Our reason for going to Alice Springs, besides the fact that it is right on the highway
we are traveling is to do three things. Number one is an oil change on our new engine.
That done we are going to visit the West MacDonnell Range of mountains. There are
two great plates of land that meet out here in the middle (literally) of the Outback.
They have created an east-west range of large hills/small mountains. And through
this range are some gaps and cracks. The highway runs through one of them with Alice
sitting on it. We toured the West MacDonnell’s (the East MacDonnell’s are east of
town, of course). The first stop was at Standley Chasm (Angkerle). This is on aboriginal
land and a permit is needed to visit it. The permit is $12 and good for your whole
visit (about 30 minutes and you’ve seen it all). The chasm is interesting. It was
created when a band of softer rock was eroded by the water. The softer rock was
created by a crack in the limestone being filled with a soft type of lava. Today
it is about 50 meters (yards) long and 80 deep. Including the 200 meter walk from
the ticket kiosk it took about half hour. (Uluru was $25 for three days).
The road followed a valley westward through the center of the range. The next gap
was up a dirt road and as it had just rained that morning we skipped it. The red
mud can be very hard to remove and is slick. So we on to Ormiston Gorge. This is
a popular swimming hole as there is permanent water here. And no fee.
From there it was on to Glen Helen Gorge where there is a hotel/campground/cafe/ bar
and have a beer.
Aussies are big on beer but it is not cheap. We typically buy canned local beer
at the liquor store (ALL alcohol is sold in bars or specialty stores) for about $2-2.50/can
in a 24-30 pack. We saw Corona (Mexican) beer at $40/6-pack. A draft beer in a
pub can be $8-10. A bottle in a pub $6-8 dollars. And there are the mainstream
beers, not craft beers. Although their mainstream is better than American Bud, Bud
Lite, Coors, Coors Lite.
Enough digression, the third thing in Alice Springs is a night time light show. This
is the only good thing to come out of our week in Ceduna. We saw an ad on TV for
this show. It is a “art show” based on native art. There were shuttle buses that
took you out of town to this bluff that was lit by huge multi-colored lights and
lasers that change regularly and with the music. This is a traveling, annual, show
that is done in a different town eery year for 10 days. We are there, in the right
town, at the right time. And it is all free.
It is called “Parrtijima, a festival in light”. Besides the hillside being lit up
there are caterpillars 2 meters (6’) high and 10 meters (30’) long all painted in
And there were several of these umbrella like circular paintings done in a more modern
style by native artists.
The next day we continued north to the Devil’s Marbles but first we have some other
tidbits. We are crossing the Tropic Of Capricorn. This is the southernmost line
where the sun can be directly overhead (on December 21st). We have crossed the Tropic
of Cancer (northernmost point) a couple of times in Mexico. And the Arctic Circle
was crossed in Norway (northbound) and Finland (southbound). This is the first for
the Tropic of Capricorn. We’ll never get the Antarctic Circle (it doesn’t touch any
land than Antarctica). We crossed the Equator at 35,000 feet elevation on the way
here but that doesn’t count.
Now a picture of a parked road train. Those are three long trailers waiting for
the tractor unit, which will have a tank on it too, making this four tanks long.
These can be up to 53.5 meters long. That is 175.5 feet to you Americans. On an
American football field it would stretch from the goal posts past the 40 yard line,
after crossing midfield. And they can weigh up to 132 tonnes (145 US tons). Normal
US semi trucks are limited to 40 US tons. We have seen these rigs with up to 21 sets
of dual tires, seven sets of triple axles, two for each trailer and one for the tractor
unit. Plus the steering tires make 86 tires.