COLORFUL WESTERN RANGES & COOL GORGES
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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MILEAGE @ Alice Springs: 19368 kms
JOURNEY: Alice Springs, Standley Chasm, Glenn Helen Resort
WEATHER: 10 degrees @ 9.30am. Warming to 20 degrees by noon.
ONERNIGHT: Glenn Helen Resort. $24 pn no power.
We stopped to fill with diesel at $1.47 per litre less Woolworths discount, and set off west to the MacDonnell National Park which stretches 160 kms west of Alice Springs; it is Arrernte aboriginal country along Larapinta and Namatjira, (the famous artist) Drives. Our first stop was at John Flynn's Grave, just a few kms out of town to make phone calls and to have breakfast. Phone coverage is less available in the NT so we have to grab it when we can. By the way, John Flynn was the founder of the amazing Flying Doctor’s Service which has been and still is a life line to those living in remote areas.
Next stop was Standley Chasm, Angkerle Atwatye, a spectacular fracture in a landscape of rocks. The idea is to get here close to midday to witness the sun’s rays light up the huge tall walls. Standley was the name of Alice Springs’ first school teacher in 1914 and the first non aboriginal person to visit the chasm. Perhaps because it was Sunday and school holidays it was a very busy place and very cool; we had to wait in line to pay an entrance fee which is unusual but pays for the upkeep of the area! The smooth vertical walls of the chasm rise tall and there are cycads, trees and ferns poking out of the rocky ground.
We take the turn to Glen Helen and Ormiston Gorge and the surrounding ranges are spectacular with colours of pink, orange and dots of green; the MacDonnell ranges seem to be constructed of rugged red rock walls that might be there to protect imaginary kingdoms and against a powder blue sky are extremely attractive. We stop here and there to take a picture, check another wild flower and just take in this colourful and majestic landscape. Interestingly we cross "flood drains" on the bitumen road with sandy dry creek beds, some very wide and ominous, if you think about the flooding rains can hit this land. The mighty Finke River that starts in the ranges west of here and disappears into the sands of the desert in the Finke River National Park passes here when it rains but we see its empty trail with pools and waterholes here and there.
We decide to stop at Glen Helen Resort and are happy with our decision. We are assigned a spectacular site on the red dirt facing the mighty gorge wall and the Finke River bed. Most campers are at the powered area but we meet our two neighbours before exploring the resort. The reception/restaurant area is bopping with patrons and the fabulous veranda faces the river and red wall and it is just perfect; we meet the owner’s son who gives us a rundown on what you can do around the area but this afternoon we are happy to set up a sitting area at the van, watching the red wall. Sunset was really mesmeric. After dinner under the stars we ventured to the restaurant to buy an ice-cream, even though it was a chilly night; we found a place on the leather sofa and stayed awhile to hear Slim Pickens sing some really good blues music. He attracted a crowd in this unlikely remote location, but was going back home to Byron Bay on Monday after a month entertaining tourists and travellers at Glen Helen Resort.
Monday dawned cloudy and we slept late, wandered down to the Glen Helen Gorge where the Finke River has fed a permanent waterhole below the towering red cliffs; wow this is just beautiful and the reflections in the water entertained your senses and is this another “best place in the world”? We walked out of the resort onto Namatjira Drive and north a little across the Finke flowing over the bitumen to the lookout to Mount Sonder; lovely, expansive views 360 degrees and through more wild flower gardens. For the tough bush walkers the Larapinta Trail passes through here.
Clouds were spreading and it looked like rain, although rain seems so unlikely out here. We powered on foot back to the van, via the helicopter pad where people were lining up for trips over the gorge. We were happy to relax in front of our towering red wall and we talked and read and stared at the fabulous landscape. Our new neighbours were young happy families and tonight we made a camp fire to bbq our marinated meat, keep warm and sit and enjoy the not so starry night.
We heard drops of rain during the night but nothing to worry about; why worry? Well this is flood country where a heavy shower of rain bogs, strands and isolates travellers- but not tonight.
We really enjoyed this resort - the operators so friendly and helpful, welcoming everyone to their special litle paradise!