16-19 July – East MacDonnell Ranges

We landed back in Alice Springs again for what we hoped would be a quick in-and-out of town but it quickly amounted to hours as we got through fuel, water, laundry, shopping…etc. We decided to find a camp just out of town and various tracks off along the Emily River brought us to several options and we set up in the dry riverbed.

The next morning we were only minutes away from Emily Gap and did the short walk through. These gaps are pretty small breaks in the MacDonnell Ranges and even the nature reserves protecting them are probably only 100metres wide.

Emily Gap

There’s some interesting rock art which depicts the caterpillar (which is one of the main Dreaming stories in this area). We saw a big Euro kangaroo and then were lucky enough to see a Black-footed Rock Wallaby which was right down near us in the gorge but quickly hopped up into the security of the boulders once we got too close.

The boys collected some shotgun cartridges from the other end of the gorge because that’s what boys do. Next stop was Jessie Gap where a ranger was doing a talk about snails which we missed most of (too much time spent collecting shotgun cartridges….). Another brief stop in a small gorge.

Next stop along our route was Corroboree Rock which was interesting – you don’t realise what a narrow outcrop of rock it is until you do the short walk around and see it from every angle. There’s never been a Corroboree here – amazing how white fellas put names to places. That was our lunch stop and we pushed on to Trephina Gorge to camp for the night.

This is an awesome spot – three different camping areas, water taps to each campsite, and a series of walks in and around the gorge. We had a nice private bushy campsite.

Josh and Lachie headed off straightaway to walk up and around the escarpment – the silence is incredible. The dry sandy river bed has steep red cliffs and the last small waterhole attracts great birds – the spectacular red of the Painted Finch was a highlight.

Bird- Trephina Gorge (3)

Some small rock art is still visible – sort of an asterisk style which is probably the caterpillar story again. We ended up not being able to leave – we stayed three nights and it was great.

Trephina Gorge- Aboriginal Rock Art

The resident ranger did a great talk which had everyone captivated.The three days we were there happened to be three days of small burns to try and control the terrible weed, Buffel Grass, which is taking over the spinifex in some areas and creating high fuel loads and hotter fires. So that was a bit of action while they were burning right next to our campsite. Another family with four boys was camping nearby and our camp was a dusty BMX track for much of the time. It was great having unlimited water so we could boil up some hot water for showers.

Trephina Gorge Burn off

We did a day trip out to Ross River Homestead where the boys got shown the “dudgeon” which was a cool storage room in the original building. Then out to Arltunga – an old gold mining town – at one stage the biggest town in the NT when the rush was on – the ruins include the police house with separate lockup, the assayers residence and office which was controversial being near the stamping/crushing machine which some miners thought affected the correct weighing of their gold. Cyanide pits and lots of other stuff which some of the history of has been lost. There’s a good visitor centre with a video showing stories and lots of equipment and artefacts remaining.

But it’s the remoteness and harsh living conditions that is the true story here – how these blokes made it out here pushing their home-made wheel barrows containing all their possessions through the scrub for hundreds of kilometres is just incredible – you can only hope that some made some money.

Ruby Gap- Arltunga

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