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20

| BNE May/June 2017

ESCAPE

dramatic rock formation, Mt Conner or ‘Atila’,

to use its name in the local Pitjantjatjara

language. But its nickname is ‘Fooleru’,

because its similar height tricks first-timers into

thinking they’ve seen its famous cousin, 100km

down the road. Driving east of Uluru, we pull

into Curtain Springs Lookout to admire the

audacity of Atila’s deception, then climb a red

sand hill across the road to discover a series of

shimmering salt lakes stretching to the horizon.

There has been plenty of rain in central

Australia before my visit (and more good

downpours are forecast this year) so the

roadside has been transformed into fields of

multi-coloured wildflowers and impromptu

rock pools of fresh rainwater that catch the sky,

reflecting it like a mirror.

Turning north off Lasseter’s Highway, it’s

only a couple of hours on to our next digs

at Kings Canyon Resort and we pass just a

handful of cars. Scarcity brings camaraderie

and we exchange cheery, open-handed waves

through windscreens.

The tourist scene around Watarrka, or

Kings Canyon, is as unstructured as Ayers

Rock Resort is organised, with a handful of

accommodation scattered on the fringe of

the George Gill Range, of which the canyon

is part. At Kings Creek Station I spy basic

camping spots and pop in to pat a baby camel

at the working cattle and camel station. There’s

a special coo of admiration at the station’s

new glamping (‘glamorous camping’) tents,

complete with a pool made with outback

innovation and an old shipping container.

Twenty minutes away, at Kings Canyon

Resort, we throw our bags in a comfortable,

newly renovated motel-style room. Its little

veranda faces onto bushland sparkling with

flowering shrubs, filled with trills of native

birdsong.

The resort is the closest accommodation to

the canyon and the next morning, in the cool

of the desert dawn, I start the 6km Rim Walk

around the canyon. The track starts with a

steep climb up a rock staircase and later spirals

back down, down, down into the Garden of

Eden, a waterhole amidst the ancient rock – a

rich, green oasis hemmed in by high walls of

orange stone.

The canyon is capped with beehive-like

rock formations known as the Lost City – they

resemble an ancient civilisation, abandoned

and slowly sinking back into the ground from

which they were born. The geologists put

the canyon at 440 million years old and the

local Luritja people have lived at its fringe for

20,000 years, as Luritja woman Christine, at

the Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience,

told me while skilfully toasting a witchetty

grub. (“Buttery, nutty, these are the best,” she

Impromptu rock pools

of fresh rainwater catch

the sky, reflecting it

like a mirror

Discover Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park on

a self-drive road trip between Uluru, Kings

Canyon and Alice Springs; a camel trek from

Ayers Rock Resort to a sunset viewing of

the Field of Light; bush tucker sampled from

Ayers Rock Resort and a spectacular view of

Kings Canyon