Got up and checked with the office - the hike up to top of Ayer's Rock is open!! Broke camp and drove out to the rock. Unfortunately there were tons of other people there as well (today's the first time the trail has been open this week).
The trail starts on the west side of Uluru (Ayer's Rock) and climbs to the highest point (1,131 feet / 348 meters above the surrounding land). The first half hour of the hike is very steep. The rock gives very good traction, but with parts of the climb up a better than forty-five degree slope it's a good thing there's also a chain to help! It's pretty much straight up until near the top of the rock - so no level spots for a rest until you've made it. Once you are at the top it's still another half hour walk along the top until you get to the highst spot. The topography of the top looks like a sine wave - far from flat, but much easier than the climb up. The view from the top (or pretty much anywhere on the rock) is incredible - endless flat desert with the monotony broken by the fantastic Keta Tjuta rocks (the Olgas - 20+ miles away) in one direction, and Mt. Conner (50+ miles away) in the other. As a bonus all the recent rain means that the desert floor is a beautiful green.
The climb down went much quicker, but for me was much more painful. By the end me knees were shaking - I'm very worried about how they'll feel tomorrow. At the bottom I gratefully took my boots off and changed into dry clothing before driving to the nearby Uluru - Keta Tjuta Cultural Center. It was fairly typical - small museum, a short movie, very overpriced souvenirs, and a mediocre cafe. By far the most impressive part of the centre was the architecture - it's great!
Then came the nearly two hundred mile drive to Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park). By this time there was only an hour of daylight left. Couldn't do any of the longer hikes, so ended up doing a short hike up along the creek to the end of the canyon.
Decided not to camp at the park because it was looking like rain. If it rained there was a very good chance that we could have gotten stranded out there. Plus any miles done tonight would shorten tomorrows drive. Backtracked 150 km to the road to Uluru (all the other roads out were still closed) then drove another hundred kilometers. Pulled into Erldunda (where the emus were attacking me a few days ago on the drive into Uluru) just after nine - got a room, but everything was closed. Ended up having packaged sandwiches at the bar for dinner.