Sorry readers, we have been off the air for a while. We had some computer problems and after having the computer looked at we were informed the towers around here weren’t able to support the heavy internet traffic over the long weekend (Darwin Cup). After experiencing slow internet service I think I prefer the old way of having no computer at all.
We had a brilliant time within the West MacDonnell Ranges and camped at a lovely spot known as Ormiston Gorge. The drive out is here is breathtaking and takes me back to areas such as the Blue Mountains. The colours are vivid tones of red and yellow sandstone and much of the rock is configured either in a vertical position or heavily slanted upward. Supposedly many millions of years ago there was either a “significant event” or “significant events” that changed the angles of the rock formation from that of horizontal. There are a number of theories however regardless it is amazing to see. Also, quite amazingly, many millions of years ago sections of the West Macdonnell Ranges were actually higher than the Himalayas however due to severe erosion they stand as they are today.
The deep green of the bushlands that cover this landscape is magical and these impressive patterns that mother nature has created along these ranges are a must see. Looking into the distance are some of the largest mountain peaks for this area. Mt Zeil stands at 1531m, the highest peak in the Northern Territory.
The Information boards indicate there are several walking tracks of varying distance, grade and difficulty. We opt for the waterhole walk in the afternoon as the sun sets on the sheer walls of the gorge (approx. height 250m). We scramble over large boulders that lie on the river bed and sit by the water that remains in the gorge. There was a very dry wet season this year and therefore the water levels were lower than usual.
The dense bushland around us makes you reflect on what nocturnal life may be out there and I suggest that Liam and Mike should take a stroll away from the campsite to see what they may find. As they venture down the road in the dark, Mike stops Liam in his tracks and says “Did you hear that?” to which Liam replies “Is that a pitter patter behind us”. When they turn around they see a very large dingo about 5m away. When they arrive back in the van Liams eyes were as wide as an owl’s. Sure enough, the following night the same Dingo came to visit the van and stood directly below the kids beds. I mentioned to the kids that it could smell what they ate for dinner so they better clean their teeth properly as it may stand there all night otherwise. The poor kids were petrified.
The Ochre Pits were another little side trip.
These are a protected area where the local Indigenous collect the sandstone of vibrant reds, yellow and white and are often traded between tribes. They are often used for various cultural events such as dancing or tribal markings. The white ochre is often used to preserve foods such as encasing berries and then having them buried in the ground and ready for retrieval, and subsequently survival, during drought.
Driving deeper into the MacDonnell ranges we reach another Gorge (Gorges Gorges everywhere) called Redbank Gorge. We meet a large group of people that had just finished a 12 day hike through the MacDonnell Ranges, having commencing at Alice Springs (another thing to add to our bucket list). The walk we choose to take would have been even more spectacular if there had been more water however we were impressed none the less. The end of the accessible section of the gorge is the most spectacular, where the gorge walls narrow and the colours and contrast is significant. Even though this water looks extremely inviting there remains a great risk of hypothermia with numerous warning signs highlighting the dangers of extreme cold water and advising you should use floatation devices where possible. Much to our surprise, even in the middle of summer the water is quite cold and hyperthermia is a real threat. We chose not to swim this day purely because the water was so damn cold.
Reaching Kings Creek station (Kings Canyon) from the south was a much better option after speaking with a number of people that had attempted to travel via Palm Valley (alternative route). This 4 x 4 mixed terrain track looks and sounds like such an amazing adventure, crisscrossing the Finke River, however we met a couple that had attempted this and 3 hours into their trip they came across a collapsed wall of rocks and had to turn around as the track was completely impassable. Kings Creek station sits at the base of the ridge and has spectacular scenery, particularly desert oaks of varying age. Speaking of the various ages of trees, the juvenile oaks are the most bizarre of all, reminding me of the trees from the movie “The Lorax” (great movie by the way). Kings Creek Station is where we base ourselves for several days and we absolutely loved it. The kids had a great time with the adjoining family, riding bikes and showing off a spiny tailed monitor (species of lizard) that Liam’s mate Alan had found earlier in the day with his father. After showing almost everyone in the park, and posing for photos with tourists along the way, the lizard was rightfully placed back where it was found earlier in the day.
We had been advised the Kings Canyon Rim walk is extremely steep and children would be best advised not to attempt this 3-4 hr hike. Knowing the Ball kids are fit and adventurous we set off and note where the emergency call buttons and safety points are located. I have Maddox in the backpack carrier (Mike’s shoulder is taking longer to heal than expected however that’s another story) and half way up the very steep incline we take in the amazing view.
Reaching the summit of the canyon at approx. 300m is spectacular, with views over the region extending for what appears to be forever. Within the rim of the canyon (known as the mini grand canyon) we discover areas known as the “Garden of Eden” and ‘The Lost City’ and see rippled rocks indicating that many millions of years ago a river or creek once flowed at this height. Kings Canyon was definitely a highlight and the kids conquered the hike with ease.