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Swimming in a billabong but no jumbucks, swagmen or squatters were seen
Western MacDonnell Ranges (Australia)
Member Name: catsholiday
Western MacDonnell Ranges (Australia)
Date: 18/07/09, updated on 16/08/11 (162 review reads)
Advantages: Amazing scenery, wallabies and a cool swim in a billabong
Disadvantages: Very hot and dry and FLIES everywhere
THE WEST MACDONNELL RANGES:
These hills are part of the MacDonnell Ranges which run parallel east and west of Alice Springs and were named after the governor of New South Wales at the time, Sir Richard MacDonnell. The highest peak, Mount Zeil is about 5000ft so they are not huge mountains but as everything else around here is flat they become quite noticeable. The landscape is stunning particularly for its vivid red colour and rock gorges. Some of the rock folds are like geography text book drawings they are so perfect.
We were up at 7am and out for 8am for our trip to the West McDonnell Ranges. Our first stop was Simpson's Gap which was discovered in 1871 by a surveyor called Gilbert McMinn. The reason for its name is not known and prior to it becoming a National Park in 1970 this area was an over grazed cattle station. Simpson's Gap is 18km west of Alice and we were informed that swimming is not permitted which we found quite amusing as the waterhole was pretty well dry.
We walked for about 500metres to a fairly dry water hole and chasm in between two rock faces but the main excitement for us here were the black footed rock wallabies which were hidden amongst the rocks. We were lucky and did see three of these small wallabies. The scenery was very striking with red harsh rocks, gum trees and a fairly dry creek bed.
The next stop was Standley Chasm which is located 50km from Alice and named after the first teacher who came to Alice in 1914 she was called Ida Standley. In 1925, the school for children of Aboriginal descent was moved from Alice Springs to Jay Creek (Iwupataka) and Mrs Standley was the matron. While she was at Jay Creek she became the first non-Aboriginal woman to visit the chasm and that now bears her name.
There was a 20 min walk to the chasm across rocks and through a creek bed filled with cycads, ferns and Red river gums. The walls are red and the chasm very narrow and extremely tall. They are best seen at midday when the sun makes the walls blaze a fiery red but it is still impressive whatever time of day as it is a very narrow chasm with extremely high walls of harsh red rocks. The chasm is called Angkerle by the Aborigines and Angkerle Creek runs the length of the 1.5 Km walk from the car park to the Chasm but most of the time this is a dry creek bed.
GLen Helen Gorge:
Our lunch stop was at Glen Helen Gorge which was a camp site with fixed tents and a waterhole about 1km from the main centre. This resort is situated 132km west of Alice. We had chicken rolls which were fresh and quite big followed by tea/coffee and then fruit salad and ice-cream which was very nice. The flies were a bit of a pest and I ended up putting on my special fly net to eat my roll and kept it on when we went for a walk around the site and towards the creek.
It was possible to take a helicopter ride of 10mins for $75 to see area from above but we had pretty well seen over the area by air as we came in on the plane so thought we would do our helicopter ride onto the Franz Joseph glacier in NZ.
It was really hot here and walking out in the heat was very sweat inducing but we did go for a bit of a wander towards the gorge but after 10 minutes walking we turned back as it was REALLY hot - about 40░C with no shade at all, so unfortunately we do not get to the swimming hole.
Ellory Creek Hole:
After we left Glen Helen our last stop was Ellory Creek Big Hole for a swim in the waterhole. This waterhole is about 126 miles along the Larapinta trail from Alice Springs and the Ellory Creek area is an internationally recognised geological site with perfect rock folds which are un-cracked. And can clearly be seen above the ground - a perfect geological example which looks like a text book diagram.
The waterhole is reputed to be extremely cold but it was not that cold on the day we were there; the currents came in waves of warm and cold. We swam the length there and back which was lovely and refreshing. There were toilets where you could change in the car park which we were told after we had changed using the bush and towels .The worst part was that you had to get through a fairly muddy bit before getting deep enough the swim. This meant that you feet were in need of a wash as you got out. The ground was also extremely hot to walk on so you needed to get your shoes on pretty quickly after getting out of the water.
This water hole is 92km west of Alice Springs by road and it is possible to camp there and explore the area by foot but it is quite challenging bush walking apparently - too hot for me to walk too far.
For me this area and the Top End of Australia are the real Australia that you read about in books, the romantic stories of shearers, cattle drives, the Flying Doctors and the School of the Air. This is a tough life where the land unforgiving and harsh, where the flies are more plentiful than people. The flies are a pest and I really hated them. I was happy with my fly net as this kept them away from my ears and moth but I still couldn't stand them buzzing around me. There is no way I could live out in this area. It is hot, 40░C and above for the summer months and then the flies all day, once the sun goes down you get a break from the flies but then out come the mosquitoes to chomp on your exposed bits. No, it was great to visit and see these Australian icons and I have a huge respect for those that live there now and an even greater admiration for those people that lived there in times past - they were a tough lot.
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my name.
Summary: Stunning red scenery and rock formations and cool waterholes
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