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mistybleu West MacDonnell National Park - A travel report by Amanda
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West MacDonnell National Park,  Australia - flag Australia -  Northern Territory
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mistybleu's travel reports

Exploring the outback

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Alice Springs can be considered the gateway to the outback. It is an old town which is one of the main hubs for the Northern Territory and just 17 km out is the Macdonnell National Park.

Simpson's Gap
Simpson's Gap
The West MacDonnell National Park is located about 17km west of Alice Springs starting at Larapinta Drive. It takes its name for the MacDonnell Ranges that runs through it (some 250 km) and creates spectacular views of the sun burnt orange rock. It is a wonderful example of an ancient landscape sculptured over time by climatic elements and if seen at the right time of the day (around noon), wonderful colours emerge. The best time to go is between April to October when it is a little cooler.

There are many gorges where you can swim, especially at Bighole which is very picturesque, (but it's best to adhere to signs); also the park offers fantastic walks, cycle paths, picnic areas, camping and caravan sites. I'm not sure what the costs to enter, it's probably around AUS$20, plus extras if you decide to camp there.

The Larapinta Trail stretches for about 223km leading form Alice Springs, at the Telegraph station and snakes across the range until Mount Sonder. The trail is spilt into 12 sections, whereby some can be done in a day, or for longer durations. However we were told that if you plan to do these walks alone, that you have to register with the park services. The trail is very long and can be quite intense, but it is a bit of a showpiece for the area.

Some of the places of interest apart from the ranges are the Western Arrernte Aboriginal Culture Centre. As the area has a rich Aboriginal heritage it’s a wonderful place to find additional information on the history.

For more information see details below:

West MacDonnell National Park
West of Alice Springs
Alice Springs
Northern Territory 0870

Telephone +61 (8) 8951 8250
Fax +61 (8) 8951 8290

Favourite spots:
Stanley Chasm
Stanley Chasm
Definitely Stanley Chasm is a place to visit. The shear rock face is pressed together, folded through time and the straight lines can be seen in the rock, its completely fascinating. Also if you get the at noon and the sun is in the right position the rock face comes alive with colour - vibrant oranges, rust reds, maroons.

It's a geological marvel and it just bids you to keep on climbing through the crevasses and exploring deeper and deeper into the chasm, with the expectation of finding and opening.

The beauty of this areas is that the chasm is no more than 9 metres wide at its widest point. The walls towers some 80 metres high that dwarfs any person walking through its paths and every now and then you find little pools to cool your toes.

What's really great:
Examining the Thorny Devil
Examining the Thorny Devil
Spotting the wildlife was fun. On my trip to Australia I expected to see wild animals just roaming all over the outback, but surprisingly I didn't come across any. I saw plenty animals in farms, wildlife parks or zoos, but here at the park was the first time I saw, out in the open wildlife. Granted they were so tiny that I had to look twice, but there they were little rock wallabies. It left me thrilled!

We also came across the Thorny Devil, a bizarre spiny lizard that was identified in 1840 and got its name from John Gray who named the species of lizard after a fearful Canaanite god called Moloch, who was smeared with the blood of human sacrifice.

The thorny devils are about 42 to 6" long which is kind of moderate for a lizard; it survives on ants and drinks rain or dew that runs down its back and into its mouth. It can be found it the Australian desert which is by I came across one here.

Todd River
Todd River
Being in the National Park is a wonderful way to get in touch with nature. It's about taking time to enjoy being alive.

The Ranges run east and west of Alice Springs and provides wonderful panoramic views; they have the Todd River running through them; running may not be the correct word, I should say the river course, as most of the time the river bed is dry. Then you pass the Ghost Gum Tree which was made popular by an Aboriginal artist, on to Simpson's gap, a further 6 Km which has a permanent pool, continue on to Stanley Chasm then on to Bighole.

The main areas of the park are listed below, but here it is the journey that counts, with the wonderful scenery around and each chasm, gorge and gap being characteristically different the park is a wonder day out:

West of Alice springs:
Simpson’s Gap
Stanley Chasm
Ellery Creek Bighole
Serpentine Gorge
Ochre Pits
Ormiston Gorge

East of Alice Springs:
Emily Gap
Corroboree Rock
Trephina Gorge

A growing tree
A growing tree
There are many restaurants in Alice Springs, but the beauty of being in a park is taking the opportunity to have a picnic and just sitting in one of the many enclosures and enjoying the surroundings. We had a lovely packed lunch followed by some Billy tea.

Made differently by many people over Australia the essentials needed are:

• Tea - Australian of course
• Sugar
• Milk
• Water
• “Billy Can”
• Forked stick
• And an open Fire

A Billy is just a large tin can that can be put directly on to the open fire and is the traditional way tea was made by the first settlers.

Our guide demonstrate how it was done; once the Billy was hot he swung it quickly around three times to make sure the tea leaves sunk to the bottom of the Billy, then he poured it into an aluminium cup, and we put milk and sugar to taste.

It's just tea, but it tasted so much better outside and the history behind it.

Other recommendations:
Ghost Tree
Ghost Tree

At the other end of the West MacDonnell National Park is the East MacDonnell National Park, with just as much to explore.

Lesser known, it still provide beautiful scenery, with opportunities for 'bush' walking, camping and four-wheel-driving. There is also the ghost town of Arltunga to visit. This was the site of a gold rush back in the 1930s. However there is more natural beauty to see, like Trephina Gorge; this makes a trip to the East MacDonnell’s more than worthwhile.

The first stop is Emily Gap. It is similar to Simpson's Gap, however there isn’t any water. Once again the rock formation and colours are stunning.

For more information on the area, if found the following helpful:

Central Australian Tourism Industry Association
60 Gregory Terrace, Alice Springs
Free call in Australia: 1800 645 199

Published on Wednesday September 6th, 2006

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Mon, Aug 20 2007 - 07:55 AM rating by maehof

wow, together with such a good pictures , this report woke up my long forgoten dreams - go to The outback, to see this stunning harsh beauty of old rocks , a single surviving tree or small billabong where wallabees come for a drink , , , , , NT outback has become one more destination to go , thank you Amanda. best regards , martin

Mon, Feb 19 2007 - 10:05 PM rating by travler

I wish I had come here. I would like to tase some Billy tea!

Sat, Sep 23 2006 - 11:58 PM rating by marianne

Perfect! It is one of the placed on my wish list.

Thu, Sep 14 2006 - 02:02 AM rating by eirekay

Marvelous Report! One more place to add to my list of things I want to do!

Sun, Sep 10 2006 - 03:07 AM rating by gloriajames

nice report as always! (";) loved the pic of the ghost tree !

Wed, Sep 06 2006 - 04:34 PM rating by mrscanada

Hi Amanda this review was great and the pictures are fabulous.

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