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Published: June 30th 2010
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Standley ChasmStandley ChasmStandley Chasm

Lucky to be there at noon and get the best effect from the sun
6th Blog
I don’t think days have dates or names at 4.00 am especially in winter, but that was the time that we had to arise to get back to Alice Springs on Tuesday 22nd June. Tiger Airways got us back by 9.00 am (local) and our car was returned to us by a friend that lives in Alice Springs. It was not long before we had stocked up on a few things and were on our way back to Glen Helen resort to get the ‘van.

The West MacDonnell’s are truly beautiful in the glow of a full sun and something that we remarked on being a very pleasant change from when we left a month previously. The original plan was to do some more camping in the back of the car at Palm Valley just South of Hermannsburg, but the forecast for the overnight temp being close to zero put paid to that plan. Plan B saw us back at resort with a view to staying overnight and commenced the job of transferring things from the car to the van and vice versa. All the time we were away Geoff was sure that we would come back to
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Further into the chasm
an esky awash with semi frozen beer from broken (frozen) stubbies; what greeted us was something quite different… It seems that a certain white haired fellow failed to reset the thermostat to the required level when shifting the esky into the van and when the lid was lifted… well the van nearly floated away with the stench of rotting meat! About $100 worth of meat and an invaluable amount of curries prepared by Geoff before the trip were consigned to the bin. We stayed the night and headed back into Alice and the supermarket for the second time in 2 days. For those that do not know the esky, it is a portable 70 ltr. fridge/freeze that we normally keep in the back of the car and is a very effective device for storage of food items (not to mention beer) that will not fit in the caravan fridge.

Trephina Gorge (Nat. Park) in the East MacDonnell ranges was next on our schedule and we knew from Tony and Jane, our friends in Orange, that we could get the van in to the camping area. Although it is only 75km. from Alice, it was mid afternoon before we got
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Scene from behind our caravan
settled in a site and had time to go down to the river/gorge. The site we found (after fearless Margaret had to speak to some feral campers who had taken an entire site to park their cars away from their tents) was actually very beautiful. It was very much a bush setting with lovely young bloodwoods and their luscious dark lime leaves set against a red rock cliff face. The colours in the gorge changed by the minute but at all times, even in the full moonlight, were just so clear and stunning.

Thursday saw us head out to a site known as Arlthunga about 35kms further east. Arlthunga is the site of an attempt to mine gold in the late 1800/early 1900’s. The South Aust govt. poured a very large amount of money into infrastructure for the site in a vain attempt to develop a viable resource for the then colony (before the Northern Territory was proclaimed). It is a fascinating area and the ruins are scattered over a wide area. The Northern Territory Parks Service has done a great job in restoring a lot of the old stone buildings, providing picnic facilities and making the whole site
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Looking up river in the gorge
accessible. In general the NTPS are doing a terrific job in this area with Ranger supported activities in many parts of the E. Macs. In fact on Friday we participated in a Ranger guided walk of the gorge and learnt a lot about the area that we would not have known otherwise. As an example we would not have seen the Aboriginal rock paintings on one side of the gorge depicting kangaroo fat (meaning that there was food to be found in the area) and snake tracks which are thought to indicate the path of the serpent in the dreamtime. We took time before the guided walk to do the gorge rim walk and despite some close encounters with some big drop-offs Geoff was able to make the trip most of the way. That is until we got to a section that appeared to be a crude staircase dropping down to parts unknown - Geoff baulked at that and preferred to return from whence we had come.

We thought the West MacDonnell’s were stunning, but the East Mac’s are just as good if not better. Alice Springs and the E. & W. MacDonnell ranges are very definitely an area
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View from the Rim walk
that we will return to and explore more leisurely. We would recommend it to anyone wanting to experience Aussie bush at its best.

Having replenished the meat in the esky, it was with some dismay that we found that the esky had decided that it did not want to work anymore. As it happens there is an agent for our brand of fridge in Alice we decided to make a quick trip and see if it could be repaired. Despite it being Friday afternoon and only 2 hrs before closing for the weekend, we were in luck and they were able to identify a broken wire and re-solder it - for the very reasonable (???) cost of $60!!! Better than having to buy another fridge I suppose.

It is now pretty well peak time in the migration of the nomad and we were very lucky to find a site at one of the caravan parks in Alice when we returned on Saturday. We got first choice of what they called their 3 ‘overflow’ sites, which means that it is not really a site but if we were prepared to put up with it not being up to their
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They did it tough in those days
usual standard we could park there. Water and electricity was available, and frankly that was really what we wanted most; mind you hot running showers, real toilets and somewhere to put our accumulated waste were pretty high priorities as well! We stayed one night, elected to skip their free Sunday pancake breakfast and headed off for the big transit to our next main feature destination - Lawn Hill (Nat. Park).

We were incredibly lucky to find that our day in Alice Springs coincided with the Alice Springs Beanie Festival - the highlight of the cultural year in Alice. We could not resist a visit, especially as entry was just a gold coin each. You don’t even ask for ‘seniors’ price at that rate! Once inside it was a sight to behold with 4 or 5 hanging nets with multitudes of beanies pegged to them, plus hundreds more attached in similar fashion on the walls. We have it on good authority that at the start of the festival there were 5,000 beanies available for viewing/sale but as we were there at the end of their second day, we had to settle for about 3,000! About 300 had been selected as
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Cultural centrepiece of Alice Springs social calendar
winners of various categories and they were on display in the Cultural Centre gallery. We had taken many photos of these ‘winners’ before being told that it was not allowed due to copyright. Too late, she cried, as we rushed to include them in our blog for the benefit of our friends less fortunate than us who were not able to be present in Alice to witness the highlight of the Northern Territory cultural calendar.

Tearing ourselves away from Alice Springs and all its cultural features, we stopped the first night at a bush camping site at the Devils Marbles. It was chock-a-bloc with many caravans and campers and tents. We took many photos at sunset and again when Marg arose before dawn to capture the sun rising on them. The moon was also high in the sky at that time and it all looked amazing. The only problem with that site was the horrible smell of the very full drop dunny which pervaded everything.

We left there and made a stop at Tennant Creek for medication, a gas bottle refill, lunch and headed on to three ways which is the turn off the Stuart Highway to the
Best beanie - maybeBest beanie - maybeBest beanie - maybe

Something to wear on those cold nights
Barkley Highway and Queensland. We have to say that the red centre is not the parched dessert that we had anticipated. There were many trees, gums, acacias and many other bushes which we do not know the names of all along the Stuart highway. It was all very green, with red dirt and brilliant blue skies.

Along the Barkley highway it started to change and there was a preponderance of low scrub and Spinifex with a few gums dotted here and there. We pulled into another free campsite at about 3.30 (you have to stop at the free ones about that time to ensure getting a spot). No toilets this time which was a relief (smell wise) and a bit of bother in other ways! Haul out the porta pottie.

The leg from Alice Springs to Lawn Hill will cover about 1,700 kms and will be mostly unremarkable (we hope/expect), not to mention that we will be out of range - both phone and therefore wireless Internet for most of it. That comment is meant to ask you to be patient for the next instalment.

P.S. The South Australian Roads folk have still not responded to my
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Devil playing with his marbles...
note re the wayside stops - probably have not read their own recommendations from 2008 either!

Additional photos below
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Devils Marbles

First rays of sun on the marbles

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