Central Australia Adventure 9 – the red/green centre – East MacDonnell Ranges

Central Australia Adventure 9 – the red/green centre – East MacDonnell Ranges

For the last couple of weeks I have been  immersed in the Red Centre of Australia.

Literally immersed as the rivers, creeks and waterholes in the MacDonnell Ranges are brimming after recent rains

The MacDonnell Ranges flank Alice Springs to the east and the west.

A line of rolling mountains, as old as time itself,
Punctuated by, gorges, gaps, passes and chasms


Red and ocre rock forged into mountains by rain wind and salt over the millennia.

This journey of discovery of the Red Centre starts and finishes in these ranges so let’s start the story in the east MacDonnell Ranges.

To the east the ranges run out to the Trephina Gorge Nature Reserve.
Emily and Jessie Gaps/ Yeperenye are only a short 22km ride east of Alice Springs.


These sites have important cultural rock paintings that tell the dreamtime stories of the local Central Arrernte people.

Their dreamtime stories are represented in rock paintings at these sites. People are requested not to photograph them. So you will have to go and see them yourselves.

Corrobaree Rock was formed hundreds of millions of years ago

When central Australia was covered by sea and sand and salt formed a motar to bind these rocks into a new form.

The ghost gum is such a symbol of central Australia and this one at the entrance to Trephina Gorge is over 300 years old.

Trephina Gorge really was a perfect first taste of the magnificent canyons and gorges that were to come.

As an addendum for those following my actual where about. I left Alice Springs yesterday and now on the way to Queensland. The next few posts will be reflections on the Red Centre.

Central Australia Adventure 8 the end of the Oodnadatta Track and into the NT

Central Australia Adventure 8 the end of the Oodnadatta Track and into the NT

The northern section of the Oodnadatta Track are in the traditional lands of the Arabana people.

It also contains some relics of the Old Ghan line.

Such as the Algebuchiner Bridge and the old station area at Oodnadatta

An attempt to ride north to Dalhousie Springs ended in a bog and inglorious retreat

So it was another night at Oodnadatta the as the desert dawn sun lit the road in front in front of me it was time to complete the final 200kn of the Oodnadatta track

And onto the Northern Territory

And head to a very lush and green red centre.

Central Australia Adventure 7 – Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta

Central Australia Adventure 7 – Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta

The road from William Creek to Coober Pedy was rough with lots of sand drifts – my biggest weak spot – SAND.

A large part of the track transverses the Woomera Military Base. I’m sure the leave the road rough so no one dare look left or right for fear of hitting a big sand drift.

But due to rare summer rain the desert was green and I arrived in Coober Pedy, where the populace live underground to escape the heat on a mild afternoon.

The climatologists said it was going to be a mild summer – go climatologists.

Not a day over 30 in 4 days in the hottest part or Australia in late summer

The underground nature of Coober Pedy creates a different street scape.

The road from Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta crosses the Painted Desert. I can’t describe how beautiful it is and my photos can’t capture it.

The changes of colour from pink to yellow to green with glimpses of quartz glimmering in the sun.

Then there is the water holes.

And as the day warms up they siren call the traveller into the cool water.

Now I sit in the Pink Road House in Oodnadatta enjoying a cold beer.

Its 40 years since I last really road in the desert.

The desert and the sky in its vastness makes me feel small.

A speck on a motorbike in this huge space. How can one not be in awe of nature.

Central Australian Adventure 6 – onto the Oodnadatta Track

Central Australian Adventure 6 – onto the Oodnadatta Track

It was a beautiful dawn in the Northern Flinders Ranges.

There was a mixture of excitement and nerves as I headed north to Marree and the start of the Oodnadatta Track

Marree is an historic town and a major Old Ghan Railway.

The name The Ghan was derived from the Afghan camel handlers who were instrumental in opening up the centre of Australia to European settlement and in building the railway.

This historic mosque is a remnant of the Afghan presence.

The southern part of the Track is straight and fairly well sealed with quirky sideshows along the way.

It also skirts Southern Lake Eyre.

Coward Springs sits amongst provides a sheltered camping space amongst date palms originally introduced by the Afghan camel herders.

The owners have planted a new date plantation.

It provides a sheltered place to campin the arid country.

Coward Springs sits amongst a ground of mound springs.

And has a natural spa on site feed from such a spring

What a relief after a long ride!

Mound Springs are a unique part of outback Australia where water bubbles out of the ground from Australia’s Great Artesian Basin.

These springs provide green oasis in this otherwise arid land

The Southern section of the Track ends at William Creek an old railway siding with a welcoming hotel.

It was time for a break, adjust the drive, have a cold drink and choose my route to Oodnadatta.

The choice is direct or via Coober Pedy. Time is on my side so I have taken the long way via the underground town of Coober Pedy.

That tale is for the next blog.

Central Australia Adventure 5 – always will be Aboriginal Land!

Central Australia Adventure 5 – always will be Aboriginal Land!

Interpretation at Arkaroo Rock

The Adnyamathanha people are the aboriginal custodians of the lands around Ikara, or the Flinders Ranges as the colonialists called this land.

At Arkaroo Rock there are rock drawing that convey the dreaming stories of the Adnyamathanha.

These snippets from a large rock wall underplay the intricate linking of picture and storytelling that is contained on the rock wall

Stories such this one on the formation of Ikara.

Rock drawings change from region to region. The drawing in the Flinders Ranges differ to those in Kakadu, in Cape York and in other parts of Australia.

Each reflecting the stories and dreaming of the local Aboriginal people.

They also differ over time.

The rock etching in the Sacred Canyon and at Willow Springs being much older than that rock drawings are believed to predate the current aboriginal custodians of the land

For me the walk into Sacred Canyon is very spiritually moving.

Lets make sure we recognise and cherish this ancient culture that has lived in one with the land

Central Australia Adventure 4 – Wilpena Pound

Central Australia Adventure 4 – Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound National Park lays at the centre of the Flinders Ranges.

In many ways an oasis on the edge of the outback

To climb one of the lookouts or scale a peak is to gain a breathtaking vista like the view from Wangara Lookout below

Though the tracks can be a little testing, especially if a bit of light rain makes them damp.

Inside the Pound the forest is cool with towering River Gums and shady Native Conifers

And of course there is the Wilpena Homestead

I’m.many ways a simple pioneers building but a symbol of devestation in many ways for aboriginal Australians.

But that is a story for another blog.

The beautiful campground offers a shady rest for the adventurer.

Aerial view of Wilpena Pound sourced from the internet
Central Australian Adventure 3 – walks around Willow Springs

Central Australian Adventure 3 – walks around Willow Springs

Only 5 weeks or so back there had been flash flooding around the station as 85mm of rain fell inn30 minutes.

This had closed a number of trails and left other badly rutted challenging for walking.

But the view from Yacca lookout was worth the walk. Named after the Yacca grass trees that are endemic to Australia and can be seen in the middle photo above

The walk was very steep in places and the foothold very loose.

Further along the trail there are petroglyphs – aboriginal engravings.

These are thousands of years old.

I had read the last time I was here back in 2014 that there engraving were often sign posts. Showing where water or food can be found.

The circle symbol meant a permanent water source and the arrows the direction to find it

So I followed the dry creek bed in the direction of the arrows

After a kilometer or so there seeping from a rock, life giving water

Enough to make a string of little water holes on the creek bed

Its been a beautiful couple on nights camped here

Sitting by the camp fire

Walking the amazing gorges amongst the gum trees and native conifers

Next stop is the Wilpena Pound National Park before heading north toward the Oodnadatta Track.

Central Australian Adventure 2 – into the Flinders Ranges

Central Australian Adventure 2 – into the Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges or Ikara in aboriginal language run from the southern end of Lake Eyre ( Kati Thanda to the sea at Port Augusta

I’m many ways the Ranges are a set of steps, a staircase leading from the south to the the red centre of Australia.

Willow Springs Staion provided the site for a couple nights camp.

As sunset loomed I couldn’t help but climb the rim on the gorge the station is in to see the colours.

Then back to camp to set the camp fire and prepare dinner.

Great place to camp and the dawn gave a beautiful welcome to the new day.

There are special colours when you get to the edge of the desert.

Central Australia adventure 1 -the coastal run

Central Australia adventure 1 -the coastal run

Coming over the top of the Otway Ranges from Forest

The view from Beacon Lookout over Apollo Bay is a must stop before making the final descent to the Great Ocean Road

I’ve written about this iconic roadway.

But on a windy day the sea around the monoliths at Port Campbell is foaming white.

Crossing the border into South Australia, the pretty fishing town of Beachport provided a pleasant stop

The Coorong is for me one of the most beautiful and mystical parts of Australia

A string of saline lakes separated from the Southern Ocean by huge sand dunes.

At the southern end the lakes are dry salt pans which gather water as one travels north toward the mouth of the Murray River

Crossing the Murray River near where it forms its estuary and the Coorong connects back to the Southern Ocean

At Cape Jervis which overlooks Kangaroo Island it was time to turn in land

And to night the Flinders Ranges are within striking distance and the vista has turned from sea blue to straw yellow

And the buildings in the small towns are of hard stones

And the sunset starting to gain a desert hue

Tomorrow its further inland to the Flinders Ranges!

The Steinbock ready for the outback

The Steinbock ready for the outback

It has been an anxious wait to start this trip.

A covid 19 5 day lock down in Melbourne meant state borders closed and my Central Australian adventure not possible.

Life during the 5 day lockdown was not too arduous as I live near the beach

And it was only 5 days till I could catch up with mates again

And undertake preparation for the trip ahead.

In the days of GPS I still love a good map

The 5 day lockdown turned out a godsend.

The outbreak was quickly bought under control and there are no more new cases in Victoria

I recieve my permit to enter South Australia on Friday and today I complete my annual medical tests

Problem of being 63 with some heart disease.

But will soon be off on the adventure which will take in

The Great Ocean Road;

The Coorong;

The Adelaide Hills,

The Flinders Ranges,

The Oodnadatta track and surrounds,

The Red Centre of Australia made most famous by Uluru and the amazing county around it

Into Queensland and down to Longreach,

The fossil area finds around Winton,

Carnarvon Gorge.

0ver 8,000 km to get to my friends eldest daughters wedding near Brisbane.

Wouldn’t do it any other way!