Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day 4: Glen Helen to Alice Springs

Day 4 we got to 'sleep in' - 7.30am- quite the very latest morning on the whole tour. But because I was sleeping under the stars in a swag, I woke at the 'normal' early time, and got to see the sunrise anyhow. I watched the stars get dimmer as the sky lightened.... and the tents were silhouetted.

You can see what the swags looked like. We all slept with hats on. These are the last two to get up this morning!

Our first visit for the morning was to the Ochre Pits, not far from Glen Helen, where the Aborigines have collected ochre for painting from. There was another steepish climb, to the top of Serpentine Gorge, again rewarded with wonderful views.
Then the afternoon took us into real 4WD territory, as we headed down the dry Finke river, over boulders and through sand, up to Palm Valley. A beautiful walk awaited us here. This valley was drowned two hundred million years ago. The sedimentary rock is porous (you can hear the 'hollow' sound as you walk over certain rocks) and water was retained. So there are two 'relic' trees here that 'should' have died out as Central Australia warmed up. There are cycads and rare palms that have survived here.

It was a very interesting day. We returned to Alice Springs early evening. I had a 'day off' in Alice the next day and visited the "Desert Park" which showed the main ecosystem types we had been seeing, and had many, many birds. There was supposed to be a 'birds of prey' show, but they had to call it off: the wild wedge tailed eagle from the cliff above came down and made threatening passes over the trained birds below!!!
Oh, and something else I learned. Alice Springs area is not desert. It gets too much rain per year, even though it mostly evaporates away: it is a semi-arid zone. And after several days travelling it looked quite green- the sedimentary rocks retained so much moisture that many plants could access via their roots.

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