Our second day in the West MacDonnell Ranges was more interesting than the first, which had already been amazing. We left Ellery Creek Big Hole before lunch heading west towards Ormiston Gorge where we hoped to camp for the night.
Back on the main road we followed the ranges stopping frequently to play with our smartphones’ cameras. They really are smart and some photos are better than those taken with the Canon EOS 550D. In the early days you used AFGA film if you wanted to capture the African hues of green, brown and ochre; and Kodak if the colours lent towards the primary range. Nowadays, it seems my smartphone does that for me. Intuitively it knows which filter to apply whereas the Canon digital SLR assumes (erroneously) I know what I want and will dial up the appropriate settings.
The gorges and gaps are day-tripper destinations from Alice Springs and have picnic facilities to maximise visitors’ experience of the outdoors. These facilities are a welcome respite for walkers who follow the 231 km Larapinta Trail. The trail has been broken into 12 sections that meander through ancient landscape and are graded by ability. It is ranked as one of the world’s top 20 treks that follows the rocky spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mount Sondor. At each destination visitors are encouraged to tackle one of the 12 sections and the smaller walks are graded from easy to difficult.
Ormiston Gorge has a near-permanent waterhole and in warmer months visitors would be swimming the crisp clear waters. So crisp and clear the reflections of the clifftops overhanging the water are stunning.
Day two at Ormiston and we packed up and stopped in at Glen Helen Gorge where a bonus awaited us – free wifi with a really, really strong signal. As weak as that sounds, when there is no telephone or internet connectivity for days on end it becomes isolating and one can feel cast adrift. While that may be a blissful state for some, it was not for us. Thankfully we did not discover the wifi availability until we had explored what there was to enjoy in the vicinity.
There is a belief that the Finke River, which has gouged a chasm known as the Glen Helen Gorge, is the oldest river in the area, having meandered from the confluence of the Davenport and Ormiston Creeks, just north of Glen Helen, for more than 300 million years. Some say that long before the forces of nature squeezed the MacDonnell Ranges into existence, the Finke River had already wound its way through the red centre of the continent.
If Uluru symbolises the nation’s heart, the Finke must be its ancient artery
According to the Northern Territory Government, the Finke is the world’s oldest river following its original course. It says the river has held its current course for about 100 million years but some parts are believed to date back 340 million years: well before the time of dinosaurs.
Indigenous Aboriginal people believe that at the beginning of time the Rainbow Serpent awoke from its sleep and pushed through the Earth’s crust. As it travelled over the empty land, it left behind deep tracks. The Rainbow Serpent called to the frogs to come out from beneath the earth. It tickled the frogs’ bellies, and when they laughed, water poured out from their open mouths. The water filled the Rainbow Serpent’s deep tracks, making rivers and lakes. Slowly grass began to grow. Then all kinds of creatures in Australia – birds, lizards, snakes, kangaroos, koalas and dingoes – woke up and took their places on earth.
The Traditional Owners of the land in the Glen Helen Gorge area believe the Rainbow Serpent lives in the Finke River in the area of the gorge; for them it is a sacred place. It is seen as the inhabitant of permanent water holes and is in control of life’s most precious resource, water.
These ranges have so much that is beautiful. They stretch my heart ❤️ and fill me up.