Wilmington and Alligator Gorge

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September 15th 2021
Published: September 18th 2021
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We spent the final 2 nights of this trip in the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park in Wilmington so we could spend some time visiting Alligator Gorge. It has been many, many years since either of us have been to this gorge.

Whilst in Port Augusta we put the address for the next caravan park into the sat nav. We must know by now that we should double check the route before following it blindly, especially when towing a caravan. But follow blindly we did. It took us up Spear Creek Road, which turned out to be a narrow 2-way gravel road with 1 lane of bitumen down the centre and lots of dips through flood ways. We were committed as there was nowhere to turn around. There were about 15 kms of this … and of course we met another vehicle coming in the opposite direction. We did however survive and arrived without incident at the junction with the Horrocks Highway, a lovely bitumen road we should have taken in the first place. Driving up through Hoorocks Pass was a breeze after that little adventure.

We arrived in Wilmington at lunchtime on Tuesday. The perfect time to spend a few dollars in the local town buying lunch. No luck! We are rapidly discovering that many hotels are either closed Tuesday or not serving lunch. The Café was also closed. A lovely local lady, out and about in the town seemed a little embarrassed that nothing seemed to be open. Not to worry, we soon knocked something up in the caravan.

We were amused by the caravan parks zealous approach to CoVid rules. There were notices stuck everywhere listing behaviour that would get you kicked out of the park. Yet they had a very relaxed attitude to choosing a site. It was quite a large park with most sites being drive through. Power connections seemed to be randomly located in the middle of nowhere. Some people seemed to set up camp in the middle of what appeared to be roadways whilst others chose a spot right next to someone else despite the many options. However, it was more like a bush park, which is our sort of thing.

Following breakfast on Wednesday, we packed a picnic lunch, grabbed our sunhats and headed the short distance to Alligator Gorge. What a stunning place to visit on a beautiful Spring Day. We parked in the lower carpark and followed the loop trail through the Narrows, up to the Terraces and then came back to climb the 250 steps up to the upper carpark where we followed the trail downhill to our car. Approximately 3 hours.

Each section offered a different experience.

Before getting to the gorge proper you follow the path through dense vegetation of tall eucalypts, native pines, melaleucas, desert cassias and acacias, all in various stages of bloom. The path was a bit rough at times and you didn’t want to stand anywhere too long as there were many busy black ant nests. You would be sure to have ants in your pants if you dilly dallied.

Once in the gorge, you were fenced in by steep, richly coloured walls of orange and black rock. Small hanging gardens were perched high up in the rock walls. Large eucalypts stretched their branches skyward. The gorge floor had areas of earth covered with a variety of native plants and bushes including yakka. At times a creek trickled through a rocky base and at other times it appeared to go underground.

The Narrows, appropriately named were narrow, towering high above us. This may be hard to negotiate if the creek flowed significantly after rain.

Then came The Terrace. A series of steps leading higher up into the gorge. Again, there was a narrow stream of water flowing gently down the steps. Ancient ripple marks could be seen on the surface. Such a contrast to where we had just been. We could hear bees buzzing somewhere nearby. There had to be a hive or swarm, but could not spot it.

There were a surprising number of people doing the walk. We were constantly being asked if we had seen any orchids. So far, we hadn’t but Greg had been keeping his eyes peeled. All you needed was one person to say they had found one/some and the hunt was on!

We also came upon 4 separate school groups, who were obviously doing overnight hiking as they were ladened with backpacks and sleeping rolls. There were the groups who were several days into their trip and were obviously pretty tired. Then there were other group full
A wurlie near the carparkA wurlie near the carparkA wurlie near the carpark

Is the idea for passers-by to add a stick?
of beans, noisy and excited. May be this was their strategy for scaring off any snakes as the shorts and shoes they were wearing would not have given them much protection.

The extended trail continued beyond The Terraces, but the shorter walk retraced a section and then you could continue retracing or go up the 250 steps and exit via the carpark. Most people seem to do the trail in reverse of how we did it. However, Joan finds it easier to walk up than to transcend heights as her poor depth perception makes it unsafe.

After our jelly legs settled, we continued on the path back our car. Here we found the real prize of this adventure. Orchids! Orchids! And more orchids! Just in small patches but these were quite densely studded. There were pink fairies (Greg had spotted a few of these inside the gorge), there were Green Hoods, and Spider orchids. All so rare. All so special. All so delicate. All so beautiful. We felt privileged to have seen so many … actually any at all. A fitting end to a stunning walk.

And what could be more
The fractured walls of the gorge. The fractured walls of the gorge. The fractured walls of the gorge.

It was hard to photograph as the it was a bright sunny day. Areas in the sun were bright, whilst those in deep shade tended to be very dark.
fitting, than to finish our trip with … steak and a big red. Yum!

Additional photos below
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