3 June 1999

Descent Into Kings Canyon

Another early morning - we were awakened at 5.  Last night, Marty warned us that the campground's generators were shut down at 11 pm and weren't turned on until 5:30.  Luckily, the bathrooms were lit when we got there.  Breakfast was the same as before: cereal and fruit.  Yesterday I tried putting Vegemite on my bread.  This time, I abstained - I remember how salty and medicinal it tasted, and I wonder how it ever caught on.


  • Starting the hike
  • Marty tells us about the plants
  • Sunrise at King's Canyon
  • The rocky terrain
  • We boarded the bus and rushed out to Kings Canyon.  Marty took us on the reverse of the main trail.  If we went on it forwards, we would have to hike up Cardiac Hill (guess why it's named this!) and we'd have the sun in our eyes.  [Marty had confided in us that, for obnoxious tourists, he takes them up this way.]  We made our way up a gentle slope until we were at Lookout Point.  We weren't at the canyon yet, but we were among low foothills.  The sun was above the horizon and only the tops of the foothills were lit.  The rock was layered but worn at the edges.  Marty broke apart a pebble and showed that the interior was white - only the outer layer was red due to oxidation.


  • Wild kangaroos
  • The humps of King's Canyon
  • Resting at the top
  • On the canyon's edge
  • A short hike later, we were at the top of the canyon.  Along the way, we spotted two wild kangaroos hiding in the shadow of a foothill.  They watched us as we watched them.  Growing tired of this, they hopped out into the sun and crossed the path.  The rock-strewn terrain was difficult for us to cross, yet the kangaroos hopped through it quickly and easily.


  • Daria in paradise
  • We walked along the canyon top until the span dwindled to a few meters across.  As we descended a wooden staircase, we noticed many tropical plants and a small pool of water.  This was called the Garden of Eden.  During the summer, the vegetation was thicker, and people would go swimming here.  Also, a scene from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was shot here.


  • View of the canyon's side
  • On our way out of the canyon, we encountered other red faced tourists as they made their way up Cardiac Hill.  [Guess they were being punished!]  Marty pointed out several things along the way:
    • the smooth powder covering the ghost gum tree
    • plants used for medicine, food, dye, or glue
    • a type of tobacco plant that could be turned into a narcotic
    • fossils of jellyfish and sand ripples


    Flying the Helicopter

  • Getting on board the helicopter
  • Daria wearing the headgear
  • Back at camp, Daria and I quickly cleaned out our tent and prepared lunch so that we'd have time for a helicopter ride.  A pilot, Jonno, drove up in a jeep.  He took us to the helicopter pad, where a second pilot, Steve, was waiting. We chose a tour that took us to some unexplored areas in Aboriginal land beyond the George Gill Range.  To make the trip even more exciting, I requested that the helicopter doors be removed.  Once Jonno gave us the safety information, we climbed on board.  We put on headsets for communication and for muffling the sound of the motor.  Then the pilot started the helicopter.


  • Sky-high view of the outback
  • Wild horses spotted on the ground
  • Secret watering hole discovered
  • An Aborigine reservation
  • We rose up slowly, turned around and sped towards the Gill Range.  Visibility was to the horizon, and the sky was clear.  High up, the winds were cold, but not having doors allowed for better views.  We saw caves and the occasional oasis hidden among the cliff sides.  We flew along Nineteen Mile River and spotted wild horses.  The pilot pointed out a small mesa and confessed that they touched down there one time when they were bored; the mesa was so small that the helicopter runners were sitting over the edge.  We flew over an aborigine camp that was used three months out of the year; it featured modern buildings and roads.  The helicopter returned to the landing site, where Marty was waiting with the rest of the tour group.


  • Daria with an emu
  • Baby kangaroo in pouch
  • A joey nurses from the outside
  • We drove back to Alice Springs, stopping at the Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse again and the camel farm.  We walked over to the kangaroo pen at the camel farm, which had two mother kangaroos.  One mother had its small baby in the pouch with its head sticking out, and the other mother's child (or joey) was walking on its own - it stuck its head in the pouch in order to nuurse.  We learned from the woman from Sweden that the mother has two sets of nipples: a smaller one for a baby and a larger, more accessible one for a joey.

    Back at the Desert Palms Resort, we said goodbye to Marty, who gave us some advice.  He recommended travelling in a taxi at night because many tourists are attacked by drunken Aboriginees.  Because of this and because we were tired, we stayed in our hotel room, ordered pizza and drank Victorian Bitter beer.

    Random thoughts:

    • It seems that green peppers are called something else here, according to the pizza menu.
    • The "Australian pizza" has ham and eggs on it.

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