Tuesday, 22 August 1995

Standley Chasm

The dreaded school work took precedence on our last morning in Alice Springs.

The real event today was a visit to Standley Chasm: the narrowest of the gorges in the West McDonnells. It is one of the Centre's great tourist attractions, owing to the affect of the sun on the sheer walls of oxidised sandstone.

We arrived at the Chasm at 11.30 am, paid our entry fee and hurried along the 700 metres of rocky track to the opening in the solid wall of mountains. There before us, was a truly incredible sight. Two walls of red and orange sandstone shot upwards, 100 metres, in straight vertical cliffs only nine metres apart. The sun was on the western wall when we arrived and over the next two hours we watched, spellbound, as the western wall darkened and the eastern wall lightened. Yellow became brown, orange and then deep red, as the sun trekked across the sky and stole inthrough the narrow opening above, illuminating the walls and floors.

The floor of the chasm is a notable contrast to the walls. Here, the broken stones which have fallen from above are a creamy white.

It was an extraordinary few hours, spoiled only by the number of people who traipsed through, spoiling photographs whilst posing for their own shots for family and friends back home ("Here I am at Standley Chasm"). Many of them stayed a few minutes expecting to see a miraculous change in colours in that time. In reality, it took the entire two hours to see the change in colour as the sun passed over. For much of this time, Sue maintained she hadn't seen any change. However, reflecting on the colours when we had first taken up our observation station, she relented.

Our special lunch of rolls, strawberries and apple juice was heartily consumed. We then walked through the chasm and explored one of the two smaller gorges whlch formed a Y intersection at the upstream end of the main chasm. Our rock clambering came to an end when we were faced with a walk along a log whilst holding onto a smooth cliff wall. At this point, I pulled the pin, mindful of my responsibilities, should I fall and hurt myself.

With the Standley Chasm experience behind us, we travelled back to Alice Springs, stopping at John Flynn's grave, at the foot of Mt Gillies. This completed a story which had started at Cloncurry several weeks earlier and Sam and I shot some video footage of the grave and Mt Gillies.

We retrieved our films and enjoyed seeing our efforts being rewarded with some decent shots of sunsets (plenty of these), landscapes, birds and animals. The shots from Kakadu had been excellent and we were pleased the weak point of our previous long trip through Victoria had been rectified during this trip.

Back at camp, we consumed dinner and with the younger children in bed, Chris, Sue and I caught up on a few tales and our journals. I reviewed our plans for the following days at Uluru, which had been extended by our quicker than planned journey south from the Top End. There was a keen sense of anticipation about our next destination.

Again we enjoyed the lack of "mozzies" and the evening cool. The strumming of an acoustic guitar and a mellow voice wafted in from a nearby camp as we completed our commitments for the evening and our last night in Alice Springs.

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