Chasms, Gaps and Gorges, some 4wd'ing and the deepest water crossing we've made yet

31st May 2013

Today we toured the East MacDonnell ranges, located oddly enough, to the east of Alice Springs. The first stop was at Emily Gap, just 10kms out of town.

The Gap is a cleft carved into the rock by the flow of water and the walk between the walls is over a dry creek bed. This location holds important significance to the local Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal People, with a gallery of rock paintings depicting three Caterpillars from their Dreamtime stories.
Aboriginal Rock Paintings of the three Caterpillars
Next, it was on to Jessie Gap a little ways down the road, which was similar to the previous, but much wider. Here too there were paintings of the Caterpllars, but also an explanation of the off-whitish colouring we've noticed on the surface of some of the rock. According to Aboriginal stories, this is the result of Emu fat left on the rock.

Again, a short distance further on was Corroboree Rock, a large dolomite rock standing alone and away from the base of the ranges. It's believed that no actual corroborees were held there due to the lack of water, but it still holds importance to the Arrernte people.

Corroboree Rock
Our next stop was to be Trephina Gorge, but a short way into the Reserve, there's a fork in the road with one direction heading off to Trephina, whilst the other was a 4km, high-clearance 4wd vehicle only track to the John Hayes Rockhole. Sounded like a challenge too good to pass up so we hooked left and drove towards he rockholes. The track was narrow and a bit rough at times, even rougher at other times, but always picturesque and enjoyable with a number of crossings of the dry, sandy creek bed. There was a section of rock-hopping at the end which we took carefully and slowly, but without any hassles or concerns. The Prado handled it all beautifully. In the carpark at the end we chatted to a couple who were just leaving who'd spotted a rock wallaby perched high up on the wall of the chasm overlooking the rockhole.

We made our way back to the fork in the road then on to Trephina Gorge, which has well laid out campgrounds and odour-free self-composting toilets. A location to consider staying next time we're back this way. The Gorge itself is very wide and is seen by walking a couple of hundred metres along another sandy, dry creek bed lined with rugged , red walls.

On the inside of the bend there are some ghost gums that have picked the most precarious place to grow.

Before we drove out of the Reserve we took a short detour to observe a lone ghost gum standing a short distance apart from the others. This specimen is most impressive, and the info panel says it's believed to be more than 300 years old.
Ghost Gum more than 300 years old

Back on to the main road and on to take a look at the Rich River Resort (I reckon calling it a "resort" is a bit "rich"). It's not exactly what you'd be accustomed to if you've seen any of the Qld. island resorts. This place looks a bit like an old school camp, but it does have a helicopter and pilot who can take you on scenic flights over the ranges. Even the chopper looks old and is one of the old "bubble" cockpit Bell 47 models as seen on M.A.S.H. We didn't waste too much time here and just drove straight in and straight out again.

A few hundred metres later we left the main road to join a section of "Binns Track". This is actually a 2191km route starting at Mt Dare S.A. and ending at Timber Creek N.T.  and is promoted as a selfdrive 4wd adventure route. The small segment we drove was about 80kms long and started off with a creek crossing. The only problem was, our way was blocked by a Ssangyong 4wd (???) ute that had stopped mid stream and wasn't going anywhere without help.
The old bloke driving it was out and standing round the front of the vehicle in water just above his knees. Fortunately, there was another vehicle (a red Holden ute) that had tried the same crossing just ahead of him and gotten his camper trailer bogged. He'd already unhitched the trailer, driven onto solid ground, attached his tow strap and dragged his trailer to high ground and was going back to help the still stranded ute. Sharon's theory is that the Holden and camper trailer churned up the bottom ahead of the bloke in the Ssangyong and it dropped down into the hole they created. Anyway, the first bloke with the trailer snatch recovered the Ssanyong which wasn't actually bogged but had either inhaled water, or the ignition had gotten wet.

As soon as the crossing was cleared, along came a big, jacked-up Landcruiser approaching from the other side who confidently hit the water, drove straight  through and up the other side with no dramas. The couple hopped out to chat and see if they could lend any assistance. Sharon and I talked to the wife who advised us that we needed to go as far over to the left of the crossing as possible as this was the shallowest path and that the track was spectacular and a lot of fun.

So, now our way was clear and we took to the water with more than a little anxiety. But the water was crystal clear and we could easily see the bottom, so it was in, across and out again with the water probably not much deeper that the side steps. The Prado performed as expected and we were back on our way again.

Even the small section of Binns we drove offers a bit of everything. One minute we were knee-deep in water, next bouncing over rough rocky patches, then through soft dusty bowls, across numerous dry sandy creek beds, and even some obstacle avoidance when roaming cattle and horses wander into your path. We had a great time experiencing a small sample of this route and the scenery only added to the enjoyment. It certainly has whetted our appetite to try some of the more famous 4wd tracks like the Oodnadatta and Tanami.



The sun was getting pretty low on the horizon when we finally made it back onto the bitumen and we got back to the van tired, but well pleased with the day's event.


  1. G'day Shaz and Gaz
    Looks just fantastic, hope these places are in the diary for a revisit. Mind you i am peeved sitting here with my leg in the air and doing very little, and reading all this the furthest I have managed is a walk around the house Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The knee is coming along slowly but surely suppose that's something. Keep the stories coming.
    Di and Dave

    1. Hi Di and Dave. Shaz is taking notes for when we pass this way again next, where the good free-camps are and other pearls of wisdom. Good to hear the knee's progressing. Got a lot to discuss when we get back. Shaz & Gaz.