The Stairway to Kings Canyon, Watarrka – NT
My head tilted back and my neck craned to follow the line of rugged rocky ‘steps’ rising steeply and unevenly towards the distant cobalt blue sky –
There are approximately 500 “steps” to be surmounted to get to the top of Kings Canyon, (which is 465km/290miles by road SW of Alice Springs or 300 km/185miles NE of Uluru in Australia’s Red Centre) where the Rim Walk starts – but once there… you are taken on a magical 6 km (3.75 mile) circuit through ancient arid ‘bee-hive’ rock formations around the top of the Canyon – and then down into the contrasting hidden Garden of Eden.
For many, this ‘stairway’ appears to be too large a feat of endurance, so forms both the beginning and (sadly) the end of their expedition… And it does look a little daunting – but… slow and steady wins the race and as long as you don’t approach it with the mind of a Rock Wallaby, and gently climb just a few steps at a time, you’ll find yourself at the top in less than half an hour, and while I can’t quite say its all downhill from there, I can say you’ll be more than rewarded for your effort.
When we set out, about 8am on this August morning, there was still a winter’s chill to the air – But don’t be fooled into believing its going to stay that way –
I recommend you carry twice as much water as you think you’ll need as whatever you think you’ll need, is rarely enough…
And up on the rim, as the sun rises to its pounding zenith, with the hard red rock reflecting the heat back up from beneath your feet, the dry desert atmosphere sucks the moisture from your body – even in the so called cooler months.
The Rock Domes on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Visually, my first impression of the bee-hive like domes on the top was their similarity to Purnululu (Bungle Bungles, WA).
At Kings Canyon, these sandstone rock formations give off a ‘Lost City’ feel having been formed from 20 million years of wind and rain erosion.
To the local Luritja people of the Watarrka National Park area the domes are Kuninga* men who travelled through here in the Tjukurpa (the Dreamtime).
*Kuninga is the Luritja name for the western quoll.
It’s not long before we reach our first diversion to Cotterill’s Bridge – It takes us across a chasm to a vantage point with spectacular views of the north wall.
Originally built by Jack Cotterill in 1962 of timber, slabs of sandstone and 8 gauge fencing wire, it collapsed in 1991 (remains can be viewed if you look down when crossing) so was replaced with this sturdier metal version –
The following day when we did the shorter Kings Creek walk we were able to see the bridge from the Canyon floor below – Looking up from the creek bed the bridge looked positively precarious as people crossed the chasm.
But from the top – It was beautiful looking out both ways – down the canyon (left hand photo below) to get a glimpse of the sheer edge that lay beneath our feet, and up the canyon (right hand photo) where you could see people starting the decent down the man-made steps that lead to the Garden of Eden.
Or simply looking out across the canyon to the north wall, from this stunning elevated platform.
The Garden of Eden
A series of wooden steps takes you back down to the Canyon floor…
To the hidden Garden of Eden, where there’s a feeling of abundance as the water draws the wildlife into this microcosm.
Leaving the heat and the dry domes exposed to the sun on the top it was a treat to come down into this shady-glady oasis of water in Australia’s arid Red Centre.
To the Traditional Owners this is an important men’s sacred place, where their Tjukurpa (Dreaming) stories are too sensitive to share publicly. But the preciousness of this water source is highly respected by all so no swimming is permitted lest it get contaminated and endanger the hundreds of species that rely on its health and longevity for their survival.
I wish, as a global community, we could adopt their simple but oh so effective mantra:
“If you keep the water healthy, you keep the plants and animals healthy”
Kings Canyon – How it was Formed
But what goes down has to go back up!
And once back up on the top the views of the Canyon from the northern side seemed to get even bigger and better!
For those of a curious disposition –
This is how Kings Canyon was formed…
Although from this side, it looks as though a knife has sliced though it like butter 😉
The 6km (3.75 mile) Kings Canyon Rim Walk took us a little under 5 hours to complete – a bit more than the ‘official’ recommendation of 3 to 4 hours that we read in most information; but we took our time to wonder at the vistas, breath in the red centre air, admire the vegetation, observe the wildlife and occasionally just sit and ‘be’.
After making the effort to climb those 500 steps it was a place I was not going to rush 😉
It was a place that had long been on my bucket list –
And I’m happy to say, it didn’t disappoint 🙂
Do you have any places that have been on your bucket list forever… ?
Do share in the comments below 😀