Welcome to our blog — We (occasionally) document our misadventures in travel, on the trail, living in a van, & whatnot. 

Kings Canyon to Alice Springs

Week Eight



Kings Canyon + Bush Camp + Curtin Springs + Bush Camp + Alice Springs + Tennant Creek  

EXPENSES (AUD): October 14 - 20, 2016

King’s Canyon is more than 300 kilometers from Uluru and is in close proximity to absolutely nothing else. On the drive in we were treated to shocks of purples, pinks, whites, and oranges scattered over the red sand. Flowers blossoming low and full in the relatively mild heat of spring. We hoped to find Kings Canyon in the same state of bloom.

Kings Canyon, Rim Walk.

Kings Canyon, Rim Walk.

Wattarka National Park is an excellent option for those who want to take in the beauty of the landscape without the overwhelming press of tourists encountered near Uluru-Kata Tjuta. There are a number of walks available, but the Rim Walk is the one we came to experience. You begin the hard way. Ascending and ascending and ascending. Climbing the steep steps that are cut into the aside of the canyon. What awaits at the top will depend on the time of year; we emerged amongst waist high grasses waving gently. The heat of the previous weeks had burned away most of the flora atop the rim leaving it smooth and harsh. We wove in and out of the canyon's cracks. Followed the twisting wooden staircase down to the Garden of Eden where water always flows. Back to the crest again.

After Kings Canyon it was high time to get back on the road, headed towards Alice Springs. Straight back the way we came followed by a hard left. Left again at Curtin Springs after stopping in for a spot of shade and a cold beer. Then straight for a long time.

I wish I had more to say about Alice Springs. It is a hub where none other exists. It is hazy with dust and heavy with heat. We spent our first few days there camped on the outskirts of town where I was too sick to move.

Falling ill is not something any of us want to do under the best of circumstances. Those circumstances being a climate controlled area with running water and a flush toilet. I had none of these things. There were a handful of trees to provide a few hours of shade each day and the low malee scrub. The soil was already too dry and baked for digging. My memories of Alice Springs are all tinged in a less-than-appealing bilious green for which the city itself is hardly responsible.

This is one of the issues that goes hand in hand with van life. Our comfort is bound to the time of year and the environment. In extreme heat you are reliant on breeze to keep you from cooking. Luck will provide you with shade or a water source, but the desert has little to offer in that regard. Should you fall ill you have a choice to make. Suck it up and pay for a room or suck it up and suffer in the van. I chose the latter simply because I couldn’t stomach the idea of paying the egregiously inflated prices for housing so that I could lie in bed, miserable and shaking, waiting for this ill to pass. We had shade and plenty of supplies, so I stuck it out. Whether or not that was the right choice I cannot say, it is simply the one I made. I have no doubt that the increased heat didn’t help my body fight the virus. After a few days of rest I began to feel well enough that we could explore the city, though I wouldn’t feel fully recovered for another few weeks.

Feeling well enough to do laundry, Alice Springs.

Feeling well enough to do laundry, Alice Springs.

Unfortunately for Alice Springs, it was the source of another unpleasant circumstance for which it garners no fault. The first and only time we ever locked the keys in the van. The door slipped closed at the same time Jorge formed the question, “Where are the keys?” Right there, in plain sight, on the couch right next to my jacket which holds the spare. Where else?

Acquiring a new set of skills.

Acquiring a new set of skills.

We were fortunate that not 100m away there was an auto-parts store which happened to have a jimmy-kit they were happy to loan us. We tried every tool. Pushing it into the crease between rubber and metal. Jacking open a small portal into which sinks another tool. Groping for the lock. The exercise took all of thirty sweaty, stress-filled minutes before finally slipping a cord of plastic around the lock and pulling it free. It was a very proud moment indeed.

We went to the Dustbowl for ten-pin bowling. We ate dumplings and drank at Rock Bar. We wandered the  Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. We ate lunch at Yaye's Cafe. And then we didn't feel the need to stay.

so we turned onto the highway and left it far behind. 

Highway 1, near Tennant Creek. 

Highway 1, near Tennant Creek. 

Road to the Top-End

The Red Center