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Published: January 4th 2010
East MacDonnell Ranges, NT
EAST MACDONNELL RANGES - 10th November 2009
If time is short, most people skip the East MacDonnell Ranges and just do the West MacDonnell Ranges. But as my time is not short, I was lucky enough to venture into them both. The East Mac Ranges have alot to offer and there are camping areas at Trephina Gorge at the end of the Ranges, but I decided to just do the East as a day trip. The mercury is up there and with no water in any of the waterholes it's just one big hot dust bowl at most of the Gaps and gorges. Following the road along the East Ranges is nice, the Ranges are quite spectular and the drive is peaceful and my mind wanders. At least it's not possible to get lost, one road, heading east, Ranges on your left, when you head back to Alice, Ranges on your right. Simple. The drive is gorgeous. No photo can do it justice. I really am finding I am drawn to the outback beauty, it's like nothing I have experienced before. It's the openness I think that makes it so special.
First up as you cruise out East is
300 yr old Ghost Gum
East MacDonnell Ranges NT
Emily and Jessie Gaps. Really nice gaps, short and sweet. No water ofcourse in the gaps, only small little puddles that I am sure the local wildlife depends on for survival. Both Emily and Jessie Gaps were picture pretty and interesting with some rock art and beautiful red gum trees.
Alittle further up is Corroboree Rock which is a sacred site and still of importance to the local Aboriginal people. The main attraction I guess in the East MacDonnell Ranges is probably Trephina Gorge, nearly at the end of the road. It's funny out here, they call the rivers 'upside down rivers'. The river beds are bone dry, just dirt clearings. However if you dig just alittle bit you reach water! All the water is underground hence the name 'upside down rivers'! When you are out here and you look around you do think 'how the hell can there be giant red gum trees out here when it is as dry as a bone'. But when you realise that all the water is just under the surface it all makes sense. The Red Gum trees that line the 'dry' river beds are just stunning and some have some rather
East MacDonnell Ranges NT
impressive root systems that can reach water 70 metres down through rock. Now that's pretty amazing! Out at Trephina Gorge is an outstanding 300 year old Ghost Gumtree. Now these are one hell of a good looking tree. Just beautiful. But I have one thing to say 'please do not carve SH hearts DH into a 300 year old tree'! This is one thing that really pisses me off!
Trephina Gorge was nice. You walk along the dry river bed around into the gorge. I was melting walking along the sand but it was worth it. There were a few nice walks you can do around and above the gorge but in this heat I didn't. You can camp out here and it looked nice. It would be better to come back here in the winter I think. I continued to the end of the road to Ross River. I was greeted at the end of the road by some rather friendly horses. One horse actually stuck his head inside my van!
And well that was it for the East Mac Ranges. Short and sweet. There is abit more you can see and do but it had been
a day trip for me so that was the main highlights I guess. The drive along the Ranges is really stunning and I really enjoyed the time I spent out in the East Macs. I just like the space out here, the openness. The best thing about the East Mac Ranges is the peace, it's not busy, I passed a handful of cars during the whole day, I didn't see anyone at most of the stops. Season would be the main reason for this but most people don't venture out to the East Mac Ranges. I think that the fact that most people don't come out here is reason enough to come out here!
WEST MACDONNELL RANGES - 12th November 09 - 14th November 09
The travelling distances are much further in the west so I decided to stay a few days out in the West Mac Ranges. I didn't get away from Alice Springs till rather late and so I decided to just head straight out to Ormiston Gorge (at the far end of the West Mac Ranges) and then make my way back slowly, stopping in to see all the sites along the way back to
West MacDonnell Ranges NT
Alice. As I got further and further into the West I started to see why it is so popular. Once again the Ranges are just stunning. As it was late afternoon, I had that beautiful afternoon sun light to really impress!
I pulled into the Ormiston Gorge campground on 7 and it was busy! I didn't really have much choice of a campspot, for the simple fact that there was no where! The campground is just dirt and rocks on sloping uneven ground. Really not a very appealing campground. But they have shower/ toliet facilities, bbq's and at $6 a night to camp it's fine. I wish I had taken a picture of my campspot. The only spot I could find was on a small sloping section and my van was on a oh I would say maybe a 20 degree downward slope! I tried to do the best I could with it but at the end of the day I ended up shoving blankets and pillows down one side of the bed so I didn't fall out! Funny and ridiculous at the same time.
Up bright and early the next morning I did the Ghost Gum walk
West MacDonnell Ranges
which takes you up to the stunning Ghost Gum lookout before dropping down into the gorge and returning via the creek bed back to the campground. It was a beautiful morning and the Gorge was just insanely breathtaking. Ok I can see why the West MacDonnell Ranges are so popular in particular Ormiston Gorge, the sheer scale of the Gorge is amazing. I had a great morning hiking around the Gorge, marvelling at the astonishing geology. The waterhole was pleasant to have a rest beside under the shady gum trees. The water didn't really look very inviting, with no rain in I don't know how many weeks the water was looking somewhat stagnant so I decided against a swim.
I headed alittle further up the road to Redbank Gorge and Mt Sonder Lookout before popping in to see Glen Helen Gorge. This permanent water hole looked much more inviting for a swim with the reed lined banks and towering gorge walls setting a striking backdrop. I headed back towards Alice stopping at the Ochre Pits which for generations has been mined for ochre by the local Aboriginal people. Ochre is used for paintings and ceremonial body decorations and occurrs
West MacDonnell Ranges NT
in a range of earthy colours. I stopped in at Serpentine Gorge and did the 1 km walk out to the gorge. One of those willy willy of hot air came through the bush when I was walking. They are incredible to watch. Serpentine Gorge again was no more than a puddle but I did spot a beautiful monitor lizard down by the water edge.
Ellery Creek Big Hole was my campspot for the night (yes I had even ground in case your wondering). The waterhole is huge and so cold. I had a great afternoon swimming over to the other side and wandering around the gorge on the other side of the waterhole. Lots of people were camped out here lying under the trees sleeping and relaxing. If you lived in Alice, I am sure this is where you would come for a swim and a day picnic. The shady river banks are very inviting and picturesque. I spent all afternoon and the following morning beside the waterhole and swimming. Just perfect. It's lovely to have a morning swim before you set off for the day.
That morning I headed off back again towards Alice. Only 2
West MacDonnell Ranges
more stops along the way, Standley Chasm and Simspons Gap. Standley Chasm is a bit weird. It's not part of the National Park, so it's privately owned and you have to pay $8 per person to go and see it. Why? Doesn't make much sense to me. I reluctantly paid the $8 and walked up to the Chasm and yes it's great and all but I wish I hadn't paid to see it. The best time to go is between 11am and 1pm when the walls of the chasm blaze a fiery red from the sun's reflection. You can hike up further into the Chasm (so many people just go to the opening, take a picture and turn around the leave) and explore some other smaller chasms and hidey holes. That was fun.
My last stop along the West MacDonnell Ranges was at Simpsons Gap. Absoluately outstanding! What a fanastic end to the very visually pleasing West MacDonnell Ranges. I understand why the West Ranges are so popular.
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