Kings Canyon is another icon of Australia and was formed over millions of years and has been home to the Luritja people for over 20,000 years. An area found in the Watarrka National Park, that I explored not only by four-wheel drive but also on a series of trekking adventures over a three-day period. Treks that took me above and below megalithic rocks that had all types of formations.
It took me 300km from Mount Zeil to Kings Canyon and 110km of those were dirt tracks. When dirt tracks see enough traffic above the speed of 5km per hour, they develop periodic, transverse ripples as the wheels bounce on the originally unrippled surface, something which the locals called corrugated roads. The whole drive felt like my whole vehicle was about to come undone. However, I took it relatively easy and cruised between 30 and 40km an hour, only getting up to around 70km an hour on the long straights.
This offroad track was spectacular so I decided to split the drive over two days by camping out at Gosse Bluff. This is the site where dinosaurs are said to have met their end when a meteor struck the planet millions of years ago. The Aboriginal community of the area regards this as a sacred place. It was a special experience being in this place and you could appreciate its size and energy especially being alone.
Driving out of the Mereenie Loop and into the Kings Canyon area is like something out of a Hollywood movie. After all those kilometers of dust and bumps and some amazing wild horses, you end up on a cliff overlooking the giant plains of Watarrka National Park with Kings Canyon in the distance. You then drive around a couple of bends and some 50km later you end up on a flat dirt track, one that allows cruising at 70km per hour. The final part brings you to the Kings Canyon paved road that connects to the road heading to Uluru in the South, which is used mainly by the resort a couple of kilometers away from the canyon. Reaching this place felt like a huge achievement and I was also glad that my Mitsubishi Pajero made it out in one piece.
Once you get there you can use the resort’s grounds for camping or you can rent a bungalow with Kings Canyon views for a four-star price. Another alternative is taking a risk and finding a hidden location around the canyon that will keep you out of site from the park rangers. If they catch you however you may have to pay a hefty fine. Your best bet at free camping legally would be to hike into the bush and set up camp.
There are many entry points into Kings Canyon, three main ones that are equipped with shady areas, toilets and showers, and countless smaller tracks that can be reached with your 4WD. I managed to get my first day of trekking on the south western point with a sunrise start. This was truly something else, cold at first but with clear skies, but warming up as the sun climbs over the cliff faces of the canyon. As usual, I was alone for most of this experience until two lovely Australian couples made it up just in time for the sunrise. They were in their early 50s and keen hikers and we bonded instantly. On this day I shared the coffee that I always prepare before visiting scenic spots, with my new friends as we took in the sunrise and shared some stories.
The trekking around Kings Canyon is perfect for all hikers, and offers some really good free climbing too. Over three days I covered the whole place above and within the canyon, from the Garden of Eden to the Lost City. Water streams through the canyons gorges and cracks all year round, but in the dry season it is much more contained. This results in some lush vegetation within the canyon but only at certain spots. The most incredible parts of this magical place that will stick in my memory were the massive boulders that have been cut out of the rock as a result of inclement weather, the 90 degree sandstone cliff faces, and the sheer size of the canyon, which you are only able to appreciate when you see people at the other end, giving it a little perspective.
I would definitely recommend leaving a few days to truly experience this place and enjoy what the hiking trails have to offer, but if time is not on your side then the most rewarding trail would be the main trail that takes you from west to east. It’s the most clearly marked trail and if you don’t want to go it alone, there are plenty of guided treks throughout the busy season.
Always make sure to stock up on sustainable snacks, loads of water, a lighter and a good torch.
Until next time, let the world be your playground.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Marc Casolani