Central Aust '09
Cycling Maps & Routes
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[Central Australia 2009]
[West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory]
After breakfast we checked out of Winter Sun Caravan Park and began our adventures along the Western MacDonnell Ranges. This is a popular tourist route which has sealed roads for about 150Km from Alice Springs with many interesting things along the way. All the tourist spots are well signed and they all have information boards and good car parking.
First stop was Simpson's Gap, which funnily enough is within the Simpson's Gap National Park. This is a gap in the mountain ranges with a creek running through the middle. Although the gap looks big from a distance, the actual gap in the rock is only a few metres wide. There were a few park rangers around the place and they gave us some information about the site and the surrounding trees and wildlife.
After Simpson's Gap we drove for another half hour and stopped at Standley Chasm. As its name suggests this is a huge chasm, basically a crack in the ground that has opened up or somehow been worn away. This is on private land owned by an Aboriginal tribe, there was an $8 per person fee to get in here. The walk itelf was quite nice, around 15 mins up a creek bed and all the surrounding area seems to be untouched apart from the walking trail.
Because it's so high and narrow, there is sunlight in the chasm only when the sun is directly overhead. We got there right on time, snapped a few photos and then walked a bit forward. On the other side of the chasm is a little more rocky ground that involves climbing ... nothing too crazy, but just different from the smooth and flat walking path earlier. We had a bit of a climb, came back down, then had a climb in the other direction. We stopped when we came to a section that could only be accessed by balancing on a fallen tree trunk - Briony refused to go any further so we grabbed some photos and headed back to the van.
After having some lunch on the side of the road in the van, we drove onto the Ellery Creek Big Hole. This is another gap in the mountain range, with the ground being at a low enough point for water to form a large pool. There were a few people in the water when we arrived, and all we could hear was them exclaiming how cold the water was! We chose not to swim, but instead to take the 90-minute walk up and around the hills and back up the dry creek bed. The walk was nice and well-signed. It was so quiet as there was nobody anywhere near us, plus the scenery was magnificent! Like many walking tracks in the Western MacDonnells, this track was made by inmates of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
Another short drive and we arrived at the Ochre Pits. These are some cliffs along a creek bed where the Aboriginals used to extract the coloured Ochre that was used for art, decoration and body painting. This was quite interesting to see just how much colour there is in the rocks, plus also the variety of different colours available in such a small area.
Time was running a little low so we gave Ormiston Gorge a miss and headed straight for Glen Helen Gorge where there is the Glen Helen Resort Camp Ground. We checked in and found a nice spot for the van, then went for the 1 Km walk to the waterhole where the Finke river passes through the mountain range. That was nice to see, and only a short walk from the camp site.
We'd seen a sign for scenic helicopter flights but we hadn't really taken much notice. Once the helicopter started and flew over our heads though, we were all excited and wanted to go for a ride! $250 later we were both strapped in ready to go for a scenic flight over Ormiston Gorge and the Finke river. The flight lasted around 20 minutes and was surprisingly smooth. I got some decent photos while we were up there. After the flight it was back to the van for dinner, relax and bed.
Next : Kings Canyon, Uluru & The Olgas, Northern Territory
or, back to Central Australia 2009 Index
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