WEDNESDAY 23 JUNE ALICE SPRINGS
Today it was definitely time to play tourist, properly.
We took a cut lunch and drove west, out Larapinta Drive, to Standley Chasm – some 50kms away. The attraction of Standley Chasm is the way the midday sun lights up the red walls of this very narrow, deep cleft through the rock.
We got there about 11.15, a good time. We had to pay $4 each to the local aboriginal group that runs the area. This, and Simpsons Gap, have long been on the tourist trail in these parts – presumably they were not originally developed as tourist attractions by the aboriginals, but this is a more recent acquisition. This place was named for the first lady school teacher in Alice Springs, who was the first white woman to visit here.
We walked up the track that goes from the car park to the Chasm. This was a very pleasant walk in itself that took us about 15 minutes, and followed a dry creek line.
Because the overhead sun at midday lights up the Chasm walls, there were crowds of people by the Chasm entrance, all poised to take photos, and jostling for a good vantage point, herd-like. It was a bit amusing, actually. It would have been impossible for anyone to take a photo that did not have people in it.
We joined the herd and took some photos when the walls went rather orange.
Rather than stay with the crowd, we decided to explore further – through the Chasm and beyond. That left most of the other people behind.
At the head of the Chasm, a more gradual climb went off to the right, and a steep track to the left. I thought that might connect to the Larapinta Trail, a long distance walk track along the ranges, so we took that. It stopped at a very abrupt cliff into another big valley – real vertigo stuff! John took some photos and then we had to go down again, which was a little tricky and demanded a great deal of care.
By then, we’d seen enough of Standley Chasm, so went back the way we’d come. Saw a rock wallaby, watching us from on top of a rock heap. Ironically, in the main part of the Chasm, the light on one wall was much better than earlier – and there were no people there, any more.
We ate lunch in the carpark; the surrounds were quite pleasant. But there was quite a chill wind blowing.
Drove back towards Alice Springs, then turned off and went to Simpsons Gap. This is only about 23kms from Alice Springs by road.
We took the short walk along the side of Roe Creek, to the waterhole that fills the base of the Gap. It is Roe Creek that – in wetter times – cut the Gap through this part of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. The creek has a sandy bed and there are white trunked ghost gums growing along side it. The walls of Simpsons Gap were glowing orange in the afternoon sun.
Simpsons Gap would have been a very significant place for the aboriginals of this area, having the permanent waterhole there.
Then we drove back along the road for a short distance, parked and walked the 1.5km Cassia Hill Loop Walk. This went up a little hill. The walk was signed with vegetation identification – mulga, witchettybush, several types of cassia. It was interesting, pleasant walking, and there was a reasonable view from the top of the hill.
It was late afternoon by the time we walked back to Truck, so time to go back to camp.
Although the places we saw today are busy with tourists, they do showcase the essential features of this part of Central Australia – stark, dramatic ranges, dry creeks, occasional waterholes, varied and resilient vegetation, and shy wild life. Sealed roads, formed walking tracks, signs – make it seem deceptively benign; but it can be treacherous country for those who do not take its potential hazards seriously.
Tea was lamb backstrap, pan fried with garlic and rosemary, with potato and salad.
We refuelled Truck today – 84cpl.