We are back in Alice Springs tonight where winter has suddenly arrived. Apparently it was minus five degrees here this morning. This morning we were still camped out in the Ranges at Ormiston Gorge and though it was certainly one of our coldest nights and mornings yet, I doubt it was as cold as here in Alice. I did go rummaging through my clothes compartment in search of extra warm outer gear and my gloves though … so it must have been chilly.
We have a spectacular week exploring gorges, plains, old mission towns and watching the ever changing countryside roll past. Not a lot of kilometers involved which is a bonus. More time to sit and soak up the bush, the birds, the ochre coloured hills and peaks around us, and the lushness of the occasional waterhole still with water in it.
Last Saturday morning we left Alice and headed out on Larapinta Drive to a little place called Wallace Rockhole. This is a small modest aboriginal community with a very proud record. Our host there was the only “white” man in town and he has lived there for 38 years. Ken runs the local grocery store and
caravan park. In its heyday, (according to Ken back before John Howard’s “Intervention” policies were implemented, and before they built an airport at Uluru, Wallace Rockhole was really on the tourist map and they used to get loads of tourists, and buses and coaches, dropping in, doing Ken’s very interesting and educational walking tour up into the gorge just behind the township to see aboriginal rock art and learn about bush tucker, tribal uses for the land and other customs. Now however, those days are a thing of the past, and Wallace Rockhole does not apparently see many tourists these days.
But we were welcomed, the power turned back on in the caravan park for us, and a couple of hours after we arrived, Ken rolled up in his 4wheel drive and wheeled us out into the hills for our walking tour. And it was delightful. He is a very knowledgeable chap, and now an accepted member of the community there. And it wasn’t long before the formality of his very well-rehearsed script gave way to a more informal and friendly exchange between the four of us.
The next morning we continued onto Hermannsberg, and spent a lovely
few hours exploring the old Lutheran mission precinct. This included lunch of meat pie and apple strudel with ice cream from their lovely old tea rooms.
As the crow flies, it is a very short distance from Hermannsberg to Glen Helen which was to be our next destination at the western end of Namatjara Drive in the northern section of the McDonnell Ranges. However, the 45 odd kms of road connecting those two places was not only gravel, but currently (we were advised) just a dirt track either side of the road which is currently being sealed. So we decided to drive back the way we had travelled rather than risk getting our axles deep in sand. When we finally got to Glen Helen the next day, we learnt that that very day, the road was opened to traffic for the first time. Guess nobody thought to tell us that when we were enquiring.
So back the way we came, and that night we found ourselves a lovely off road camp site in the middle of beautiful arid red dirt country with spectacular views of the setting sun and the ranges to our north. Some lovely sunset shots
in this blog will show you just how spectacular it was.
Next morning we were off bright and early and since by that time we were only about 40kms out of Alice, we decided to hop back into town to fuel up and top up with food supplies.
Glen Helen Resort (well that is a very glamorous title for a rather tired campground I must say) was our resting place that evening. Glen Helen Gorge is filled by the mighty Finke River … the biggest river in central Australia. And lo and behold, it was full of beautiful water, surrounded by sandy banks, shivering grasses and reeds and birds. The next morning we headed further west as far as Tylers Pass where there is a lookout perched on the top of an extremely exposed hillock with amazing 360 degree views of the countryside around. The view of Grosse Bluff was spectacular … what a strange landform that is. Scientifically it is explained as the site where a comet crashed from space about 140 million years ago. We had a cuppa perched on this hill and having just commented that it did not appear that many tourists came this
far out, proceeded to witness about 10 more 4 wheel drives, caravans and campers join us on the hill and then move off again … all in the space of the time it took us to have our cup of tea.
That night we camped in the bush campground of Redbank Gorge, having first conquered the 5 kms of very rocky gravel road to get to the head of the walking trail that takes you to the waterhole. Unfortunately for me, that trail was also uneven and rocky so I did not in fact make it to the waterhole. My feet decided that enough was enough about three quarters of the way in and opted to spend the rest of my time bird watching instead. And I was rewarded for my patience and decision by catching sight of, and a photo too, of the elusive mistletoe bird. A very exciting event for me.
Our next stop was Ormiston Gorge and I am delighted to say that this absolutely lived up to my expectations and all that I had previously heard or been told about it. Here the waterhole was very accessible down a fairly new but beautifully laid
paved pathway. So I managed to spend several hours soaking up the beauty of this place. And this morning, I easily conquered the Snow Gum Walk to a very high overlook from where the whole of the gorge is clearly visible. And in the process managed to walk just a tiny stretch of the famous Larapinta Trail.
En route back into Alice this afternoon we dropped in at the Ochre Pits, and Ellery Big Hole and tonight we are once again back at our lovely Alice Springs base, the Wanngardi Caravan Park.
And now it is time to turn our eyes to home and begin the long trek back. It has been a wonderful experience. Tonight I am rather weary and do not have the prose or poetry in me to do justice in words to the spectacular country that has passed before my eyes this week. I will let my photos speak for themselves.
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