Monday, September 26, 2011

West MacDonnell Ranges

The Red Centre Way
On Monday morning, 19th September we made our way back into Alice Springs from Trepina Gorge National Park and dropped the caravan to the service centre for its 10,000 km service – it is hard to believe that we have towed the van 10,000 kms already which is twice as many kms as we towed our last van in the time we owned it!

We had arranged with the service provider, Central Trailers in Alice Springs, that although they could complete the service in one day if necessary it would suit us to leave the van with them for a few days and we would disappear into the West MacDonnell Ranges using the tent.  This gave us the option of taking some of the dirt road areas if we wanted too.
Welcome to the Ochre Pits information
The Namatjira Drive takes you west through the ranges – the road is known as “The Red Centre Way”.  As we were later in the day than planned we bypassed the Simpson Gorge and the Standley Chasm as we will visit these from Alice Springs.  We made our first stop at the Ochre Pits.  This area was used for generations as a mine for ochre which is an important part of the Aboriginal culture.  The natural minerals occur in a range of earthy colours and are the raw material for paintings and ceremonial body decoration.  The colours were amazing and very interesting to see.  As we walked back to the car a lady told us that a large snake had just crossed the walkway so to be careful.   It was nowhere to be seen as we walked back, which in one way was a shame as I was keen to have a photo but nothing else!
 Ochre uses information
 Ochre pit colours
The West MacDonnell Ranges are towering red walls on both sides of the highway.  Our next stop was at Ormiston Gorge and Pound where we had a brief look but as it was getting late in the day moved on to Glen Helen Resort to set up camp.  There are camping facilities at Ormiston Gorge National Park but they were very dusty and the thought of green grass at Glen Helen Resort was appealing.  To call Glen Helen a resort is really a bit of an exaggeration – it is more like a lodge with camping facilities including permanent tents set up for groups and tours.  After dinner we went to the bar and listened to the live music which was nice for a change.  We had booked for two nights but unfortunately the live music was only Thursday to Monday so nothing on the Tuesday night.  There is a lot of smoke around due to the burning off in the area so the sunset was quite spectacular although hazy.  The day time is really hot with temperatures in the mid thirties, but come night time it is a different story.  The evenings are pleasant but by around 3 am the temperature really drops and it is freezing – between 3 degs and 10 degs.  We were surprised at the huge variation in temperature and as we are staying in the tent we really noticed the cold nights. 
 The colours of the ochre pits
More colours Ochre Pits
On Tuesday we returned to Ormiston Gorge and took the walk to the permanent waterhole which is estimated to be up to 14 metres deep.  This was an easy walk and it was nice to sit under the usual trees and look up the tall walls around us.  We didn’t stay too long as a school group of about 40 students from Bendigo arrived and the peace was broken!  The parks have excellent visitor facilities separate from the camping area.  This park had an information area, flushing toilets, free gas BBQ’s, tables, and drinking water.  We had lunch in this area before moving on to the Mt Sonder lookout which was just west of Glen Helen Resort.  Fortunately the smoke had cleared a little and we could see the mountain.  There is a 223 km walking trail along the West MacDonnell Ranges which takes in Mt Sonder.  This was far beyond our walking ability even though it is divided up into twelve sections.  At the lookout we saw a beautiful white and pink parrot – there are some amazing birdlife but we have never seen parrots this colour before.
From the lookout we could also see a number of campers set up along the river so we took the sand tracks to investigate.  This is a free camping area that we were not aware of (otherwise we may have chosen to stay) with plenty of shade right on the river bank and looked very pleasant.
 Amazing colours of the ochre pits
Back at the camp we took the short walk to Glen Helen Gorge – there were some people swimming but apparently the water was quite cold so we didn’t venture in.  We had collected firewood while we were out today so enjoyed lighting a camp fire and sitting out in the evening.  The effect of the high cliffs behind the resort with the lights was quite effective.  We move on again tomorrow going further west.

Ochre information & Gills shadow taking photo!
 Dreamtime Ochre colours info
 Smoke covered sunset Glen Helen
 Smokey sunset Glen Helen
  Relaxing at Glen Helen Resort
The range behind Glen Helen Resort
 Ormiston Gorge info
The waterhole at Ormiston Gorge - Peter cooling his boots!
  Ormiston Gorge
Odd shaped tree
 Waterhole Ormiston Gorge
 Eyeing up his next climb! Of course Peter was going to run up it.

Unusual bark on tree at Ormiston Gorge - amazing what Gill
finds interesting - b weird if you ask me.
Ormiston Gorge again
 Ormiston Gorge and again
Waterhole at Ormiston Gorge
 Looking further up the Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge
 Close up of rock at Ormiston Gorge

The colour of the rock at Ormiston
 This rock was black but not burnt
Looking towards Mt Sonder
 Mt Sonder in the distance
And just for Garey - A pink and white parrot
Here he is again Mr G
So hot we needed extra shade - and what do you know
there's Peter with his boots on again ready to rush out
into the hills again.

The gap at Glen Helen
Packing up in the heat - leave shade until last
 Permanent tents at Glen Helen Resort
Glen Helen Gorge sign

 Glen Helen Resort
  A reminder just in case we forget! Obviously they haven't meet Gill

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