Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Birtles vs Australia
Glen Helen to Kings Canyon
In which we lift-um-foot, see tennis balls the size of tennis balls (and a dingo
the size of a dingo), then make to the top the easy way.
Unilaterally, without discussing the options with Grimpeur, Ringie or
Peggie, a decision is made ..... The Mereenie Loop Road
How bad can it be? It’s twenty kilometers shorter than the Dawson Development
Road - that has to be a plus.
I’m up early to walk down the river to the gorge mouth for shots of the sunrise.
Charlie and John come by when I am back and packing up. They are NZers on
a longer trip than mine, planning to visit Hermansburg then take the Mereenie
Loop Road to Kings Canyon. This is the clincher to my decision. If I get away a
bit before them and skip Hermansburg, they will catch up with me about halfway
through the MLR and will be backup if I have trouble or fail to appear at camp
later in the day.
They do not have permits for the MLR, and know nothing about needing them.
Maybe my maps are out of date, maybe the requirement has changed - either way,
I’m not going to check. Ignorance is bliss … and easier. The last thing I want is a
concerned official listing reasons not to use the MLR.
Mount Sonder, just past Glen Helen
It wouldn’t be the MLR without a “Lift-um-foot” photograph.
Birtles needs it translated : “Un-twist-um-wrist”.
The riding today is a challenge, more trying than the Dawson Development Road,
which I thought was tough going at the time. For most of the way there is a choice
between corrugations which shake Birtles almost to bits, or sand that threatens
to upturn us at every second. For short stretches there are sections of grooved
rock, rough but preferable to the other two surfaces. We stop only at the observation
point for Gosse's Bluff and when the sand forces us to a standstill. I’m trying to
get as far along as possible before Charlie and John catch up.
Ever wonder where all the old tennis balls go ?
Birtles gets his end of day check at the Kings Canyon camp ground. He has done
well, no damage, just a couple of loose nuts - exactly how I feel after all the hammering.
John and Charlie have not appeared, but a bouncy lady does. She invites me,
and everyone else she passes, to the cafe later where she and her partner
are performing rock music. "It will be the only free thing you will get around here,"
she tells me. I hear them later in the evening, too far away to tell whether they
are in tune or not. Like bagpipes on a distant hill, it’s probably best that way.
Towards twilight, a dingo wanders into camp. A Large Man, looking pink
around the edges, emerges from the showers, sees it and yells
"There's a dingo in the camp! There's a dingo in the camp!"
So excited is Large Man that his voice breaks into a falsetto for the second
sentence; so excited are near-by children that they squeal and run in random
directions. Anxious parents chase after their children, catching them up into the
air out of harms way while Large Man struts, proud to have saved so many
from certain death, or worse. The dingo looks puzzled and walks into the bushes.
Later that night Mr Dingo returns to nose the area. He walks by my tent, looks
at me and passes within a couple of meters, not frightened or aggressive,
just cautious. Then, there is a call in the distance, he stops and listens, lifts
his head and returns the call with three long howls. It is a magnificent sound,
spine chilling in a wonderful way. I want hear it again, but he has orders from
mum - come home now - and he trots purposefully away.
Too late for a second dose of glory, Large Man reappears brandishing a torch,
sweeping it around the camp and, for some reason, into the lower branches
of trees. He moves in circles, flashing this way, that way, and up, eager to
save even more campers from the lurking terror. Eventually he returns to
his tent, resigning himself to a single act of heroism for the day… and what
an act - it will be recounted to children, grandchildren and any who will listen:
“Did I tell you how I saved a whole camp full of people from a savage dingo?”
“Yes, Grampa, lots of times.”
“Well, it was like this…”
Two-legged dingo? Slow shutter speed has blurred his right legs.
Dawn is starting to lighten the sky and the canyon is free of busses when
I arrive, though there are a few other individual early birds. The short and easy
River Walk is too short and easy, but gives views of sunrise from the
bottom of the canyon.
The longer Rim Walk starts with a very steep climb, almost a staircase up the
left hand canyon wall. I have come across several park tracks that start with a
difficult section, maybe deliberately to weed out any who may have problems
should the difficult section occur later on the trail.
Grimpeur would love it, though you don’t always have to punish yourself to
enjoy the scenery. There is a third track, the 22km Giles, going to Kathleen
Springs and starting on the right hand side of the canyon mouth. It is heavily
signposted as being for “Giles Track Walkers Only” which seems a bit redundant
since being able to read the sign means you are on the Giles track and therefore
you are a Giles Track walker. Anyway, it is nice to have confirmation of who and
what you are, and this now confirmed Giles Track walker does the first couple of
kilometers. They also happen to be last section of the rim walk - an easier way
of seeing the canyon from the top without having to climb a gut-buster staircase.
The scale is deceptive. To get a perspective, there are two people on the rim,
top right to the left of the tree.
Sandstone domes along the top of the rim. Look a bit like small versions
of the Bungle Bungle formations.
Mr Lizard’s living is easy, warming in the sun and picking off a trail of ants
that passes under his nose. No matter how many he licks up, they keep
climbing out of the trenches and marching forward.
They have their orders - “Take and hold rock 217”
No big wet sticky thing coming out of the sky will stop them.
To be continued ……………………
BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"