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Big Rocks, Small Rocks

Saturday 8th August 2015

sunny 29 °C

What a day we have had, and one full of unexpected surprises. We had another early start; up at 5:30 and out of camp at 6:15am. I had slept reasonably well until about 4ish when I needed to go to the loo. Nigel very chivalrously got up and came with me. We had to pack everything up as we were moving to the Kings Canyon area later in the day.

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For now once we had done that, all we had time for after getting dressed was to snatch a quick breakfast. The early start was so that we could view the sun rising up near Uluru and lighting up the rocks at Kata Tjuta. Bez had timed this impeccably, because although it was still dark when we left camp, the sun was near to rising once we arrived at the specially designated sunrise viewing point. There were quite a few people already there and more joined us. We were quite a way from Uluru at this point and I decided that without a really strong lens it was pointless trying to photograph it. Instead I got myself in a position where I could easily capture the changing light on Kata Tjuta. MWe waited patiently and were not disappointed and just as the colours had dramatically changed on Uluru at sunset yesterday evening, the rising sun lit up the rocks in a similarly dramatic fashion.

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Once we had witnessed this we drove the fairly short distance to the base of Kata Tjuta. It soon became apparent that Bez was going to be walking at a pretty fast pace. The terrain was a little rough with a lot of small rocks to walk on and some steep sections. Although he said that he was happy to walk at the pace of the slowest person, I felt less comfortable with this and didn't want to feel that we were holding everyone else back. The walk was a return rather than a circular walk, and so we spoke to him and said that we would feel happier going at our own pace, particularly given that I had my recently broken ankle was still a bit weak. Bez told us about an alternative route that we could take and we clarified what time he thought the rest of the group would be back at the car park so that we could meet up later on.

We really enjoyed walking without the pressure of keeping pace with the rest of the group. It meant we had time to take photographs, admire the scenery and listen to the birds.

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We continued walking for about an hour, reaching a point where there was a steep climb up onto a large curved shape rock. By winding round the side of the rock we were able to get up to the top and sat down to enjoy the view. There were some other walkers there when we arrived, but once they left it was wonderfully peaceful. The birds were singing, the moon was still peaking out from behind the rock face and it was beautiful and romantic.

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I was conscious that we wanted to get back to the car park to meet up with the others, and was just getting up when Nigel quite purposefully sat down on a small rock and told me to sit down again. He suddenly produced a small red heart shaped box from his pocket and asked me to marry him. To say I was stunned is an understatement, it was the last thing I had been expecting particularly given how remote we were. I think I managed to burble out a yes and the ring was put on my finger. Nigel explained the tribulations he had been through trying to organise getting the ring out to Australia, and confessed the one he had given me was only temporary as the 'real thing' was pretty much uninsurable for the time we were away and the advice he was given was to bring a 'less valuable' version for the trip. He had specially ordered a replica of the one he was intending to buy and secretly packed that in his rucksack. He said that he had been intending to propose yesterday when we were sleeping under the stars but he felt that in the end this wasn't private enough (which I totally agreed with). Kata Tjuta is such a beautiful place and a very special location to receive a proposal. After sort of coming back down to earth we chatted and bounced our way back towards the minibus and were overtaken by two or three people from our group en-route.

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When we got back to the bus I couldn't contain my excitement and so told several people what we had been up to. When we got back to camp we had to pack everything up in order to make the move to Kings Canyon where we were going to spend our second night. On the way we had a stop at a place called Curtain Springs and did another firewood collection. We also parked up to have a look at a salt flat and at Mt Connor (sometimes referred to as foolururu because people get it confused with Uluru).

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Once we arrived at our camp at Kings Creek Station, a cattle/ camel farm, we told Bez about our engagement. He seemed almost as excited as we were and loved the idea that he had an engagement on 'his watch'. He fussed around us quite a bit, giving us a bottle of bubbly to have privately later.

We all had a couple of hours free that afternoon and one of options was a helicopter flight from the station. Given that Nigel had proposed we decided to splash out and go for a flight, in the end we went for the longest a 30 minute flight over Kings Canyon. Bez walked us to where the helicopters were and introduced us to the pilot. There was some paperwork to fill in and a safety briefing and then we took off. I had been on a brief helicopter flight once before but this was a much smaller one and it felt a bit strange, as if one was a puppet being jangled on a piece of string. I soon got used to the sensation and throughly enjoyed being able to look down on the stunning scenery. We got a really good view of King's Canyon where we would be walking tomorrow and seeing it from overhead helped me to decide to stick to walking along the canyon floor rather than around the rim.

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Our thirty minutes went pretty quickly and soon we were on our way back to the station and could see the main highway and then the tents of our camp below. We saw what we thought were some people from our group below us, and they sort of confirmed this by waving to us. It took a bit of control to bring the helicopter in to land and in the right position and a little while longer to get to rotor to stop. This made me wonder why as part of the safety briefing we were told how to approach the machine safely with the roots going round. It had been such an amazing experience and a wonderful end to a great day. Once back in camp we had some time to set out our tent, no sleeping under the stars tonight. Having the tent gave us much more space and a solid wooden floor beneath our sleeping bags.

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It was then back to the kitchen to help with supper, which included making damper swagman' bread cooked on a fire, and then we were sitting down with the others eating.

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We all knew the routine by now so we were then all clearing up again and then off for a rather chilly shower. A process made much easier by the fact that we had our own private space to get changed in. We finished the evening round the camp fire toasting marshmallows. We had already had some of our bubbly, but had one more small glass before we went off to sleep, tired but full of the feelings of having had a wonderful and exciting day.

Posted by Gill's Travels 04:57 Archived in Australia Tagged australia outback kata_tjuta helicopter

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It was a lovely day, visiting lovely and exciting places with an exciting, lovely friend and now fiancé. A truly memorable day and location. Thank you for saying yes Gill! Xx

by Nigel's Travels

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