The T-Team Series — The Gorges of the MacDonnell Ranges
In this episode, the T-Team valiantly explore as many gorges in the MacDonnell Ranges as they can…in one afternoon. The challenge, avoid the crowds of tourists while keeping Mr. B entertained.
Ellery Creek and Serpentine Gorge
[Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.
The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope? And how many times would my brother lose his way in the bush?]
With our two Indigenous guides, Dad drove the Rover along the rough dirt track (probably a “short cut”) to the road that parallels the MacDonnell Ranges, Namatjira Drive. These days, the main roads are sealed, but not back then. Dust billowed into the cabin as we drove on a road that parallels the MacDonnell Ranges.
Nearing the intersection of Namatjira Drive from the unknown track, Dad turned to Mr. B. ‘Ellery Creek? Or Serpentine?’
Mr. B gazed at the mountain range and pointed. ‘Ellery Creek. You did say it’s like the local’s swimming pool.’
‘There’s many interesting gorges and creeks in these hills to explore,’ Dad said. ‘We won’t be staying at any for too long.’
*[Photos 2 & 3: Gorges Dad dreams of visiting again and again: Ormiston (2), Glen Helen (3) © C.D. Trudinger 1977]
Mr. B frowned. ‘Just long enough to take a few snaps like the tourists, I expect.’
‘You sure you don’t want to start at Serpentine to our right? We could hike up while the morning’s still cool.’
‘What morning? It’s already past noon.’ Mr. B flicked his map flat. ‘Ellery Creek, I say, for lunch.’
Dad sighed, ‘Very well, then, Ellery Creek.’
After lumbering along the wider but corrugated road, Dad turned into the barely discernable trail that led to Ellery Creek. After entering the clearing for parking, we hunted for a car park. Not an easy feat as the car park was full; even the spaces in between swarmed with tourists.
Dad squeezed the Rover into what seemed the last remaining gap, and the T-Team piled out.
*[Photo 4, & 5 Aspects of Ellery Creek © L.M. Kling 2013]
5. Ellery Creek Big Hole
‘It’s like Glenelg beach,’ I said, ‘it’s stuffed full.’
Richard looked at the offering of water; a disappointing dam at the end of a sandy bank. ‘There’s more sand and water at Glenelg.’
‘As many people, though,’ I replied.
Mr. B stomped past us and with elbows akimbo he stopped at the water’s edge. ‘Is this it?’
Dad joined his friend. ‘I warned you.’
So, with obligatory photos taken while dodging the crowds, we made our way to Serpentine Gorge.
As he turned the Rover left so heading east towards Alice Springs, Dad smiled. Mr. B pouted and folded the map. He insisted we have lunch before we start on the hike up the gorge. Dad went one better announcing that, since it was Sunday, we’d have lunch AND a Sunday Service.
Mr. B’s response was to shake his head and mumble something not-so-polite into his red dust-stained handkerchief.
Less populated, Serpentine Gorge begged to be explored. Our Indigenous guides were not interested in joining us, so we bravely set off on our own adventure. To get to the narrowest part of the gorge, we had to cross a deep pool of water on our air mattresses and then walk along a rocky creek barefoot. We had forgotten to bring our shoes. Not that it concerned the men, they raced ahead leaving me behind hobbling on tender feet over sharp stones.
Then, disaster. Mud and slime replaced jagged rocks. In the shadows of gorge, I trotted on the path near creek. My heel struck a slippery puddle lurking by a pool of sludge. Next, I skated, feet flew from under me, and I landed bottom-first in the murky depths of the Serpentine Creek.
I pulled myself from the rock-hole, my clothes caked in mud and stinking of slime.
Dad jogged up to me, his barefoot steps slapping, the sound bouncing off the slate walls that lined the gorge.
‘What do you mean special part of the gorge?’ I snapped at Dad. ‘It’s not so special to me. It’s too dark, and I’m just too uncomfortable.’
‘Ah, well,’ Dad sighed. ‘We better get back to the Rover. We need to find camp before it’s dark.’
As we hobbled back in the fading light, I mumbled, ‘Sure it’s not dark already?’
Other Gorges for Another Day
Dad endeavoured to distract me from my discomfort with descriptions of the many other gorges in the MacDonnell Ranges and tales of adventures exploring them. His stories whetted my appetite to view these wonders myself one day, on this trip, or perhaps in future journeys to Central Australia.
*[Photo 11 & 12: Other Gorges to look forward to. Redbank (11) Ormiston (12) © C.D. Trudinger circa 1950]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022
*Feature Photo: Ellery Creek Big Hole © L.M. Kling 2021
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