Day 105. Alice Springs – East MacDonnell Ranges

Today we ventured out to the East MacDonnell Ranges, we had not planned on going out his way and it seems that not many people do, but friends recommended we go. Luckily we did, as it was fabulous, equally as good as the West MacDonnell Ranges but no one there. The drive was dramatic and beautiful, with high red ridges and sandy creek beds lined with river red gums. A lot of places for Tom to stop for a photo.

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110km out of Alice Springs was Arltunga Historical Reserve. Arltunga was central Australia’s first town, it sprang up in 1887 when gold was discovered in a dry creek bed and at its peak was home to about 300 people. It was lucky that gold was found as the previous year a surveyor thought there were rubies at the nearby Ruby Gap, sparking a rush of miners to the area. Oops, they really were garnets, relatively worthless.

Conditions were extremely harsh, due to isolation and lack of water. The closest railway at this stage was at Oodnadatta more than 600km away so miners had to travel from there, often on foot. Reef gold was soon discovered and the government established cyanide works in the area to make gold extraction a bit easier for the miners. The buildings included a police station, a battery, and a few government houses, because of conditions, the whole venture did not last long, and the battery closed in 1913. There were a few more periods of mini rushes, the depression of the 1930s and then again in the 1950s. Some of the dry stone buildings have been restored (see photos below) and there was lots of information about the golden times. Fossicking is permitted in the adjoining Fossicking Reserve and the National Parks officers there showed us their gold finds.

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105 Arltunga pano 2 small

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Also fantastically, we could go into underground mines at the MacDonnell Range Reef Mine. There are lots of shafts and mines around here and two are open. We had to climb down  a ladder and then we could explore about 50m of tunnels before going up another shaft. In the second mine we did not stay too long due to the slightly smelly skeletal remains of a small kangaroo or wallaby that obviously had the misfortune of hopping down a shaft.

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On the way back to Alice Springs we stopped at Trephina Gorge. The colours were stunning – pale sand of dry riverbeds, rich orange, red and purple valley walls, white tree trunks, green foliage and blue sky. A 3 km loop walk took us along the edge of the gorge and then returned along the gorge floor.

105 Trephina Gorge 2 smallOn the right is rock sculpture that we added toes to.

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A 300  year old ghost gum





I arrived back at our campsite to discover our chairs suspended between the van and a tree, with mine on the high position on top of the van. A hilarious revenge from the Foxes. They told us a woman in a caravan near us was giving them disapproving looks while they were doing it. I laughed so much but did have to wait until the others returned from the jumping pillow before I could get the chairs down and have something to sit on.

105 Chairs small

Music – the alphabet continues, I = INXS, J = James Blunt, K = Kylie

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