Day 28 – West MacDonnell Ranges

Guy had written us up an itinerary for the day to head out to the West MacDonnell Ranges and go for some walks around the beautiful gorges and rock formations that the region was famous for, so we drove out in the morning and followed his list of what, when and where. We were really enjoying hanging out in Alice Springs and having a base to settle in to but it felt good to be out on the road again for the day.

First stop was the impressive Simpson’s Gap. The dry riverbed was filled with beautiful old red river gums and there were only a few people wandering around when we arrived. The gap itself was picturesque and we quickly discovered how cold the water was after sticking our toes in there – abso-freaking-lutley freezing. We watched the lovely rock wallabies bask in the sun on the rocks above the riverbed and looked around for any signs of rock painting but couldn’t see any.

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On the way back to the car we stopped at the Larapinta Trail information board and agreed to give it a shot next time we are in the red centre as the track looked amazing – over 200kms through the most incredible landscape.

We drove on to Standley’s Chasm and chatted to Sharon at the cafe who was lovely and pleased that we were at the chasm at the right time (an hour before or after midday) as the light would hit the rocks just right, as Guy had recommended to us. The track in there was great – small and intimate compared to the scale of Simpson’s Gap but with a lot more to see in a smaller amount of space.

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By the time we arrived at the chasm itself the colours were unreal. The photos are pretty spot on but they don’t really capture the eerie way the light bounces around and the warm glow that it gives everything in there.

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We soaked it up for a long while and wandered around in awe before we pushed on to Ellery Creek to visit the Big Hole. It certainly was a Big Hole – a huge, deep and cold body of water surrounded by the beautiful red rocks and green eucalyptus.


We went in up to our knees before chickening out – the water was so freezing that it physically hurt to stand in it for more than a couple of minutes. A few people were having a dip though! It was a beautifully warm day, probably about 30 degrees celsius, but who knows how cold that water was. Cass had said that even in the middle of summer with 45 degree days, that water was too cold for her to go swimming in. Lindsay also said that they had tried to measure the deepest point of the hole and had to stop at 60metres when the pressure got too much to continue. Crazy!

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Ormiston Gorge was next on the list, and we got there in the middle of the afternoon when there was still a fair amount of sunlight on the water. We sat and had a late lunch and watched people come and go. It was a beautiful place – the ghost gums dotted the rocks above the water and the sun was hitting the gorge and making shadows on the rocks appear to be this amazing deep blue colour. We both wandered around for ages and stuck our feet in the water – not as cold as the hole at Ellery Creek, but still freezing.

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A group of kids across the water persistently disobeyed their mother’s commands to not climb on the rocks above the water and we watched them go to and from until we realised that we were running out of daylight to see the last place on our list.

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As the sun was getting pretty low on the horizon, we pulled in to Glen Helen Gorge and walked out past the reeds to the rocks at the mouth of the water. There was a lot more bird life and greenery here than the other gorges, and a lot more space.

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It was really peaceful and we hung around until the sun was almost setting. We figured we better start the drive back to Alice Springs.


We didn’t manage to capture it on camera, but the sunset was unreal as we headed east towards home. The MacDonnell ranges themselves were this dusky pink and the sky above them looked almost lime green in contrast, and the sky directly in front of us was a beautiful band of rainbow from the soft blue of the sky to the orange of the light from the horizon. It was spectacular! And we got home just in time for Guy’s amazing Webber roast with veggies and wine. Such an awesome end to an equally awesome day.

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