Monday, 31 August 2015

The view was Giles for miles and miles

The Giles Track  starts about  22k south of King’s Canyon, in the centre of Australia about as far from the sea as it is possible to get in Australia. It’s one of the few formal overnight walking  tracks within a few hundred K of Uluru. In truth , it’s the only formally marked overnight track south of Alice.

Named after the first European to explore the  George Gills range, Ernest Track, it begins at one of the few permanent surface water features, Kathleen Springs ( and one can only assume she did) and ends at one of the others, in Kings Canyon. At 22k it’s a comfortable couple of days , unless you chose to do it in high summer in which case it may well be a miserable  suffocating deathtrap.

 Trine and I were there in early June 2015, having planned to  walk the track,  and the weather was  perfect: the days were hot but not exhaustingly so, and while there was no water along the track the heat was not such that we ever faced any issue with the amount of water we could carry.

The track is pretty unprepossessing at the start, winding almost apologetically up from the Visitor Node at Kathleen Springs (what even is that?) onto the escarpment.

And that escarpment is where you stay for two days. Headed northbound, it’s rare that you don’t have the land dropping away swiftly to the left and an desolate scrubby sandhill plain extending off  into the infinite distance.

The track itself is straightforward with not a lot of  elevation changes. There are a couple of dry creek beds to cross, which are beautiful with notable drifts of flood debris high in the parched trees.

Somewhere  around the misnamed reedy creek ( it has neither) we started looking for a camp spot. You can camo anywhere between the 3km and 20km markers, so we found a spot overlooking the plain with ample dry wood and rock platforms that would provide containment to a small campfire. A phenomenal night under a clear sky roaring with stars, with dingoes calling in the distance and the wind sighing in the hill mulga.

Second day was much like the first until we started to get into the beehive country just south of Kings Canyon. These formations are fractally self-similar to the much smaller patterns of the sandstone sheets we had been walking on: huge grids of intersecting cracks eroded over time to produce dome-shaped formations seemingly built from horizontal layers.

We met a ranger as we approached the canyon, who said that  it was unusual to see people on the track from month to month. In a log book halfway along the last entry was in April: we were there in June. We certainly saw no sign of other walkers.

Eventually we arrived back at the spectacular  descent into the Kings Canyon Visitor Node ( what even is that) where the chatter of the day trippers carries far into the quiet hills.

And it is as far as you can get from the sea in Australia, did I mention that?