Subject: In The Garden of Eden (long)
Hello everyone,

We were up with the sun and on our way, thanks to an early wake up call courtesy of a (distant) pack of dingos. Only a short hop to Watarrka National Park and we were here in time for lunch. The park must be the best freebie in Australia but I must say our campsite is a bit of a disappointment after Yulara, which was the same price, and under the same ownership. The facilities are not up to scratch and everything is a little run down and in need of a fresh coat of paint at the minimum. There, a negative impression at last, I was beginning to think I had lost my powers of discernment. But no it is alive and well and suffering at the Kings Canyon Resort. I say suffering because I left the best till last, we arrived to find a road crew laying tarmac all around the camping area, a real nightmare and no other option within a long drive. Even lying in the shade by the pool couldn’t return my good humour, the smell and the dirt and the noise of the vehicles, most of which seem to be permanently going backwards added to my misery.

Still when the sun goes down and "The Men From The Black Stuff" and the flies retreat we cook supper and settle down under the Southern Cross (now we know where it is) with a bottle of ice cold wine and relax. I think we have talked more under the outback skies than we have in years amid the distractions of ‘real’ life.

The Magpies beat the road crew to the wake up call. We didn’t mind we were planning on an early start and were climbing the steep track to the canyon rim by 7.30. The thermometer said 23 degrees, perfect.

The views up to the rim are spectacular. The rock once again is red, but underneath it is white sandstone, 'painted' red by dust and bound by organisms to the surface. It is quite different in texture and colour to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

We walked /climbed through a maze of weathered domes, over the rippled rock of an ancient lake bed to a steep gorge leading down to ‘the Garden of Eden’. Here there are steep wooden steps taking us to a bridge spanning the area just above the floor of the gorge. It was so different down there, some of the plants were over 400 years old and should not still be growing in the Australian desert regions. Conditions here are just right for them to continue to flourish. Taking the G of E detour we walked down and around to the floor of the gorge where the underground watertable is higher than the floor, creating a serenely beautiful waterhole. The steep confining walls of the gorge amplifying the birdcalls, it was glorious. Millions of years in the making and ours alone for a short moment in time.

Retracing our steps we came to the south side of the gorge to the original crack, which formed it. The steep drop was intimidating so we kept our distance. The canyon didn’t let us go easily, either emotionally or physically, it was a bit of a hike back to the car park but we enjoyed photographing the bush tomatoes the bush melon (inedible?) and the bush hibiscus. There were more flowers here, I think than anywhere else we have been in the outback; all are blue purple and or yellow.

We are so glad we choose to come here at this time of they year. There are relatively few visitors, Yulara campground and hotels seemed deserted. Our bus driver from the Sound of Silence told us in a few weeks there would be thousands here, no rooms available and all tours booked out weeks in advance. The line up for a spot to view the sunset and to get into the park will be horrendous. Fifty people lining up for every toilet, and there are very few of them at Uluru or Kata Tjtua and huge line-ups at Yulara supermarket, the most expensive in Australia. That’s what he told us, but I think I have found one even more expensive right here in Kings Canyon.

We are off in the morning to Alice Springs and hopefully a better campsite. Some friends will be arriving in Alice on the Ghan from Katherine before flying home to Narooma so we will be able to spend a day ‘doing’ Alice with them before moving on to Cairns via overnights in Tennant Creek, Mt. Isa and somewhere else to be determined.

Will be in touch again from Cairns, which at the moment is very wet!!!!! We thought we had left it long enough to avoid 'THE WET' that Rolf Harris used to sing about. If it really is "as wet as it can get", I for one won’t be camping.

Regards Sue, Waterloo ON (Currently heading out of Red Center of Australia)