A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 7.

Macdonnell Ranges-Serpentine Gorge

Hi there!

Heading west out of Alice Springs on Namatjira drive you are soon in the heart of the Macdonnell Ranges.  We went past places like, Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Water Hole and then we pulled up at Serpentine Gorge.  All these places by the way are easily accessible from Alice Springs as Day trips, quite handy if you don’t want to camp out in the wilds!  The Macdonnell Ranges run for about 640 odd km’s east and west of Alice Springs.  Parallel ridges on either side of the valley are quite visible and in these ridges there are gaps which provide spectacular scenery and beautiful waterholes to cool of in the middle of summer.  The Ranges were green from recent rain which really made them standout amongst the surrounding landscape of red and ochre desert colours.  If you want to learn more about the Macdonnell ranges click HERE.

Serpentine Gorge was created by a south flowing creek which has cut through two ridges of Heavitree Quartzite leaving a spectacular gorge.  The road in is not too bad for a dirt road and once you get to the parking area it’s about a 1.5km walk in to the gorge across dry creek beds and scrubland.  If you’re lucky and are here after rain there are lots of wildflowers to see.  I was the one lagging behind taking photos of plants and flowers as the rest of the family steamed ahead to the heady heights of the gorge lookout.  Now if you want to see pictures of Serpentine Gorge in all its glory, I’m not going to show them right now!  You will need to scroll through this post to find them, cruel I know but well worth it!

Here is one of the dry creek beds, very rocky as you can see.

img_1749This is what a lot of the surrounding plant scape looks like, uninspiring you may say but you just need to look closely to find its beauty.

img_1786Larapinta trail marker, this walking trail is 223km in length across the Macdonnell ranges, click on this link, maybe one day!

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If you’re walking too fast you will miss this little plant.  Brachyscome ciliaris also known as Variable Daisy is found in all states of Australia and usually in sand and gibber plains(extended plain with loose rocks).  Grows to about 45cm.  Brachyscome quite often seen in nurseries and gardens around the country even more exciting to find it out here!

img_1784Remember!  Don’t just look ahead, cast your eye’s down and to the sides of where you’re walking, you’ll never know what you will find or see next.

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Above is a couple of more photos of this little gem.  Now, what about some Nightshade!  Solanum quadriloculatum.  That’s a mouthful, Wild Tomato sound better? Be very wary, this plants fruit are poisonous, another reason why common names are misleading.  This plant grows to 50 x 50cm near flooded watercourses and or low sand dunes.  It’s quite prickly and flowers in winter and spring.  

img_1416-1Below is Senna artemisoides subsp. artemisoides, another mouthful but a very beautiful shrub which grows to about 1-2 metres with beautiful yellow buttercup flowers in winter and spring.

img_1774 img_1788Maybe you can just call it the Silver Cassia.  Now for an Emu Bush.  Eremophila latrobei , commonly known as the Crimson Turkeybush, click HERE if you want to read more about this plant.  Quite beautiful!

img_1366-1 img_1426-1Another stunning Emu bush is Eremophila longifolia , also known as Berrigan, tall shrub to small tree weeping in form, click HERE if you want to know more about the Berrigan.

img_1770Sorry, I got distracted with the plants in the Serpentine Gorge, lets move onto the scenery.  This is the first sort of glimpse of the gorge and it looks like its sort of straight up to the top, hmm!

img_1781Lets go for it!  Now we are starting the climb up and here you can clearly see the parallel ridge lines that run through the Macdonnell Ranges.

img_1797Another couple of views of those ridge lines

img_1801 img_1805Yes, as you can see above we are getting higher, quite spectacular!  It is quite a rocky landscape and on these hillsides there is a lot of Porcupine grass, Trioda irritans.  The last past of its botanic name sums it up very well indeed, very irritating because it’s quite prickly.

img_1819 img_1800Below are more views across the valley.

img_1347-1 img_1794Another plant of interest for me to see in the wild was Dodonaea viscosa , the Broad leaf Hop Bush or just plain Hop Bush, very common in gardens around the country and useful for many things from hedging to specimen plantings.  It’s a very variable plant in the wild and widespread across the country.

img_1792 img_1798Now I know photos are great but there’s just no comparison to actually being there and seeing this landscape.  I have a great digital SLR camera but it doesn’t capture the WOW! The size, scope and detail of what your eyes are looking at or what your feeling right then and there as you look at this amazing country.  Below is the Serpentine Gorge.

 

 

img_1814 img_1808 img_1817 img_1807Where does one go now from these heights?  Down one would expect and lo and behold something I missed on the way up nearly hit me fair and square in the head on the way down.

img_1830Leaning over the rocky pathway was this intriguing large shrub with what looked like  stems twining around themselves like a climbing plant.  This is Pandorea doratoxylon also known as the Spearwood Vine.  The Aboriginal people use this plant for spears hence its common name. The long twining stems are light weight and are straightened and hardened over a fire.  The flowers are quite pretty when one comes upon them in such a tough landscape.

img_1828If they look familiar to you, you may be thinking of Pandorea jasminoides the Wonga Wonga vine or also known as the Bower Vine or one of the many hybrids available today.  You would be correct because they are in the same family Bignoniaceae.  Check out this closeup below!

img_1829This next photo doesn’t show too much, I just liked the detail of the bark.  To me it tells a story of the harsh landscape in which it resides.

img_1803These next photos show an interesting Grevillea, the Holly Leaf Grevillea, Grevillea wickhamii.  There are a few sub species but I’m not sure which one this is.  I have pictures of this flowering at a different location which will be revealed at a later date!

img_1833 img_1827 You can see above that the new growth gives the plant a tinge of yellow which from a distance look like flowers.img_1826Some more plants of interest here included another beautiful Emu Bush, Eremophila freelingii. The Rock Fuchsia Bush.

img_1353-1 img_1355-1A characteristic of this plant is that it sheds its lower leaves during drought to conserve moisture, you can see that quite clearly in the above photo, the plant looks half dead but it’s not!  Grows to about 1.5 metres.  The lilac flowers are stunning and are produced after it rains.  Just a few more views below of this beautiful plant on the sides of Serpentine Gorge.

img_1793 img_1789 img_1354-1Funnily enough another surprise was what looked to be some type of Fern here as well and yes it was.  Not sure of its identity but quite possibly Cheilanthes brownie , The Northern Rock Fern, either way still remarkable to me to see a fern out here.  Nature is amazing.

img_1834 img_1780Another interesting plant we saw was a parasite.  Lysiana exocarpi , the Harlequin Mistletoe.  This parasite is found mostly in inland locations and is very colourful.

img_1778 img_1776Now we have made it back down and headed into the cool of the gorge, being winter it wasn’t hot out in the open so one could imagine how nice and cool it would be in the heat of summer.

img_1842In the above photo in the distance you can see some cycads, Macrozamia macdonnellii , the Macdonnell Ranges Cycad.  Here they are below as well.

img_1841Ah well!  That’s about it for the Serpentine Gorge, here’s a few last photos of plants and foliage.

Lets have some lunch, its been a great morning in the Macdonnell Ranges.  Serpentine Gorge has been a truly magical experience.

img_1422-a-1Finally a last look into the gorge.

img_1359-1Cheers!

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A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 6.

Hi There!

A few last glimpses of Alice Springs

As our time in Alice springs starts to come to an end, our thoughts turn to the Macdonnell Ranges which are our next destination, but before that we spent an afternoon at the Old Telegraph Station situated beside the Todd River, a mostly dry river that runs through Alice Springs.  Here we caught up with a friend from our old Melbourne days, the mountain bikes got ridden(finally) and a dingo made an appearance.  Luck would have it that the week before we were in Alice Springs they had a huge storm which put some water into the Todd river.  All that was left were a few puddles, so we got to see the Todd with a smidge of moisture in it.  Here’s the Todd River in all its empty glory!

img_1328-1Yes it is empty, this is only some puddles that are not moving.

img_1736Some of the kids having a ball in the puddles.

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The mountain bikes getting a run, and a soggy crossing!

img_1728 img_1731Here’s the dingo stalking a galah…..

img_1718 img_1720 img_1721Missed it.. ah well, there’s always next time.

One of the many quirky things in Alice Springs is a Beanie Festival in June.  Yes I get it, its winter time and yes it can get cold in Alice Springs in winter time and the desert gets cold overnight, but!!  Well that’s just another whole level of Irony right there!  It was fun though!!  Sorry some of these are blurry but they just had to be included!!

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Here’s some more views of the Todd River sans water.

img_1324-1 img_1322-1 img_1738 img_1730 img_1741Well maybe just a smidgen of water.  The parting shot of Alice Springs for this post is from Anzac Hill.  A memorial to the ANZAC’S on a small hill one end of town.  The view was quite something.

img_1335-1 img_1340-1 img_1344-1Thanks “ALICE” it was a blast!!

Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 5

Alice Springs Desert Park

Hi There,

Its been a few months since I last posted about our trip to the territory, so I thought it might be time to get back in the groove.  Another great thing to do while in Alice Springs is to visit the Alice Springs Desert Park.  Here you will see an amazing array of Flora and Fauna which is indigenous to the Northern Territory.  You will need at least a 1/2 to a full day I reckon and whatever you do, do not miss the nocturnal house!  It is magnificent.  There are Bilbies, Quolls, Numbats, Pie dish beetles, tiny little jumping mice thingies, spiders, nocturnal snakes and many other nocturnal animals.  I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of the Bilbies, but here are some of the Numbat.

img_1596 img_1599Of course there were all sorts of snakes and lizards, sorry about the blurry picture but I just had to include this nasty looking fellow!

img_1604The Thorny devils are always great to watch, these fellows were standing there and eating the ants as they went past them.  Their tongues would just flick out and snaffle them up.

img_1605 img_1696 img_1694 img_1692 img_1688As you can see they are certainly thorny, also very well camouflaged for the desert environment.  The Lizard below is just hanging out, I don’t know his name.

img_1602What I noticed a lot of in the park were lots of different Erimophila shrubs.  There are about 260 Erimophila species endemic to Australia, also known as Emu Bushes.  There are also many cultivars available in nurseries now.  Here’s a few from the Desert Park.

img_1576 img_1580 img_1581 img_1574 img_1575 img_1710If I say Dingo, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?  If you come from Australia like me, I would haphazard a guess that the name Azaria Chamberlin would spring to mind.  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, click on her name!  Canus lupus dingo, also know as a Dingo(click here for more info) is a wild dog found in Australia.  It’s the largest terrestrial predator in the country.  There are quite a few around Alice Springs particularly the old Telegraph Station.  There is an excellent talk about these wild dogs at the Desert Park, very informative.

img_1584 img_1583They blend in quite beautifully with their surroundings as you can see.  They also come with different coat colours depending on what habitat they live in.  Interesting!

img_1606Here’s another plant that’s prominent in the Alice Springs area Senna artemisiodes subsp. oligophylla, also known as Oval Leaf Cassia.  A beautiful yellow flowering shrub to 2 metres.

img_1577 img_1578 img_1305-1Another very exciting exhibit at the Alice Springs Desert Park is the Birds of Prey demonstration.  Keep your head low!!  A couple of Kites put on quite a masterful aerial display.

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The owl was quite stunning as well!

img_1645 img_1647 img_1644 img_1649Of course the star of the show is the mighty Wedge Tail Eagle.  These are quite widespread across the country and we see lots at home but still they are impressive wherever you see them.

img_1672 img_1671 img_1666 img_1665Check out his Wedgesticks(drumsticks) and not to mention his talons!

img_1668 img_1669 img_1670And of course that big rudder at the back-wedge tail.  Need to know more?? Click HERE.

Here’s a few more feathered friends from the Desert Park.

Now a few more plants from the Park!

The landscape around the park is impressive as well!

img_1608 img_1582Of course there are plenty of other animals here, this is only a snapshot of a few.  I will finish with one of our most iconic marsupials, Big Red.  Macropus rufus.

img_1681Cheers!

Cactus Country. Part 2.

Hi There!

Lets continue our journey around Cactus Country.  All I can remember saying was wow!  Look at this one, look at that!  It was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many different types of cacti.  They had a pretty informative guide-book and a find it sheet for kids, but I do have a couple of gripes.

1.There were no identification name tag/plates thingies or whatever you want to call them.  So how does a cacti novice like me know what I’m looking at or want to purchase for myself later down the track???  I know it might cost a lot of money and take time to do and maintain but plant names are highly important in my mind.

2. Then when we get to the nursery area its nigh on empty!!  What the!!  I could have counted on my fingers and toes the amount of different species in the nursery.  Consider this, Cactus country has 10 acres of display gardens and their website states ” Australia’s largest Cactus garden with an extensive plant sales area”.

Maybe I was just there at the wrong time, maybe someone had bought all their stock the day before, maybe I just missed out.  Maybe I was just feeling deflated that I couldn’t dive straight into a cacti collecting frenzy.

Enough of the self-pity, one thing is for sure.  I will be going back to Cactus Country, it really was quite fantastic!

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Stay tuned for part 3, the finale!

Cheers!

Cactus Country. Part 1

Hi There!

Cactus and Succulents are plants that are not really in my sphere of interest, I’ve taken this point of view for nigh on twenty years and I’ve been strong in my dislike for them.  I can’t explain what has happened because I don’t know what has happen because now I seem to be softening in my stance towards these plants.  So much so that in the last six months I have started to look at them and admire them.  I now look at things like World of Succulents on Facebook,  Danger Garden and Succulents and More(2 excellent blogs that I read).  I also discovered recently a place called Cactus Country which is located in Strathmerton, Victoria about an hour and 50 minutes from us.  So we decided a visit was required and this is what we saw!

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I’m sorry I don’t have names for any of these, I don’t have the foggiest idea!  I know some are Ferocactus, Agaves, Opuntias, Cereus, Saguaro, Trichocereus and Yuccas.  But that’s about it.  For now I just hope you have enjoyed the photos of these amazing plants in all their varied shapes, colours and spines!

Cheers!