West McDonnell Ranges
Leaving Alice Springs I headed west to the West McDonnell Ranges. The first stop I made was John Flynn's memorial, which was a large round boulder on a plinth with a plaque. After visiting the RFD museum I was interested in seeing the grave of the man who started this wonderful initiative, but when I got to the memorial the thing I found more interesting was that the round boulder that was placed on top of John Flynn's memorial. It was originally taken from the Devils Marbles, a sacred Aboriginal site and for some time there was a disagreement between the Aboriginals from the area and those who created the memorial. In the end the stone was returned to the Devils Marble area and a replacement was found by the Aboriginal people so that everyone was happy in the end.
From here I continued west to Simpsons Gap, the first of many stunning gorges and rock formations in this area. I then went to Standley Chasm and finished the day at Ellery Creek waterhole. The water here was refreshing but also the coldest water I have ever swum in. Luckily there was another lady in the water because swimming anywhere I can't see through the water freaks me out and this water was dark and cold. We swam about 2/3 of the way across the waterhole and were able to stand on a sandbar which was ok but when I looked around and kept seeing bubbles float to the surface I decided that was enough swimming for the day. I went on to Glen Helen resort and set up camp for 2 nights. The homestead had some live music and drinks which meant for a pleasant evening.
The next day I started at Redbank Gorge, which required a drive along a dirt road to get to (but the Yaris handled it well). The walk into the gorge was short but took a little longer due to passing a large snake on the side of the path. Once I reached the gorge it was again amazing to experience the silence that I felt in my solitude, the rocks and the formations along the creek were amazing in colour and shape. I then went to Ormiston Gorge where I decided to do the Pound walk. I began the walk and within the first kilometre I came across a dingo, who quickly went the opposite way. The 7km walk wound its way around the range and into the pound which was spectacularly green and I saw numerous wildflowers along the way. I had to walk (rather run) through knee high grass which had overgrown the path in some places and along the creek bed over all the water smoothed stones. The walk ended with having to wade through the creek to get to the end. The man at the information desk in Alice Springs said it was about waist deep, a guy at Ellery Creek the day before said you had to turn around cause it was too deep. So I got to the water crossing and luckily I saw some people on the other side who I called out to and they said they walked through it but it was about armpit depth, so I took my shoes off and hoisted my bag over my head and waded through the black water feeling the way as best I could with my feet. I made it across and a German couple saw that I did it so they then did it too. I was almost dry by the time I completed the last kilometre of the walk. After Ormiston I went to the Ochre Pits, a wall of colour where the Aboriginal people use to collect ochre to use in medicine, for ceremony and to trade. My final stop for the day was Serpentine Gorge, another amazing gorge with a beautiful waterhole at the end and a great climb to a lookout which allowed you to see for miles in both directions. After walking over 12kms that day I returned to my campsite to find 4 English doctors (I thought they were backpackers!) cooking soup in the can on an open fire.
I completed my West McDonnell Ranges experience with a walk to Glen Helen gorge (probably the least spectacular of them all) in the morning before heading back to Alice Springs to stock up and fuel up for the trip north.