Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

MacDonnell Mountain Tour


I forgot something from last night. There was a crescent shaped in the sky. That is my favorite phase of the moon. Right above it was Venus. I couldn’t get a photo. The most interesting part is that the crescent was at the bottom – making it look like a smile. Wish I could have gotten a photo of it, but it was too dark.

Rose and I had to be picked-up out on the road this morning at 8:05. Jan, Pip, and Sue walked us out to the road and waited for the Emu Run Tour bus to arrive. After we got on the bus, Jan continued to dance around with her new scarf that Kate gave to her. It was just beautiful to watch her as our bus drove away from Campfire at the Heart.

Our first stop was at the grave of John Flynn. John had traveled vast distances in the area. He found almost a complete lack of services available for the people in the outback. He pressured the church to form the Australian Inland Mission. He was the founder of the Royal Flyers Doctor. They brought medical services and supplies to the outback. He was also involved in the School of the Air, which brought educational services to the outback.

In 1952, the year after Flynn’s death a large round stone was transported from south of tenant creek to be used as a marker for his grave.  The stone was taken from the highly sacred woman site of Karlu Karlu (devils marble) which is tied to many of their stories, personal names, and cultural beliefs. For over 20 years it’s owners, the Warmumungy and Katrej people pressed for the return of the stone.  The have finally been able to move their sacred stone back to its original place and put a different stone at the site where Flynn’s ashes have been placed.

This is John Flynn's Grave

We drove to Simpsons Gap where we had been with the Interplay group. This time I stayed on the path instead of walking up the water.


Rose and I did not walk all the way into the Gap since we had already been there, Besides, was early in the morning we were lucky enough to see Rock Wallabies. There were running around in the rocks across on the other side of the water. Their tails are really long. It was fun to watch one of them eating the shrubs.


By the way, the Gap is compressed sedimentary rock. The youngest rocks in this area are dated back to 900 million years ago. This area would have been taller than Mount Everest.

Then we drove to Stanley Chasm or Angkerle Atwayte. Ida Stanley began the first school in Alice Springs. She later married John Flynn. Michael, the tour guide, told us that the difference between a gap and a chasm.

  • A chasm was formed from earthquakes, rubbing rocks together, or from lava.
  • Gaps are from erosion caused by wind and water.

There are Cycads here.


There was a sign that gave a bit of a different explanation about the procreation of Cycads. Here it said that the grub that lives at the bottom of the Cycad is called a Thrip. Every few years when the Thrip become attracted to the perfume and heat of the mature male pollen cones is when they feast on the pollen. Then they retract into the female Cycads which convey an even more intoxicating aroma. There are Cycads in Syria that are 500 to 1000 years old.

The rocks along the path in Stanley Chasm are black. We were told that algae create the black color.


I liked this Gum tree trunk leaning over the path.


The walls of the chasm were beautiful.


Our next stop was to see the ochre. There are several colors. We were told that the

  • Red ochre is the most symbolic and feared color. It is used in ceremonies for men.
  • The white and yellow are used for decorations.
  • It is the men’s responsibility to dig the ocher.
  • Men are also responsible for making sure that the women have enough ochre.
  • Ochre mixed with fat grease is used to heal various ailments. It is applied directly to the affected area.
  • Ocher and eucalyptus leaves are rolled together and used for medications for head and chest colds. Red ocher is mixed with it and rubbed into aching muscles.

When preparing medicine, it is important to sing over it. It enhances the healing power of the ochre. This is the custom known as wuyla (pronounced woolya) by Western Arente.


We went to Ormiston Gorge. Some of us climbed up to see the view in the gorge. There were approximately 225 steps with some gravel paths going up to get there.


Michael prepared our lunch. It was a great lunch.


He told us that he knew the young man named Michael in the shop made the best Iced Chai in the world.   I was ready for a treat. But Michael was not there. Elise, his wife, called for him to return to the shop to make one for me. It was delicious.


It turns out that Michael is originally from Federal Way in Seattle. Elise originally came from Toronto.

There were Spinifex Pigeons hanging around. Apparently they are not very common, but had learned to hank around for the crumbs from visitor’s food.


The next place we visited was Glen Helen Gorge. We walked to a place were people were swimming. I took off my shoes to test out the temperature of the water. It wasn’t to bad so I waded in for a bit. When I saw other’s swimming, I was sorry I hadn’t brought my bathing suit (bathers in Australia).


The girls who were swimming encouraged me to come in so I couldn’t resist. A woman from our bus was standing next to me so off came the shirts, pants, bags, and glasses which she held for me. I figured that if I could do it in Antarctica, I could do it in this water that was a great deal warmer. What fun!!


The weather was warm so I dried off pretty quickly.

When we finished swimming, we stopped at the snack shop.  I loved the shoes on top of the piano.  It reminded me of boots being left on the Camino.


Next we went to see a view of Mount Sonders. Apparently the Aboriginal people see one of the rock formations as a woman lying down. There is some story about her throwing her baby off into the crater whole.


The last stop on this tour was to a place called Ellery Big Hole.  It was another opportunity to go swimming.  Even the woman who held my clothes at Glen Ellen Gorge took her clothes off to swim



Back in Alice Springs we checked into our motel and then headed out to dinner.  We didn’t like the place that Michael suggested and went looking for the Epilogue where we had eaten about a week ago.  It was closed.  So we went to a place called the Red Ochre.   We were so surprised when we found Kate and Pip eating dinner there.  It was so much fun to see them again and have dinner together.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

3 thoughts on “MacDonnell Mountain Tour

  1. Awesome! I believe Alice Springs was a setting in a book I read recently by Liane Moriarty.
    That grave marker was astounding!


  2. Your photos brought back my memories of our visit to the West McDonnalls when we were in OZ – nice!


  3. Really enjoying the pictures.Looks like you are having a ball…..


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