Letho's Blog

Archive for Dezember, 2010

MacDonnell Ranges / Alice Springs – Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge

by on Dez.09, 2010, under The Outback

Dec 09, 2010 – Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge

After having escaped heavy thunderstorms we arrived late in Glen Helen Resort where we stayed for the night. It was the next morning when we finally realized once more what a beautiful landscape we had approached.

Our campsite at Glen Helen Resort

Our campsite at Glen Helen Resort

After heavy rains the sun had already broken through again, hot and glaring. It’s just a few minutes walk to get to Glen Helen Gorge. So we put on lots of sunscreen and off we went to the gorge…

Awesome .. the gorge opens up into a wide open area, encapsulated in the gorge’s ranges and filled with plants and trees. A green oasis, and you can only get there via a swim. That’s exactly what we did .. although the life-saving measures seemed somewhat underdeveloped. But we reckon that’s the best you can get out here. 😉

Although having used sunscreen the short swim had washed away some of it. Just walking back to the car was sufficient for us to catch a massive sunburn .. lots of blisters included. 🙁

Nevertheless, we continued to Redbank Gorge, the nearest gorge a few kilometers west of Glen Helen Gorge. Almost unable to recognize the walking trail into the gorge and hesitating going there due to the reckless sun, we eventually managed to get there. What we found completely differed from Glen Helen Gorge, though.

The gorge itself consisted of steep and high cliffs, the gap being only a few meters wide at most. At its end we found a little waterhole with cool, clear water. This really aroused our curiosity and our adventouresness. So we jumped in and swam through little pools, ponds and puddles, climbed over slippery rocks, all this time with steep cliffs to both our left and right sides, with small rocks falling into the water from above from time to time and only the echo of the whispering water and our voices returning from the rocky walls. Ah – and since we forgot to bring any swimwear (again) we had to do it all completely undressed. 😉 We continued to do so for maybe 200 meters into the gorge when we decided to return. Amazing experience ..

When we got out of the gorge, we put our clothes on – only to jump back into the cool water fully dressed.

When we returned to the car our clothes had completely dryed again anyway, and we had a well-needed refreshment along the way back.

As the night before, heavy thunderstorms announced themselves in the far distance. In addition to that, our car caused some trouble again, with the engine running very rough again. So we decided to intrude Alice Springs earlier than planned. The weather got really bad ..

Floodways on our way to Alice Springs

Floodways on our way to Alice Springs

We passed dozens of such floods. After arriving in Alice Springs, we found a comfortable little hostel (Alice’s Secret – we recommend it!), checked in and returned to the city center to do some shopping. There we entered a carpark, when we suddenly came across this phenomenon..

The springs in Alice Springs

The springs in Alice Springs

Are these the famous springs in Alice Springs? 🙂

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Kings Canyon

by on Dez.08, 2010, under The Outback

Wednesday, 8th of December – Thursday, 9th of December 2010

About 300 kilometres further north from the very touristy Uluru, Kings Canyon is truly one of the treasures of the Outback and good for surprises too as you will see later.

Camped at the campground nearby and got up early to do the walks – both of course:

First into the Kings Canyon Gorge where several small lizards and beautiful layers of rock awaited us:

That’s what the canyon looks like from the bottom:

Then on to the Kings Canyon walk – climbing up the rock:

You made it up the rock, congratulations. This is the view from the top:

A few metres further, around the courner:

The view down into the Gorge…:

… over to the other side of the Gorge (we will get there later). Can you see the small people on the other side?

Further climbing and walking and we came to the Garden of Eden, an oasis in the middle of rocks and heat. So unexpected and amazing but it is getting better.

Listen to the humming and buzzing insects – crank your volume up:

We discovered the Garden of Eden waterhole – as did many others… How great is that? Sooo refreshing after walking, climbing, sweating in the heat!!!

The waterhole – we did not know about it and therefore had no swimwear. Our underwear did the job as well. 😉

And up the hill again:

Now on the other side and walking the last part of the Kings Canyon walk:

We left Kings Canyon the next day to take the Mereenie Loop Road to the West MacDonnell Ranges (close to Alice Springs). Again a beautiful sandroad but we were also happy to drive on bitumen again.

Along the road we saw some Brumbies that is wild horses:

Some time after having left Kings Canyon we encountered this crazy thunderstorm, fortunately we only saw it from a little farther away.

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Uluru and Kata Tjuta – Day 3

by on Dez.07, 2010, under The Outback

Dec 7, 2010

Our third and last day in the Kata Tjuta NP was dedicated entirely to Uluru itself. However, today we skipped the sunrise viewing and went straight for the Uluru Base Walk. This walk takes you around the whole rock, including the Mala Walk and Lungkata Walk.We also took the Kuniya Walk leading to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Now that’s a whopping 10 kilometer walk at least, so we started early again at 6:30am.

We started with the Mala walk which leads  to the Kantju Gorge.

The Kantju Gorge showed a surprisingly huge amount of water.

From there starts the base walk which includes quite a few stages with a bigger distance to the rock. A lot of flies, heat and red sand – not so thrilling. Luckily there are a couple of water tanks where you can get good drinkable water. But it gets closer to Uluru eventually.

We could not resist the urge to at least climb up just a few meters… we’re not the last to do it, I guess.

The second part of the Base Walk as well has a lot to offer.

The Base Walk finally ends and crosses the Kuniya walk to the Mutitjulu Waterhole.

Here the last part of the loop walk starts, the Lungkata walk.

It took us a few hours and was quite exhausting as it added a lot of walking onto our charge…

In the afternoon we packed up our gear, topped up fuel and our supplies and left the Kata Tjuta NP.

Next stop: Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park. So we left the state of South Australia, happy with what we had seen there, but eager to see what the Northern Territory had to offer.

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Uluru and Kata Tjuta – Day 2

by on Dez.06, 2010, under The Outback

Dec 6, 2010

Our second day in the Kata Tjutas started extremely early. We wanted to see the sunrise at Uluru, and the sun was supposed to ascend between 5-5.30am. So we got up at 5am, jumped in the car and literally flew to the entry gate of the Kata Tjuta National Park… now imagine our bewilderment, when we arrived there, only to see it was not open yet! Wasn’t it supposed to open at 5am?

There were a few other people in cars, waiting in the front with the same amount of bafflement. What was going on here? Looking at the clock behind the counter we found the solution: the Northern Territory has not adopted daylight saving time .. so we actually had gotten up an hour to early and had to wait another half hour for the gates to open. Argh!

We improvised and re-arranged our day schedule: going to see the Kata Tjutas sunrise, aka as The Olgas, instead. It’s another half hour drive, but since we were so early we had enough time today to make it there. Similar to the evening clouds the day before we had some morning clouds as well, but still it was an awesome view from the Sunrise Viewing platform. Quite popular as well, a couple bus-loads of other spectators were there for it as well.

Enjoy this amazing panorama:

Kata Tjuta Sunrise

Kata Tjuta Sunrise

Since the time was right for us early-birds to do some hiking under mild conditions, we directly followed up with the Valley of the Winds walk, a partially steep and moderately difficult track. We wandered into and around the gorges and mountain tops and had quite a few amazing views:

We made a short clip for you near the end of the walk:

The walk was nearly 8 kilometers long, but it was still early enough to do another walk nearby afterwards: the Walpa Gorge Walk. It leads you directly into Walpa Gorge where you will find very rare plants and some vegetation that is completely unique to this place. And it was much shorter, only 2 kilometers long.

We were finished at about midday. It was already steaming hot by now, so we were glad to go back to Ayers Rock Resort and find a cool and shady place and have a nap in the tent. When we returned, however, we found it could not cope with the heat – still standing, but some of the plastic rods were partially melted away. Thank you not so much, Aussie Disposal, for selling camping gear that’s unable to withstand local weather conditions…

However, the rest of the day was filled with pure relaxation and a yummy diner.

Diner after 10 kilometers

Diner after 10 kilometers

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Uluru and Kata Tjuta – Day 1

by on Dez.05, 2010, under The Outback

Dec 5, 2010

After leaving Coober Pedy on Dec 4, 2010, and heading north we stayed at the Kulgera Roadhouse for the night:

A slight rain came up, but did not effect us too much. This place is quite popular when driving along the Stuart Highway, there were quite a few other campers around. Apart from that there was obviously not too much around… just the tremendous sound of road trains nearby.

The next day we drove off, aiming to reach the Kata Tjuta National Park on the same day. After turning onto the Lasseter Highway in Erldunda it still takes you more then 250 kilometers to get near Kata Tjuta. Nothing, really nothing is close by around here. One of the first landmarks you will see on your left is this one:

Mount Connor from the so-called lookout

Mount Conner from the so-called lookout

No, that’s not Uluru. Many people confuse Mount Conner with Uluru. Its material is very similar to Uluru, but it’s only 200-300 million years older. Imagine that – a time-frame long enough, for example, for the dinosaurs to rule the earth for aeons, become extinct and fossilized, only to be dug out by humans millions and millions of years later. It definitely provides for a great view on its own. And no, I haven’t implied that dinosaurs walked around Mount Conner, just wanted to illustrate the time span that Mount Conner was sitting there when Baby-Uluru came out of the ground. 😉

The road to Uluru basically looks like this:

Lasseter Highway

Lasseter Highway

Honestly, the Stuart Highway doesn’t look that different. And the looks generally don’t change for a loooooooong time…

At the Mount Conner Lookout our attention was drawn to the vigorous red-toned desert sand. It’s not as if we suddenly had noticed that for the first time, we had seen a lot of varying colors of red sand before, flashing through the (at this time) unusual dense vegetation (due to much rain in the previous weeks) at both sides of the Outback tracks. But here at Mount Conner the red color seemed to have turned even stronger. Seeing plants growing out of it is still unusual, compared to European standards. Somehow this felt truly like the heart, soul and spiritual center of Australia. In case you didn’t know: the red color is caused by a very high proportion of iron oxide in the soil.

Red desert dust

Red desert dust

It was already late in the afternoon when we catched the first glimpses of The Big Red Rock. The sky was a bit cloudy, therefore the shadows cast onto the rocks in combination with the intense glowing of Uluru in the sun lead to an amazing view.

Since this outstanding piece of rock is so big, you need quite some time to get close to it. It is visually distinguishable from at least 25 kilometers before arriving there. But when you finally do, you are a rewarded with a truly awesome experience .. the feeling of being right here, at the center of the continent, after such a long way, and seeing with your own eyes what you have seen so many times on pictures already is still quite indescribable.

Uluru in all its glory

Uluru in all its glory

It is a genuine world wonder, believe me. We decided to enter the Kata Tjuta Park right away in order to take a first ride around Uluru, then afterwards wait for the sun to settle down to ensure a great ambience of light and rock. Riding around Uluru caters for some unexpected details.

See for yourself:

This thing is far from smooth and flat. It’s full of cracks, gorges, cavities in every conceivable way and packed with accumulations of rocks of varying sizes all around. Looking at it very closely, the rock surface is not smooth at all, but has much more of a scaly and flaky character.

There is a well-known walk up to the top of Uluru. As you can see in the last picture it is closed from 8am, and in general in the (Australian) summer months. True – even at 8am in the morning the heat around here is almost unbearable, especially when physical activities are involved. It is an extremely steep and exhausting climb, actually roundabout 30 people have been killed in accidents in the last 50 or so years trying to climb up.

And to add another dimension to it: the Aboriginals strongly dislike this type of activity, as it is disrespectful concerning the spiritual meaning and importance of this site. The signs around the climb’s starting point basically boil down to this: „Don’t go up there. It’s really dangerous. You might die. A lot of other people already did. Your family will be in terrible grief. And we we will be, too. We care for you and advise you not to go and to respect our ways.“ The means of articulating this point of view is exactly that vivid and insistent, I am not exaggerating the slightest bit. We did not go up the rock, it was closed after all. I still feel the desire to try it out, though, just to know how it’s up there..

Already full of impressions we drove to the Sunset View Lookout, only to be accompanied by more and more incoming travellers with the same intention. In a hostile environment like this we still wonder where all these unbelievably annoying flies and mosquitoes come from .. straight out of the earth, maybe?

So our first day here ended. We returned to the Ayers Rock resort and made camp.

We were there! :)

We were there! 🙂

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