With a busy itinerary planned for today we got up early, started to cook dinner in the slow cooker and headed off back along Namatjira Drive towards Ellery Creek Big Hole. Ellery Creek Big Hole is a permanent water hole situated in a gap within the ranges. There is basic camping available there with flushing toilets, but it does get a bit busy during the day. As we arrived early the sun was not yet on the swimming hole, but we were still able to take some great photos though. The kids, minus Bec threw on their wetsuits and attempted to have a swim, Abs got her feet wet, Zoe stood in about waist height and froze while Jesse was running in and out, splashing and carrying on. Just as well too as the water was absolutely freezing, there were even warnings on signs about people having to be careful about becoming hypothermic!!!!! The water is so cold because it only really gets a few hours of sunlight a day due to the ranges blocking the sunlight and the depth of the water is about 27 metres………..Apparently the top couple of centimetres is sort of warm!!
Next stop we made our way to Serpentine Gorge, which is named because of the snake like pathway that the creek takes as it cuts through the ranges. There is no swimming at Serpentine Gorge as it is a refuge for rare plants and animals and according to traditional owners it has been a safe haven for people for thousands of years. According to the Creation period before people (known as Altyerre), powerful spirit beings inhabited the world, taking many forms. One of these was the fierce and large Water Serpent who lived in Serpentine Gorge. People only ever came here if they were desperate and if they wanted water from the waterhole, they had to follow strict procedure and protocol, which was no weapons allowed and that certain songs needed to be sung to calm the water serpent. Only then could they drink without fear of being killed, however they were never allowed to swim. Even today Aboriginal people are reluctant to come to this waterhole. We saw no sign of the water serpent today, however and whilst sitting and staring at the rocks on the cliff face I swear a section of the cliff resembled a serpent’s long neck and head!!!!!! We also hiked up to the lookout, which was a gruelling 30 minute vertical climb, however we were rewarded with stunning views and we also sighted a cute Black Footed Rock Wallaby.
We stopped for lunch at a rest stop with once again more amazing views and also successfully found a Geocache. Once we were refuelled with lunch we headed off to our next stop, the Ochre Pits. The cliff faces at this site are believed to date back from the time when the area was a large, shallow inland sea, where layers of mud and sand were deposited. The darker the color the more iron oxide is present, with the whiter stone having little or no trace of iron. In traditional Western Arrernte society the white and yellow ochre are mainly used for cosmetics or decoration, mixed with goanna, possum or emu fat, it is mixed into a paste and rubbed onto the body with a finger or feather. The red ochre is the most symbolic color and is still used for major ceremonies. Using an eagle feather the red ochre is painted onto adolescent boys as part of their initiation. Ochre is also used as a medicine, ochre and eucalyptus leaves are rolled together and used to treat head and chest colds. Whilst preparing the medicine it is important to sing over it to boost its healing powers. The walk was thankfully a short walk with signs stating removal of any ochre from the cliffs was punishable by a $5,000 fine…….needless to say the kids were warned!!!!!!! After our busy tiring morning we weren’t expecting much but when we got there we were amazed at the strong colors on the cliff faces and were glad we made the effort to come here, we also think the flies liked them too as there were trillions of the buggers!!!!
Our final stop for the day was Ormiston Gorge, thankfully not too far from our campsite. Ormiston Gorge is a beautiful permanent water hole, a breeding ground and sanctuary for many fish and water animals and fortunately swimming is permitted. The gorge has camping with showers and toilets available as well as a kiosk and a few walks ranging from easy to moderately difficult. The rangers also do talks there on a Monday and Wednesday afternoon and a slideshow on a Wednesday night, whilst the kiosk also runs a pizza night on Wednesday evenings to coincide with the slideshow. The water is only a short walk from the carpark and kiosk so for the second time today the girls donned their wetsuits joined by Nik this time as well, and took the dive into the cold deep water. Even though they had their wetsuits on it was bloody freezing, but they were adamant they were swimming so they swam through the pain over to the rocky cliff face, got a photo taken then quickly swum back and hopped out. After the swimming antics were over we took many photos and marvelled at the beauty of the gorge, then thanks to Nanny on our way back past the kiosk we marvelled at the beauty of the ice creams and a skinny flat white. After a long day we drove back the short distance to our camp, amazed at the sights, scenery and information we had taken in today, looking forward to tomorrows adventures at the next destination on our OZLAP…….