The West MacDonnell (Tyurretye) National Park stretches 160 km from Alice Springs and we decide to visit it as a day trip, so it is an early morning start. We get picked up at 7 am by our guide, Deborah or Deb, but definitely not Debbie as she makes it clear right at the beginning.
She is a wealth of knowledge and we are so lucky to have her as our guide. Obviously she is very passionate about this magical part of the world. All throughout the day, she provides plenty of information about the land as well as insight into the fascinating Aboriginal culture.
First stop is at the beautiful Standley Chasm, owned and operated by the descendants of the Aboriginal people who lived there thousands of years ago. The walk from the car park to the chasm takes us through a creek where spring-fed pools attract a great range of flora and fauna, including the cycad palm and many species of birds.
Our next stop is at the Ellery Creek Big Hole, an important water hole 80 km from Alice Springs. We are warned that the water is ice cold and although swimming is permitted, prolonged exposure, even on hot summer days, can lead to hypothermia.
We stop for lunch at Jim’s Place, where Dinky, the world famous singing dingo lived. He used to “sing” along to the piano played by Jim’s daughters. Jim sold the roadhouse a while ago but when Dinky died, he wanted him to rest where he grew up and entertained many happy tourists. Read more about Dinky here and here.
We are really pleased to visit the spectacular Serpentine Gorge next, where we take a good half an hour hike and walk off some of the scrumptious lunch we had at Jim’s Place. We climb up to the lookout to admire the fantastic view of the rugged cliffs and semi-permanent waterholes and continue to complete the loop track that takes us back to the car park.
The Ochre Pits are about 100 km from Alice Springs and they consist of several layers of multi-coloured rocks, ranging from gold to crimson. The quality of the ochre here is very good with a slight sheen to it. Collecting the ochre, as we find out from Deb, is traditionally “men’s business”, which means Aboriginal women weren’t and still aren’t allowed there. The ochre was ground to a fine powder and mixed with emu fat and then used as paint for painting artwork and the body for ceremonies.
Our last stop is the Simpson’s Gap, one of the most prominent waterholes of the region. We arrive there late afternoon and told that there is a chance of spotting some Black-footed Rock-wallabies. We stop by a group staring intently at the distant rock walls of the gap, claiming to see a few of them.
What a spectacular day it was! The West MacDonnell Ranges is definitely an area worth visiting in the Northern Territory.