Alice Springs and the Red Centre Way

In Alice we need to refill our supplies and we have to buy some stuff before leaving the city. Both of us really like this spot, the people here are very friendly and helpful. This city has an unbelievable environment that surrounds it. We taste it a couple of times during all our shopping… All these days in town we don’t find a gap to do some sightseeing. The only thing we pay a visit, is the Anzac Hill, with a superb town view.

All over we spent one day and a half in town. So the first night we sleep on a truck parking just outside town, while our second evening we leave toward the Red Centre Way, starting in the West MacDonnell Ranges. We camp not far from our first point of interest the next day, Simpsons Gap.

The West MacDonnell Ranges are an old mountain landscape, with the highest peak – Mt Zeil – around 1500m and some others around 1300m. In the ancient days these mountains could be higher than 3000m, but erosion did a fine job. Nowadays these ranges are famous for the many different colours that are visible throughout the day.
Numerous gaps are our share when we cross them. So we start with the Simpsons Gap. Red rocks, a small water pool and an invisible party of 20 rock wallabies are the highlights there. After it we drive to the Standley Chasm, pay 10$ entrance fee and enjoy the entering of the sunlight in the chasm at noon. We arrived at the perfect time. At the gift shop we learn lots about the local Aboriginal communities by talking with the local manager. From there we drive to our refreshment, with temperatures around 43° no luxury, at the Ellery Creek Big Hole. There we start talking with Trevor, a friendly local who invites us in his home when we’re back in Alice and we meet the caretakers of the Standley Chasm. We talk a while with these Aboriginal people, enjoy the music and a couple of cold beers! Our first meeting with a healthy community.
From there we drive to our campground, a free spot at the Serpentine Chalet. Tired, but satisfied we fall asleep.

Next morning we continue visiting the gorges… Serpentine Gorge, with a snakelike appearance from the lookout and a reflecting water surface. At the Ochre Pits we learn about the tradition of making the paint for the Aboriginal ceremonies. Depending on the stones you get white, yellow or the high valued red ochre. At Ormiston Gorge it’s mainly ghost gums we discover and at Helen Gorge I have a good laugh with Ilse falling into the water while climbing along some rocks. This leads to a refreshing swim in one of the permanent pools of the Finke River, a river that ends in the sand of the deserts creating a swampy environment around it. After that we have a good view of Mt Sonder at the lookout and visit our favourite gorge from the past two days, the Redbank Gorge, with brick red rocks, a small water pool and lots of little frogs.
After all these gorges we end the day at Tyler’s Lookout, where have a beautiful view on the Tnorala crater. According the local Dreamtime legends a baby in its wooden baby carrier crashed on earth, while its mother with the other Milky Way Ladies (the stars) were dancing. Until now its father (the Evening Star) and mother (the Morning Star) are looking for him. Scientist state it was the impact of a comet – with a force 1 million times the force of the Hiroshima Bomb. Because it was a comet, which only exists with gas and ice, no metal traces can be found. This would be different if it was a meteor.

In the morning we drive into the crater and enjoy the walking inside. It gives some beautiful views. We also discover that it is only the inner crater we see now, the inner sea some million years ago eroded the outer rim away. (And so did it with the high peaks of the MacDonnell Ranges). After that we drive to a desolate Aboriginal community, before arriving at Finke Gorge. A pleasant 4WD brings us to the famous Palm Valley (Mpulungkinya) inside. There we are greeted by the rare Red Cabbage Palms in the middle of the desert. Wonderful! In that area we make two walks, one along the canyon with the palm trees and another around a dreamtime story in the neighbourhood. That evening we sleep at the well maintained and nice campsite in the park.

From Palm Valley we face a couple of hours driving to the Kings Canyon… All along dirt roads, with another blowout underway. Already tyre number seven during the whole trip! Around mid afternoon we arrive at the campground, reorganise our car and enjoy some rest.

The head attraction of the Kings Canyon is the rim walk above the valley. Due to the summer heat, everyone has to start before 8 am, because they close him afterwards. So we start around 7:30 with the steep climb to the top of the valley. After that the terrain becomes more even.
The beginning of the walk reminds us at the Bungle Bungles in miniature. The beehive erosion type is here quite common. Along the edges we can peep into the valley and amaze us about the lush vegetation inside. Halfway the walk we make the short walk into the Garden of Eden… And it has not stolen its name! A refreshing pool, shade and many trees greet us. We stay there quite a while to cool down and enjoy this tiny marvellous spot. Entirely refreshed, we continue the walk. Meanwhile we enjoy the many views into the canyon and the colour palette of the stone walls. A really worthwhile place.
Once back to the car, we head to the main attraction in the Red Centre, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Another 300 km’s away. When we turn onto the Lasseter Highway, we mistake Mount Connor initially for Uluru, but realise soon it is another table mountain. That night we camp underway to the park on the Curtis Spring campsite, some 100 km’s before the entrance, where we meet the friendly owners of the cattle station and appreciate all the funny remarks on the walls.

The next three days we need to get up very early, the sun rises around 6:15 but we need to drive daily half an hour to an hour to the different sunrise spots.
Our first day we arrive just after sunrise, so most of the spectacle is finished before we arrived. The 20 minutes before sunrise give the most significant colour changing of the rock. Something we know for tomorrow! After that we head to the rock to start the 9,5 km long base walk. Along the road we learn about the many dreamtime stories around the red Giant. The story of the Mala men, chased by an evil devil dog, the story of the fat lizard man and the fight between the Woma Python and a snake man, we discover the smiling cave of the all-hearing Willy Wagtail Woman and see the hole of the mole… And between these stories, we’re moved by the beauty of the different places and viewing angles of the rock. It is such a beautiful and powerful place. Before taking a refreshing dive in the camping swimming pool, we pay a visit to the discovery centre of the park. There all stories and important things are gathered.
In the evening we observe the sunset over the rock, but a cloudy sky hides the colour spectacle for us. Tomorrow we’ll give it another try…

Once missing the head attraction is enough, so today we leave early and arrive around 6 o’clock at the sunrise area near Kata Tjuta and this time are we really rewarded. At one side we see the colour changing of the Kata Tjuta domes, while at the other side we observe the sun rising near Uluru. Magical!
After that we enjoy the many different angles of the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta during the Valley of the Winds walk. Entirely different, but as much rewarding as the base walk around Uluru yesterday! Due to the highly sacred character of this location, we receive no information about this spot. The dreamtime stories here are for trained people only. Nevertheless we enjoy the walk and afterwards we’re greeted by the beauty of the nearby Walpa Gorge. During the noon we rest from the early wake up calls and in the evening we head once again to the Uluru sunset. This time we observe the ever changing colour spectacle of the rock and after that we’re greeted by the full moon… Another spectacular sight.
Back on the campground we meet Chris and Marjan, a friendly couple from the Netherlands. Tomorrow we’ll spend a day visiting the park with them.

Sunrise at Uluru… With the beginning of the spectacle of the full moon around, then the changing colours and us once more impressed! We repeat the base walk in the company of Marjan and Chris, while Chris yesterday clearly stated he couldn’t finish such a long walk! This time we discover an entirely different rock as the time before, with some funny remarks from Chris’s imagination. Above all, we all finish the rounding well. before we leave, we drive another time around…
In the evening we enjoy the sunset at Kata Tjuta, followed by a spectacular moonrise.
After that we spend the night with Marjan and Chris. Another great day in this magical centre.
With much regret we say here goodbye to these wonders of nature. We’ve already seen lots of things, but the beauty of this park is really worth the trip! We enjoyed every minute of it and got the feeling time flew by. We saw both rocks many times, but they stayed as magical as the first viewing!

This morning we can sleep as long as we want, our three day entrance has finished, so no more sunrises for us. Around noon we pass along an Aboriginal school near the park, to gather some information about the communities around this Red Centre, before we drive to Alice Springs…
The road back along the highways is quite boring, with not much attractions. The singing and piano playing dingo was sleeping today and we arrived after sunset on our campsite near Rainbow Valley. So all attractions were missed, but we still enjoy the impressions of the last couple of days.

We wake up with the colours of the Rainbow Valley around us, make a short walk to the mushroom rock and keep on driving to The Alice. Underway we make a small detour along dirt roads to Owen Springs, pay tribute to the work of doctor Flynn – the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service – and ring Trevor for a meeting in town. We meet him at the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) museum, receive his address and set the appointment for tonight.
During the afternoon we’re moved by the intensity, quality and vision of the work of the RFDS. The dreams of one man – an outstanding healthcare and connection with major hospitals for everyone in this immense outback country – became reality by the deeds and charity of many. At this time these courageous man and woman can be almost everywhere within one hour to give all the medical treatment needed by outback accidents. Their planes are stand by and all of us live, work or travel with ease thanks to them.
After that we discover the high quality standards of the School of the Air, another organisation which earns great respect. We’ve been in the world’s largest classroom, with a radius from around 1000 km around the Alice…
Now we drive to Trevor’s home, where a warm welcome and a lovely barbie greet us… Welcome in Australia, where hospitality and kindness rule, especially in the outback and more remote areas.

The last day of sightseeing arrives… We start visiting the old gold mining city of Arltunga, creep in some of the remnants of the mining shafts and visit some age old buildings.
From there we head to another share of gorges, but before we can drive into another dirt road leading to these gorges, our Janis fails. Result, a broken clutch disc. So we have no option, but calling Trevor and asking if he wants to tow us back to his home. The man jumps in his own Landcruiser, drives all the way to us and tows us back into reality. Unbelievable!
That evening we enjoy another nice meal, some talking – that’s when we meet Christy, another temporarily resident in this warm environment – and a good sleep around the house.

From here the home trip starts, however very different for both of us than we initially planned.
But that is part for another story.