Outback Road Trips

Alice Springs

Finally after weeks of uncertainty about the border restrictions we are in the Northern Territory. We decided to spend a few days in Alice Springs before going on to Darwin to give us the 14 days in a “very low risk” COVID Jurisdiction that will allow us entry to Western Australia.

Flying over the Simpson Desert enroute from Brisbane to Alice
Think the desert is “nothing”? There is beauty in the centuries old sand formations
Cathay, Qantas, Singapore Airlines – hundreds of aircraft parked in the dry desert air of Alice Springs

Alice Springs Town

Alice Springs (population ~30,000) from Meyer’s Hill
The dry riverbed of the Todd River running through Alice Springs
The riverbed is dry but there’s water to support these thirsty Red River Gums a few meters below
Up until COVID, the Henley on Todd Regatta a quirky “boat” race was held each year on the dry sandy bed of the Todd River. In 1993 the regatta was cancelled due to water in the Todd!

Olive Pink Botanic Gardens is an interesting Australian Arid Regions Reserve in the center of Alice Springs. From the age of 72 Miss (Olive) Pink lived in a tent, then a small tin shed, working with local Walpiri gardeners to establish this place. Today the 49 acres are a unique arid zone garden.

Black-footed rock wallabies watch on as we climb up Meyer’s Hill in the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens
Euros (formerly Wallaroos) are shy animals, especially this female
These bush tomato plants produce “bush tucker” berries, a staple of the local Arrernte people

Hermannsburg Mission

First day in Alice we took a 4WD tour to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley.

The Hermannsburg Mission was established by two Lutheran Missionaries on the banks of the Finke River in 1877 after an arduous 20 month journey from South Australia and was managed by the Lutheran Church from 1877-1982. It is 135km west from Alice Springs along the sealed Red Centre Way.

Hermannsburg Church shaded by two giant Ghost Gums was built in 1896 from local sandstone
 The Church’s bronze bell suspended between two ghost gums (one died)
Budgerigar in its tree house

Palm Valley

From Hermannsburg turn left and follow a rough 4WD track 23 km along the Finke River, the world’s oldest waterbed, to reach Palm Valley where Red Cabbage Tree Palms grow in the river gorges.

The road along the Finke River soon turns into a rough and rocky 4WD track
Red Cabbage Tree Palms are the last thing you expect to see in arid central Australia
A tall palm growing 25m high with large fan-shaped leaves up to 2m long
Found only in the Finke River, there are less than 2,000 remaining
Along the path above Palm Tree Valley
More wildflowers
Macdonnell Ranges Cycads growing on rocky slopes protected from the sun
These cycads are found only in central Australia; some are more than 300 years old
Wattles growing with the cycads
Views of rugged cliffs from Kalaranga Lookout
Eroded sandstone at the Kalaranga Lookout

Simpsons Gap

We wanted to do a day tour of the West Macdonnell Ranges but there were none available (COVID border closures reduced the number of tourists). Instead we hired bikes and rode out to Simpsons Gap. It’s a 50km round trip all on sealed bike paths and mostly winding through Mulga. Our bums are still sore!

The West Macdonnell Ranges in sight all the way, colours changing throughout the day
In the Arrernte Aboriginal people’s Dreamtime story, created by giant caterpillars
Along the Simpson Gap Bike Trail through shrublands dominated by Mulga
Simpsons Gap, a gorge carved out of the West MacDonnell Ranges by Roe Creek
Roe Creek lined with River Red Gums
Further south a 160m deep bore in Roe Creek supplies 20,000 year old water to Alice Springs
Wool and natural woven raffia stick figures by Tjanpi Desert Weavers click (here)