Our last day on the northern section of The Red Centre Way was spent driving down to visit Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve, but not before we pulled over and took a few photos of Northern Territory’s highest mountain, Mt Zeil which stands at 1,531m high and is the highest point west of the Great Dividing Range. We were lucky enough to have the last of the morning cloud covering the tip which made for an amazing photo!!
Our first stop was at Tylers Lookout which gave us an advantageous view of Tnorala (pronounced nor-u-lu) Conservation Reserve. We were able to take some great photos from afar and see the ‘whole picture’ before we learnt about the Reserve. After our photo stop we headed on to actually drive into Tnorala. On a short hike around we read and learnt about the two stories behind Tnorala, the Dreaming story and the scientific story. Firstly according to scientists Tnorala is the result of a comet hitting the earth some 142 million years ago and what we see today is the eroded remnants of this crater. Tnorala is actually Australia’s most studied impact structure and has been mapped in great detail. The story of Tnorala Dreaming comes from the Western Aranda aborigines and is that of a large group of women dancing across the Milky Way, the stars were taking the form of these dancing women. During the ceremonial dance of the Milky Way Women, one of the mothers put her baby down asleep in its wooden baby carrier, a turna. Unfortunately the baby fell over the edge of the dancing area and fell down to earth with the turna falling on top of him. At the place where it crashed into earth, rocks were forced up from below the surface forming the walls of Tnorala, with The Milky Way Baby being covered in sand and hidden from view. The mother, as the Evening Star, and its father, the Morning Star, are still looking for their missing baby today. Another sad story is one of a massacre of a tribe of men, women and children by another tribe, since this massacre occurred Aboriginal people now consider this place to be a ‘sorry’ place and no one has lived here since because of the sorrow over the lost family. Hence the reason that the traditional owners have requested no camping within the reserve. The Reserve is actually an Aboriginal freehold land owned by the Tnorala Association and is leased back to the Northern Territory Government as a Conservation Reserve. It is also registered as a Sacred Site.
Our last stop for the day was for an afternoon swim at Redbank Gorge not far from Glenn Helen Homestead. Personally I think Redbank Gorge has been the best gorge of the trip so far, but that’s just my opinion!!! Basic camping is available at Redbank Gorge with drop toilets at a bargain price of $7.70 per family. The hike down to the gorge from the carpark was about 2km along the dry creek bed, it was a hot walk with the sun beating down and reflecting of the cliffs and sand and towards the end there was lots of rock scrambling and hopping. But we finally made it, with Zoe and Abby donning their wetsuits and lifejackets, as apparently you can explore the gorge beyond the small gap in front of us, it takes about 2 hours return and is a combination of swimming and rock climbing. We allowed Zoe and Abby to disappear for about 15 minutes to explore a little further while Jess, Damon and Cam had a splash in the shallows as once again the water was extremely cold!!!!!! The Gorge is a deep narrow gap filled permanently with water, the large towering cliffs on either side give it a cathedral like atmosphere and unfortunately for the girls, the water gets minimal direct sunlight to warm it up. After we whistled for Zoe and Abby to return they swam back around the corner of rocks with huge smiles on their faces, they had only explored a little further but had had a ball and importantly (for these 2 anyway) it sounded like they really looked out for each other and made sure they were safe. They really enjoyed their little adventure but it was time to warm up in the sun and hike back to the car to head back to camp. Nik also had an interesting chat to a fellow that came walking out from a section of the Larapinta Trail (approx. 120km hike from Alice to Mt Sonder), Nik was curious as he had work clothes and high vis clothes on. Later Nik told us that he was part of a team that is contracted to work on the Trail establishing and maintaining the pathways along the walk. The guy has a landscaping background and was damn fit too as every morning he had a 2 hour hike to work half way up the mountain, then he spent the day creating the path until it got to 3:30 when they knocked off and returned along the 2 hour path back to the carpark. On a ‘good’ day they were able to construct 4 steps heading up the side of the mountain…………..we have a feeling they would be there for a while!!!!
One we got back to camp and had a relax and a drink we then took a short hike down to the Glenn Helen Gorge, less than a kilometre away. Once again the wetsuits and lifejackets were taken with Zoe, Abby and Nik heading out for a wonderful swim and Jess, Lucy and Damon splashing around in the shallows. They lasted a while considering it was so cold but it was lovely sitting there in the late afternoon sun. Once again it did make us laugh at the warnings of swimmers possibly getting hypothermia due to the extreme cold temperature of the water as the girls and Nik joked that the water was about the same temperature as Mills Beach, Mornington early in November!!!!!!! We’re bred tough down in Victoria!!!!!!!!
After an early night we awoke the next day, packed up and set off to our next destination, Kings Canyon or Watarrka National Park. But first up we needed to purchase a permit for $5.00 at Glen Helen Homestead to travel around 140km over dirt corrugated road through Aboriginal land along part of the red centre way formally known as the Mereenie Loop. We were on the road by 9:30 prepared for the worst dirt road we had ever seen, according to reports by locals and other travellers, but it never came. We dropped our tyre pressures as per usual to around 28psi and as it turned out we glided over a recently graded road that whilst it did have a few corrugations in it, it was not enough to make for an uncomfortable drive. On the northern part of the loop we were surprised as to the amount of traffic coming in the opposite direction, as we thought we would be the only ones on the road going by the general gist in conservation with other travellers. We were in hysterics at one stage as a Hilux ute came screaming down the road in the opposite direction and as he passed us we couldn’t help but laugh at the suitcase that was hanging over the edge of his tray, half open and being held on by some sort of strap. We saw a few pairs of Nikes, a jacket and some other clothing along the road after that, commenting about how well dressed those dingoes will be, strutting around in their cool sneakers. We also saw the likes of many cows, wild horses, a few dingoes and even a herd of donkeys!!!!!! We stopped at a lookout for lunch, took some photos and dodged the ridiculous amount of rubbish that was flying around after falling out of at least 6 bins that were literally overflowing with garbage. Now we were disgusted and disappointed with the rubbish from fellow travellers but did wonder as to when the bins had been last emptied………. Shortly after we entered Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) and drove past Kings Canyon Resort where a powered site was a ridiculous $100 per night and onto Kings Creek Station where a powered site was a much more realistic price of $50 per night, complete with free wifi at the café. Kings Creek Station is actually a working camel station which is also set up as a caravan park and is situated on the outskirts of the national park, we decided to stay here for 2 nights and head back into Watarrka National Park on the next destination on our OZLAP…..