Another freezing night but we were up relatively early to get ourselves and Bertha ready for today’s Coddiwompling adventure!
After a quick stop at the local IGA for milk and fruit, we headed back into Alice Springs and turned West on Larapinta Drive. We passed John Flynn’s Grave and Simpsons Gap that we had visited previously in the hire car, and from then on we were in new territory.
The scenery here, through the West MacDonald Ranges, with the different rock formations is truly amazing.
First stop for the day was at Standley Chasm. The aboriginal name for this place is Angkerle Atwatye and it is described as a truly unique outback experience. The chasm has been gouged through tough sandstone rock by floods that, over untold millions of years, have surged through a narrow tributary of the Finke River system. The result is a deep cleft in the West MacDonald Ranges.
There are some spectacular walks into the chasm but although the sun was out is was still very cold so we decided to forgo exercise for a coffee at the Café. We did tramp through the Chasm last time we were here.
The cafe is a big and welcoming place, with chooks running everywhere. Unfortunately all the spots near the fire were taken before we got there, but we definitely enjoyed our coffee. There are a number of powered and unpowered camping sites here but it would be definitely first in first served.
Back on Larapinta Drive we came to a turn-off which forced us to make a decision whether to continue to Hermannsburg or turn off towards Glen Helen. We chose Glen Helen as we visited Hermannsburg last time we were here. According to our map there were several more places to stop and explore on Namatjira Drive on the way to Glen Helen, with not so many options if we were to go to Hermannsburg.
The first turn-off we came to was to Owen Springs but as we slowed and got ready to turn off we could see that it was a dirt road, so we chose to stay on the black-top rather than risk any damage to Bertha. The next road, to Ellery Creek, was also unmade and looked even more like a 4WD road, so we continued along Namatjira Drive.
Serpentine Gorge sounded interesting, but again it was a dirt road, and Serpentine Chasm was signposted as being suitable for 4 wheel drives only. All in all we were a bit disappointed!
The next turn-off was to the Ochre Pits, and this was OK – it was a proper made road. By now though our sense of adventure was somewhat diminished so we continued on, noting that we might come back this way and turn off then.
Ormiston Gorge was the next turn-off and it is a good made road and we definitely want to go there. We were so close to Glen Helen though that we decided to get to Glen Helen and book in for the night. We could decide later what exploring we really felt up to.
Two things immediately struck us on arriving at Glen Helen Homestead Lodge (sometimes known as Glen Helen Resort): the amazing views right in front of us, and the flies! This place describes itself as ‘an oasis in the desert’ but it probably isn’t our idea of a resort. There are a number of different accommodation options available, including rooms in the historic homestead. The Namatjira Restaurant is pretty up-market and has won a wide range of awards. There are tours available here, including helicopter flights, and there is a swimming pool.
We parked Bertha facing the views. There is only a limited number of sites here and as a result they are on the small side. We connected to power, but the water is very salty and undrinkable so we didn’t connect and relied on our water tank.
Once set-up we wandered down to the Homestead. There is a reception area here with a gift shop and licensed café. It looked very welcoming on the terrace outside overlooking Glen Helen Gorge and the ancient Finke River, so we stayed and had a delicious lunch washed down with a cool beverage, outside, in the sun.
The experience was overwhelming – we really felt as though we were as one with nature! After lunch we just sat there taking in the views before heading off on a walk along the river bed to the swimming hole at the gorge. The views walking along the river were amazing. It was also interesting to see river debris left in trees over 2 metres above where we were walking, so there must have been floods or heavy rains not too long ago. Given the width of the river banks, that would be a huge volume of water!
At the gorge itself, the water is incredibly clear, and cold. We could see plenty of small fish swimming around. We could also see an orange life-saving ring which seemed a little out of place on first sight, but perfectly logical when we thought about it – this is a place for swimming after-all.
From the gorge we wandered back along the river bed to the café where we enjoyed a coffee on the terrace.
Finally it was time to head back to Bertha for a rest before taking off again to enjoy some scenes at sunset before settling in for the evening. No mobile phone, no internet and no TV, so we will catch up with some reading and an early night.
We’ll explore Ormiston Gorge tomorrow!
PS: Here’s a map which may help put where we are into perspective.