Whilst travelling in the Northern Territory & having reached Alice Springs, we decided to venture out to the West MacDonnell Ranges (Tjoritja) to see firsthand, the beautiful gorges that these ancient rocks have hidden within its walls.
First off, we headed to Simpsons gap which is located 18 kilometres out of town on sealed Larapinta Drive. The towering cliffs of the Simpsons Range features a permanent waterhole where one can spot wildlife like Black-footed Rock-wallabies. There are several short walks located on the Larapinta Trail, a 231 kilometre walking track through the West MacDonnell Ranges. From Simpsons Gap you can walk Sections 1 or 2 of the trail. Known as Rungutjirpa to the Arrernte Aboriginal people, Simpsons Gap was the mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors. The turn off to Simpsons Gap is along the Larapinta Drive. The Gap can also be reached by cycling 17 kilometres one-way along the Simpsons Gap Bike Path. Camping is permitted at Simpsons Gap for Larapinta Trail walkers only.
From here the next stop was Standley Chasm or Angkerle Atwatye which is regarded as a "must see" spectacular geological and significant cultural icon of Central Australia.
Surrounded by the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, it is in a private flora and fauna reserve owned by the Iwupataka Land Trust,
A unique Aboriginal Owned & Operated enterprise, Angkerle Aboriginal Corporation is owned by the local Community members who are direct descendants of the Arrernte Aboriginal people, that have lived in this area for tens of thousands of years.
Walking through the dramatic chasm with the 80m sheer red rock-face on either side, one cannot help the feeling of being in awe at this ancient landscape. I thought about how this same track had been walked for thousands of years before any of the great civilisations of the world had even been thought of. It is then that it hits you that our continent and its first people are indeed incredibly old. The track is along a well-maintained trail (1.2km/15mins each way), which follows the natural creek bed with seating & interpretative signage.
Angkerle Atwatye “the Gap of Water” is a striking geological formation that has significant botanical, bird-watching & wildlife photography appeal. It is an important cultural site for Arrernte women and now provides a backdrop for authentic cross-cultural presentations, bush tucker tours, art workshops & language classes.
There is a café which serves barista coffees, home baked scones, hot lunches, ice creams along with free picnic tables/BBQ/WC.
Group catering is by arrangement, with coach parking facilities. The complex also features a souvenir shop with hand-painted Aboriginal crafts made on site including boomerangs at workshop prices & various campsites for walkers/groups/RV power.
The road turns off Larapinta Drive into the also sealed Namatjira Drive as we drive to Udepata or Ellery Creek Big Hole which is one of the most popular and picturesque camping, walking, swimming, and picnic spots in the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park.
The spectacular waterhole is fed by the West MacDonnell Ranges (Tjoritja) and surrounded by tall red cliffs and the sandy Ellery Creek. It is also at the trailhead for Sections 6 and 7 of the 231 kilometre Larapinta Trail walk. Thousands of years of massive floods have carved out this waterhole, which is recognised as an internationally significant geological site. Take the 3 kilometre Dolomite walk to see the surrounding formations. The permanent water made it a special meeting place for the Aranda people on the fish and honey ant dreaming trails. Camping is permitted (fees apply). Entry is via a gravel road suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.