08.10.2010 - 18.10.2010 19 °C
The West MacDonnell Ranges
The rain stopped, Len's foot felt much better and we headed to the West MacDonnell Ranges. With a motto of "leave no gorge untrod" we visited Simpsons Gorge, Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Bighole, Serpentine Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge. They all have something different and were all pretty special. Ellery Creek Bighole, apart from being a lovely permanent waterhole won "the best little bird moment" when we spotted a gorgeous Striated Pardalote going in and out of a hole in a tree where she obviously had a nest. The best walk had to be at Ormiston Gorge where we once again climbed to the lookout and then descended into the gorge where we had to cross the waist deep river and clamber our way along the river bank over boulders and at one stage climb down a 15 metre drop to get to the end. Exhilarating stuff. The best view was from the top of the Serpentine Gorge where you looked over the narrow, winding Serpentine Gorge and its series of semi-permanent waterholes and on the other side the wide expanse of the valley. A just reward for a fairly steep climb
The whole time we were driving through the area we were surrounded by these amazing quartzite cliffs with valleys that seemed almost lush as the grass/spinifex was green instead of yellow and such a contrast to the red cliffs.
We based ourselves at Glen Helen Gorge for a couple of nights where there was a pretty spectacular backdrop of steep, red cliffs that in the moonlight looked like a pale shroud had been draped over the sky and blocked out the stars.
We drove to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie loop. The track had been closed until a couple of days earlier due to the rain, and was pretty washed out in parts, but it did save us back tracking to Alice Springs and then heading out another road to Kings Canyon.
On the way we stopped at Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve which, apart from being an important place of cultural significance to the Aborigines, is the site where it is believed that a comet crashed to earth some 142 million years ago. It also has some pretty lovely little blue wrens living there. We spotted our first wild dingo of the trip, who crossed the road in front of the car (we were going pretty slowly on the washed out gravel road) and then he just stopped off to the side and watched us drive by.
We think our walks are taking longer than they should as we keep stopping to admire and photograph all these amazingly coloured rocks that we are walking over. Yes, we are easily amused!! We also realised a long time ago, that we like nature's creations much, much more than manmade creations. We hardly ever take photo's in towns and cities!!
Watarrka (King's Canyon) National Park
The campsite at Kings Canyon is bordered on one side by the National Park that is part of the George Gill Range and has a fantastic view of the canyon. It also has visits from dingoes who live in the park, one of whom put on a good howl as we were walking past it one afternoon. Until now we didn't know that dingoes don't bark, they only howl and cough and if one does bark it is a cross between a dingo and a dog.
The main reason for coming to King's Canyon was to go on the 6 km rim walk around the canyon. It was another one of those unforgettable walks with the most amazing sandstone formations and a massive canyon that looks like something out of this world. We think it is one of the top 10 sights and walks to do in Australia - every corner was a "wow isn't that beautiful/amazing/stunning....".
Yulara, Uluru(Ayer's Rock) and Kata Tjuta(The Olga's)
We arrived at Yulara, set up camp and the rain and wind came. It's been a while since rain played much of a part in our travels but luckily we have the time to be able wait for the sun to shine again, a luxury quite a lot of visitors to this part of the world don't have. Eventually the rain cleared so our first venture was to walk around the base of Uluru, just under 10 km. It was a lovely cool day and walking all the way around really gives some perspective to the size of "The Rock" and you get up close to see the wonderful caves and sculpted shapes that have been formed by erosion and other chemical changes.
Kata Tjuta, meaning "many heads", is about 30 km from Uluru and has a couple of great walks. One of the walks, The Valley of the Winds certainly lived up to its name; it was blowing a gale as we completed the 7km walk.
We took the obligatory sunrise/sunset photos, photos in the rain and the sun and any other time that the rock had different colours but it is all so overwhelming that a photo just can't capture all that you feel!! Thank heavens for digital cameras, we try and cull the photos most days but we know we will need to keep on doing this for months!
We wanted to get some idea of the size of the land so we took a 1 hour sunset flight over Lake Amadeus, Kata Tjuta and Uluru. Lake Armadeus is a 120km long salt lake not far from the park. After the recent rain, the salt lake has some water in it and in the late afternoon sun it looked somewhat like the glistening waters around the Whitsundays. The sunset was spectacular and our pilot must have been enjoying himself as he flew around for 20 minutes longer than the planned flight.
And yes, there was a dingo in the campground!! As we were preparing dinner Len saw one catch and eat something crunchy in the sand dunes at the back of the tent!
We will now head towards South Australia with only half formed ideas about where we will go.