Monday – Prior to arrival in central Australia, Betty and I booked ourselves on a daylong excursion to the West MacDonnell Ranges, locally known as the West Macs – the West MacDonnell National Park (Tyurretye) stretches some 200 km west of Alice Springs.
My advance research indicated these ranges and their features were extensive and so I wondered how much of that territory we could see in one day, and which major sites would we not have time to visit.
At 6.30 am two large coach loads of women staggered their departure from the Ross River Resort and we didn’t return until around 6 pm. We were exhausted. Mentally fatigued from an extraordinary day of sights and sites and information and immersion in a range of experiences. A brilliant day albeit tiring.
First we covered the 80 or so kilometres on the Ross Highway back to the Stuart Highway leading to Alice Springs. Looking at the country at a time earlier in the morning than when we travelled to the Ross River Resort, made the landscape look quite different. The light was different and therefore the colours seemed fresh and new. I was equally excited at seeing this beauty as I had been a few days before. It all seemed brand new to me.
After about an hour or so we reached and crossed over the Stuart Highway and onto Ilparpa Road heading west past the Ilparpa Swamp Wildlife Protected Area. This road connected with Larapinta Drive where we turned left.
So much big country! So much big sky!
About 20 kilometres later we turned right into the road leading to the famous Standley Chasm. A gap in the range.
Apart from walking to and from the geological feature, this was our early morning tea stop. But it was the walking and the experience of the cool morning air in an almost empty ‘gap’ that I looked forward to; I walked so much slower than the rest so that many had left on the return journey by the time I arrived in the Chasm. Excellent tourist path. Wonderful white trunked River Gums.
The vegetation beside the track was dense in places with eucalypts and ancient cycad trees. Gardening Australia explains: ‘They are ancient cone-bearing plants that co-existed with dinosaurs and covered vast areas of the Earth’s surface 200 million years ago, before flowering plants evolved.’ One species of cycads is unique to the MacDonnell Ranges, and Standley Chasm was displaying dozens of specimens proudly as they grew naturally near the path. Some were massive.
I could look up to the sun tipped rocky hill tops. The contrasts of light and the diversity of vegetation created a very dramatic environment.
There were options for longer walks – for another visit.Then I realised the Chasm was ahead and around a corner or two.
Interpretation signs explained the local geology.
Standley Chasm, or Angkerle Atwatye (its original aboriginal name) was striking. You may have seen documentaries or photographic images of the Chasm and they are always spectacular. Being present you have the other sensory experiences associated with sound, temperature, smell and touch that layer on additional meanings and value.