An even earlier wake up call… 4am.
Ed reported that two dingos had wandered into his tent in the night, though his shoes were wedged firmly under his mattress.
His wife had thought he was delirious when he told her about their visitors: “Are you sure you weren’t hallucinating on the sleeping pills?”
However, Jayne struggling to sleep two tents over also reported a loudly snuffling night time intruder.
My tent was at the edge of the site by the barbed wire.
I saw and heard nothing.
Those earplugs are the best invention ever.
We were all packed up, ready to go for making the most of the coolest part of the morning when… the truck didn’t start.
This was the replacement truck after the aircon failed on Truck Number One.
Margaret tried to start it several times. A group effort lifted the cab so she could inspect the engine.
Another guide came over, offering warm words and encouragement (also known as thoughts and prayers).
A second arrived with a set of phone numbers – eminently more practical.
We had planned to leave at 5.15am. It was now 5.45am.
There was nothing to do but wait for either news or a mechanic… the latter arrived at around 6.15am, started the engine and we got underway.
The truck had a fuel pump issue which could be resolved though I was thinking, I’d rather break down at the Station with food, water and a pool than at King’s Creek Canyon… where ‘creek’ didn’t automatically mean ‘flowing water’.
We started walking at 7am, over an hour later than intended but it felt cooler than yesterday and we set off climbing up the sandstone steps, heading for the South Wall of the canyon.
The views were incredible.
Margaret told us about the geology of the area and several of the European explorers who were vital in expanding the colonial knowledge of the area.
One, Giles, has a 22km track named after him. He arrived at Kings Canyon and having scaled the heights, spotted Kata-Tjuta which game him another landmark to aim for and from there, he saw Uluru.
It was the exploration of men like him that opened up routes through the Outback.
We would likely have heard more stories but one of the group, let’s call her Jill, fell badly and it appeared she had broken a finger as well as cutting herself.
She was dazed, sitting by the path with a small pool of blood gathering at her feet.
Margaret quickly undertook a risk assessment while she treated her with the contents of the first aid kit.
She and Jill’s husband, Jack would take her back down the hill to get help.The rest of us would continue up to the South Wall before returning.
This, we did.
If I had thought Kata-Tjuta was more impressive than Uluru then I’m not sure I can do justice to the views at King’s Creek Canyon.
The colours of the trail through the sandstone were mixes of dark red, black, deep purple, orange and ochre.
Around the vast sandstone, the bush was green – a mix of the blue-green leaves of eucalyptus and bright green shrubs.
There are two layers of sandstone in this area – the bottom retains water and is sealed by a layer of clay while the top is dry rock. With the added recent rains, the plants had burst into bloom.
With the reds of the rock, framed by the green bush and the vivid blue sky overhead it was overwhelmingly beautiful.
Once at the South Wall, we peered into the canyon, noting the signs that advised shearing was possible.
The last big segment of the cliff to fall away was visible as the rock face was white rather than red. Weathering would change the colour of the wall.
When did this collapse? In the 1930s.
Deciding to return to the carpark, Ed pointed out that we had lost one member of the party yesterday (because he was catching a flight, nothing sinister) and now had fallen by the wayside.
With there being thirteen left, he was concerned that this might turn into an Agatha Christie novel.
Thanks, Ed. We weren’t appointing him as morale officer.
We arrived back at the carpark where there was good news and bad news.
On their way down the hill, with Jill feeling better as the shock wore off, they had met a park ranger. The ranger had driven Jill and Jack to the nearby resort’s medical centre.
The bad news? The bloody truck wouldn’t start.
Other guides gathered, offering advice and solutions. So, King’s Creek Canyon wasn’t actually as lonely and desolate as I had been expecting.
We were there for around 30 minutes with Margaret trying and testing ideas.
We all waited in the shade by the side of the bus.
Bump starts were mentioned.
It was 41°C. It could have been worse, we could have broken down on the side of the road (though as we were not yet back in Alice Springs, I wasn’t counting my chickens on that score. There was still time and over 100miles to go).
Bump starts were mentioned, again.
Few appeared to be enthusiastic about this but hell, if we wanted to get going…
In the end, it was one of the other guests on our tour, Ian who got the engine running.
It was enthusiastically agreed that the engine would not be turned off until we reached Alice Springs.
Margaret drove to the medical centre where the staff had just finished treating Jill. She had lacerations in her fingers and compound fractures through her knuckles.
She needed a further assessment to see where she could continue on the next seven days of the tour.
With one had strapped in a sling and the other hand wrapped up holding a cannula in place, I wasn’t certain how likely an immediate departure would be.
With a swift stop for lunch, leaving the truck’s engine running of course we set off for the planned drive down a dirt road to Stuart’s Well.
Again, my pessimism struck – was this really a wise idea with a truck with a dicky engine?
Of course, the dirt road was the short cut back to Alice Springs, cutting out an hour’s journey to the Stuart Highway.
We paused briefly, leaving the engine running, for a shot of the iconic Aussie scenery.
It did seem a bit odd to stop next to a crashed care when there had been no opportunities to take shots of Kata-Tjuta.
Leaving Mad Max territory behind, we got underway once more and with a brief stop at Stuart’s Well for icecream, we were hot wheeling back to Alice.