No better way to experience the majestic Kings Canyon in Australia’s Northern Territory than in a helicopter. We embarked on this adventure early in the morning after our bumpy ride on a gravel road from Alice Springs the day before, since we felt we needed to reward us in some way.
And rewarded we were indeed! The helicopter will take you up in the air, faster than you are able to realise it; suddenly you are hovering over the car park, the camper van gets smaller by the second, you are taken away, the buildings of the resort can be seen in the distance.
Below us, a grey stretch of bitumen – the highway leading to Uluru. The desert is right before us, stretching all the way to the horizon. Eternally, endlessly.
The pilot’s voice in our headphones. He is taking tourists up all day, the tone of his voice is casual, calming. In front of me sick bags, just in case, but I am too fascinated to care. The thought that we might crash any minute in this delicate shell of a four seater helicopter is stored away by the beauty of what spreads out before us.
And then they appear, the steep sandstone walls of the Kings Canyon cliffs. Their height is enormous and sudden.
The canyon floor is where the water remains the longest, the natural ending place thanks to the laws of gravity, protected by the canyon walls from the forces of wind and the sun. A perfect microcosmos, a habitat that offers shelter for a unique range of animals and plants that you will find nowhere else. The canyon is an oasis in the middle of never-never.
From above we see the famous formations which have been given romantic names such as the Garden of Eden and the weathered sandstone domes of the Lost City.
There are two ways to explore Kings Canyon, either by following a track on the bottom in the shade of gum trees and the steep cliff walls, or on top along the rim. Both routes are promising and mind-blowing, but a helicopter ride will offer glimpses that you will never see from the ground.
To the back of the rock format a sudden drop, a sheer wall of stone which ends in an endless desert plain that stretches as far as the eye can see.
The helicopter makes a final turn and that’s the end of our flight. We return to our helipad, flooded with impressions and the feeling of mortality and insignificance. Sacred to the local people for thousands of years, and probably existing for several million years, these rocks will continue to fight their eternal battle against the elements under the hot Australian sun when we are long gone.