Watarrka National Park

by Petra Bucheli

Monday 1st until Wednesday 3rd July, 2019

The alarm clock went off at 6:15 as our journey continues to the Watarrka National Park which contains the Kings Canyon.

There are two possibilities to get from the Glen Helen Gorge to the Watarrka National Park. One would be to go back to Alice Springs and then over the Stuart Highway. All would be paved. The other possibility is a gravel road. The distance half as long, but it should take a bit longer. Just for this experience we rented a 4WD car.

After the first part which still was paved we got over the Tylers Pass. The pass as such is for Swiss simply flat. But the viewpoint spectacularly shows the Tnorala, a meteorite crater also known as Gosses Bluff, in a mostly flat landscape. A gravel road with sand only on the surface leads into the crater with 5 km diameter. Inside we hiked along a short circular track and went up a short but step climb to a viewpoint.

Shortly after started the 155 km gravel road called Mereenie Loop. The road was in a good state, so we could drive with about 80 km/h. On the last third it was more rumbling, like corrugated iron. When I drove the car once slid when it was sandy and I accelerated a bit.

Finally we reached the Kings Canyon Resort shortly after noon. As it was too early to check in we drove on to the Kings Canyon and hiked the walk down in the gorge. Unfortunately the viewing platform at the end was closed due to renovation.

In the Kings Canyon Resort we had a family room with five beds and view to the George Gill Range. There was a sunset viewing platform a short walk from our accommodation. But the kids did not have patience so we left already before sunset. And I found it not that spectacular.

In the resort there were posters on how to deal with dingos. As there are also dingos here, I definitively did not go to see the stars on the platform which was also illuminated at night. On the first morning Konrad and the kids saw a dingo passing our door.

On Tuesday the temperatures were pleasant when we went to Kings Canyon. We hiked the Rim Walk which goes over 6 km around the top. The first 500 m go step up with stairs to the crate. Also at the top on the rocky fields there were growing trees and shrubs. At one point we could go resp. climb to a viewpoint. We only went to the first rock platform, after we returned as it was not suitable for small kids. We continued until it branched to Garden of Eden. At the end of this detour was a permanent water hole. In the shadow we enjoyed our lunch. After we went back to the actual track. At the end we were glad that the hike was finished. Our permanent escort were the flies. Here they are only a quarter the size of the one in Switzerland. But to compensate that there are more of them and they are more molesting. Already at the Glen Helen Lodge we bought fly nets. That was a good idea because in the Kings Canyon Resort they were sold out.

Back at the resort we cooled down with an icecream and Jann wanted to go to the swimming pool. The only ones which actually took a swim were Konrad and I. For the kids the water was too cold.

On the next morning we joined the Karrke Aborigines Culture Tour. Peter and his sister Natasha introduced us to the traditional life of the Luritja Aborigines.

They explained that in their society the women and children go to collect seeds. They will be crushed and ground to a flour which is baked to a kind of bread in hot ashes. Important is that each woman has its own grinding stone which is marked. The stone will not be forwarded to the next generation. When the owner dies, the stone and other tools will be destroyed. Then the children could try to grind the seeds.

After he showed us the different weapons. For example their boomerangs do not come back. Also do they not know the didgeridoo. As the tools where not sacred in a ceremony they still could be touched by women and children.

Next Peter showed on the example of a painting what are the ideas on which their dotted paintings are made. One picture shows the finger size grubs and they showed how to get them from the roots of trees and shrubs. We also could test the different mineral colours they mix with water and animal fat to paint themselves for ceremonies.

Natasha then showed how they make jewellery with seeds. They use a hot wire to make holes. Similarly they adorn wooden tools.

Then we got introduced in different bush fruits which can be collected. Then we could try the grubs. Raw they should taste like raw eggs. We got them cooked. For a few seconds they were covered with hot ashes until the pop. Then they taste like popcorn (outside) and scrambled egg (inside). Except for Kiara all of us tried a piece. Depending on the type of tree the grub is from, it should taste differently. And yes, the head is not eaten.

To the end there was a short smoke ceremony. The white smoke from the leaves of two different shrubs smelled very lovely. The tour was very interesting and also the kids liked it a lot.

Before going back to the accommodation we made a short walk at Kathleen Springs.

In the early evening the kids went to the bistro to see "Lion King" and I packed our stuff. The next day we drive on. To see the sunset I fetched the girls, Jann and Konrad watched the film until the end.