Stretching 170kms west from Alice Springs, the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park is classic Australian red centre landscapes. Water holes like Ellery Big Hole, and Redbank, Ormiston, Serpentine gorges attract campers and bush-lovers, as well as birds, animals and reptiles whose home is the arid land of the Arrernte people.
Tjoritja, aka West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, west of Alice Springs, in my mind rivals Nitmiluk/Katherine for its beauty.
The largely flat landscape is broekn up by rivers- usually dry- gorges, a magnificent geological formations of hills and cliffs.
It is the land of the Arrente people. These ochre pits have been dug for millenia for us in ceremonies, and traded with other desert people.
Even out here, fire plays a vital role in nurturing the land.
Natural burning cycles and traditional, cultural burning manage the land, releasing seeds.
Green shoots appear soon after fire.
New growth rises from the scorched landscape.
Serpentine Gorge is one of several cool, shady spots in this wide park, where water is found.
Perfect for swimming on a hot day. But seriously cold.
Camping spots are available walking distance from most but not all of the gorges.
The western most camps are at Redbank Gorge, and are quite enough for strangers to drop in.
The Mount Sonder Walk is a 3 hour trail in the Redbank Gorge area.
Although the "hills" are slight, the provide superb views of the flat, red landscape aroound.
While the river beds are almost always dry, trees and shrubs have learnt to survive on the little they get.
You'll likely be undisturbed by other people.
Far from the "nothing" which many people associate with the desert, shrubs and trees change as you progress around the loop.
Wattle sprouts fresh on the Mount Sonder trail.
The scenery is classic Namatjira-style gum trees in places.
The high cliff walls of the gorge provide a foothold for determined trees.
Back at the waterhole is probably the only places you will meet other people. Be warned- it is deadly cold!
Only a few parts of the West Macs require a 4WD, for example Finke River.
Straight and proud, a tree surveys the land.
The harsh envirnoment is reflected in the living things of the area. Bark is cracked and dry.
Other trees are twisted by the wind, branches fan out in search of sun, roots in search of water.
Lizards scamper silently across rocks and sand.
A mating pair of spinifex pigeons (not quite) camoflagued by red rocks.
Deep and wide, Ormiston Gorge is one of the most popular spots in the West Macs.
Before the sun hits the water, a morning dip will be envigorating.
Take yourself away from the camp and the water, and the trees, shrubs and small animals will be your only companions.
The Ormiston Pound Walk could be the best few hours you spend in the area.
Plenty of water, a good pair of shoes and a hat are all you need to bask in this beauty.
The trail is well marked.....
....taking in vast open crater-like scenes.
After 3 or so hours, the trail truns to sand as you are dwarfed by the cliffs.
An upper and lower trail complete the journey, so choose between views or a swim.