Watarrka, an unashamed pictorial over-indulgence

I love Watarrka. Been here three times. Gets more interesting and exciting everytime, based on what I learnt the previous times.

Parks and Wildlife of the Northern Territory sum up Watarrka as follows:

Watarrka National Park contains the western end of the George Gill Range. This scenic landscape of rugged ranges, rockholes and gorges acts as a refuge for many plants and animals, making the Park an important conservation area and major attraction of central Australia.

Kings Canyon features ancient sandstone walls, sculptured by the elements, rising up 100m to a plateau of rocky domes.

http://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/parks/find/watarrka#.Vn-U7BV95X8

Since I’ve had to let go of my desire to walk around Kata Tjuta I’m going to indulge in Watarrka.

First I have to get there.

So successful was in my bid to kill time by aimlessly wandering around the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge that I damned near miss my bus. The driver and bookings agent are waiting for me and we leave several minutes late.

The drive to the Luritja Road turn-off justified my decision to take the bus. Luritja Road itself however would have been a very pleasant ride, although it’d have taken me like two days to do the 160 km to Watarrka.

Junction between Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road
Junction between Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road
Quite a ways to Alice Springs
Quite a ways to Alice Springs

The driver is full of useful tidbits about the country and its history. He’s been driving the area as a bus-driver tour-guide for 21 years so I guess he should know.

He warns of the risk of dingoes in the campsite and around the resort. “Do not”, for example, “leave any shoes outside your rooms for the dingoes love them no matter how smelly they are”. As well as the usual warnings about not feeding them, don’t leave food lying around, don’t leave bags with food it them lying around and so on.

It turns out I’m on an AATKings bus tour. The driver is also a guide who consequently starts to inform the tour group about their options for the following day. They can choose the Canyon Rim Walk, or the Creek Walk. They all choose the Rim. They will start very early, like an 0500 pick up and be finished by 0900 shortly after which they shall depart for Alice Springs.

Quietly I think to myself that is one tight schedule leaving only enough time to walk the rim and no time to experience it. Poor buggers. Similar to the tour group at Uluru, they will have ticked off an icon without really knowing what it’s all about.

View from the sunset platform at Watarrka Resort overlooking where the Canyon is in the George Gill Range
View from the sunset platform at Watarrka Resort overlooking where the Canyon is in the George Gill Range
A panorama of the George Gill Range
A panorama of the George Gill Range
George Gill Range a bit later
George Gill Range a bit later

Not a lot of shade on the grassy tent area in the caravan park. Not particularly cheap either at 20$ a night for the privilege. Of course, being Australia, there’s no camping allowed in the national park thereby placing the Watarrka Resort in a similar position as Yulara in its right to print money. The resort is 10 km from the canyon itself.

The camp kitchen is a bit small and very hot. No airconditioning and both doors obliged to be closed coz of dingoes.

Night two of my stay, a couple of young Malaysian women come into the camp kitchen and mention that dingoes are around. Uh Oh! I don’t have the luxury of a room within which to lock and secure stuff. All of my stuff is open and vulnerable and at the right height for any intrepid dingo. And the Big Black Bag with my long term food supplies like dried shrimps, a bag of camel biltong, as well muesli and so on is open since I’m cooking.

At first glance every think looks fine. Then I notice a trail of white powder meandering away from the Big Black Bag, disappearing across the grass. They got my full cream milk powder. Buggers.

Later I’m lounging just outside my tent, my Keen sandals less than a metre from me, as is the rest of my stuff in the tent. The male comes up for all the world like a dog who wants to play.

Dingoes are wild dogs, wild animals, the do not ‘play’ with humans. There’s something cagey, lean and mean about them. Wild dogs. Don’t fuck with wild dogs.

But I don’t know what’s going on. Being cagey and smart I actually look around for the ambush attack or something by the female but she’s nowhere in sight. The male is definitely getting closer and being frisky, almost friendly. Almost. I don’t trust him. I am at his level sitting in my Helinox ground chair which, as the name suggests, is at ground level. I am eye to eye with a full grown male wild dog, a dingo. I begin to plan defensive moves. One on one I’d get bloodied but I’d win. He is not that big. And there are, somewhere, other people around the caravan park.

Right at the last second I get what he’s doing and what he’s after and I make my move but the bugger is faster.

And the large male fully grown wild dog Dingo runs off with one of my sandals in its mouth!

I leap up and give chase followed by the laughter of a group of tourists who’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the antics. I retrieve my undamaged sandal after a hundred metres or so.

They drag out a water bottle from the front pannier, chew on some empty water bottles I was thinking to use for the forthcoming ride along the Mereenie Loop and generally causing mischief. I had to bag E V E R Y T H I N G even remotely dingoable into robust panniers and bags and secure them tight.

A far more amusing experience than troubling and certainly I did not personally feel afraid.

Anyway, the rest of this post is unashamedly based on a six hour hike along the Rim Walk of Watarrka.

There’s no more text since there are a L O T of photos, though each photo has a caption which I hope adds a bit of context.

One bit of context I think should be added concerns all the health and safety warnings, of which I feel are just a wee bit over done. There’s a gate, a lockable gate at the entrances of the walks. There are no less than four emergency radios, and two immense boxes full of emergency survival stuff. For a six kilometre, three hour walk. How hard can it be? Who are the people the authorities are frightened of? Can’t remember where but one of the State Emergency Services dudes was telling me (I think it was in Yulara) of their ever increasing frustration at having to rescue numbers of heat-affected people because no matter the warnings the proliferation of information of how to keep hydrated and the dire consequences of not keeping hydrated people just don’t get it and some die. Lots need help. His frustration was palpable.

As I’m clambering over the rocks well off the Path, which is severely discouraged – remember you’ve only got three hours – other tourists began to take note. Sure enough, I noticed Random Tourists appearing along the Edge. And two of them, a young couple, 20s-something are sort of making their way down one of the more challenging scramble slopes. They are lightly dressed. They do not have hats. They are wearing shoes fit for a beach or inside a house, light slip-ons. They are each carrying less than half a two litre bottle of diet Coke.

And I thought … “How did you manage to get here, past all of them warnings and still not get it?” It is forecast to be over 40 C today.

Tens of tourists arrived just after I started climbing. This is in the ‘off-season’. The numbers coming through here must be immense given the scale of the infrastructure in the carparks. There would not need to be much of a percentage of dizzy ones who don’t get it to keep the State Emergency Services pretty busy.

I truly hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did in walking around taking them. T’was great fun.

There’s much to say and I hope it’s said in the photos. I would be interested to know if I should add some explanatory text to support the photos or describe more of a specific context. If so lemme know and I’ll try to do that.

Max

Watarrka 16 December 2016

 

Watarrka walks. Thanks Parks and WIldlife Commission NT
Watarrka walks.
Thanks Parks and WIldlife Commission NT
The road into Watarrka
The road into Watarrka
Serious security stuff for the middle of nowhere.
Serious security stuff for the middle of nowhere.
Tree top view towards the the gorge
Tree top view towards the the gorge
The South Side. It'll be a few hours before I make it there
The South Side. It’ll be a few hours before I make it there
Where to two arms of the gorge join the Kings Creeks falls into the abyss
Where to two arms of the gorge join the Kings Creeks falls into the abyss
Stretched panorama of the cliffs and the gorge
Stretched panorama of the cliffs and the gorge
The waterfall and a red river gum (red?) with a spectacular view
The waterfall and a red river gum (red?) with a spectacular view
Lush and green in the valley at the base of the falls
Lush and green in the valley at the base of the falls
Health and safety. There are four emergency telephones for a moderate 6 km hike! Makes you wonder
Health and safety. There are four emergency telephones for a moderate 6 km hike! Makes you wonder
Having reached the top of 'heart-attack hill', the steep climb (it's not THAT steep, and they've made steps) the visual spectacle begins to unfold
Having reached the top of ‘heart-attack hill’, the steep climb (it’s not THAT steep, and they’ve made steps), the visual spectacle begins to unfold
'They' are a bit nervous about random tourists and 100 m shear cliffs for some reason. The official track is well away from the edge. But I like living on the Edge. The views are amazing
‘They’ are a bit nervous about random tourists and 100 m shear cliffs for some reason. The official track is well away from the edge. But I like living on the Edge. The views are amazing
Cliffs the South Side and new over the plains
Cliffs the South Side and views over the plains
More health and safety. Emergency first aid and water supplies. There are two of these along the 6 km walk
More health and safety. Emergency first aid and water supplies. There are two of these along the 6 km walk
Banding of the sandstone layers and the blocky erosion has produced extraordinary visual effects
Banding of the sandstone layers and the blocky erosion has produced extraordinary visual effects
View over the roofs of the Lost City
View over the roofs of the Lost City
Off The Track negotiated through the Lost City does require quite a bit of clambering and climbing but was easy to do, though required care
Off The Track negotiated through the Lost City does require quite a bit of clambering and climbing but was easy to do, though required care
More Lost City
More Lost City
A stand alone villa among apartments
A stand alone villa among apartments
Some apartments have excellent location
Some apartments have excellent location
A view over the South Side from The Edge
A view over the South Side from The Edge
By now I'm really in the bad books, right on the Edge away from the safety of the track but,hell, miss this? No way
By now I’m really in the bad books, right on the Edge away from the safety of the track but,hell, miss this? No way
I think it was either City Hall or the main railway-station used to be here
I think either City Hall or the main railway-station used to be here
Impressive villa with upper level balcony
Impressive villa with upper level balcony
If the mulga and red river gums manage to get their roots into the sandstone they've a good chance of water
If the mulga and red river gums manage to get their roots into the sandstone they’ve a good chance of water
"Talkin' about me?"
“Talkin’ about me?”
Central netted dragon
Central netted dragon
The drop is dramatic
The drop is dramatic
Now Mr/Ms Ranger are gonna be well pissed. Shear cliffs, on the Edge, taking amazing photos. Beautiul
Now Mr/Ms Ranger are gonna be well pissed. Shear cliffs, on the Edge, taking amazing photos. Beautiful
A tenacious red-river gum with a spectacular view
A tenacious red-river gum with a spectacular view
Yup, a selfie. It was inevitable
Yup, a selfie. It was inevitable
Miniture version of the Lost City and how it formed
Miniture version of the Lost City and how it formed
Love it
Love it
View back along where I've walked
View back along where I’ve walked
The waterfull
The waterfull
As I said, nice and lush at the foot of the waterfall
As I said, nice and lush at the foot of the waterfall
Cliffs. REAL cliffs
Cliffs. REAL cliffs
Some of the cliffs are a 100 m tall
Some of the cliffs are a 100 m tall
I will eventually emerge at the top of the waterfall, though I suspect Mr/ms Ranger have (in)formally banned such risk-taking
I will eventually emerge at the top of the waterfall, though I suspect Mr/ms Ranger have (in)formally banned such risk-taking
Perhaps not the most dramatic waterfall ever but it sure is lovely
Perhaps not the most dramatic waterfall ever but it sure is lovely
Gorge level view of the canyon and King Creek
Gorge level view of the canyon and King Creek
The pool below slowly emerges
The pool below slowly emerges
Cliffs of the South Side
Cliffs of the South Side
View down the gorge
View down the gorge
Back on the track the Rangers have relented and thought to let the Random Tourist near the Edge. But not TOO close
Back on the track the Rangers have relented and thought to let the Random Tourist near the Edge. But not TOO close
By now of course I'm hanging over the edge trying to get The Photo
By now of course I’m hanging over the edge trying to get The Photo
Zoooming in
Zoooming in
The visuality is breathtaking
The visuality is breathtaking
Red river gum reaching for the sky
Red river gum reaching for the sky
To the left comes the river. To the right is the canyon
To the left comes the river. To the right is the canyon
Where the river jumps into the Abyss
Where the river jumps into the Abyss
Moving away from the Edge, I head towards the gorge and the Garden of Eden
Moving away from the Edge, I head towards the gorge and the Garden of Eden
A thin tree-lined avenue among the sandstone city
A thin tree-lined avenue among the sandstone city
Red river gum against red sandstone
Red river gum against red sandstone
Clambering is required
Clambering is required
Then I'd find my way blocked by some eroded fissure and have to walk along it to find a way across
Then I’d find my way blocked by some eroded fissure and have to walk along it to find a way across
Mulga admiring itself in a mirror.
Mulga admiring itself in a mirror.
Ripples frozen in stone
Ripples frozen in stone
Heading down into the gorge
Heading down into the gorge. I am meant to Keep to The Path. But I can’t resist and head off up the creek, without a paddle 😉
Not hard to understand why they called it the Garden of Eden
Not hard to understand why they called it the Garden of Eden
They figured there would always be one maverick. I kept going regardless
They figured there would always be one maverick. I kept going regardless
Walking off The Path has benefits
Walking off The Path has benefits
Long nosed dragon. Long tailed dragon would not be out of place either
Long nosed dragon.
Long tailed dragon would not be out of place either
Moods of a Long Nosed Dragon. Surely they could come up a name that didn't have to be so descriptive, like Tomaline, or something
Moods of a Long Nosed Dragon.
Surely they could come up a name that didn’t have to be so descriptive, like Tomaline, or something
My lunch view, in one direction
My lunch view, in one direction
My own cute swimming pool. I know The Rangers don't want people to swim in the main pool just before the Abyss. So I chose here
My own cute swimming pool. I know The Rangers don’t want people to swim in the main pool just before the Abyss. So I chose here
Lunch view down the way I came
Lunch view down the way I came
Fantastic formations cut by the Kings Greek
Fantastic formations cut by the Kings Greek
The Path of the Creek
The Path of the Creek
Gorge walls
Gorge walls
Finally I'm back on the 'allowed' Path overlooking The Pool in which no-one is allowed, or least are discouraged from swimming
Finally I’m back on the ‘allowed’ Path overlooking The Pool in which no-one is allowed, or least are discouraged from swimming
The small falls into The Pool
The small falls into The Pool
It's a lovely pool, one I've swam in and hanged around in for hours on previous visit. Now tourist intensity makes this almost impossible. Besides, there are camers ...
It’s a lovely pool, one I’ve swam in and hanged around in for hours on previous visit. Now tourist intensity makes this almost impossible. Besides, there are camers …
On the Path side of the Pool there is no indication that on the other side breathtaking views exist. Since I've been here before, I know better. Scrambling over the rocks, to avoid 'swimming' I enjoyed the view
On the Path side of the Pool there is no indication that on the other side breathtaking views exist. Since I’ve been here before, I know better. Scrambling over the rocks, to avoid ‘swimming’ I enjoyed the view
The last moments ...
The last moments …
North side cliffs
North side cliffs
South side cliffs
South side cliffs
They tower above me
They tower above me
Back to The Path, looking upstream
Back to The Path, looking upstream
The infrastructure is robust and very different from last time I was here. Testament to the throngs which now descend hard upon the place
The infrastructure is robust and very different from last time I was here. Testament to the throngs which now descend hard upon the place
Out of the gorge and back on the roof of the city
Out of the gorge and back on the roof of the city
Leaving The Path, I claim some amazing views and shots
Leaving The Path, I claim some amazing views and shots
Real WoW! moments
Real WoW! moments
It may be why there's some many photos in this post ;)
It may be why there’s some many photos in this post 😉
Sorry Mr/Ms Ranger, I just can't help myself. Promise I'll be careful though
Sorry Mr/Ms Ranger, I just can’t help myself. Promise I’ll be careful though
Now I get the chance to snap some North Side views
Now I get the chance to snap some North Side views
What a 100 m drop looks like when you have no way to place the depth into perspective
What a 100 m drop looks like when you have no way to place the depth into perspective
The falls and pool from the South Side
The falls and pool from the South Side
Err, more cliffs. North Side
Err, more cliffs. North Side
The pool at in the Abyss
The pool at in the Abyss
Views reappear as I slowly make my way along the canyon rim
Views reappear as I slowly make my way along the canyon rim
Ancient relics from far wetter Australian times, cycads perhaps 400 yrs old
Ancient relics from far wetter Australian times, cycads perhaps 400 yrs old
Beautiful if not particularly friendly spinafex are well suited to the dry slopes of the canyon
Beautiful if not particularly friendly spinafex are well suited to the dry slopes of the canyon
Back in the carpark, 6 hours after I started and 3 hours longer than Mr/Ms Ranger want me up there, I find I'm in DANGER, or was at least ;)
Back in the carpark, 6 hours after I started and 3 hours longer than Mr/Ms Ranger want me up there, I find I’m in DANGER, or was at least 😉
Quick wander up the Kings Creek walk to see the cliffs from below
Quick wander up the Kings Creek walk to see the cliffs from below
Heading back to the resort I come across a Pygmy Mulga Monitor, all of 45 cm long, at a stretch
Heading back to the resort I come across a Pygmy Mulga Monitor, all of 45 cm long, at a stretch
Moods of a pygmy mulga monitor
Moods of a pygmy mulga monitor
Tough look
Tough look
Lemme GO!
Lemme GO!
NOW!
NOW!
Humph, about time!
Humph, about time!
I'm off ...
I’m off …
She kinda showed her frustration at me by a decent bite
She kinda showed her frustration at me by a decent bite

8 thoughts on “Watarrka, an unashamed pictorial over-indulgence

  1. WoW Max, what an adventure!
    The story of the Dingo’s , I loved it. And the pictures of your hike ofcourse

    One thing: don’t miss up with wild dogs but also don’t miss up with animal bites in your fingers. They have lots of bacteria on their teeth and they bite them right ín your tendon/muscles.
    Be very careful with that, when you have any doubt, (warm/pain/oedeem) find a doctor and get antibiotics
    Have a nice trip further!

    Like

    1. Thanks Trudi. I’m well aware of the risks so I did clean the wound afterwards. As for the dingoes … Don’t F*** With Dingoes, is the prevailing philosophy 😉
      Merry Christmas … M

      Like

  2. Your long nosed dragon is relatively common, and ‘friendly’ out in The Tanami, there it does have a nickname, the policeman lizard.

    Like

  3. Amazing photo’s Max – I feel quite nostalgic…I miss the times we lived ‘up North’, our experiences of the floods, and sleeping under the stars, visiting the various gorges. You are right in the thick of it. Enjoy. Milk every experience as much as you possibly 🙂 R

    Like

  4. Very entertaining thanks Max and if we never hear from you again, I guess we’ll know you probably plummeted down some cliff that Mr/Mrs Ranger tried to warn you about; either that or you got eaten alive by dingoes, or died from deadly bacteria via lizards.
    Cheers, Robyn

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s