Wondrous West Mac’s
Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
79Trip End Ongoing
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With the pantry and fridge restocked we left the hustle and bustle of Alice behind us and took the scenic drive out to Glen Helen Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges, our base from which to explore the area. Here, whilst a little close together (good thing our neighbours were really nice!) all the sites offer magnificent views of the massive orange rock face which rises above the old homestead and dominates the skyline
Each night we made use of the fire pit conveniently located on the slight terrace behind our van. Here we sat taking in the changing colours of the gorge wall as the sun disappeared from sight, eventually throwing off the most spectacular pink which hung in the bottom of the low clouds giving us the most stunning of evening skies. A tree perfectly placed to silhouette against the magic of the sky. As the night sky radiated stars so close we could almost touch them, the large rock wall before us looked like a large velour curtain as the moon light danced across its surface.
Our days were spent exploring… at Glen Helen Gorge we were keen to head through the mouth of the gorge and explore all the lovely spots hidden from view. It was a short lived walk for there was still a large body of water in the mouth of the gorge so we couldn't actually get any further! Here we were thinking we would just walk along the river bed for as long as we fancied soaking in the views. Oh well!
Visiting Palm Valley in the Finke Gorge National Park was a full day trip and involved leaving the smooth bitumen behind and venturing back onto a corrugated red dirt track
At the turnoff to Palm Valley there was a large sign warning that the road out to Palm Valley (22kms) was 'Severe 4WD’ and to allow 3 hours! We were a little taken aback as we had been told the road was okay until the last 4 kms where it got a bit dicey… Anyway off we set, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The road followed the line of the Finke River which at this time was dry, a wide expanse of at times sandy and at other rocky bottomed river bed, so wide it is hard to imagine what it must be like when the river in is full flow. There was evidence of the speed at which the river must flow with uprooted trees caught against trunks of others more fortunate.
The road became more challenging as we continued on with big rocky step ups (well big to us novices!), across some water, over large rock plateaus where our path had to be carefully chosen so as not to tip or damage the suspension. At Palm Valley we walked across the rocky plateau dotted with waterholes and started the walking trail
The walk was diverse and interesting as were the views. Looking down into the valley of the palms gave yet another perspective and dimension to this gorgeous little oasis. Both the walk and the drive had been interesting and visually rewarding, a day well spent!
The scenery of the West Mac’s had us once again captivated, the white trunks of the ghost gums against the rich red of the rocks and the silvery grey of the saltbush which lined the rocky ranges was beautiful.
We spent a day exploring the closer gorges and started with Redbank. Here we enjoyed a fabulous walk along the edge of the dry river bed before scrambling over rocks to reach a waterhole. Here the gorge narrowed and was filled with water, it was a stunning sight as the walls really closed in. We only wish we had a means of floating through the watercourse to gain the full impact of such narrowing walls and to settle our curiosity as to what happens further along this intriguing passage
The walls of the gorge were such a striking red with one side bathed in sunlight and the other obviously shaded. High above us we knew there were many a black footed rock wallaby and to our delight we spotted two at different spots along the way. Happily sitting out on display, basking in the sunlight having a wash, they are such gorgeous little marsupials with their distinctive markings and delicate faces!
At Ormiston Gorge we were not able to complete the entire Ghost Gum Walk as it would involve having to swim through freezing water. We did however do the first half of the walk which was up to an amazing lookout. Perched high atop a cliff face we at first wondered how painful it would be to get up there but the walk was quiet forgiving with a gradual climb and various sets of stairs, including a couple of spiral staircases. Our climb was well rewarded with spectacular views along the river and we found it was a great place to soak up the surrounding landscape.
Having made our way back down the narrow trail, we took a walk along the bottom of the gorge enabling us to get yet another perspective of this lovely natural delight
At the Ochre Pits we walked along the dry river bed and admired all the different colours that lined the cliffs. From soft yellows and creams to purples, pinks and greens along with the rich reds, if only we could have just taken a little of each with which to paint!
Ellery Creek Big Hole was a cracker of a spot and had we not camped at Glen Helen Gorge then this would have been the next best spot. We were tempted to throw the kayaks in to explore just how far the water course ran, it looked so inviting!
We had seen so many photos of Standley Chasm that we were keen to visit and timed it so we were there at midday, said to be the time to see it at its best for the sun is directly overhead and falls evenly down the narrowly divided gorge walls. After having to part with $10 each for the privilege, a rough and rocky walking track delivered us to the chasm. The short narrow passage glowed orange as the sun brought it to life, just a shame there were 100 other people there to see it at the same time
Last on our agenda was Simpsons Gap, a pretty little spot and here we could just sit and watch the black footed rock wallabies scampering around the rocks and sunning themselves. Oh, they are just too cute!
Having explored the area, yet leaving enough untouched to warrant returning one day, it was once again time to move on. We left this naturally spectacular area behind us and re-entered the commercial world of Alice Springs, it had been a long time since we had stayed in a major town. We had some chores to catch up on, the first of which was to wash away all the great clumps of red clay which still clung to the bottom of the Navara before putting in it for a service!
As luck would have it Rob, Deb, Ian and Pam (our neighbours from Glen Helen Gorge) were staying at the same park and invited us over for a roast dinner, the start of a wonderful friendship!
Highlights of the West Mac’s:
- Glen Helen Gorge
o The spectacular view
o Camp fire dinner each night
o Amazing night skies
- Palm Valley – drive in and walk
- Redbank Gorge – the narrowing of the gorge walls
- Roast dinner with friends