Wow, what a day full of incidents! Hats go off to our tour guide Cooper who had to fix our bus, cook our food, keep us entertained, look for Wichiti grubs and dodge various animals on the road including wild camels, rabbits, kangaroos (although, sadly, one didn't make it), owls and cattle!
So, our day began at 6am when we were picked up from our hostel. We were off to a bit of a shaky start when Cooper pulled a "Crocodile Dundee" on us and refused to lift our bags into the trailer, "You're on a backpacker tour - you gotta lift your own bags". Luckily, he warmed up to the 2 princesses later. But, if you think about it, he has done this run twice a week, every week for the past 12 months and I'm sure he's had to deal with all sorts of people.
The tour started in Alice Springs and we were supposed to drive straight through to King's Canyon for a 3-hour hike and swim in a natural rock pool, but then we had smoke coming out the engine into the car! And this was halfway to the canyon and miles and miles away from the nearest servo (Aussie slang for service station).
Unfortunately, the fan belt had broken which meant that the engine had overheated. However, to complicate matters further, we were out of mobile phone range and nobody could get a signal to call base. So, to avoid a complete engine meltdown, we had to wait for the engine to cool every 20min and crawl a couple of kilometres with a variety of temporary fanbelts (incl 1 from a pair of stockings and a tea towel). Eventually, we came within range and Cooper called base for back-up which only arrived at 1pm. By 2pm we were in a different bus and back on the road to Kings's Canyon. The time lost waiting for backup and fixing the fan belt meant that the itinerary had to be revised.
We arrived at Kings's Canyon just in time for a late afternoon hike through stunning rusty terrain that looked like a landscape from Mars. We sat and watched the sun set by the overhanging cliff rocks and scrambled down as the daylight faded. Dinner was in the glamorous car park after which we drove to Yelara - arriving at camp at midnight to set up our swags in the dark, guided by the glowing light of the waxing moon.