We started the day with the boys working on their programming projects for a couple of hours – which felt just like we were doing schoolwork on our round the world trip. We deliberately didn’t want an early start today as the Standley Chasm looks best around midday.
The Standley Chasm lies about 50km West of Alice Springs. The land to the West of Alice Springs is like an exposed geology experiment. The sparse vegetation leaves the underlying rock formations vulnerable and exposed which makes for a fascinating drive. The fact that you’re driving along the MacDonnell Ranges also means there’s a lot of diversity in what you see and there’s the constant backdrop of the Ranges themselves.
We timed our arrival at Standley Chasm just about perfectly, but to make sure we got the time right we stopped for morning tea at the kiosk that serves as general store, kiosk, camping office, and everything else that the Aboriginal community that owns the land thinks might make a buck. Lovely homemade scones went down a treat. The walk from the kiosk down to the Chasm itself is only a bit over a kilometre but, although there was some minor walking over rocks involved, seemed to be leaving a lot of visitors fazed. Being made of hardier stuff, we were soon walking between the glowing rock walls of the Chasm proper. Standley Chasm is a long thin crack gouged through the MacDonnell Range by millennia of erosion; it’s relatively thin, very tall and the walls glow red when hit by the noon Sun. There’s a lot of similarity to the Siq on the way into Petra, but without the buildings and donkeys.
Even without the Chasm itself it’s a lovely bit of countryside, with stark white gumtrees set against the backdrop of red rock walls and deep blue sky. We found tadpoles in a number of little ponds and saw numerous wedge-tailed eagles soaring above us. As we drove onwards from Standley Chasm we saw a dingo beside the road.
We drove on another 60km or so to Ellery Creek Big Hole, which is a spectacular waterhole. I very carefully did not tell the boys about the crocodile they found there last September, although I did scan the surrounds equally carefully before getting in the water. But crocodiles were not the issue, cold was the issue. Much of the waterhole is deep and lies in shade so the water is uncomfortably cold especially with a breeze blowing. So we shivered our way to the far side where the sun reached a small, sandy beach. The hard part then was getting back in the water. By the time we got back to our starting point Callum was quite literally turning blue. A sit in the Sun with a bit of a picnic warmed us all back up again, and then we headed back to Alice.
We got back to Alice Springs in time for a visit to Telegraph Station. Alice Springs was originally established as a repeater station on the overland telegraph that stretched from Adelaide to Darwin which it joined an undersea cable. The early history and technology is quite fascinating. Most of the work involved constantly tending to a huge bank or relatively crude batteries that were used to boost the signal before sending it onwards. Unfortunately, once the telegraph was superseded and closed down in the 1930s the history turns sad as the Telegraph Station played a significant and depressing role in the local stolen-children story. As a place to visit, though, the Telegraph Station is first-rate.