April 30th, I slept late and bade farewell to all the pink cockatoos. Next up on the planning was a visit to the West MacDonnell mountain range.
I was taking it slow though and after having done some grocery shopping in Alice Springs and catching up on emails, it was almost sundown. The closest appealing free campsite in the MacDonnells was an 80 km drive away, so instead I opted for the rest site at the Tropic of Capricorn, where I had spend the night once already and which took only 20 minutes to get to.
The morning of day 62 was also rather relaxed and thus it wasn’t until 3PM that I arrived at my first stop: Ellery Creek Big Gap. Hoping to have a swim there, I was disappointed to find that the water was truly ice cold and contained quite a lot of algae.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, because, as an alternative to swimming, it made me walk the short 3 km Dolomites trail, which winds through the surrounding hills and is truly breathtakingly beautiful. At one point, a flock of brightly colored parrots took off right in front of me!
Driving to the next stop, I saw my first live kangaroo! It was sitting in the middle of the road and unfortunately it hopped away before I got the chance to take a picture. I’m guessing it was a so-called Euro, brown and really big.
That next stop was the Ochre Pits, used by various local Aboriginal tribes to mine ochre for ceremonies. After all the wonderful scenery earlier in the day, this was kind of a letdown. Learning about the way the ochre was traded and how some valuable colors were sometimes exchanged with tribes hundreds of kilometers away was interesting though.
The night I spend in total solitude at the Neil Hargrave lookout point, which rewarded me with a magnificent view over green rolling hills and red rocky outcrops. Within half an hour of setting up camp (read: turning off the motor and engaging the handbrake), two dingos trotted past almost within arm’s reach. I tried calling to them, but they ignored me.
The morning of day 63 was definitely the most beautiful one so far. I was rewarded with an even more exquisite view than the evening before! It will be though to beat this one.
Still hoping to be able to take a dive in a watering hole, I drove the short distance to Glen Helen gorge. The information boards told about the fragile ecosystem of the gorge, which I figured I didn’t want to risk disturbing. Another attempt at swimming foiled. The gorge was really pretty though, so I didn’t feel bad about my visit.
Driving back to Alice Springs, I made a short stop at Standley Chasm. Entry cost AUD10, and I consider that a complete waste of money given that all the other places I visited in the MacDonnell range were free and much more spectacular.
The nature here easily ranks amongst the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere. So if you’re ever near Alice Springs, definitely go check it out!
The previous day, I had seen a board with information on the Larapinta trail, a 223 km hike from Alice Springs to Mt Sonder, right through the West MacDonnell range. I was seriously considering doing the trek, if the short Dolomites walk was any indication it should be a fantastic experience, and since I am planning to do the 340 km John Muir trail in the USA, I already have all the necessary equipment with me. However, after a 2 hour long internet research stint, I decided against it, because it would leave me with way too little time to enjoy the west coast. But, as one famous person has repeatedly exclaimed: “I’ll be back!”
With the Larapinta trail off the agenda, I had the whole afternoon to make it to my next camping spot: the Devils Marbles. I arrived as the sun was setting, just in time for another round of stunning views. Can’t wait to take a hike through them in the morning!