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The Kings Canyon: Outback Royalty
kings canyon ntAustralia's red centre solely consists of millions of square kilometres of dry, sunbaked red earth, with the rare geological feature rising irregularly from the ground, to create a mind blowing landscape that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If seclusion is what you are after, this is definitely the place to come. While here you will feel as if you are millions of miles away from everything. Not many people come out here so it offers the perfect opportunity to escape the crowds and get in touch with what modernity has left unspoiled. Various spots in the Australian Red centre have benefited from this shift in trends, and one such spot is the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory, which is famous because it is the home of the majestic Kings Canyon.

The Alice Spring region is extremely vast but seeing even a little of it will give you an idea of the immense beauty that it encapsulates. The Watarrka National Park rests 350 kilometres south west of Alice on the Western Side of the George Gill Ranges. The park is characterised by high sided gorges and mountainous rocky landscapes. Not surprisingly, these all showcase the same red hue that is evident throughout most of the outback. Highly regarded as an important conservation area, the Park is home to over 600 species of flora and fauna, many of which are very rare. These species have adapted to the desert environment in weird and wonderful ways; think jumping snakes, bearded dragons and thorny lizards!

The main feature of the Park is no doubt, Kings canyon. At some points this canyon reaches remarkable depths of 270 metres and its high walls provide protection for the forests of palms and cycads that flourish on its walls and floor. The area is also rich in Aboriginal history and culture as it is actually the home of the Luritja people and has been for more than 20 000 years. Westerners are relative newcomers to its allures, as the first white man to discover it was Ernest Giles in 1872. These days, it is one of the most visited destinations in the Northern Territory, welcoming thousands of visitors each and every month. Before you actually enter the gorge, you should definitely check out the visitor centre, which is located just 20 kilometres away from the gorge. Although at times you may find it empty, it will still provide you with a good introduction to the history, culture and attractions of the region.

For an up close adventure of the canyon, embark on one of the many walking trails, which will take you past the best viewing points. A short and easy walk leads into the centre of Kings Canyon, and is suitable for kids or anyone with mobility difficulties. There is the option of a 6 kilometre walk, but this takes 3 hours to complete so make sure you have enough time beforehand. This will take you around the rim of the canyon and will introduce you to such attractions as The 'Lost City', which is a series of beehive like rock formations that look like an ancient ruins. Another is the Garden of Eden, a deliciously cool valley with serene waterholes surrounded by lush vegetation.

The Kings Canyon has a "princess" as well, which rests just nearby, ans is known as Kathleen Gorge. This gorge is home to a spring fed waterhole at its head known as Kathleen Springs, which are popular amongst bush walkers looking to cool off after a hot day in the sun. A number of bushwalks are also scattered throughout the gorge, with most of them suitable for children. Some of them even join up to Kings Canyon. This should only be attempted by the very fit, and rangers must be notified about your walk before you set out. Many people choose to stay overnight on this walk, as it is a long distance to cover in a single day. So come prepared to rough it for the night.

Since it is such a deserted and isolated destination, there really isn't a lot of accommodation options to choose from. Kings Creek Station is a camel and cattle ranch that has a large and shady campsite where you can camp. There are also safari-like lodgings for travellers who are after a little more luxury than camping can offer. You will also find a restaurant and a swimming pool complete the creature comforts, and be sure to try one of the infamous camel burgers before you leave!

The journey alone to Kings Canyon will surprise and enchant you. Travel through the East Macdonnell Ranges, then return to Alice via Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the West Macdonnell Ranges. Research is required here, and you will need to adjust your trip and where you go according to how long you have on your holiday. However long you take and whichever places you visit this adventure is likely to instill a deep affectation for desert environments in you, and be warned it is hard to get rid of. So I guess we'll be seeing you again next year!

Christine Barton

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