After thirty-five minutes I'm about to give up on them entirely when they finally come through, chattering and noisy at the top of the cliff
. I call up and ask if we're going down to the Garden of Eden, the turn-off for which is here. The answer is in the affirmative so I hurry on ahead again, not expecting the Garden to live up to its arrogant name. This is not a green area of the world, after all. But when I turn the corner and see Eden, it doesn't disappoint, although it's not what you would expect. A huge black waterhole is clutched at the bottom of steep, cracked red cliffs, with a blue sky looking on as swallows dip and dive over the water and rest in nests on the cliff face. A few trees and vines cling to the rocks and dangle over the eternal promise of water. I climb up onto a rock high above to watch other hikers dive in and swim in the clean, cool water.
After I begin hiking again there is a spot where I can see back down from the top of the cliffs into the Garden of Eden. From there I spot our group just leaving to finish the hike, so I go onwards, admiring the sheer walls of the South Rim, where the canyon plunges down into a palm-frond glory. THe walls are so steep and smooth that they look human-blasted.
I wait at the end with my book again and finally the group comes out and we pile back onto the bus for the last time; this afternoon we will arrive in Alice Springs, at the end of our 3,000 km journey.
AS predicted, the five o'clock wake up, after three days of other early awakenings, leaves me cranky and feeling wrecked. we drive out to Kings Canyon and I charge ahead on pure vim; it's not that I'm energetic, it's that I don't want to hike with anyone else in my crappy mood. This turns out to be a good thing, as I hate stop-go hiking and everyone else is hiking in a giant group and stopping every two seconds to listen to some story of Firie's, or admire some view. I want to admire the views at my own pace. After a steep uphill, the trail winds along the rim of the canyon and between red beehives of rock, until it descends partway down the canyon itself. I sit on the bridge that crosses the canyon, in green shade, and read a book while I wait for the group to catch up.