jen yu: australia 2007 - day 3

australia 2007 - day 3

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kata tjuta, watarrka
march 10, 2007
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Overnight, what little fondness I may have felt for Australia's interior was quashed. Kell told me a few days later that a typhoon had blown past the northern coast of Australia. It was responsible for sending a wave of humidity into the Red Center. Our tent felt like a sauna that night as the desert failed to cool down. I was more than ready to pack up and get in the car at 5:30 that morning.

The typical flow of headlights led to the park entrance, but when we turned off onto the road to Kata Tjuta, none followed. It's a long and quiet road to Kata Tjuta in the early morning - about 45 minutes of driving. We were also cautious of any wildlife crossing the road as we had seen several eyes glinting in the headlights on the roadside.

We were all alone at the carpark. I figured because Kata Tjuta plays second fiddle to Uluru in terms of popularity, and also because this was the "sunset viewing" area, no one was going to come out there in the morning. But the morning shots I took of Kata Tjuta are by far my favorites of this geologic feature. Jeremy tried experiments with the flies that mobbed us from the moment we stepped out of the car. Apparently, they leave you alone when you walk into the open air restrooms or sit in the car with the doors open. Strange little fellows.

Once my morning shoot was done, we drove to the trailhead for the Valley of the Winds hike. It's the longest trail in Kata Tjuta at 7.4 km. They close this hike after 11 am if the forecasted high temperature for Yulara is 36C or more. We opted to walk it backwards which gave us shade on the way back when the sun would be higher and hotter. There was only one other couple on the trail when we began and we passed them quickly on the climb to the first lookout. A few hundred flies hitched rides on our backs, packs, and hats. They weren't much of a bother once the winds picked up past the lookout. The trail does live up to its name. It is just a shame that the winds were hot instead of cool, but any advection is good on a hot day.

Walking among the giant domes of rock, it was obvious from the trail underfoot that Kata Tjuta was made of different rock than Uluru. Here, the trail had a lot of rounded rocks and cobbles. Uluru was almost all red dirt. My favorite part was climbing to Karingana, the second lookout, which is nestled in a narrow passage between two of the domes. We began to encounter other hikers at this point.

Back in Yulara, Jeremy cooled off with a quick shower at the campground before we grabbed some fish and chips for an early lunch. Then we hit the road to Watarrka (Kings Canyon), three hours to the north. Large puffy clouds materialized in the sky, providing much-appreciated shade on the exposed highway. Their bottoms were a shade of pink because they were reflecting the red earth. We saw something similar to this in New Zealand, except the bottoms were glowing aqua thanks to the glacial blue lakes.

It was miserably hot at Kings Canyon Resort where we inquired about campsites. The charming fellow at the desk said it would be awfully hot in a tent, and that it was not cooling off overnight. We booked a dorm room even though he couldn't guarantee that we would have it to ourselves. But he said, "Well, you're here and you're smiling, so I will do everything I can to fill your room last." He was right - it did not cool down overnight, even with three flash rain storms which made the air stifling hot and wet. Our dorm room was on a swamp cooler that got the temperature down to about 86F. I couldn't really complain, and we never got any roommates.

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