- Hey Morgan, I'm calling you to let you know that I've received your CV...
I'm in the North of Queensland in the small town of Mount Isa in the outback, when I receive this call.
Yes, so I've just read it and I think that you would be great at cleaning toilets and showers!!!”
Yes, children! You've read it properly, that's exactly how I got offered my Public Area job at Kings Canyon. Of course, I did hesitate but to put this into context, I was (kind of) desperate as I had been looking for a job for a few weeks in the outback. In case you don't know about it, Kings Canyon is a huge canyon located right in the middle of Australia, in the desert between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. I had heard incredible things about this beauty spot and people had told me many times that I shouldn't miss it. I hesitated a lot. The job I had just been offered was one thing but another major drawback was summer that had just started in the heart of Australia, the famous red centre that becomes a gigantic microwave attracting all kind of deadly reptiles that anyone sane would stay away from! But after all, how many times in a lifetime do you get the opportunity to clean toilets in the desert around Christmas time when it's on average 45 degrees outside?!
Kings Canyon is located right in the middle of the country
When I left the roadhouse in Yuleba, I focused my job search on hospitality and especially resorts. They are all over Australia in all the main touristic spots and they are usually composed of an hotel, a bar, a restaurant and a shop. Most people who work in those resorts are Australians but also backpackers coming from all around the world. People come and go all the time so it's not too difficult to land a job in this kind of establishment that always need employees throughout the year to run the business. That's pretty much how I ended up in the desert at Kings Canyon for almost three months.
A view of the canyon from a distance
An incredibly rewarding experience that I will never forget. I worked there at the hottest time of the year, between the end of October and mid January. I must admit that I've never been so hot in my entire life, especially at Christmas time when the temperatures reached 48 degrees – in the evening they were never dropping under 30! At night, insects and bugs were getting into our rooms and sometimes sneaked in and out the sheets. We literally coexisted with the fauna and I eventually got used to it!
A friendly notice at the staff canteen
We were blocking our doors with towels to prevent snakes, scorpions and the rest from crawling into our rooms! Being really scared of all these reptiles, I'm sure you can easily imagine how apprehensive I was about living in this wild environment. When I arrived I was given along with my contract a sheet listing all the reptiles we had to be careful of at this hottest time of the year. In the canteen, there was also a note on the wall announcing the snake season and telling us to be careful when walking around the resort!
A small inhabitant from the Canyon
It was a day to day fear factor and a complete change of scene with a very harsh climate and hostile fauna. During my stay I saw many red backs and other spiders, each of them bigger than the last and quite a few snakes including a large white one that made its way between my feet as I was walking to the canteen on day 2! It gave me quite a fright but fortunately I was reassured when someone told me:
- It was only a python...probably!
My friend Dawn during one of our walks at the canyon
On top of the complete immersion in this wild and isolated environment – the closest city being Alice Spring, 320 kilometres/about 200 miles away – encounters with people coming from all around the world made this experience pretty unique.
“You will see, this place is not really about the job but it's more about the amazing people who are working here.” told me Nick, an Australian who had worked at Kings Canyon for several months.
He was damn right! As all the employees lived together in a staff village within the resort, it was very easy to socialise and get to know people very quickly. The unusual and isolated environment really helped generating some really strong bonds between us. Even though dealing with isolation could be very difficult at times, it definitely brought people together, much faster than in "normal life.”
Meet the crew! During one of our costume parties
There's no doubt that living in such an isolated and rough environment was a psychological experience, sometime challenging as we were permanently living with the same people in a very constrain space. This was a great way to learn about the others but even more about ourselves. I like to compare it to a "Big Brother experience" in the desert! When you feel blue there, you can become very vulnerable as it's difficult to escape, go somewhere else to take your mind off – you can forget about cinema, shopping, clubs etc..! Feelings and emotion are distorted and ten times stronger. Even the canyon's friendships are skewed as we become friend with people we would have never talked to in a “real life environment.” Nonetheless I've made friends of a lifetime during the few months I lived and worked at Kings Canyon. We shared laughters, tears but also fears as we escaped a massive bush fire that devastated several acres around the canyon a few days after Christmas.
Finally, there is this majestic canyon with its orange surface that overlooks the horizon. I did the main hike three times which allows people to walk on top of the canyon and each time I was impressed by the immensity and the beauty of its rocks. It was like walking on a different planet that I rediscovered during each exploration.
Sunbathing time at the top of the canyon!
I've left many memories but also probably a part of me at Kings Canyon. I was dreading this part of my journey but finally I've never regretted those 2 and a half months spent there. Back to civilisation, I saw again most of the friends I had made there and even today I'm glad to say that I'm still in touch many years later with quite a few of those guys.
How to get to the canyon?
The only way to get there is from Alice Springs. Kings Canyon is located 320km down from Alice Springs so from there it will take you another five hours driving on the Stuart Highway.
You can also access Kings Canyon from Uluru (Ayer Rock) by car and it should take you three hours.
Don't worry if you don't drive as many coach companies operate regular services between Alice Springs and Uluru.