Mereenie Loop Road
Friday morning we decided to head to Yulara via the Mereenie loop road. This is a section of unsealed road, suitable only for 4WD, that is said to deliver some beautiful scenery, a range of wildlife, and an adventurous driving experience. Rain is forecast for Saturday and we didn’t want to risk the Mereenie being closed as a result and leaving us to take the sealed road back through Alice to get to Kings Canyon, therefore only stayed one night at Ormiston Gorge.
On our way to the beginning of the dirt road we needed to stop in at Glen Helen to purchase a permit to travel across the Aboriginal lands between Katapata Pass and Watarrka National Park. Glen Helen was a very well resourced caravan park. Complete with bar and restaurant and very tidy ammenities. I was glad we hadn’t continued on to stay here rather than Ormiston Gorge. While I appreciate a laundry every now and then, and a shower where I can keep my feet clean, when I’m in the middle of nowhere, I like to feel like I’m in the middle of no where. In addition, while Glen Helen Gorge is beautiful, it pales in comparison to Ormiston. While we were here we purchased our permit and walked down to the gorge. Leon was the only one prepared for a swim so he enjoyed the deep water of the gorge while the kids and I watched from the edges. It was here that we had our first snake sighting. I don’t know what type of snake she was, and she didn’t hang around for long, but she was beautiful.
Before the road becomes red dirt, we detoured up Tyler’s Pass to catch a glimpse of Tnorala/Gosse Bluff. So impressive. Believed to be formed 140 million years ago by a comet about 600m across crashing to earth. You can drive inside this crater to explore, which is something I’d like to do another time.
Soon enough the sealed road ends and the red bull dust road was laid out in front of us. With tyre pressures down and 4WD engaged for the first time since the drive in to Goodberry, the corrugations were a bit of a rude awakening. We found our groove and conversation wained as the rattle born of the corrugations consumed the cabin of the troopy. As the ranges leaned into the sun for the afternoon kiss, we kept our eyes peeled for brumbies, camels and kangaroos.
2hr 40min of dry corrugated dirt. Along the side of the road I spotted 27 shredded tyres, 3 wheels, one snapped spotty and a shattered windscreen. No camels and no kangaroos, but there were plenty of brumbies, and one particularly cute little foal.
As we neared Kings Canyon, we pulled in to Ginty’s lookout. At the time I thought this was the end of the dirt road… it was not. So we pumped our tyres back up only to learn we had another 10-15kms of corrugations to go. It’s be honest, the difference was negligible. The view from Ginty’s however, was pretty great. I’ve discovered that big rocks are like new born babies. I could just stare at them all day, watching the sunlight caress them and following how their colours transform; it’s mesmerising. Looking at Kings Canyon from this lookout and taking its significance, it’s difficult to fathom that Uluṟu is more than twice as high and over three times as long.
Rain rain rain. The forecast was spot on. We arrived and set up camp. We didn’t bother with the gazebo as we didn’t want to worry about securing it for the potential storm. Rather we set the table and chairs up inside for the first time this trip. It got cold as soon as it was dark and the Macpac jackets made an appearance. The rain began late in the evening and was pretty constant for the next 15 hours. Our first night and the following day were spent hulled up in the camper. We were grateful for the diesel heater. In the afternoon the rain slowed to a drizzle and we thought we might get in the creek walk. Off we went only to discover that not only were the National Park walks closed, but the road out of the park was too! Back to the camper we headed.
At 4pm that afternoon we received the latest update from Watarrka Rangers that the walks and roads were now open. What a relief. I wasn’t leaving Kings Canyon without having done the rim walk. See would do that in the morning before heading off to Yulara and Uluru.
I am doing my best to look after my skin and hair etc, but I am looking more and more weathered by the day. I can’t decide whether to embrace it or continue to try and battle it. While I don’t think I’ve been this relaxed in a long time, I also don’t think I’ve ever looked so haggard! I’ve bought myself a buff as an attempt to find a happy medium of embracing the elements and maintaining some standard of personal presentation.
Saturday night, after a day of rain, we had a quick dinner at the camper before visiting the Kings Canyon resort bar and grill to watch the Broncos versus the Titans. The kids placed a bet just before half time that if the broncos ever claimed back the lead I’d buy them some hot chips. I placed a bet of my own for the Broncos to win and Arthars and Farnworth to score anytime. Naturally, we won and my winnings paid for our night out.
Sunday morning saw another seamless pack up and us headed for the rim walk. We didn’t begin the walk until just after 10. It was a windy and the breeze had a chilly bite to it and we all began the walk with our jackets on. The walk begins with a steep rock staircase of about 500 steps to the top. The kids nailed it. Soon after reaching the top we shed the jackets. It was a 7km walk that varied in difficulty. One of my favourite things about this walk was that they seem to have found an appropriate balance of undisturbed natural environment and necessary engineered additions for safety and preservation of nature.
The walk was amazing. The rocks, their colours, their shapes and formations, the sheer walls of the canyon, the incredible views, the rock pools, the uninterrupted sky, the waterfalls, the tiny pops of luscious greenery in the crevices of the stone. The two detours, one to the lookout and one to the Garden of Eden, were both so incredibly worth the additional meters and minutes.
There were times my heart skipped a beat with the kids walking playfully (as kids do) a little too close to the cliff edge for my liking. And there were times I would look to the sky, breathe, and take a moment to remind myself that sometimes kids just need their whinging to be heard.
This was a walk that required some stamina from the kids, but they had it in them and they only required subtle encouragement. With about a kilometre to go our encouragement increased with the reward of a soft drink if they made to back to the car without whinging. We had great success.
You all look so happy. I think your skin is beautiful. Keep moisturising and applying suncream. No more is required. ⛺️💕⛺️