15.01.2011 - 18.01.2011 42 °C
Wise from the hike of the Uluru base walk we got up at 5.30 the following morning to do another few hours hike at the Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas, as they are also called, and thereafter, warm and hot as we were we drove of. We were so happy to be in the air conditioned car again! These few days by Uluru/Kata Tjuta, and later Kings Canyon, were all rather similar. We got up really early so that we could do the hikes and see the views before the sun would get to crazily hot, and drove during the hottest part of the day. As everything in Central Australia (and Australia in general) is so far away from each other the driving gave us shelter for a few hours every day. As all the sights are within national parks we couldn't just camp anywhere but had to stay at campgrounds that were strangely overdone. Luckily enough for us they all had swimming pools and we had soon figured out that the best way to spend midday was to be in the shade in the pool between the more active mornings and evenings. Still, in spite of the swimming, I remember those days as hot and dusty with little shade but with unique and spectacular views and a changing nature that made it worth every bit of it.
After a few days we reached the West McDonnell Ranges, a mountain range west of Alice Springs. We arrived to an undeveloped camping late at night and extremely tired and only saw enough to find a good spot for a tent. It looked as dry and dusty as everywhere we had been and we went to bed with a thin blanket by our feet in the vain hope of a chilly night.
The following morning we were more than pleasantly surprised. Just behind the camping there was a waterhole. Not a swimming pool with chlorinated water, but a real water hole. An oasis. We had come across a waterhole before but here we were almost alone with it. It was just after 8 am and the only other people there was a young couple who had also slept at the camp. It was already really hot in the sun but most of the hole was in shade. As we walked down through the hot sand and dry, spiky shrub towards it I could never have imagined the view that met my eyes. In front of us the mountain walls who blocked the path in two directions formed a gorge and in front of it was a waterhole that almost formed a little lake, continuing in through the gorge. Around the lake was soft grass, a small sand beach, and best of all: trees filtering the sunlight so that there was a pleasant half shade. It was probably the most perfect place to swim that I have ever seen. We got in and for a while I just stood there in the water enjoying being cool but in the flickering sunlight. After a while I got in, just as our two traveling friends got up and started chatting with the other travelers; again, one of them being a very cute girl. Oh, did I mention that our two traveling mates were two single guys? Dana was at the far end of the lake trying to climb a rock wall and I decided to join him. When I got there however the rock wall was covered in St Andrews spiders (nasty ones) and Dana joined me in swimming through the gorge. From the beach it looked as the gorge wouldn't have too much to offer but as we swam through it we could see hidden sand beaches and interesting rock formations. We tried them all and finally ended up at the most beautiful little sand beach, a perfect camping spot but for the detail that you had to swim in with your stuff. We finally ended up at the top of a slanting rock overlooking the inner part of the gorge, listening to the water and the quietness of the place and watching flocks of budgies (undulater). It was really magical. When we came out to the lake again a loud family with kids of all ages had arrived and the magic was broken. Still the place was very enjoyable and we got over to our friends who were still, unsuccessfully trying to chat up the girl.
We drove on that day and the next to visit several other waterholes of extremely varying quality and the next morning we started of again for an early morning hike at Ormiston Gorge. The views were spectacular! Walking up a shaded slope to reach an overlook where we could see the whole valley bathing in morning sun. Fantastic! The end of the hike however got a bit complicated due to all the heavy rain in the area a month or so, earlier. We had to wade through waist (ribs really) high water - by this time the sun was very strong and our clothes dried fast, and climb a bit to avoid having to swim with our cameras (don't worry dad, it was very safe and easy climbing). Finally we got back, sweaty and very dirty, and collapsed at the beach. If you like climbing and trying so figure out what to do this is the hike for you – at least until the water dies up (Johanna...). That hike was definitely the best one we did!
During the hike we also found melons growing at the beach and we took two to ask a local if they were edible. They looked and smelled good but in Australia you simply assume that everything could be dangerous – chances are that you are right. At this point we were keeping a close eye on our water consumption, as we had to drive to Alice Springs if we ran out of it, and the water we had was bore water – totally potable but murky and warm, and with a strong after taste of rotten eggs. We were also out of the only fresh food (not vacuum packed or freeze-dried) we had had all week, a few oranges. We were craving cold water and nice fruits and veggies. I even managed to annoy Dana by in detail describing the large glass of sparkling water I wanted. Anyhow: we found the thought of a melon, sun warm or not, fantastic. Unfortunately all available locals claimed the melon inedible or poisonous...