Exploring Australia's Red Center
The night before our stop in Kings Canyon is a "three-dog night"the "dogs" are the number of twisted mulga branches needed to warm us through the cold of a winter night in Central Australia. The morning's three-and-a-half-mile walk into the Canyon is a welcome warm-up.
Kings Canyon is noted for its Lost City, but that's another one of those misconceptions: People never really settled in what is now Watarrka National Parkthe terrain would never support them. A few dingo would survive, maybe, as well as some scraggly mala mala and milk vine (the male and female plants of central Australia, respectively), depending on the year's rainfall.
The truth: "Lost City" was the name Jack and Jim Cotterill gave to a few canyon corridors when they cleared out the road to the canyon for tourists in 1960. These corridors are only one stop along the hikeI also walk past such amazements as trace fossils of marine animals imbedded into the 440-million-year-old sandstone. For most of the period before about 350 million years ago, Central Australia is believed to have been covered by a shallow sea. Kings Canyon shows off the evidence.
Just past the south wall is another hint that the area isn't what it once was: A fresh, cool pond with splashing waterfalls, partially shaded by cycad palms. The rock face is blackened by the tannin of the eucalyptus. Birds gather to take advantage of the cool havenpigeons, pelicans, black swans, a few galahs. This is another spot the Cotterills assigned a name, but this time they were right on: The spot is aptly called the Garden of Eden.
Contiki's 4WD adventures in the Red Center include seven days around Alice and Ayers Rock, six days around Alice and Kakadu, and twelve days from Alice and Ayers Rock all the way up to Darwin in the north. Contact Contiki at www.contiki.com. For more information on Australia, go to www.australia.com.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication