Another helping of Chasms, Gaps and Gorges

2nd June 2013

Today we planned to explore more of the West MacDonnell Ranges, taking in Redbank, Glen Helen and Ormiston Gorges, a look at the Ochre Pits and finally, Ellery Creek Big Hole.

These locations were the futhest we've had to drive from Alice and we turned off the Larrapinta Highway towards Glen Helen. Ever since hitting outback S.A. there'd been warnings about cattle and livestock on the roads due to the lack of fences so we'd become accustomed to spotting all sorts of creatures on and near the road. Up 'til now, whatever the beast was, it'd make it's way off the road, usually in a fair degree of fright, but occasionally, in it's own good time. Not today. We came round a bend and two horses were feeding on the grass at the roadside, with one plonked fair across the road. A car coming the other way came to a dead stop, as did we. The woman then drove slowly around the horse blocking her path. Neither horse even looked up or showed any concern and continued to go about their business. We drove slowly past them too, also without soliciting any reaction from the horses.

More kilometres of driving, with the passing scenery forever changing, as did the appearance of the distant ranges, some of which were capped in cloud.

First stop for the day was at Redbank Gorge, the drive in was a little rough, but there were a few conventional cars making it in without trouble.
The walk to the gorge itself was, at times, very hard going, forcing us to sometimes rock-hop over and around small to large rocks littering the river floor. But the end goal was worth the effort. The gorge turned out to be a narrow, zig-zag shaped gap between two rock walls.
One of the many unusual rocks we had to negotiate
Redbank Gorge

We'd driven past the Glen Helen Resort to get to Redbank, so we backtracked to the resort, parked the car and walked the short, easy distance to the gorge. The resort is located on the edge of yet another creek, featuring a permanent waterhole suitable for swimming. The entrance to the gorge itself is full of water and you have to climb out over rock shelves to get a clear view into the gorge.

There's also has an area for caravans which looked little more than a dirt carpark but had it's fair share of campers just the same.
Next on the agenda was Ormiston Gorge. This area too has a campround suitable for caravans and motorhomes, and there were quite a few sites already taken. Next to the carpark we were surprised to find a Kiosk. Very handy for the campers. Ormiston Gorge is another that has permanent water and is suitable for swimming, it even has a life preserver hanging on a post in case of emergencies. There's evidence of huge volumes of water passing through the gorge at some time that has caused huge slabs of the rock face to drop where it's been undercut.

By this time we're now steadily making our way back eastwards towards Alice and the next detour was to the Aboriginal Ochre Pits. The information board here tells that the local tribes have been collecting ochre, mostly the yellow, from this site for a couple of thousand years. Ochre was used in some form by the Aborigines in everyday life. Apparently it was used to decorate and protect weapons and as body paint for ceremonies, it was also a key ingredient in various medicine and was a valuable commodity when trading with other tribes. The ochre was originally formed in horizontal layers, but a violent upheaval pushed them upwards almost pependicular, leaving the vertical stripes we see today. The colours are amazing, ranging from gold to crimson.

Ellery Creek Bighole, once again, is a gorge filled with a permanent water pool. A very popular campground sits at the entrance to this gorge and is a very short walk to the sandy beach lining the waterhole. There appeared to be a number of families camped here who were enjoying activities around and on the water.

Ellery Creek Big Hole

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