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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

20 May 2011

Green Centre

16th May 2011

Thus concludes our loop around the Red Centre of Australia, back in Alice Springs in a comfortable little apartment with a Thai takeaway to take away the taste of all the grimly cooked meat-plus-stuff of the last four evenings.

Today we visited various beauty spots along the West MacDonnell Range, a rugged ridge of mountains that runs west from Alice Springs up to Glen Helen where we stayed last night. Places like Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Serpentine Gorge and Simpson’s Gap are all points where a gap in the mountain chain allows a creek or river to run through, usually with a permanent waterhole where the actual gap is even if the river itself is ordinarily dry as a bone. They were all very beautiful, although nigh impossible to capture on camera because of cloud cover. One thing I’ve learned during our travels is that landscape photographs on cloudy days are seldom a success. It’s not that it is too dark, just the contrary: the sky appears as an over-bright white band instead of a nice blue, and without the shadows of sunlight any crags and creases in the landscape are lost details.

So I’ll just have to keep today’s various walks in my memory instead. Most memorably being the walk at Ormiston Gorge, where the normal route is currently flooded and the signs said “warning: you will have to swim the last part of this hike”. We ignored the signs, but instead of swimming we went for some perilous rock climbing instead. I’m here and typing, so we must have survived.

Although these permanent waterholes are apparently always verdant, our surprise was how vibrant and green the whole of the supposedly red centre has been. Remember the mouse plague I mentioned? Well, that was down to absolutely loads of rain that fell this summer after nine years of drought. Parts of the desert here look like lush pastureland, other parts like the heather-cloaked hills of Scotland. The mouse plague was at its best in Glen Helen where we saw at least half a dozen in the restaurant, utterly fearless too.


4 Responses to “Green Centre”

  1. Jane says:

    Welcomes the “Red Center” to climate change…

    • shortclaws says:

      Maybe, maybe not. There’s always been a cycle of droughts and rains in central Australia. One cattle station we stayed at said that they started with something like 3000 head of cattle, and then there was an eight year drought and they ended up with 450 head of cattle, and then there were a couple of good years and they built back up to 4500. Not sure I could cope with such stress!

  2. Michelle says:

    Great blog – Thank you for sharing. I stumbled across it while planning a trip to the centre in August 2011. I was wondering how bad the mouse plague is and found your page.
    It was great to hear your views – they sound accurate to my research of the region. We live in Melbourne and have travelled all over Australia and I agree the prices in that area seem high.

    :)

    • shortclaws says:

      They were saying that with the land drying out and the seeds mostly set, the mouse plague would die off in a couple of months – so they should be pretty much gone by August anyway. Good to hear you travel all over, it was funny to meet people in Australia who sheepishly admitted they hadn’t visited half the places in their own country that were on our eight week itinerary!

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