Central Australia: Watarrka (Kings Canyon)

Central Australia: Watarrka (Kings Canyon)

Central Australia is aboriginal Australia at its finest. The arid landscape oozes culture and tradition, with an endless canvas of bright blue sky stretched overhead. Flat desert roads lead to gargantuan rock formations erupting from the earth. The air hangs thick with the history of the oldest continuous culture in the world.

The hot, dry centre of Australia is an area which many travellers overlook. Not a lot of Australians bother to make the trip either. People see the area as too far from the popular coastal towns and expensive to travel to. Many people take the easier option of staying by the coast rather than spending a fortune travelling to the centre to see a lot of dust and a big rock. But central Australia is not just about Uluru (Ayres rock) and the sheer magnitude of the region far outweighs the cost or inconvenience of travelling there.

We embarked on a six day tour from Alice Springs to Adelaide, which took in the main sites of central Australia. We were picked up at dawn, under a blanket of pink sky and began a long drive out into the great beyond.

Alice Springs sunrise

Our awesome Ozzy tour guide, Sam, explained our itinerary for the next few days. If we’re being totally honest, we hadn’t heard of most of the places he mentioned and were only really interested in seeing the big rock. However Sam’s enthusiasm for the places and the culture he was going to share with us really won us over and ignited a real spark of passion for central Australia.

Our first stop was at a ranch famous for camel racing (no, we didn’t know that was a thing either). We soon got to know the other members of our tour group and quickly learnt that all dignity goes out of the window when mounting a camel.

Next we journeyed to Watarrka, also known as Kings Canyon. A lot of the natural attractions in Australia are in the process of having their traditional aboriginal names restored. Whilst this can be confusing for tourists, it is a really important way of repairing the relationship with traditional land owners.

Kings Canyon

The walls of Watarrka are over 100 metres high. To access the rim walk, you must first battle the steep ascent known as heart attack hill. It is ten minutes of torture as you climb the ever steeper steps to the top. However, the beauty that awaits those who make it to the top is breath taking. We set out on a 6 km walk around the rim of the canyon before descending into the Garden of Eden below. Our tour guide Sam did an excellent job of explaining the geology of the place and the traditional way of life in the area.

That evening, with Sam’s supervision, we all helped to cook an awesome thai curry before settling down for the night in our swags (large canvas sleeping bags used for sleeping outside). After an epic first day of our trip, we drifted off to sleep beside the camp fire and tried to put the thought of spiders, snakes and dingos as far from our minds as possible.

Wandering Wives Swag

We would urge anyone who can to make the journey to the red centre, it was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. Our tour was Rock 2 Water with Groovy Grape, booked and arranged by Backpackers World Travel.

27 Responses

  1. […] Our journey to the red centre of Australia showed us the rich aboriginal culture of Uluru, Watarraka and Kata Tjuta. In Western Australia we crossed The Kimberley before gorge walking in Karijini and […]

  2. […] riding at an outback racing ranch; climbed heart attack hill and walked around the rim of Watarrka; We slept under the stars in a swag and hiked through the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta; We […]

  3. […] couldn’t believe how much we had seen and experienced in such a short space of time: We went camel riding at an outback racing ranch; climbed heart attack hill and walked around the rim of Watarrka; We […]

  4. More beautiful photographs! I love to camp, but sleeping outdoors in the red centre? Not sure!

    • Emily was very unsure as well, but when it came to it and we were all sat around the fire it seemed so natural to roll our our beds and fall asleep there under the stars. One of our favourite travelling experiences!

  5. […] the third day of our central Australia trip, having already visited Watarrka and Kata Tjuta, it was time for the big ticket attraction; Uluru. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage […]

  6. Your shots here look very similar to my neck of the woods in Arizona. What a cool blog you have!

  7. So beautiful.!! And thank you for the blog follow 🙂

  8. Awesome post! I’ve never been myself but would love to 1 day. Enjoy the trip 🙂

  9. Your photos are beautiful! The scenery is stunning – and not only a photographer’s paradise. As a geologist, I’d love to get out to Watarrka! You obviously loved it there yourselves. Great post. 🙂

    • Thank you. If we had been taken to central Australia during our GCSEs we might have had a bit more enthusiasm for Geology/Geography! Our tour guide was great at explaining how all the rock formations came about but unfortunately we didn’t retain much of that information.
      Happy travels
      Sian & Emily

  10. Reminds me of the Grand Canyon. You make me want to go there. Even climbing Heart Attack Hill and sleeping in the midst of spiders and snakes appeal to me. You gals are great.

    • Thank you for your kind words. It really was worth the climb, although we might not have said that as we were making the ascent!

    • It really was great, and I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know it was there, I just wanted to see Uluru like most tourists! Never been the grand canyon, but its on our list along with everywhere else!

  11. Superb. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Love it here! A photographers playground 🙂

  13. satoshi17

    Thanks for following! I love your blog and your photos are lovely!

  14. Great photo essay, very delighted to have started following your blog. 🙂 If you haven’t heard of it, there’s a wonderful film about an Aussie woman who traveled across the Outback on camel called Tracks.

  15. Wow, sounds amazing and fantastic pictures! I’m not sure about the sleeping outside bit though…!

  16. You both are on a wonderful travelling journey. I have really enjoyed your pictures and your commentary. Thank you for sharing with us on WordPress. Very kool!!!

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