Monday, October 26, 2009

West MacDonnell Ranges

October 25

Sunday ... but we skipped the pancake breakfast. I went over there to wash our dishes in the communal sink, and saw various couples and families arriving with plates and mugs in hand. A man was handing out name-tags: "Just your first name and where you're from." It had the air of a bible camp, and I escaped before anyone could start up a chorus of Amazing Grace.

We set out westwards, travelling through more of the amazing desert landscape we were getting used to.

Our first stop was Simpsons Gap, and here the contrast with the East MacDonnell range became apparent because, in spite of the long drought, there is still water in the canyons on this side.

While Michael painted, I tried to capture, yet again, the flocks of zebra finches in the trees. They are the tiny yellow dots among the branches. There was a hawk that dived on them from time to time: as it swooped, the little birds would take off in a wave. The whirring of all those tiny wings made a sound like a rolling wave too.

Next was Standley Chasm, famous for the sheer vertical walls so close together. We would have been more impressed if we hadn't visited an even steeper, narrower chasm in the Blue Mountains some months back. Of course, the Blue Mountains rocks didn't have the brilliant colour.

Standley Chasm, though on private land and charging $8 a head to visit, is popular with tour groups, so we encountered a lot more people here than at other spots. The path to the chasm had a wonderful assortment of cycads growing among the eucalyptus, something we saw only in this particular location.

We skipped a couple of other waterholes, including Ormiston Gorge on the way out, daunted by the number of Sunday funseekers arriving with their picnic supplies and swimming gear.

At the end of the sealed road we secured a place in the grandly-named Glen Helen Resort, which was a pretty sparsely landscaped stretch of ground with a series of permanent tents reserved for people on adventure tours, a couple of metal shed-like structures for shower and toilets, and a tavern. South of the whole set-up loomed high red cliffs reflecting the warmth of the day back at us in both colour and temperature.

It had been another really hot day and we were feeling tired. "You should go for a swim in the gorge," advised the local ranger as he passed by at dusk. "It's lovely now all the kids have gone". So off we went on the ten-minute walk down to the gorge. The ranger was right. It was lovely - and deserted except for ourselves and a few birds.

The water was deep, cool and very refreshing.

Later that evening we went down to the tavern and joined other campers listening to live music in the bar room from a grizzled guy with guitar, a kind of banjo/mandolin and a fiddle, singing bluesy Leonard Cohen, Leon Redbone and Bob Dylan. At one point he also demonstrated his prowess with the spoons evoking our memories of a visit to Prince Edward Island about a decade ago.

1 comment:

  1. Some utterly brilliant photos in this entry! The one of the canyon with water reflecting below is gorgous and I love the 'emotional tone' of the last one (not sure if those are the right words -> it evokes a feeling in me anyway). The place looks fantastic! Wonderful that it sounds like you're liking the desert scenery so much.