THE WEST MACDONNELL RANGES | RED CENTRE PARADISE | ALICE SPRINGS

‘Heaven’s all around us if you’re looking’ John Williamson

west-macdonnell-ranges

I’m quite enjoying writing this every day. There is something quite therapeutic about it and now it is starting to become a habit, a ritual that I undertake. The kids are also keeping journals and Charlie loves it. He recaps the day and then draws a picture of his favourite part of the day. The entries are starting to get more and more detailed. I am reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert at the moment, in the few small minutes I get before sleep hits me each night. It’s all about harnessing creativity and ideas. As my friend Emma said, it’s a bit ‘woo woo’ and I agree, but I’m starting to think maybe there is something to woo woo. I don’t think it’s necessarily the universe handing you stuff when you need it (although nice idea) but that you work your ass off to attract the things that you need/want. I’ve never called myself a writer, I’m probably not interested in writing anything of significance, but I’ve always enjoyed it. This blog has given me a little boost just to write for myself and it’s working. It’s like a clarification of thought processes. As Liz says: ‘writers write’ so maybe anyone who writes can consider themselves a writer, in the same way anyone who photographs can call themselves a photographer. Does it matter if it is in a capacity as a professional or as an amateur? What matters is the love of the visual, the love of how light plays, the recording of memories - or more so, the looking back at them at a later date. I’d like to be able to write well enough, that I can capture in words the same beauty as what lies in a photograph well captured. Do you know what I mean? Practice makes perfect perhaps. 

Today was a wonderful day. One of the best on the trip so far. The campsite at Redbank Gorge in the West Macs had grown quiet about 8pm last night - such party animals we are. I awoke to birdsong after a pitch black night, no floodlights, TVs or any other distractions. 

We leisurely awoke, made breakfast, made a coffee on my little gas hotplate, washed dishes in a little bowl from the water container we brought with us (no water at Redbank) and packed up the car. I seem to be getting more room each time so either we are losing/using things up or I am getting really good at car tetris. 

On our way out of Redbank, we turned off the 4WD track and back onto the main road and I did a double take. A massive wedge tailed eagle sat upon a dead kangaroo on the side of the road, only a couple of metres away from the car as we turned left. It did not move and for a second I thought it was some random statue that someone had made. It looked so ornamental and almost like a wood carving. And then as we went past it, its head turned back down to peck at the kangaroo and I had to pinch myself for seeing a wild eagle so close. 

Up the road, a hitch hiker stuck his thumb out. Seeing his backpack, I realised he had probably finished the Larapinta Trail and we pulled over to chat. Seeing his T shirt was a marathon finisher shirt and after he confirmed he had done Larapinta, I was desperate to let this guy in the car but there was seriously no room. Charlie was squished in as it was! I felt so bad. I told him there were at least two cars behind me that may have room. I drove away trying to think of a way to fit him in! I also realised it would take us all day to take him into Alice Springs anyhow as we were stopping a fair bit today anyway, but still, I could have taken him to the next stop. Gah! Still feel bad about this! 

First stop was Ormiston Gorge, our main ‘attraction’ along the West Macs. It did not disappoint. I was desperate to see the pound but you could only do this on the 7.5km Pound Walk which was of moderate difficulty and with a couple of creek crossings, one of them potentially you have to swim across due to the recent rains a couple of weeks ago. Charlie was totally over walking at this point so it just wasn’t going to happen. This trip is just a compromise with what I want to do, and what the kids want to do (and CAN do). Toby was a bit stubborn, he really wanted to do the walk and said he’d do it alone but there was no way I was letting my 14 year old go off alone for four hours, swimming across waterholes and creeks. He didn’t even have any water with him! I pointed this out and he said he didn’t need water. What is it with obstinate teenagers? Are we parents just wrong in everything we say? Of course you bloody need water. By this stage it was mid 20s and he would be exposed up at the pound walk with the sun beating down. He was nowhere near a strong enough or well prepared hiker. I did worry for a second that he would go anyway (he’s taller than me, there’s no forcing him to do anything any more) and I would be panicking for hours. 

Charlie and I set off for the lookout at the top of the first hill. He whinged all the way. Like I said, he was over walking as we had done so much over the past few days. As we neared the top, I could see Toby had started to follow us, and breathed a sigh of relief. The Ghost Gum Lookout was beautiful and we stood up there a while, soaking in the views down into Ormiston Gorge and chatting to some grey nomads, including some that we have kept seeing along the way (Erldunda, Yulara and Kings Canyon!). I really would like to come back here and photograph this place properly and see the pound. The Larapinta Trail winds through here and I made the commitment at this point to come back and hike it, solo if need be, although I have come to appreciate the company of friends on long hikes. Solo stuff is great but I really like sharing journeys. 

After a quick paddle in the waterhole, we left beautiful Ormiston with the promise to be back and we drove along the road through the West Macs in awe. This range is absolutely stunning and on par with my beautiful Stirling Range back home, which I have a special passion for. This place is nature's perfection, the red rock sticking out of the hills like a dinosaur spine.

Our next stop was going to be Standley Chasm, and we drove right into the park before we realised it had now been privatised and was not part of the West Macs national park anymore. I googled photos and wondered whether it was worth paying. It was quite a hefty fee just to get in and see this chasm, I think about $35 for all three of us. I couldn't justify it and so we made the decision that we would press on to Alice. I knew I would be back here and be able to explore this country more on the Larapinta and the kids wanted to get into a town and stop roughing it for a while. 

The Alice Springs Desert Park was on the way into Alice so we stopped there and had a wonderful afternoon. I can't recommend this place highly enough. We did four ranger talks in a row, from fish to the dingo pen, to emus and finally the amazing bird show. It was hot walking around but we took our time at a leisurely pace and meandered around all the exhibits. The nocturnal house was a cool refuge and we got to see the very cute Thorny Devil - my new fave critter. On our meander around, I had booked our caravan park for the next two nights, the amazing Big4 Macdonnell Ranges. Usually the Big4 can be a bit too expensive, but this place was worth every penny.