Friday, 17 July 2015

Red Centre to Darwin

Yellow route: Red Centre and Alice Springs to Darwin - 3645 km
Total so far: 25'920 km

We arrived in Alice Springs with some issues on the truck which needed to be fixed before we continued travelling. Some of the resolutions relied on Oliver’s magic glue, called Sikaflex 252, which we couldn’t get neither in Kununurra nor in Halls Creek. Other fixes required external help like from a panel beater who had to reinforce the mounting points of the grille that had bent or cracked on the many corrugated roads.

Alice Springs – view from Meyers Hill

Fortunately we found the fabulous, quite informal Temple Bar Campground 15km outside of Alice Springs which allowed us to work on the truck as much as we liked. We stayed there for seven nights. 

Alice Springs lies in the middle of the MacDonnell Ranges which stretch 400km through the desert. These beautiful weather-beaten mountains are a hidden world of spectacular gorges, waterholes and poignant Aboriginal heritage. We spent three days in the West McDonnell Ranges, walked most of the sights like Standley Chasm, Larapinta Hill, Ellery Creek, Big Hole, Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge (fabulous Pond walk), Glen Helen and Redbank Gorge, but didn’t swim because the water was „freezing“ (the locals call it that …). The weather was perfect for walking, a bit windy at times but with temperatures around 20°C just wonderful for the uphills. The nights, though, were chilly – around 4°C.

 Standley Chasm

 Big Hole

 Brilliant colours at Ochre Pit – these colours are still used today by Aboriginal people

 Pond walk around Ormiston Gorge

 Glen Helen Gorge

Red Bank Gorge

We continued to Palm Valley where the Red Cabbage Palms, which grow there naturally, and lend their name to this oasis. The short but serious 4WD from the camp to the valley was great fun. Before we crossed Finke Gorge national park along the river bed we unexpectedly got a very good insight into Aboriginal culture in the Lutheran mission of Hermannsburg which is now a museum and offers the tourists not only fabulous apple strudle but also a very instructive movie about the history of the place. 

 Red Cabbage Palms in the valley

Camping in the Palm Valley

Hermannsburg mission

 Albert Namatjira, the famous Aboriginal Artist, lived in Hermannsburg most of his life

Finke Gorge national park

So many people told us we should do the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon that the expectations where high. And we were not disappointed, neither by the scenery nor by the walk itself. The views were magnificent, the informative panels well written and the Garden of Eden a quite unexpected oasis. 

Kings Canyon at its best

Somewhat less surprising was the sacred rock of Uluru. The pictures of this iconic mountain go around the world and show it form all possible angles and in the nicest colours. Still it is an unforgettable moment to get the first glimpse of „The Rock“. We spent three days in the national park but spent the nights outside of the parks border. Twice we had breakfast just after sunrise with the best view on Uluru and managed to secure a perfect spot for sunset, too. The same for Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) even though this was much less popular. It was out of question for us to climb Uluru as the traditional owners ask people not to do so and to respect it as their sacred site. Instead we did the 10km base walk which was good to experience the sheer size of this monumental rock. The guided walk with the Aboriginal ranger introduced us into some of the sacred sites at Uluru which were and are used for inmas (ceremonies) by the Anangu people. The best walk in the park by far was the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta .

 The perfect breakfast spot

 Valley of the Winds

Kata Tjuta

It was quite a drive to the next overnight stop at Rainbow Valley, where we spent two nights as we missed sunset the first night….. It is a very peaceful place where the Ranger has a talk at the campfire every Monday in the dry season and we were lucky enough to be there. 

Moonrise at Rainbow Valley

Back in Alice Springs, at Temple Bar, we visited the multi-hued Desert Park and finally got to see a Thorny Devil and a lot of other nocturnal creatures like Bilbies and Frogmouths. Furthermore we had to stock up on water, diesel and food. And before leaving to the North we had to get the spare wheel out as the tyre we temporarily fixed with an inner tube for the tour around Alice lost its air again. Definitely time to get new tyres!

Thorny Devil – a very special creature

Between Alice and Mataranka there was just one worthwhile stop, at Devils Marbles. These eroded rocks, sometimes formed to perfectly shaped spheres are most remarkable. In Mataranka we floated in the warm — and free! — Bitter Springs – a fabulous place. As we both kayaked in Katherine Gorges on our earlier visits, we skipped it this time.

 Devils Marbels

Formed an then cut in half by nature

On our way to Litchfield national park we had a dip in the Douglas Hot Springs and a nice swim in the remote Butterfly Gorge. We then approached Litchfield from the South, camped at Surprise Creek Falls, had a swim at Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek) and enjoyed the two river-crossings as well as the interesting 4WD track. We liked the Monsoon Walk at the hugely popular Florence Falls and the quiet morning at Bulley Waterhole. All the campgrounds were very full and we got the last spot twice (early afternoon). Another reason to get up early to see the sights before the day-tourist come in. Hence we had Wangi Falls nearly to ourselves and the numerous bats along the tree-top walk were in full action!

 Early morning at Surprise Creek Falls

 Tjaynera Falls

 Lush green in the Monsoon Forest

 Buley hole

Wangi Falls

Before we reached Darwin we had a fabulous swim and picknick at Berry Springs. In Darwin we had the tyres changed, spent a wonderful time and soaked in culture. We will give you the details in the next post.

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