Thursday 17 November 2011

The Rock Tour: part 2

Only two and a half months later than part 1...I hope you haven't been too despondent, waiting for me to finish it. Perhaps the holiday in Bali helped.

The campsite near King's Canyon was full of these birds again, and had many good showers and very few people. It was in a very peaceful spot, and after we'd cooked dinner on the fire (I say we...I mean, we hardly did the lion's share; but I think all the heavy hints and pobremios from Oggy had hit their mark with some of us, and we did all at least stir the mince a bit) and played some games and the German man had told me off for the British inefficiently having both cold and hot taps instead of just mixers (?!), we all settled round the campfire in our swags, in a big clockface. Except for the French people who disappeared for ages and then had to sleep in the neighbouring grassy field because there was no room. Oh well.

I think it was a fairly early night. I was conserving phone battery so I lost track of time. It was quite nice, tbh. It was definitely a very early morning, though. Oggy told us he'd do something special for us, by waking us up about 2 hours before dawn. Normally this kind of special treat would join the, "I'll give you a nice new filling in that tooth" and "I'll warm the speculum first" stable of treats, but actually I was about ready to get up and hadn't felt the cold at all, and had slept quite well thanks to that wine I'd drunk. I was ready for my pre-dawn hike. The same can't be said for the youngest of the German girls, who had to be physically tipped out of her sleeping bag into her swag by her unsympathetic father.

Unfortunately, the pre-dawn hike came with a crapload of rough cut stone steps at the beginning. This took me a while. I tried to be quick, and luckily we did manage to get where we wanted to, but not before I'd stopped for this picture -

...which is a matching pair with my friend Jonty's picture from the same place. It's kind of a steep drop. The girl taking my picture was a bit nervous for me.

We continued walking along the top of King's Canyon until we reached Cotterill's Bridge, a small bridge over a deep chasm that leads out onto a flat top, where apparently the view of the sunrise was awesome. Oggy was not wrong. This may have been my favourite bit of the entire tour. I filmed it on my camera: here is 14 minutes of sunrise, speeded up (can you guess when I got tired of holding the camera and balanced it on a rock?)

After this we hiked around the rest of the rim, crossing the bit where the water is; there was some great geeky geology here, because the canyon is made of two layers of sandstone with a layer of shale underneath it. So there's always water in the bottom, because although the sandstone is porous, the shale is impermeable, so the water can't get through. I was loving the geology. The whole canyon rim seemed to be formed of beehives of sandstone, where particles had blown in between them and worn them down.

Once we'd finished here, it was back to the bus and time for the long drive back to Alice. We stopped at a camel farm, where I declined to ride a camel - I rode one in Egypt and, really, how different was it likely to be? Humbug. Instead I observed the wildlife, including the dozens of galaas that inhabited the animal sanctuary -

And we saw some wild camels by the side of the road -

And we played a game called Oggy wants, which involved a competition between the three rows of the bus to see who could get the item Oggy required all the way to the back of the bus and then to the front again. This was a lot of fun. There was some good lateral thinking and a heavy dose of healthy competition. I don't think it was at all inappropriate that I ended up wrestling with one of the French guys to try and prevent his row from winning. Nor that Oggy pulled back into Alice with this on his rear-view mirror -

I did really enjoy this game, but my risk assessment nerve was twitching horribly. Damn risk assessment nerve. I didn't realise I'd grown it. This probably means I am older than I think.
We were lucky to make it back to Alice when we did. The road has been closed due to some fires which had got a bit out of control, despite Oggy's best efforts to put them out with a water pistol, so there was a pause while we all stood around on the side of the road. The group in the bus behind toasted marshmallows over a flaming stump. We took pictures of the sun through the smoke.

The next day, the tours were turned back because the fires were too out of control, so I felt pretty lucky, even though I ended up on an off-road tour to Palm Valley instead of going to the West Hamiltons. On that bus, seatbelts were mandatory, I lowered the average age by around 20 years, and when the air-conditioning briefly broke and the bus got a little warm, the woman behind me started hysterically squealing, "There's hot air just POURING OUT OF IT!!!!!"
But that's another story.

After The Best Shower Ever back at Toddy's, I went for dinner with the bus gang at the Rock Bar, and had my first kangaroo-based meal, and was mistaken for a spritely 27 year old, which was just icing on cake. The evening was a perfect end to a perfect trip.

I really cannot recommend this tour highly enough. I wrote a glowing review of it for Trip Advisor and if you found this blog post because you're thinking of booking, read that, but then book it (as long as you don't mind outdoor camping. That added to the experience for me, but may not be everybody's tin mug of warm white wine.)

I also can't believe this was nearly four months ago. I'm glad I have nearly a thousand photos of my trip, they are good memory-joggers.

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