A tree growing from the top of Enchanted Rock
My final day of my mini Texas road trip I headed out to Enchanted Rock, a giant granite dome near Fredricksburg. It was a bit of a further drive from Austin than I had anticipated, but the countryside was lovely and the destination completely worth it.
The hike reminded me a bit of Uluru, though geologically speaking the structures aren’t alike. There were lots of geckos and lizards darting around, tons of desert flora to admire and an indigenous history stretching back thousands of years. I hiked to the top of the rock, then around the base to get a full view.
The impressive balancing act of one of the granite boulders that is part of the Devils Marbles conservation park in central Australia
Heading north from Alice Springs on the grand Top End tour, the first big site is Devils Marbles (known to aboriginals as Karlu Karlu). The marbles are so ominously named because there is a toxic plant that grows nearby, and when the European farmers came through their sheep all dropped dead. The site, like most in the area, are sacred to the local people and conservation is paramount. However, unlike Uluru and Kata Tjuta, visitor access is largely unrestricted and no tickets are required.
The boulders are quite strange, as a lot of them are completely hollow and can be split very easily. Still others are precariously balanced on larger rocks. One guy in my tour group remarked that they looked like they’d been dropped down by a particularly heinous tornado or hurricane, but actually they were carved out through wind and water erosion from a layer of granite under the earth’s surface over hundreds of millions of years.
A view of Kings Canyon from the rim walk
One of the most popular attractions in the Red Centre of Australia is Kings Canyon (aka Watarrka National Park) and its a fixture on all the tour routes. There is a 6km walk around the rim of the canyon that gives amazing views of both sides of the canyon. There are loads of fascinating plants which are used by aboriginals for a variety of medicinal purposes and also an abundance of bird life to ogle.
Perhaps most impressive is the sheer age of Kings Canyon – it’s believed the sandstone in this area was laid about 440 million years ago, around the same time ago life on Earth began. There used to be a lake covering the area and evidence of this is shown in fossils of ripples, worms, and jellyfish. There are plant species that pre-date the dinosaurs and still grow today. I’m not a geologist and pre-history makes my head hurt, but it’s hard not to be impressed by those facts.
Where I slept in my Nissan Note on my first night, with views of a waterfall behind me and the ocean in front.
On the first day of my five-day roadtrip around Iceland’s Ring Road, I picked up my car at Keflavik airport at around midnight and drove through the night toward Dyrholaey on the southern coast. The first couple of hours I was driving through dense fog and was excited and jet-lagged and nervous all at the same time. I’d never rented a car on my own before, much less driven so many hours in such a short time. Around 2:30 in the morning the fog lifted and I saw the gorgeous summer sunrise and I knew that I had made the right decision in coming to Iceland.