Kings Canyon to Alice Springs, close up and from afar

We loved Kings Canyon and hope to visit again one day. It’s stunningly beautiful and only a four-hour drive west of Uluru (all on bitumen roads) and yet most people don’t go there. The back road up to Alice Springs is more challenging but exquisite, looping through Aboriginal lands, deep gorges and wild outback country. We could have spent a fortnight exploring that area alone. But we had to get up to the Kimberley region in northwest Australia before the arrival of the unforgiving heat and rain, so we sped through in just three days.

Kings Canyon (16 of 19)

The “sorrowful place” where local Aboriginal families fought a bloody feud, at Gosses Bluff or Tnorala (on the back road from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs. Also the site of a massive meteor strike 142 million years ago).

Kings Canyon (12 of 19)

Kings Canyon, the view from our tent

Kings Canyon (14 of 19)

The beginning of the Mereenie Loop (an amazing off-road drive across corrugated roads just north of Kings Canyon. You need to buy a visitor pass to cross Aboriginal lands).

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Kings Canyon itself, with its striking rocky outcrops that glow deep red at sunset. I took the pictures below from a helicopter. (A polarising lens would have reduced the reflection off the glass, but I was so excited about the ride itself that I didn’t prepare my camera properly. Note to self: when taking photos from the air, get your act together before take-off!)

    Kings Canyon (10 of 19)

    Aerial view of Kings Canyon, showing the “Dingo Pups” (the Aboriginal name for the rocky outcrops)

  • The delicate desert flowers, which made me wish I’d been a botanist. I couldn’t stop photographing them. Here are some of my favourites:
    Kings Canyon (6 of 19)

    Native Cotton flower at Kings Canyon

    Kings Canyon (15 of 19)

    Leafy Burr Daisy & single Poached Egg Daisy, Kings Canyon

    Kings Canyon (3 of 19)

    Desert Raisin, Kings Canyon

    Kings Canyon (5 of 19)

    Native Fuchsia, Kings Canyon

    Kings Canyon (2 of 19)

    Native grasses, Kings Canyon

  • The huge night skies, with the milky way and nebulae stretching in magical splendour from horizon to horizon. (If only I could capture it on camera. My efforts have taught me that I urgently need to work on my night time photography. I’ll share the results once I manage to achieve something that isn’t streaky or fuzzy).

The town of Alice Springs itself is an anticlimax. Even the Aboriginal art galleries couldn’t dampen the sadness I felt while we were there. I think it was caused by the powerful sense I felt of a fractured community. I don’t know how accurate that impression was because we were only there for a few days, but it was very strong.


Girl by the roadside
I smile as I pass you
Catching your eye
For a moment in time
You glance back, not hostile
But wary, suspicious
Unwilling to yield
To one travelling through
Just another strange tourist
Trampling your homeland
Like thousands of others
Not invited by you

Girl by the roadside
Are you lost in this world –
Home yet unanchored
In this small, hard-edged town?
I imagine you wandering
In the sun-bleached desert
Bare foot and focused
On some time-honoured task
Here you seem faded
But there you are regal
Your destiny sure
As the sparkling sky

Here’s a link to the Aboriginal art studio we found in the centre of Alice Springs. We both loved the paintings of one particular artist and hope to invest in her work when we settle down somewhere in the world: (Yubu Napa is a phrase from the Top End of the Northern Territory. It has a double meaning: “beautiful” and “to do the right thing”).

2 thoughts on “Kings Canyon to Alice Springs, close up and from afar

  1. Hi Tanya and Al, your stories, photos and poems are fascinating thank you. We are with you all the way, loving the details and the way that you are stopping to see the array of beauty in many unusual and small things along the way. XX John and Barb


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