Day 17. Monday 14 August.
First stop this morning was Kathleen Springs, for a short 2.5 k walk to the waterhole at the head of the gorge. By the time we started it had reached about 30 degrees, but parts were in shade. Very frustrated by the bird life, which invariably flew away just as the binos were focused. But we did see, and hear, the tiny zebra finches in their dozens, as well as white plumed honey eaters, and black faced wood swallows, to add to the Butcherbird, Port Lincoln ring necked parrots and the ubiquitous yellow fronted miners and top knot pigeons seen earlier at the campsite.
Kings Canyon was next but the long walk around the rim was not on – we were able to justify that by having done it in 2007. Instead we took the short walk up Kings Creek, enjoying the flora and fauna.
The walk was shorter than in 2007, as the viewing platform at the end of the track had been destroyed in 2016 by huge rocks falling from the base walls after heavy rain. It was apparently reassuring (for the Rangers) that they hadn’t come down from the top, and the walk will be reopened after repairs.
Kings Canyon resort replicates Yulara, so we weren’t going to stay there. The road on from the resort requires a permit, but none were available, so we were advised to just drive through like everyone else. Instead we paid the very modest fee ($5.50) and held on to the receipt to show we were honest citizens (the money goes to the traditional owners of the land through which the road goes.)
We were told of a free campsite about 30 km up the road on a jump up, so that’s where we are spending the night, perched on a bluff overlooking the plains all the way back to Kings Canyon. And we’ve just been joined by a dingo for sunset drinks.
D has walked to the end of the campsite to let the French girls (who’ve gone into the scrub to find firewood) know of the yellow visitor. And now he (and some other new arrivals) are advising the girls about the fuel tanks on their roof. A third piece of advice (no, they don’t mind) is about firewood and he’s loaned them the bow saw. Wonder if he would have been so helpful if they were a couple of French blokes? They’re probably thinking that the flies aren’t so bad in comparison!
The girls are doing the backpacker thing and having finished the requisite period in ‘farm, construction or mining work’, have bought a 4wd Mitsubishi van and are celebrating the free roaming scene. And we’ve been given the French seal of approval for tonight’s vino…we don’t believe that we are into the emergency supply – a Yalumba cask red!!!! D hasn’t yet lived down the 2007 fiasco of running out of red in Alice and it is very close to history repeating. To add tragedy to pathos, the cask sprung a leak, so D has decanted most of it into two bottles that hadn’t yet made it to the rubbish. We may quite involuntarily find out what an AFD is.
Day 18. Tuesday 15 August.
Not a lot to report on this day, which started with 120 km of rough, corrugated, sandy gravel road until we hit the bitumen on the inner loop road. The drive took about 4 hours, which gives some indication of the conditions. We did a quick recce of a camp spot at Ipelora indicated in one of our guide books but apart from some yards (possibly for horses – there was a lot of evidence that they’ve been around recently all the way in on the 13 km track) there was nothing much to offer, so we headed to Redbank Gorge, a well set up bush camp site in woodland. We were the only visitors when we arrived, but shortly after at least four others drove in.
The day was hot, plenty of flies and native bees which swarm around the water outlets of the van. Birds twittered: finches, honey eaters, wood swallows. T ambled up to the Ridgetop at sunset (without a camera!) The sun was a red ball, dropping behind the gorge. A magic moment without a photographic record.
Van and vehicle holding up well after some pretty horrendous roads – one broken drawer catch, but we were carrying a spare, so easily fixed. Other than that, one van tyre has a slow leak, and some rivets have popped their heads, but nothing structural.
Day 19. Wednesday 16 August.
Before leaving camp we had the delight of seeing fairy wrens and the brilliantly red mistletoe bird darting around our site.
The morning promised another warm/hot day and because we are slow risers, our walk into Redbank Gorge was done at midday. Signage misled us and we did the return route, clambering over slippery boulders in around 2 hours, not the 40 mins indicated on the noticeboard, and we had not carried water. The gorge has a permanent waterhole, is swimmable but very cold apparently but the last of the quartz rocks defied T with her gammy feet (and the young lass heading toward the pool, in crocs and with swimmers would have been seriously/dangerously challenged).
Nonetheless, spectacular colours once again and even some little native fish, no doubt the dinner the Grey Faced Heron was patiently looking for.
Small birds sang for us as we travelled: Zebra Finches, parrots and a couple of varieties of Honeyeater and they didn’t seem overly fussed by our passing.
Namatjira Drive took us east toward Alice; we called in at Glen Helen resort for water and hoped to buy a beer for this evening, but of course we were denied, as alcohol can only be sold if you are staying at the resort. Frozen yogurts were the consolation purchase.
Tonight we’ve set up camp on the dry Hugh River, about 60 kms from Alice and will decide on the next move, taking into account the Todd River Races event coming up on Saturday.
Postscript. We decided to go into Alice to spend a day or so looking at the sites, and to restock (yes, red win, but also other stuff) and to clear some laundry.