Blog 181 The Olgas and Kings Canyon 30th August – 2nd September 2011


We woke early to beat the heat and rode the 50km to the Olga’s an ancient rock formation. Its Aboriginal name is Kaja Tjuta meaning many heads and it is a remarkable formation of 32 weathered rock domes exposed by 500 million years of erosion. Incredibly these are just the visible tops of slabs of rock some of which extend 6km down into the earth. We did a 7 km walk called “the valley of the winds” which lead you right through a beautiful valley into the heart of the formations giving spectacular views over the desert below. It was our favourite walk so far and this area was well worth the 2000km detour to get there.

Here are some pictures to give you a taste of what it was like. The lizard was well camoflaged against the rocks and Karen only spotted him because he moved.

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Due to the early start we were back by lunch and had the afternoon off to catch up with the blogs and washing etc, there are some spectacular sights in Australia but there is also a huge expanse of nothing. Many days in the outback we pretty much did nothing but ride, camp, eat, sleep and wake up and do it all again just to cover the miles, when you get somewhere like Uluru you are so busy looking around that you need time off now and again to catch up especially as they are at their best both sunset and sunrise.

The next morning we were away early again, we made good time and were at Kings Canyon by about lunchtime which gave us chance to put up the tent in the campsite and drop some gear off before doing the walk through the canyon that afternoon. We met a few familiar faces and some new ones in the campsite and it was quite a social affair. The walk followed the creek bed through the sandstone canyon which has weathered over millions of years into spectacular shapes and colours. The light in Australia is completely different and the sun on the rocks lit them up making the colours even more vibrant.

Early the next morning we did the rim walk around the top of the canyon, that was quickly our new favourite place. About half way through the walk you descended into a permanent waterhole called “the Garden of Eden”. It was well named, a shady green oasis set amongst sheer yellow and orange walls of rock. Spinefex pidgeons were busy eating some biscuit crumbs left by tourists they came almost close enough to touch. Although it was still a little touristy it had a magical feeling about the place and at times you could get a sense of what it must have been like to discover this vast sandstone chasm for the first time, we certainly felt like we were following in the footsteps of people over many thousands of years. Aboriginal people have lived here for an estimated 22’000 years, white Australians only discovered it in the 1960′s

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Leaving early the next day our original intention was to travel up the dirt road to Alice Springs but at the last minute I changed my mind so we went out on the longer tar seal route instead. We don’t mind a bit of dirt but varying reports on the condition of the road and the risk of breaking something out here made me play safe. We did take to the dirt to visit some meteorite craters on the way which were quite impressive. They are fairly eroded now and so would have been deeper but it’s still scary to think that those craters were caused by a meteorite no bigger than an oil drum.

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Thanks to our 06.45 start we were in Alice Springs by lunchtime, Alice is the only big town for thousands of km’s so we stopped to top up with food and water. Lots of people came over for a look at the bike as usual and among them was Ray an Irish guy who now calls ‘Alice’ home, he asked how long we were intending to be in town and invited us to stay. We planned to be back on the road that afternoon but as things often change we thanked him and took his number anyway.  I left Karen with the bike in a car park while I went shopping and when I got back she had met lots of people including some local aborigines and Miranda a local volunteer reporter for the ABC network who asked if she could write an article about us and our trip for their website which we were happy to do. We rode up to Anzac Hill ’Alice’s’ most iconic viewpoint to take some pictures and record some audio and she seemed pleased with the result. By then the afternoon had slipped away so we rang Ray to ask if we could take him up on the offer of somewhere to stay in town. On the way there we had a look around the historic telegraph station which was the first settlement here and rode back up Anzac hill to watch the sunset over the town.

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Ray and Carol lived in a shared house in town and it was one of their housemates birthday so we had a great evening with them. They didn’t have a spare room so we were going to put our tent up in their back garden when Ray suggested trying their swags for the night. Swags are an Australian invention and are basically a sleeping bag with a built in mattress, they roll up and anyone travelling by 4X4 usually has one in the back. Some have built in mosquito nets etc, they work well here because the weather is so predictable. It felt slightly strange to be stripping off in the back garden and climbing into a sleeping bag with no tent around us but we had a really comfy nights sleep. We left a note to say thank you in the morning to Ray and Carol as it was the weekend and they were having a well deserved lie in.

We needed to get some km’s in so we rode all day only stopping for a look at the sculptures at Airelon. The bike intrigued the man who sculpted them and he came over to say hello.

Our next stop for fuel was at Wycliffe Well the UFO capital of Oz. It was here that we noticed the bevel box was still making a noise when we rolled the bike, we couldnt hear it when we were riding it and other than that it seemed to be working okay but to be on the safe side we contacted Kev in Cairns to ask if he had a spare. It didn’t seem that serious but the distances get even bigger when we head west from Darwin so we thought we probably should be on the safe side. Kev said he had a spare and kindly set wheels in motion to ship it to Darwin for us via the greyhound bus freight service. Trying to think ahead we also rang the ever helpful “tyres for bikes” to organise a spare rear tyre to be shipped to Darwin so that it would be there when we arrived. The other problem I could forsee was our 400-450km fuel range was going to be pushed to the limit in a couple of places out west. I had already looked into folding fuel bladders and found a good manufacturer in Australia called “Liquid Containment” so I gave them a call to ask if they would be able to help us out. Luckily for us they agreed to supply us with some older sample models for nothing if we paid for the freight which we were happy to do so we got those on their way too. Nick from Cairns had already asked on AIGOR the Australian Guzzi owners forum if anyone would be willing to let us use their address and Colvin helped us out there, thanks mate ! 

We camped that night in one of Australia’s excellent free camp spots and put our air mattress on the concrete by the picnic tables and slept under the stars again. It was only when darkness fell Karen remembered snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc but we both slept well. 

There was a lot of controlled burning going on in the outback, the theory is that if you burn off the grass and scrub in small cool fires it stops big wild fires getting out of control later. We saw lots of dead wallabies and kangaroo’s on the road a reminder of the hazards of riding out here. The emu is one we saw at a roadhouse although we have had them jumping out in front of the bike as well. The alcohol and pornography ban signs are on the edges of some prescribed areas, alcohol is quite strictly controlled in the northern territory and you cannot buy it without ID no matter what your age. Quite a lot of aboriginal settlments are “dry” as some Aboriginals don’t tolerate alcohol well and it has caused problems in some communities.

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Next up Litchfield national park and Darwin

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