As this was to be our last day here we all wanted to see the various gorges etc. along the MacDonnell Ranges to the west of Alice Springs, so organised an early start. We asked Ian and Janice Baulch to join us so the six of us started off reasonably early – 8.00am.
The first stop was Simpson’s Gap (only 11 kms out of the town). Just a short walk from the car park was our first sight of these quartzite ridges. The early morning light showing through brought out the rich orange colour of the rocks and it was lovely to see. But there was a cold wind blowing down through the gorge and it was absolutely FREEZING! However, we stayed long enough to get some good photos and hurried back to the warm Landcruiser.
The next stop was Standley Chasm. This was absolutely beautiful. We couldn’t quite make out the difference between a chasm or a gorge but the scenery was amazing. The richness of the colours is almost impossible to re-produce with a little camera like mine but I hope these photos give some idea. This chasm was also a permanent water hole with a small creek running by. There was a fairly long walk into the chasm alongside the creek on a rocky surface but it was very attractive. This section of our trip was the only one which required an entry fee as it is privately owned land. There was a large cafe and souvenir shop there also.
Next stop was Ellery Creek Big Hole. Once again it required a small walk into the area where the permanent water hole was. It was so beautiful and so unexpected in this dry arid land. There were sheer cliffs all around but there was a small sandy beach area which led to the water. Swimming is allowed but the water is nearly always freezing so precautions such as having a flotation device with you is recommended. As you can expect none of us was interested in having a swim. However, the weather itself was getting warmer as the cold wind was not at this place and the sun was shining beautifully. As it was lunch time we chose to get our lunches and sit by the waterhole as we ate. Very relaxing.
Next stop was the Serpentine Gorge. This required a much longer walk and rougher walk into the Gorge but well worth the effort. Everyone but me then decided to do the longer and harder climb to the top to a lookout which overlooked both sides of the gorge. It took them about an hour all up but all said it was terrific. I waited down by the car and quite enjoyed the solitude observing different birds etc. When they arrived back they all willingly had a long drink and then we were off for the next part of today’s journey.
The next stop was called ‘The Ochre Pits’. This was a short walk from the parking bays and it was a section of the mountain range which was a long creek bed, the sides of which were made up of soft rock of many colors which was scraped and collected by the aborigines and made into a paint which they used to paint their bodies for ceremonial purposes or for cave painting. It also had a use for medicinal purposes. It was considered to be the best quality of ochre amongst the aboriginal tribes and was actually a source of trade between them and one report said that it went as far as Western Australia/South Australia/Queensland. Albert Namatjira used this ochre as one source of his painting materials. The road we drove on all day today was actually called The Namatjira Drive. There was a $5,000 if anyone was caught taking or interfering with these ‘pits’ of ochre but access was unlimited.
The day was getting late but as we were just a few kilometres from the next gorge (Ormiston) we decided to go on. We were glad we did. From the parking bay it was just 150m to the gorge along a very good walking track and it was so picturesque because of all the eucalypts, especially the ghost gums. This was the most gum treed area we have seen for a long time. Ormiston Gorge is also a permanent water hole and there was a large stretch of beach sand. The sides of the cliffs were so orange in color. It was amazing.
While we were there I suddenly saw someting move on the other side of the creek and we all realised it was a dingo. There were people there and the dingo walked slowly past them and then walked along the edge of the creek and had a drink. Needless to say we all had our cameras out. The dingo then walked up to the grassed area when we suddenly realised there was a second dingo there. They stayed together for a while and then separated. In the end one of the dingoes came quite close and I managed to get a movie of it as it drank at the creek just under the bank where I was standing. Absolute magic!!
Because we were so close to the next gorge (Glen Helen)/resort we drove in there just to have a look even though it was too late for us to do the walk to the gorge. Much to our surprise there was a motel, camping and caravanning facilities and helicopter rides available.
The way this area caters for tourists has been first class. All the walks are well documented. There is water, toilets, info.signboards etc. everywhere. The road we drove on was magnificent. In fact all the main roads are in great condition and a pleasure to drive on.
All up we did a 300km round trip and didn’t get back until around 6.30pm. A very long day but well worth it. Mind you, the ones who did the climb up the mountain at Serpentine Gorge may have a few stiff muscles tomorrow.
After tea Ian pulled down the annexe and filled up our water tanks in readiness for our departure tomorrow. We are not sure where we are going to stay for the night but a word of warning it is possible we will be out of mobile/internet access so if you don’t see one for a day or two or three that will be the reason why.
Have enjoyed reading your comments. Glad our journey is being followed with interest.
Love to all, Janese and Ian