23 January 2012

Palm Valley and the West Macs

Monday, 16 January 2012

It's been a few years since our last stay in the Alice and it will probably be a while before we return...
From our caravan park we ventured northbound through 'The Gap' and into the centre of town only a few times. Alice Springs more or less resembled a ghost town with a lot of shops and residential dwellings up for lease or sale, the only hive of activity being the Yeperenye Shopping Centre.

To be honest, I was excited to swap deserted Alice Springs for a few days in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
We'd obtained the 'Mereenie Tour Pass', the permit granted by Central Land Council to access the Mereenie Loop Road (the gravel road out to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park) and Gosse Bluff on Sunday, filled up, fuelled up – we were on our way to Hermansburg on the Larapinta Drive.
We didn't actually enter the community with its historic precinct dating back to the missionary days this time, we turned the opposite way to follow a very dry Finke River on our way to Palm Valley in the Finke Gorge National Park.

Steve and I camped here 11 years ago, on our honeymoon. This time we wanted to show Flip the spectacular landscape and pristine wilderness of Pam Valley.

The well-kept campground is right on the edge of a dry creek bed with beautiful views all round.
Our stay would have been perfect, except...we were outnumbered...
I admit it, the millions of obnoxious and bitey little black ants got to me that night!
I made sure I stayed in my chair with my feet up, Steve was on kitchen duty!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Why didn't I think of it last night? Workboots = no ant bites on toes!

We packed up the camper trailer and dropped it in the day use area a few hundred metres down the track on our way into Cycad Gorge and Palm Valley.
The next 4 km weren't suitable for trailers where rocky ledges give way to stretches of round river pebbles (of varying sizes) and soft sandy holes in between. Withered cliffs rising steep on both sides of the ancient river bed, cycads and fig trees defying gravity.

And then, of course, there are the palm trees, Australian Red Cabbage Palms (Livistona mariae), to be exact. They're endemic to this part of the Central Desert. No other species of palm tree grows in these harsh conditions, its closest relative can be found in Lawn Hill National Park, Queensland.
Palm Valley's palm trees are stately yet threatened as many people who come to see them ignorantly wander off the well-marked walking track, trampling all over the little seedlings.

We followed the shorter of the two marked tracks through the valley, the Arankaia track ('Arankaia' – pronounced: unk-kee-ah – is the Western Arrernte name for the palms). It's roughly 2km and we completed it before it got too hot in the middle of the day.

Gosse Bluff was next on our list. We had seen the giant meteor crater from the distance on our last journey, this time we were going to have a closer look.
Once again the information and illustration on Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) provided by the NT Parks & Wildlife Commission and the local Traditional Owners was excellent!

In the Dreamtime, when a large group of women danced across the sky as the Milky Way, one of the young mothers accidentally let her infant topple over the edge. He fell down to earth, hitting the ground hard, the 'turna' (the woodden baby carrier) falling on top of the baby creating the crater of Tnorala, forever burying him underneath. The mother, as the Evening Star and the father as the Morning Star are to this day looking for their missing baby.

According to extensive scientific studies this crater was formed 140 million years ago when a giant rock from outer space hit the earth. Flip wasn't the only one who had a hard time comprehending how a meteorite could have such an impact and then simply vaporise, disappear into thin air...

Next we thought we'd give the local economy a boost and visit Glen Helen Resort – bad move!
Eleven years ago we had a great time down by the waterhole and later at the bar.
This time the straightforward act of booking a campsite for a night took half an hour although the place was neither packed (with only 4 or 5 other campers there) nor overly fancy.
Steve had trouble explaining to the staff member (who was friendly enough) that a camper trailer tent wasn't suitable for being carried into the walk-in unpowered grassed sites as it was actually permanently attached to the trailer. The manager couldn't be bothered getting involved in the discussion whether we could park up in one one of the caravan sites without hooking up to electricity which we didn't really need. Sorry, this lack of can-do-attitude just doesn't cut it

In the end Steve paid an extra $6.00 for a powered site, $36.00 in total for a powered site on dirt.
We gave the bar and restaurant a miss and had a lovely home-cooked chili con carne instead.

The management's DILLIGAF attitude became even more obvious during the course of the late afternoon when we visited the campground's facilities. While the demountable bathrooms were neat enough the sewerage pit outside was in a rather dangerous state of disrepair...

Lesson learnt, we won't be frequenting Glen Helen Gorge again any time soon!

Boh boh!

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