Part One – The Red Centre Way, West MacDonnell Ranges. Northern Territory.

Once again we arrived back into Alice Springs and stayed at the Big 4 while we washed and washed and washed…….. Although this time the park was so busy that there was no spare clotheslines available so we were stuck with a campsite that resembled a chinese laundry!!!!!! Our time was also spent culling our belongings and working out what we won’t be needing over the next month or so and then storing them in a storage unit. We have planned a busy month ahead and didn’t want the hassle of dragging things around that weren’t being used.

Part one of all this reorganising was in preparation for a visit from my Mum, who was escaping the nasty Winter back in Melbourne and joining us for our next fortnight adventure, The Red Centre Way. Mum’s flight from Melbourne arrived in Alice Springs about lunchtime on the Saturday, it was a beautiful sunny day much like it had been EVERYDAY for the last 6 weeks. Yet less than 2 hours later we had thunderstorms, hail, rain and freezing weather………….. This continued on well into the night interrupting the internet as we kept trying to book flights home for her on the Sunday morning……….meanwhile in Melbourne they had a lovely sunny Winters day. Luckily for us (and especially mother) this was a freak once off and whilst we awoke to a misty damp Sunday morning the sun did come out and we went and enjoyed a Big 4 free pancake breakfast, all you can eat.

Waiting for Mum at the airport.
A photo taken by someone in Alice of the road after the hail storm.

On the Sunday afternoon Mum, the girls and I went off to do run a few errands and then went to the botanical gardens for afternoon tea. Unfortunately the café had run out of slices and ice cream and the girls could only have a can of lemonade….disappointing. We also walked around the gardens and found a geocache and spotted a Black footed Rock Wallaby. We then headed to the supermarket for some fruit and vege supplies in preparation for our 10 day adventure through the Red Centre, we were all very excited!!!! The Red Centre Way begins in Alice Springs and heads west along Larapinta Drive, Namatjira Drive through the West MacDonnell Ranges (referred to as Tjoritja by its traditional owners), Mereenie Loop Road through to Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) and finishes down in Uluru and Kata Juta.

The Red Centre Way.
So much to see and do!!!

On the Monday morning we packed up and set off early along Larapinta Way, our first stop was Simpson’s Gap which was only about 15km out of Alice. Simpsons Gap was originally named Simsons Gap however somewhere along the way a ‘P’ was added and has now stuck!!! Interestingly the amazing red color of the cliffs is actually not the real color of the rocks, the rocks are actually white in color and over millions of years have been stained red due to being ‘rusted’ from the iron rich soil. An algae on the rocks combines with the dust from the soil and adheres to the rock creating the red covering. All the rocks in the river however are the original white color as when the floods occur the water washes away the algae stains. Over Winter throughout all the parks the rangers conduct talks about each attraction with the Simpsons Gap talks being held at 10am on Mondays and Saturdays. Fortunately today was Monday and fortunately we made it to the Gap by 10am to have our own private ranger talk by Ranger Kaitlin as we were the only ones waiting for her. All the other visitors/ walkers were quickly walking in and then out and racing onto the next attraction!!!!! We however had plenty of time and we really enjoyed Kaitlin’s talk and guided walk of the Gap, explaining what plants were what and how the surrounding ranges were formed. We were very proud when the girls were able to identify a few of the plants before Kaitlin could tell us what they were, especially Abby who was able to point out the bush that the Aborigines used to make their spears. At the end of the guided walk we were able to see quite a few Rock Wallabies and also asked Kaitlin quite a few questions, I don’t think she wanted to leave us as you could tell she had a great passion about her job and she was enjoying sharing her many stories with us!!!

Simpsons Gap (15)
Not great light, but still amazing.
Simpsons Gap (16)
Rare one without people in the way!!!
Simpsons Gap
Simpsons Gap (23)
Simpsons Gap
Simpsons Gap (14)
Ranger walk with Ranger Kaitlin.
Simpsons Gap (10)
Can you spot the Black Footed Rock Wallaby???

Next stop was Standley Chasm, a bit further west along the Red Centre Way. Standley Chasm is actually privately owned by an aboriginal community and is jointly run by the community and the Northern Territory Parks Department. There is a café with real coffee, winning, and the walk costs about $25 per family. Unfortunately there is no guided walks available so we had our lunch and then headed off by ourselves. The walk to the Chasm is about 1.2km along the river bed along a combination of manmade and natural pathways past huge Red River Gums and Cycad type palms, reaching the rich gorgeous stained red cliffs of the Chasm. The colors are amazing, particularly with the sun shining directly above the chasm and shining into the gap, the photos once again just don’t do it justice!!!! It was difficult to get a photo without people in it, as being lunchtime the crowds were starting to roll on in.

Walk into Standley Chasm.
The sheer cliff walls of Standley Chasm.
The sun peeking through the Chasm.
The girls at Standley Chasm.
The contrast of colors is amazing.

After Standleys Chasm we decided to head straight onto Glen Helen Homestead Lodge where we planned to be based for the next 3 nights, but not before we hunted down and successfully found 5 out of 6 Geocaches. Once we had set up and had a rest we headed to the restaurant to try out the Glen Helen Burger, we were not disappointed, with the both the meal and the cost as it was less than $100 for 7 of us to have dinner!!!! After a big day of playing tourists and with full bellies we had an early night in preparation for another big day of sightseeing at our next destination on our OZLAP……….


One thought on “Part One – The Red Centre Way, West MacDonnell Ranges. Northern Territory.

  1. Thanks for the great memories of our McOz Tour 2008 although Glen Helen was derelict at that time. The girls took a dip and nearly froze!

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