For over 300 million years they have stood sentinel, a time span in which man barely figures. Once they rivalled the Himalayan mountains, in an eon before the Himalayan mountains were even conceived, but now they are worn down to the earth. They are one of the greatest and oldest mountain ranges on the planet.
They sit like a row of caterpillar’s stretched out on the red central savannah plains of the Centre, stretching East to West with Alice Springs providing a divide between the two. It is from here that they were given the tribal name of the Caterpillar Ranges (Tjoritja) and they are older than time immemorial. It was from here that man was gifted fire, it was from here that he was given his Lore and much of his ceremony.
It was a Lore much older than modern man, for time does not figure in the scale of age when talking of these great ranges. I have been researching these ranges forever, in my work on The Spirit Children Series, which brings to the reader the issues of the ancient Australian Lore of the tribes and the journey through this Lore as well as tales of adventure and discovery.
Dinosaur’s once ranged over these now modest heights, they hunted in the valleys and sort water from the few precious permanent water holes. These are ‘Old Man’ mountains that have seen the coming and going of ice ages, oceans and meteor bombardment. They have a story to tell that is beyond any time frame.
We have had a plan to explore these Ranges for an age, a plan of discovery that took in each of the features, each of the gorges and rock holes. But like all good plans of mice and men we came a-cropper. We headed out into the reaches of the western arm of the mountains, west along Namatjira Drive, to set up a base camp… this was to be our modus-operandi. A time honoured plan as we spent a week or so about at each base camp. We chose Ormiston Gorge to begin, it is a National Park and a serviced camp… always a positive. We also planned on a visit into the local centre Alice Springs for the centenary of the Transport Hall of Fame, something we had been looking forward to for many months. We had found the perfect camp. It was out the back blocks in the overflow area… quiet, peaceful and visited by a myriad of birds and wildlife. The charming spinifex pigeons were a truly delight and wonderful companions who visited us throughout the day. They had babies in tow and were an entertainment to watch.
As well as being country so well depicted by the famed artist Albert Namarijira, this is also the region of the wedged tail eagle, a truly stunning raptor to study along with many other birds. He features in local legend and lore as do the serpents of the Dreamtime. We managed to get out and about on our forays initially. The ancient Ochre Pits were the tribesmen mined the precious ochres for trade and for ceremony. We also visited the precious water holes and gorges nearby, these were first on our agenda and to see them was a delight. Then we took crook.
It has been a week or more and mostly we have been coughing and spluttering in the peaceful recluse of our camper trailer. Firstly it was me, and then The Man. We had a supply of meds that nursed us through and the visiting dingo on the scrounge for food daily kept us entertained. Don’t feed the dingo’s!
He was mostly a dawn a dusk visitor who returned at night in attempts to raid the bins. At first the Ranger thought it was the crows and they positioned large rocks on the lids but we were able to ‘tell on’ the dingo after one midnight session of his noisy antics. They then staked the bins to keep them upright but the dingo would have none of it. Their resourcefulness is amazing. We really should thank they guy for his midnight entertainment and it seems the dingo is winning none the less.
We will be heading out back east tomorrow as we are both still weak and it will take some time this recovery of ours. We still have a lot on our to-do list but it is being moved to another time frame… next time. Such is life… and ain’t it grand even when it comes unstuck. You just need to take the time and enjoy what the fates have delivered to you, draw a breath and merely look around you to discover another world.
Our visiting wildlife has kept us entertained though the Macdonnell Ranges are famous mostly for the Larapinta Trail that attracts walkers and runners along its 223klm length.