Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kings Canyon

We got into Kings Canyon, or Watarrka, by lunchtime. There was probably some attempt at karaoke on the bus (something we have been doing), but I think I dozed or read. Once at Kings Canyon campsite I investigated some of the local activities. There were quad tours, helicopter rides, camel rides, etc., but only the camel ride, which was pretty early the next day caught my eye. The camel on the cafe menu also caught my eye and I left the rest of the tour to their sandwiches to try one out. Unfortunately at that moment a huge coach arrived and the queue for the cafe suddenly went out the door. I went back to the sandwiches.

Every chance we get we try out the local pool. Even on the way to Coober Pedy, twelve of us squeezed into a 7 foot by 6 foot spa for a dip. Today we lounged at the pool once more. Small brightly coloured birds would skim the pool's surface for a beakful of water before resting on nearby telephone wires and trees. It was simple, but idyllic, and, with all due deference to the girls, they looked great in their bikinis.

It was as well that we rested because that afternoon we were to hike Kings Canyon. It was 38 degrees and getting up the initial cliff face, stairs though there were, was tough. This place is far more like the American desert of Utah etc.. The rock is shelved with cracks lining each outcrop. The wind too has whittled away much of the softer rock to create wonderful formations and shaded ravines. In some of these gaps, tropical ferns grow, protected by the rocky shadow and fed by the occasional rainfall. Colleen wanted to catch a lizard and I tried to take one by the tail. It's nervous squirming made me ashamed though and in the end I settled for petting one under the chin. It seemed very content.

Hidden in the network of vallies and ravines is the Garden of Eden, a green gully lined with wooden stairs and hiding a pool of cool, dark water. Given the heat and dust, it is relatively speaking a garden of Eden. We had been alerted that we would be coming across this, so we all had our swimming gear. A stunning view of nearby vallies can be reached by swimming across this pond. I am not a strong swimmer, however, and the pool does get fairly deep, so I resisted crossing this to the last. Colleen, who is a swimming instructor, eventually threatened me into being ferried across.

Nearly four hours after setting out, we got back to the bus. No curfew disturbs the Kings Canyon campsite, but everyone was tired, so partying was at a minimum. In the kitchen area a small scorpion posed. These are relatively harmless, but the thought of sleeping on the floor inside was not appealing, especially as I had seen a ragged web in the roof beams that looked very funnel-web-ish. As it was we were sleeping outside on the ground in swags. Swags are like heavy duty, rainproof sleeping bags with a matress and a flap to cover the head in case it did rain. Of course, outside on the ground was worse than in, but the mind deals with what it knows and I had seen a scorpion inside, not outside. We settled down to sleep.

Then it rained. First it was a trickle. I snuggled down into my swag. The it got heavier. I zipped up the swag. Heavier again. I put the flap over my head. I was snug and dry and the pitter-patter on the canvas was nice. However, I felt a real need to go to the toilet and didn't fancy walking through the downpour. I unzipped enough to peek out. Everyone else had dragged their sway inside. Not necessarily being a sheep, I kind of wondered if they knew something I didn't, and I did have to go to the toilet. Somewhat unwillingly I dragged my swag into the kitchen to the last place left under the funnel-web. Having gone that far I was ready to brave the storm to the bathroom and did so. Back in bed though, my spot also proved to be under a thin patch in the thatch. I was getting wetter inside than I had been out. I put the flap up and went to sleep.


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