After leaving Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we were fortunate to see a wild dingo. Apparently they are often close to car parking and campsite areas, trying to steal food.
Kings Canyon is in the Watarrke National Park and for our visit, we started with the lower Kings Creek walk which was only an hour but I wanted to see that before we attempted the climb for the canyon rim walk. There were some bronze sculptures of native animals at the end of the board walk amongst the native trees.
The rim walk was 3 hours of intense rock climbing both uphill and down, but so worth it. The highlight was the Garden of Eden about halfway, which had large pools of water. This is an indigenous sacred site, so no swimming but they do allow you to cool your face with water. Unfortunately both my camera battery and Mark’s, failed before this, having taken so many photos at Uluru and Kata Tjuta and not recharging. We’ll just have to come back one day and do it again to get the evidence! To compensate our readers, here’s a photo of the pear flan I made that night, and the recipe – 5 minutes preparation and into the oven!
The free camp at Gintys lookout was spectacular and Mark was able to take a photo of the Milky Way. This was just the beginning of what would turn out to be over a week of gorging on gorges, gaps, canyons and chasms.
With Katya needing a Toyota service, we decided to get to Alice Springs via the Larapinta Drive and postpone all the West Macdonnell National Park sites for a couple of days. We met our Explorer friends Liliane and Sam and stayed together in the GDay Mate caravan park on the south side of town. We spent the next day at the Alice Springs Desert Park seeing a talk on bush tucker, lots of native animals, and of course the bird flight show is always a highlight of these places.
We had dinner at Sporties, which had huge meals but certainly wasn’t great service. They initially said they had no tables available, but when we asked about whether we could sit outside, they then said we could, but with no table service. It was a bit cold, but we couldn’t be bothered trying to find somewhere else. The mall was lit up but pretty deserted. I understand that there normally would be lots of people filling the mall at this time of year.
First stop on the West Macdonnell National Park trip, was Standley Chasm which should be viewed at midday to get the sun’s rays hitting both walls. The indigenous owners have a little café and gift shop at the entrance and maintain the 1.2km walk to the chasm.
Ellery Creek Big Hole is usually very popular but had only a few visitors at the moment. Both the Standley Chasm and the Big Hole have campgrounds, but we decided to stay the night a bit further up the Namatjira Drive in a free camp called Neil Hargreaves Lookout, where there is a mobile hotspot set up. You place your phone on the cradle and the signal gets amplified enough to get 1 or 2 bars of 3G. So I called my brother Gary who was having his 50th birthday with the family and reminded everyone we are still alive.
The Pound Walk at Ormiston Gorge was a challenge with narrow dirt tracks, sand, and rocks to clamber over for 8km, but a great lookout and some beautiful coloured rocks, including some purple with white veining, which I would love to see as a kitchen bench! Unfortunately the water in the Ormiston Gorge is very low and not very inviting, and it was too cold to swim anyway.
We stopped briefly at Glen Helen Lodge and had a look at the Finke River and the Glen Helen Gorge, but there wasn’t much happening and the shop was limited so we left. The night was spent at the Big Gum free camp on the Finke River across the road, with water birds and a couple of brown kites who were nest building.
We got stuck in the sand coming out of the camp site, but with a bit of tyre deflation we were quickly on our way again to the last of the gorges on the Namatjira Road side of the West Mac’s Mereenie Loop, called Redbank. After yesterday’s trek at Ormiston, this one should have been easy being only 1.2km, but it was at least twice that, and my hips and knees hadn’t recovered from yesterday yet. We are starting to feel like mountain goats, or more appropriately, rock wallabies.
We gave Hermannsburg a second try on the Larapinta Drive (where Albert Namatjira lived) to see if the historic mission precinct was open yet, but after checking at the supermarket, it was still closed due to the coronavirus. Not wanting to go back to Alice Springs yet, and not wanting to do any more gorges, we stayed at another free camp on Hughs River, and had it all to ourselves. Mark lit a fire so we could have triple smoked kranskys and potatoes for dinner. Yum.
The next morning we decided to backtrack and go to the Finke Gorge National Park, which we had driven past the previous day because of the rough drive in and being ‘gorged’ out. But with a good night’s sleep and a fresh dose of adventurous spirit for breakfast, we thought we’d go back and give it a go, and so glad we did. It was probably the highlight of the West Macdonnell Ranges. The final 4km of track to the Palm Valley is a challenge but the Explorer did it easily. You’ll have to go to the Travelling Old Farts Facebook page to see the video https://www.facebook.com/wwtofs/videos/?ref=page_internal
The weather is still quite cold here at night, but the days are starting to warm up. We’re thinking we’ll have to make our move north to the Top End before it gets too hot, and leave the East Macdonnell Ranges for another trip.