Kings Canyon

Trip Start Jul 10, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After our final night under the stars, we got up at 6am this morning and drove to Kings Canyon. Unfortunately it had been lightly raining all night and it still was when meant our 8km walk was in drizzle. It was fairly hot so we didn't actually mind the rain because it cooled is down - although I was a bit annoyed because I couldn't take my camera on the walk and hence I didn't take any photos. Despit the rain, this was the best walk yet. Walking up 'heartattack hill' was the hardest part because it was steep with rocky steps. It was worth it though -the view over the Cannyon was beautiful. We then walked along the top of the canyon, learning about the how the aboriginals use the plants along the way. Our guide explained that a canyon is only open at one end (in a v shape), whereas a gorge is open at both. Kings Canyon is made of sandstone. Billions of years ago that area was sand dunes. The pressure from the sand above sedimented the bottom layers of sand underneath turning it into layered rock. Over the years the top layers of sand have blown / washed away leaving the mounds of layered rock that are there today. The rocks are full of iron and because the outside layers are exposed to oxygen they have turned bright red (in the same way as Uluru and the Olags). Katie our guide showed us a piece rock that she has cracked open to show us how white and sandy the inside was in comparison to the glowing red exterior. Walking over the rocks, and looking down into the ginormous canyon was like being on another planet. It felt strange to walk around and between sand dune shaped rock 'domes', in contrast to the sheer drop over the cliff edge.

The indiginous /aboriginal people believe that the canyon was created by a hungry kangaroo that wanted to get to the other side of the mountain to look for food. He was too weak or lazy to go over the mountain so instead he kicked his way through it, as the mountain split it created the canyon. Science however says its created by the trapped moisture and damp in the rocks which has frozen and hence cracked the rocks. The sandstone also crumbles very easily and large pieces tend to break away from the cliff edge falling into the canyon around every 80 years. We all laid on the edge and looked down into the canyon. The sheer drop was pretty impressive! The layers of rocks are beautiful as each layer has its own shade of glowing red. We also shouted 'Cooee' (an aboriginal call) into the canyon to hear the long loud echo. I have never heard an echo go on for so long, it was very strange.

During the walk, we passed through 'Priscilla's crack' (used in Priscilla Queen of the Desert), 'the amphitheatre' which was a sudden large open space at the top of the canyon with the odd dead black tree, and finally down into 'the garden of Eden'. The garden of Eden was beautiful. It was a small lake type area at the base of the canyon which was surrounded by tropical trees and plants and full of wildlife. We stopped there for a few minutes to sit and listen to the birds singing. From here, our guide suddenly hurried the group along which seemed very strange. We soon found out this was so that Khalil and Emma (a couple from London) could have time alone there. When they caught up with the group, they announced they were engaged. It was certainly a beautiful setting for a proposal! Of course we cheered and clapped sending an echo through the canyon and then took lots of photos of them posing with the ring overlooking the garden of Eden.

After the walk, we spent the afternoon traveling back to Alice Springs. Earlier that day, I had mentioned that we should look for Whitchetty Grubs. Katie our guide had overheard me and mentioned that they grow in the roots of certain acacia trees and they were actually tricky to find. She kindly offered that if the group were interested we could stop on the way home to look for them but she also emphasise how hard they are to find. I stupidly piped up and said that if we found one I would eat it. That was it... I had set myself up! On the way back through the desert everyone was alseep on the truck but we were woken by Katie who had pulled over because had found a cluster of acacia trees. We grabbed a spade and went into the bush on the hunt. I have to admit at this point I got very nervous knowing that if we found one I would have to eat it! To get to them, we had to dig up the root of the tree and snap it open. The first tree we tried we didn't have any luck finding them (phew). But (unfortunately) we found them on the second attempt. As soon as we found one I knew that was it - I had to eat it. Khalil wanted to eat the first one so he could get it over and done with. Katie explained that we needed to bite off the head then quickly chew the body. Khalil bit off the head to which the grub burst and he wretched and spat it out. After seeing him unable to eat it, I knew the challenge was on! The grub wasn't particularly slimy to touch which I was surprised about. Nether the less it was big, wriggly and squishy. I tried hard not to look at it too much... Surely the more you dwell on it the harder it would be. Biting off the head wasn't as tough as I had expected. It actually came off quite easily, but having said that it did mean its guts etc popped in my mouth. I knew that bit would be the worst so I chewed as fast as I could to swallow it down. What I wasn't expecting is that every bite after that meant that each segment of the caterpillar burst in my mouth. It was like an eggy tasting tomato popping in my mouth with every bite. Despite it tasting like a slightly gone off egg yolk, the taste didn't bother me as much as the bursting in my mouth. But I ate it and I like to think Ant and Dec would be proud! I'm glad I did it - I suppose it's all part of the Oz experience and I can say I've eaten bush tucker. Niall (Ireland) and Han (South Korea) also ate one but unsurprisingly the rest of the group couldn't be persuaded.

When we arrived back in Alice Springs we had a final group dinner together at the hostel. It was Andrea's (Austria) birthday the following day so we brought her a cake.... Which happened to be a caterpillar cake .... Not the most appetising after eating a Whitchery Grub earlier that day! It was sad to say goodbye to the group when I flew from Alice Springs the following day. Having spent 10 days on the road with them we had all got quite close and it was a shame we all had to go our separate ways. I seem to get used to making friends then having to go our separate ways now - it happens all too often when traveling. Nether the less, I have had the most incredible time in the outback. I can't believe how different it is from the rest of Australia. The land is so vast and living out there would mean you might not see other people for months on end. It's easy to see why some aboriginal people have never seen a white person before even in this day and age. I found the wildlife and geology fascinating. The Outback would be top of my list to come back to if I am lucky enough to visit Australia again.
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