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OZ Top Spot #13 - Standley Chasm, via Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Standley Chasm, MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory
'It's just a short walk up the gorge starting over there,' the kiosk attendant told the three fit young women in front of us, waving casually towards the trail head.

Then it was our turn. Pilchard produced his senior's card.

'The track is uneven and rocky, and there's a couple of creek crossings so please take it easy and take your time,' the kiosk attendant told us. He pointed to the trail head, thus missing the venomous look Pilchard shot him.

But the clock was ticking, so jostling passing a few straggling Grey Nomads and ignoring the attendant's instruction, we raced up the track like people half our age, barely even pausing for photos of the magnificent cycad palms and other remnant vegetation from a previous, wetter age.

Entrance to Standley Chasm
'Late' isn't a concept normally associated with self-guided tours of gorges or other scenic marvels, but Standley Chasm, also known as Angkerle Atwatye to the local Indigenous people, is an exception.

Although spectacular at any time, the sun only enters the narrow gap between its sheer and towering walls around midday for about half an hour.

And that's when those red rock walls GLOW!

About 20 minutes too late on our only previous visit eight years ago, I took a couple of photos. On time for our June 2012 visit, the tally was closer to 200!

Well, almost.

As we entered the chasm and in our haste to hog the best spot bring you these photos, we stepped around a man lying in an awkward position on the rocky floor.

But before you judge us as heartless and shallow, he was no out-of-condition senior in need of resuscitation but a cameraman filming a sequence with 'Fred' for Grey Nomad bible favourite Caravan and Motorhome on Tour magazine's DVD insert!

Standley Chasm - RED Rock!  Northern Territory
Surrounded by a feeding frenzy of fans, Fred's strategic position at the head of the chasm made it difficult to reach the best vantage points.

But I guess that's why I was given elbows …

Privately owned and run by the Iwupataka Land Trust, Angkerle Atwatye is more commonly known as Standley Chasm, so named in honour of Ida Standley, Alice Springs' first school teacher and first non-Aboriginal woman to see this amazing place.

Now it's a popular stopping point for tourists at the start of their exploration of the magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges.

Out of Alice Springs in the middle of Australia's Red Centre, the ranges spread both east AND west from 'the Alice', and Standley Chasm is just a taste of what to expect along the way.

The gap between the walls - Standley Chasm, Northern Territory
I fear at one point I crossed the cameraman's line of vision, so the Caravan and Motorhome on Tour DVD #178 MAY feature a red-head in a green T-shirt manically taking photos.

But if she looks fat, you'll know the camera equipment was defective …

As we returned down the path, Pilchard plotting to challenge the young kiosk attendant to a race up the track, hordes of tourists continued to pour up the gorge to the chasm.

The urge to tell them they'd missed the best bit was ALMOST overwhelming.

Looking through Standley Chasm to the other side!
But Fred was right. No one leaves Angkerle Atwatye without a smile on their face!

If you need more convincing that Standley Chasm, Alice Springs and Australia's awesome Red Centre could be the start of a fabulous vacation, just check out the links below!

And if THEY don't tempt you, nothing will!


Only in OZ #22 - The Big Malleefowl, Patchewollock, Victoria

The Big Malleefowl overlooking the Patchewollock Railway Station, Victoria
The insatiable curiosity that leads me off the main road to explore an interesting sounding place or rumoured oddity isn't always rewarded.

The Big Malleefowl sizes up against the camper trailer!
But in the tiny town of Patchewollock, deep in the Victorian Mallee and just off the Hopetoun/Walpeup road, I hit paydirt.

Big time!

Unmarked on any tourist literature (that I'd seen) Patchewollock hosts one of the most bizarre Australian Big Thing I've ever seen.

So far, anyway.

The Big Malleefowl, constructed almost entirely from painted corrugated iron, is perched near the restored railway station and goods shed, classified by the National Trust. Thanks to the decades of relentless country Australia de-railing by successive governments, the trains no longer run.

The beautifully patterend Big Malleefowl, Patchewollock, Victoria

And neither does the Big Malleefowl. A little unsteady on its feet, the orange netting around its claws stops people adults children from attempting to climb it.

The Big Malleefowl against the backdrop of its home town, Patchewollock
The heartland of the vulnerable Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) is unsurprisingly the Mallee country and nearby Wyperfeld National Park is a known habitat. This notoriously shy bird incubates its eggs on the ground in a large mound of earth and leaves, so is therefore under threat from both bushfires and foxes, despite it's protective colouration that acts as camouflage.
Or perhaps the Big Malleefowl was designed to echo its megafauna ancestor, Progura naracoortensis ...

Whether its unknown maker/s intended it to be male or female is uncertain. And with no distinguishing characteristics between them, I'll wait for expert chicken sexer to make a determination!

I think they've captured its expression very well, don't you?!?!
But whatever its gender, I suspect Outback Patchewollock has scored itself an exclusive. While Malleefowl are found in other areas of Australia, I'd be amazed to find that anyone else had the foresight and vision to actually make a Big One!

And because it's an Australian endemic, I'm betting you won't see a Big Malleefowl anywhere else in the world!

Now THAT'S worth visiting Patchewollock for!!

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Australia: The Magnificent Emptiness

Daly Head, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

So many days at sea before a wondrous land loomed broad and high

Gorge, Central Australia
Its lush and glittering shores so far from home

And no one there!

Flinders Ranges, South Australia

So its emptiness, its bountiful emptiness

They claimed for a faraway queen.

White Cliffs, New South Wales

But the proud and ancient race who roamed these vast and trackless plains

Mt Warning, North New South Wales

And in their comprehending wisdom left the land untamed

Were here. For aeons

Cawnpore Lookout, Outback Queensland

At one with the emptiness, the all-embracing emptiness

To which their song breathed life.

Lake Lascelles, Hopetoun, Victoria

One distant day from beyond the stars, with alien ways and need for space

Dawn in Shepparton, Victoria

They'll find this broad and open land, so wild, unfilled, untamed -

West of Windorah, Outback Queensland

Sublimely red!

And see the emptiness, the magnificent emptiness

Stockyard Plan, via Waikerie, South Australia

To which its straggling settlements have returned.
Troubridge Island off Sultana Point, South Australia

Thank you for reading my 200th post!   I've enjoyed your company!!  Hope it's been as much fun for you as it has for me ...

For inspiring photography from REAL photographers, visit Nature's Footstep Inspiring Photography!  Enjoy!!


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #25 - Mt Hotham, Victoria

Snow on Mt Hotham, Victorian Alps

As the car gained altitude – all 1861 metres of it, to be precise – the temperature gauge was dropping faster than a beach towel in the tropics.

Entrance to Hotham Heights, Mt Hotham, Victoria
All the same, it was a warm-ish April day for Hotham Heights, Victoria's highest town perched precariously just below the Mt Hotham summit.

The outdoor thermometer showed 8° C, but I was going with the car gauge reading. 6° C seemed much more likely if the tendrils of cold creeping in through the air vents were any guide.

Parking the Silver Bullet on the exposed patch of bare windswept bitumen that passed for the car park, I stepped out into a wind so cold it hit me right in the … well, lets just say it sent me scuttling for the amenities!

Sadly, neither thermometer registered the wind chill factor I inexpertly estimated to be at least –20 …

Set up by women like the legendary 'Mother' Morrell to as a rest stop for miners travelling between goldfields, Mt Hotham lives up to its hospitable heritage by continuing to provide conveniences for travellers.

Situated in what would be the transit lounge if snow season had actually started, the amenities block was a welcome oasis of warmth from the stabbing blasts of frigid wind that treated my clothing with complete contempt.

View from the Mt Hotham Loo!

The Basin ...

... AND the tap!
But even more welcome was the proof of real civilisation I uncovered at the hand basin. Because whatever the season, at this Alpine altitude there's only one tap – and it's HOT!

The staggering view across the layer upon layer of Victorian Alps had my shutter finger twitching. But whether I could get any photos taken before my fingers froze solid was a near thing …
Mt Hotham:  Instant Ski Resort - Just ADD SNOW!!

Suffering for my art, be damned! Where's a brandy-bearing St Bernard when you need one????
Mt Hotham Scenery, Victorian Alps, Victoria

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