Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 190- Alice Springs to Glen Helen Gorge (West McDonald Ranges)

We did not leave Alice Springs until just after 11am this morning after doing some grocery shopping so we were lots later on the road than we had planned for our trip out through the West McDonald Ranges. We had planned to camp at Glen Helen and then from there head around the Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon. I had read lots of conflicting info about the road conditions from rough 4x4 only to unsealed but suitable for conventional cars so we had hoped we could get through that way. But, no. Tim and I were already on our way when Dad phoned the campground and asked.

It may have been easier to leave the van behind and do the West McDonalds in a day trip but with the kids it would have been a BIG late day so we decided to camp at Glen Helen anyway and then head back through town on our way south.

First stop was Simpsons Gap. Beautiful scenery and a nice easy walk along the dry riverbed down to the gap in the range to the waterhole. No idea how often, if ever, the river flows or how often the waterhole dries up. Lovely breeze here too which was something we all missed out at Litchfield!

We did not go to Standley Chasm. Firstly because of the cost, but also because it was hot and the kids were not in the mood for the 1.5km walk to the chasm. So we kept going to Ellery Creek Big Hole. Had a late lunch and then went for the stroll to the creek. Nice swimming spot! But cold!!!! The kids threw rocks into the water. Darcy tried running in for a swim but I managed to catch him.

We decided to head straight to the Glen Helen campground and do some of the other sights on the way back out tomorrow.

Glen Helen was not all that impressive at first sight, but inside the rough-looking building is quite a nice little bar and a rather flash looking restaurant! Nice atmosphere. The back of the resort looks over the massive sheer wall of the range which is quite amazing. A quick setup and then off for a walk around. We headed straight down the riverbed walk to the gorge and swimming hole. There were some brave souls in for a swim who guaranteed us that is was absolutely beautiful once you were in. And it probably was, once you were totally numb! The water hole links on to another waterhole behind the cliff walls and that waterhole gets full sun so is lovely and warm… except that you have to swim though the first one to get to it! So no swimming for us this time.

Of an evening the gorge wall looks amazing. It towers above us and covers half of the stars in the southern cross and it glows a little from the reflected light from the back of the bar area. We have a full moon though which is drowning everything out or we would have had an incredible sky full of stars.

Friday, September 4, 2009

days 187 to 189- Litchfield to Alice Springs

Finally!! we are away! yay!!!

The boys and i caught The Ghan from Katherine to Alice, and Tim drove the van down. Booking online i was able to get Ghan tickets for under $300 all up (only had to pay for two of us) which was well and truely worth it so we could get to the centre fast cos with the kids it wold have taken a minimum of five, more likely six, days full on driving but we could do it in two days this way.

The Ghan was pretty decent. I think if you did not have two toddlers to chase it would be much nicer! And if you had no great need for sleep it would be perfect! LOL! I thought the seats fully reclined for us to sleep on- but not so much. We got on board around 5:30pm and arrived just after 9am the next day so it's mostly overnight. The boys played with their new matchbox cars and planes, and were happy to look out the window and chat to other passengers so both really enjoyed the trip. I would have liked more than two hours sleep.

Alice Springs is really nice! We had heard that it was a bit crappy, but i have no idea what they were comparing it to. The people are lovely and friendly, the town looks nice, lots to see and do, the locals that gather in the parks and on the hills are all family groups and are happy playing and chatty... nothing at all like the undercurrent of aggression and anger we encountered at Tennant Creek and other places.

Anyway, the boys and i checked into the Big 4 and then were picked up by our hop on/hop off tour bus. Had an enjoyable tour of the town, a look at Anzac Hill where we could see The Ghan still at the station. Darcy fell asleep on the bus!
Then it was Jordy's choice for what he wanted to do. He chose the Flying Doctor Museum (big surprise) where they spent forever on the flight simulator console pretending to fly and pushing a heap of buttons. Then they had a go at the peddle radio. Had some lunch, went back to the flight simulator and then jumped back on the bus.

Next stop was the Old Ghan Train Museum. Another selection from Jordy. Out the front was a playground and a toy area with all-things-trains and i did not think we would get past that into the actual musuem. Eventually we did! And the boys ran squealing through the old Ghan carriages and looked at all sorts of train-related bits that they found fascinating. Is it really a boy thing? I can't figure where it comes from.
Then back to the van park. It was only mid-afternoon but we were all buggered after a busy morning on not much sleep. Tim surprised us by being there already. He had a good run and had driven late the night before. We spent the afternoon just playing in the park playground (really great playground here!).

It got super cold overnight. We were not prepared for it and had to drag on lots of blankets from around the cabin. First really cold night we have had for absolutely months... maybe even the coldest since last winter. I am not really sure, but i know our bodies have forgotten how to deal with it.

This morning Jordy was sitting at the table waiting for breakfast and i was trying to get him to put a jumper on. He said he did not need one and was not cold. A minute later, in a really sad voice, he told me he could not stop his chin from wobbling! I convinced him to put on a jumper!

Today we did another lap on the hop on /hop off bus. Checked out the Araluen Cultural Precinct with the art gallery, museum, and Strewloh Research Centre. Kids had a ball in the musuem. They were rather noisy in their appreciation of the displays and we were asked to keep it down... oops! Then we had a look around the Todd Mall (lots of galleries and souvenier shops and cafes), then back to the van park playground and jumping pillow.

Mum and Dad caught us up today. We'll head off to the West McDonald ranges tomorrow and they will check out more of the town and we'll all meet up again at Uluru in a few days time.