It's a creekmore world

Australia Day 15 – Australia a tourist trap? Kings Canyon, Northern Territories

$512 USD for a single ‘luxury’ room? It’s really outrageous. The wi-fi is broken, the toilet leaks all night and last nights food at the restaurant was inedible and expensive. I’ve never seen risotto as bad as we were served in the only restaurant. And this is the better of the two accommodations at King’s Canyon. The other is compared to a run down boy scout summer camp on Tripadvisor.

The room has gorgeous big windows, a stunning huge bath in the middle of the room and beautiful desert landscaping outside. The beds are comfy too, but it’s still a terrible value. What was I thinking when I booked this place? It’s an extra 8 hours of driving and crazy expensive accomodation in the middle of nowhere all for a half day hike? Kings Canyon better be good.

We remark while eating that Australia has not been good value for money. It’s not just the expense, it’s the poor quality. We feel like we are in tourist traps a lot.

I don’t want this to sound like a big complaint. We are grateful that we can afford travelling. But there are much better value places like Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam.

Kings Canyon is the second most popular tourist attraction in the Northern Territories after Uluru although it’s clearly a distant second based on the number of rooms in the area. In trip planning I figured we should ‘see’ the outback and initially wanted to rent a camper van and drive from Adelaide to Darwin through underground Cooper Pedy, Uluru, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs. I vastly underestimated the distances and the time we have. It would take 5 days with only stops for sleeping, leaving no time to do anything else. It was also fantastically expensive. Instead we rented a tiny Toyota Corolla.

But I still wanted to drive some of the Outback and thought the diversion to Kings Canyon would be fun. The drive yesterday wasn’t too bad.

The two lane roads are narrow when a big truck comes the other direction, but there is very little traffic and the scenery is interesting to us being new. I’m sure it’s boring as hell for locals.

We sleep in a bit. I use that cool bathtub. I have to to get my money’s worth. By the time we get to Kings Canyon it’s mid morning and getting hot. The parking lot is filled with just about every person for dozens, maybe hundreds of square miles. The car park is basically right at the floor of the canyon mouth. The rim walk goes up, around and back down, pretty much from one end of the parking lot to the other.

Canyons are unusual in this part of the world where there is so little water. There obviously was a time when it flowed more regularly. The water source now is mostly underground and infrequently running although there is a permanent plant-filled waterhole in the deepest bit of the canyon.
The walk starts out with what locals and rangers call heart attack hill, a very steep hill up to the rim of the canyon. Even with rock staircaises it’s a hike. The girls practically run up them and then Lily complains as they rest, waiting for the old parents to finally arrive. In summer heat this would be unbearable.

A half mile farther the ridge is exposed and we get our first view of the canyon, nearly 300 feet below. The trees, mostly gum trees, form waves of color lines against the red and tan sand that follow the path of the riverbed. Water is just below the surface. Animals know to dig a deep hole and wait for the water to fill in. But to us it’s just arid arid and inhospitable.

The views from the rim are stunning.  The winter sun streams down hard but it’s not oppressively hot as much as it is intensely bright.  There are various places to get to the edge of the rim and none have railings, which improves the views but of course makes it a little less safe.

There are a bunch of families here.  I’d keep a tight hand on any kids.  One young girl whines and drags her feet slowly.  This is a tough place to take a young kid, but I suppose that’s what people said when we took Emma and Lily.

It’s not the steep cliffs that make what we see so amazing is on top.  The surface of Kings Canyon is formed by an era of sandy desert that has formed a rocky crust that erodes with beautiful lines of red, tan and darker red.  In some places it looks like it was made of individual bricks, almost like some of the very ancient civilizations we’ve seen in desert places like the Sahara and Gobi desert.

Some spots look like beehives emerging from the floor of the canyon rim. Others look like miniature canyons.  It’s really really really stunning to walk through.  Though we are thirsty, a little sun exposed and hungry for a good meal, this becomes one of our favorite walks.  It’s up there with treks like the Great wall of China and the Walk of the Gods on the Amalfi coast.  Ok, maybe it’s not quite as good as those but we agree it’s world class.

We squeeze into the car and enjoy some air conditioning as we drive six hours to Alice Springs through one of the worlds great deserts.  Worth it?  We would never say no.  I doubt we’d come back here ever, and we did pay a lot in time and money to see it, but Kings Canyon was memorable.