Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting a little bit dirty

Well, Leon's favourite part of the holiday finally happened yesterday (Thursday). He got the car a little bit dirty! We knew we wanted to check out some drives and sights in the MacDonnell Ranges, but weren't sure whether to go East or West. After chatting to one of our friendly neighbours at the caravan park, we learned that although the West was probably more visually appealing and there was more to see and do, the East was probably more child friendly, with shorter walks etc.

So off to the East we headed. And I'm incredibly glad we did. Amazing though I'm sure the West is, we saw some very beautiful sights on our little drive. The first stops were the Emily and Jessie Gaps which were both lovely and peaceful. The kids were excited that they had to cross a (very) little bit of water using some sticks and stones in the river bed, they felt very brave! Both these areas contain Aboriginal paintings and are important spiritual sites to the people of this area.

The caterpillars
The next stop was Corroboree Rock, which was a pretty cool 800 million year old formation. Despite it's name, it was probably never used for a corroboree but is a pretty important spiritual place for the Aboriginal people nonetheless.

On our walk to the lookout, Cooper spotted this tree, which he thought looked like a leg and foot so requested a photo of it!

We moved on to the next stop on the drive and in my opinion the most beautiful - Trephina Gorge, which is noted for its sheer quartzite cliffs and River Red Gum lined watercourses.Two gorges dissect the range: Trephina, with its wide views and sandy creekbed, and John Hayes Rock Hole with steep, narrow rock walls.We had a wander along the Gorge first and it was a pretty special experience. The sun was shining and it was so quiet and lovely. There were a few people down there and the same time, and one of them launched into a spine tingling Aboriginal song. It was pretty amazing, I felt like I could have been in the same spot hundreds of years ago. I would liked to have sat and just let the experience soak in for a little while but unfortunately the kids weren't 'feeling it' quite the same as I was so we pressed on!

 The drive to the Rockhole was along an incredibly bumpy, rocky and and times pretty steep and narrow path, which was recommended for 4WD. So Leon was in heaven! The 4 kms took us about 30 minutes to navigate through, but it was quite fun. Once at the rockhole we had a big, steep walk up one of the hills to the look out, which afforded some pretty amazing and worthwhile views. The kids did so well, I'm beginning to think there is some mountain goat in their blood somewhere! 

The last place we went to see was the Arltunga Historical Reserve. Arltunga was officially Central Australia's first town, born out of a gold rush after alluvial gold was discovered in a dry creek bed in 1887. The Visitor's Centre was pretty interesting, with lot of artefacts and displays on the history of the town. We were a little disappointed that the Arltunga Bush Hotel was closed though! Cooper was most tempted by the idea of a 'ghost town' but all that we really saw was the old Police Station and Gaol cell. There was more to see but by this stage it was about 4.30pm and we still had over 100k to get home so we called it a day and left. The highlight of this part of the trip was the road to get there! We had followed the Ross Highway for about 80kms so far, which was a sealed road. But for the 33 or so k's to get to Arltunga and back it was an unsealed racetrack! (in Leon's eyes anyway!) He unleashed his inner Dakar Rally driver and I'm not exaggerating when I say that all four wheels of the Pathfinder left the road simultaneously several times! I felt like I was in a Dukes of Hazzard movie. All in all, it was a really fun day and I'm so glad we headed east instead of west (will have to save that direction for next time!)

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