards the end of the walk, there’s another track called the Giles Track, which is a 22km one way walk to another location. You probably need a small army of camels to carry your water on this one if you’re attempting it in the summer.