Friday, August 8, 2014

Alice Springs

After Jervois we drove parallel to the East MacDonald Ranges. There are gemstones to be found along here. Every so often we would see a "fossicking" sign. Certainly at Gemtree Homestead, you can be taken on fossicking trips from the station.

Unfortunately we didn't stop to make our fortune as we had a deadline to meet. the car was due for service at 7:30am in Alice Springs on Friday morning.

Two nights in a Westerns motel and then into the West MacDonald Ranges.

These ranges are stunningly beautiful and after some rain were green and full of desert flowers.

We "lucked" all along the Namatjira Road. The first stop was Simpson's Gap. Here we noticed a sign that informed visitors that a ranger would take you for a guided walk at 10:00am. As we had arrived just before this time we decided to wait. Dale, a young Aboriginal man turned up and was very enthusiastic with his love of the country and his newly acquired learning from the elders of his clan. He was learning to make his tools using ancient methods, as well as learning to catch and hunt for food. He told us about how the original owners utilised the food and medicine, to be gathered from the surrounding areas.

We learned a great deal from this young man about bush tucker and bush medicine.

The next gorge was Standley Chasm, we think this was privately owned as everyone was charged a fee for taking the walk through the Chasm. Again a magnificent place. Water in the small gap with Cycads and ancient acacia trees and greeness everywhere. We mostly walked up the creek bed over rocky boulders and tree roots.

Serpentine Gorge was as the name suggest a winding gorge, absolutely beautiful and again with water. Swimming was not allowed, but was allowed at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Waterhole. Here we came across a Frenchman, determined to swim in the water. When we met him later he told us he had merely dipped his feet in. No wonder, the water was freezing and the air tempersture not much more!

By this stage of the journey, up the West MacDonald Ranges, almost all of the creek crossings still had some water left, in puddles and holes.

We had been advised that a specialised chef was brought in during the tourist season to cook in the restaurant at Glen Helen Resort, which had won four gold plates. So we opted to pull in here with the view to enjoying a sumptuous meal. We were directed to the futhermost campsite where we were assured that no tour operators would set up camp. We had only just opened the camper, when sure enough, WayOutBack Tours arrived to set up camp right beside us. There were 17 on board, a mixture of Dutch and German tourists and one Aussie.

We had booked into dinner by this stage so decided it wasn't worth moving.

The sun began to go down, and as it did, it hit the cliffs leading into Glen Helen Gorge. What a remarkable sight! The cliffs were lit up in yellows, oranges and purples. It was truly awe inspiring.

Dinner was ok, but certainly not as good as the references had indicated. We began chatting to a couple from Austria, who were travelling in the outback on their own, had made all their own reservations and really enjoyed an adventure.

On leaving the dining room, we were greeted by a wonderful singer- songwriter, Chris, who could play the guitar, mandolin and fiddle and "spoons", as well as sing. We thoroughly enjoyed this part of the evening and stayed until he packed up for the night.

In the morning we took our time to get up and have breakfast because the tour group took over the amenities. We went to see Glen Helen Gorge whilst the sun was just entering the gap. Heaps of water and birdlife abounded. Budgerigars were in abundance as well as water birds, small wrens and songbirds.

The owners of Glen Helen keep an aviary near to the homstead with Gouldian finches of all three colour types as well as other desert parrots and ground birds.

We drove back to Ormiston Gorge, as we had been told it to was magnificent. The park facilities are very well maintained and the path was an easy walk down to the river and on to the gorge. Swimming is allowed here, but again it was very cold.

We went back again towards Glen Helen to continue our journey on the back road through to the Tamami Road. At the end of the tarmac road we turned off onto a secondary road leading towards Papunya. This took us besides Mt Sonder, Round Hill, Haarts Bluff, Mt William and Mt Edward. These are giant mountains of red and orange granite sticking up out of a flat desert of red sand. The road was quite rough and we were glad to see no other vehicles as we had to drive across the road to avoid mud and water holes as well as wash outs along the side of the road from the recent rain.



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