jen yu: australia 2007 - day 4

australia 2007 - day 4

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watarrka, alice springs
march 11, 2007
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The rainstorms had us a little worried. The road out to Watarrka had several floodways, basically dips in the road where creeks flow across during runoff periods instead of bridges. Driving out to Watarrka National Park, there was evidence of the rains, but no flooding.

There were two hikes to choose from: a 2 km, flat Kings Creek Walk and the longer Kings Canyon Rim Walk at 6 km. Of course, we wanted to see sunrise on the rim so we hoofed it up there from the carpark starting at 6:30. The climb up the canyon wall is a steep and fast ascent. Several people had stopped at the bottom of the climb and were puffing on cigarettes. I couldn't believe it. How utterly stupid in general, but on such a hot day and right before a climb? We caught up to a tour group slowly making their way to the top. There is no passing a tour group on a trail. For every one person who steps aside there are another ten dragging their bodies squarely in the middle for none to pass.

At the rim, people caught their breath while I set up the tripod. We all waited and waited as the sun inched up over the other side of the canyon. It was both beautiful and a harbinger of our bane - the sun. Once the sun popped over the horizon, we continued the hike through almost mazelike sandstone domes, down into little gardens of trees, and up to overlooks peering perilously down to the canyon bottom.

At one point in the hike, a series of wooden staircases and bridges crossed down into a side canyon. Just before climbing back up, we detoured to the Garden of Eden. The side canyon was filled with pools of water and lush vegetation. The Garden of Eden is a large pool of water where this little canyon abuts the main part of Kings Canyon - almost like a hanging valley. It really was a paradise, completely shaded by the steep walls and caressed by a good breeze. Birds played about in the tree tops and sang to all of the visitors. A duck was even wading in the pool of cool water.

The rest of the hike wasn't nearly as interesting as the first half, but that could have been because we were hot. More of the gee whiz features were on the other side of the canyon. This side had expansive views of the sheer faces of the canyon walls. From Watarrka, it was a 4.5 hour drive to Alice Springs. We were so excited to check into the hotel and have - air conditioning! I absolutely detest the heat.

The Crowne Plaza offered heavily reduced rates for the astronomers attending the conference, and that is where Jeremy booked for the week. The room itself was somewhat shoddy with cosmetic fixes. I hate hotels that pretend to be high end and aren't. At least when you camp, you know what you are getting. Okay, but they had air conditioning and our tent did not.

We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at a sports bar and grill in town, but most places were closed as it was Sunday. We made a stop at the local grocer to stock up on snacks and then we crashed for a long nap. I began photo equipment and data maintenance while Jeremy went to register for his conference and schmooz with the other astronomers. It was so nice not to stick to everything I touched.

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