Watarrka National Park, Day 2: Still wondrous after all these years

Well, after 15 years anyhow. This is one of THE walks in Australia to our minds, though admittedly our walking experience is somewhat narrow. Still, when you see our images and videos below, you will hopefully understand what we mean (even if you don’t agree!)

We have done the Rim Walk three times now, and I was thrilled with my fitness this time. I was expecting the first haul up the ridge to be tougher than I found it. It certainly was well within our capabilities last time, in 2009, but I was aware enough of the challenge then to worry a little about how I (and we’d) go six years later. As it was, I found it easier than last time. Must be the yoga! Len too managed it well. Must be all the gardening he’s been doing recently!

The forecast was 26°C and that’s pretty much what it achieved. We were so lucky given that the temperatures here last week – around 13-14°C – were, like most places in Australia, colder than average. That’s warmer than Canberra was, but not quite what we’d have liked for a winter getaway!

Anyhow, back to the Rim. We did the full 7+ kms walk, including the two side trips – one to Cotterill’s Lookout, which we don’t recollect doing before, and the other to the Garden of Eden which we have done. This walk always reminds me of Zion National Park in Utah. Both places have showy geology, a mix of gorgeous greens against stunning reds, and a sense of peace. That said, it was pretty busy up there. We came across many people along the way (including a couple with a toddler, a Norwegian pair, a mother and 50-something daughter, a chatty little boy, and a large AATKings group), but it never felt crowded. In fact, when we entered the Garden of Eden there were just two other pairs there. However, they left soon after we arrived, and we had the place to ourselves until we left. Blissful.

We love that there’s no sign of the nanny state here. There are no railings along the cliff edge – just warning signs – despite the steepness and huge drops. We are treated like adults. We also love that, a day later, neither of us feel any side effects, despite the climb and the couple of steep stair sections. It may seem like we are making a big fuss about this, but many in their 50s and 60s – including some of our very lovely Ghan compatriots whom we ran into back at the resort after our walk – come to the canyon and do not do the walk. You really don’t see the canyon if you don’t do this walk (unless you helicopter it).

Rejigging our trip

Our afternoon was spent rearranging our holiday – cancelling our Top End travels, and booking flights back home to Canberra. That done, we can now enjoy a few days at Uluru, before we head back to help Evan work out how to manage life with one functional arm (for the next few months, anyhow!)

Dining Under the Desert Moon

We enjoyed Uluru’s Sound of Silence desert dinner on our last trip, so this time we decided to do Watarrka’s version, which is quite a different experience. We had discovered that the couple we’d met at the Sunset Viewing had also booked in for the dinner, so, at the appointed hour we four, plus four others, met at the reception point and were walked around to the lovely little outdoor dining area. We were glad, once again, of the day’s warmer temperature (and the cloud cover) because it meant that, with the fire-pit going, we had no need of the jackets we’d all brought along. The desert air can be chilly in winter, once the sun goes down.

Our tables for two were arranged in a circle around the fire-pit. Not only were the couple we’d met before in the group, but also the mother and daughter we’d chatted briefly with on the Rim Walk – along with another couple. We had a lovely time talking to each other across the fire-pit – about travels, where we are from, and so on. We were all Aussies (though some hailed from elsewhere originally). Our friendly but efficient server, Adele, was pleased. Some groups (some couples even!) she said, do not communicate.

The meal was degustation style, and was cooked by a chef in an outdoor kitchen within our view. The dishes included canapés (with gluten-free crackers), an amuse bouche of pickled beetroots, a delicious little barramundi fillet, a pork belly dish, a granita palate cleanser, a beef dish with quandongs, and a deconstructed lemon dessert. A glass of sparkling wine on arrival was included in the price, but other drinks were extra. The whole meal took around 3 hours. At the end, the chef, from New Zealand, spoke to each of us at our tables.

Before we left we made arrangements to dine at Uluru with the “Sunset Viewing” couple, Melita and Brian, so we Can expect more camaraderie before we head home.

The slide show …

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Some honeyeaters frolicking near the water pool …


A panorama movie of the canyon from the rim down to the Garden of Eden …


A panorama of the canyon walls …

7 thoughts on “Watarrka National Park, Day 2: Still wondrous after all these years”

  1. I looked up the Honeyeaters. The video clip shows a rather brightly colored, yellow bird that is very energetic and chatty. I looked up Honeyeaters and found out Australia has a ton of them! I saw some that looked as though they “might be” the one in your video clip. Yellow-Tufted or Yellow-Tinted or Yellow plumed or Grey Fronted or Grey Headed. There are so many that do not look at all like your adorable birds – but all look interesting. Thank you for the clip!

    As always the single pictures are wonderful. Have you discovered what the Wildflower is yet? I s it hanging down out of the rock? From the pictures and videos I can see how Zion reminds you of Kings Canyon in Watarrka. The rock formations. We enjoyed Zion when we were there. Did ya’ll make it to Bryce Canyon, also? Under the Moon Desert Dinner looked like great fun. Were you out under the stars and was there a bright moon? It is really neat that all of you visited with one another. I can see that it might be unusual for that to happen and find it sort of sad. But maybe it only takes a couple of people to start things off and then everyone warms up to the idea. That is my hope and I hope to be brave enough to be some one who would at least try to engage people in conversation. All the pictures are beautiful.

    WHAT?!?!?!?! No pics of the dinner dishes at the Under the Moon Desert Dinner. Do YOU have them? I can’t imagine you do not! I must assume it was an editorial decision. =)

    In the audio of the video of the panorama of the canyon walls, Are ya’ll discussing the lack of access to the other side via the bridge below? AND do I see tiny people on the other side moving around? Did ya’ll speculate that they may have jumped the locked gate? Or is there another mode of access to that side? Just curious.

    I hope it is okay that I respond with SO much…. I see most do keep their posts here short. But it is all so new to me. I doubt I will ever be able to visit Australia but I AM intrigued by the scenery, the wildlife (both flora and fauna), the culture, the history, and the people.

    In the panorama movie of the canyon from the rim down to the Garden of Eden, I see tiny people on top on the other side moving around, people coming down the stair case on the other side and what looked to me like one person (in what looks like a blue shirt and maybe a jacket) actually stepping on the the bridge from the other side. I also see a staircase on “your” side that moves down to the bridge and to a path the I “think” goes to the Garden?? So ya’ll went down to the Garden of Eden, right?? Did you check our the bridge. I could not see the gate anywhere.

    I am of course sorry about you having to rearrange your trip, but I am SURE that you both probably NEED to see Evan asap and ease your minds and aid him in his hours of misery. Does he have pain from the breakage? So I am relieved for ya’ll. Plus there is what I assume is Hannah’s Gin and tater tots!!

    I LOVED all the pics of you two and enjoyed meeting your dinner/and canyon walk companions. Well met.

    Trudy for Carter and Trudy (aka person vaccinated with a Victrola needle, according to my grandfather, from the time I was a little whipper- snapper) Ah….some things never change.

  2. Hi Trudy! Love that you look so closely at our images. Our best guess is that the bird is a white-plumed honey-eater because of the white band on its neck. Our book too says they are nervously active and seldom far from water, all of which fits. But they were so fast!

    Yes, we did get to Bryce too. Very dramatic, isn’t it?

    Loved your comment about the editorial decisions. Yes, we did take food photos but they weren’t great given the light. We didn’t see the moon because it was cloudy, but we didn’t mind because the cloudiness meant it was warmer. I think you’re right about it often only taking one or two. In our case we had met and dined with one couple the night before, and the fellow in another couple was very chatty, and we had met the mother and daughter on the rim walk, so the ice was easily broken! But like you, we do like to chat to people when we are travelling like this.

    Now the two canyon videos. The Garden of Eden one shows the stairs on the other side that come down. Your then walk across that little bridge and before going up stairs on the other side, you can walk down into the Garden of Eden, though in the opposite direction from that camera shot. Yes, we did go down there. We met desert moon dinner mother at the top, she didn’t go down, after crossing paths with her daughter on the way down as we were coming up. We only smiled at her, but then spoke to the mother waiting at the top, and discovered their relationship.

    The gate story is more complex. The Rim walk is done in a clockwise direction, and it has a very steep beginning. But there is now a South Rim walk that starts in the other direction and is much less steep getting up to the south side. However there is a gate which stops people coming right across to the north side because there is a safety issue about people coming down that steep beginning, while others are trying to come up it. You can open the gate as you come across from the north side but you can’t open it from the south side. However it wouldn’t be too hard to go on either side of the gate and scramble down at up a small gully to get across to the north side. It’s a fairly symbolic gate. A couple of us who had come through the gate from the north side were discussing it with a woman who was resting on a rock, having come up from the south. Did you notice the American accent in one of the speakers? All this talk was incidentally caught by Len who was just trying to capture a panorama!

  3. I love King’s Canyon Sue and Len, thanks for the panoramas. Well done with your rim walk! The degustation dinner sounds wonderful too!

    • Thanks Mary … yes, it’s a beautiful place isn’t it? We love that walk, and we had a beautiful day for it.

  4. Brilliant – its a long time since we went to Kings canyon but I do remember it being spectacular. and SO reminiscent of the Kimberley and Pilbara

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