By Bev Malzard
Get set to have your breath taken away by some of the oldest rock gorges on the planet right here in Australia. Each one is uniquely different and will certainly feature in your insta feed and live long in your memory. When you’re there, find yourself a quiet spot away from the other tourists and take it all in.
Ormiston Gorge: In the West McDonnell National Park is the picturesque area with a waterhole for swimming – and if it’s hot outdoors the water may be quite chilly. There are some brilliant walking trails here – but keep the walks to the morning or late afternoon during summer.
The Katherine River rises in Arnhem Land and cuts through the ancient Nitmiluk National Park that boasts spectacular gorges. Hidden caverns, caves, escarpments and wide valleys are what will fill your eyes with the splendor of this powerful region.
Known by its Aboriginal name, Kariu Kariu, Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve is one of the most awesome – as in be totally awed – destinations in the Territory. Massive orange and red boulders sit higgledy piggledy atop each other in a broad desert playground.
This is where you can let your mind roam free to try and understand how this granite Lego set originated from.
Cool down in the Elsey National Park and chill out from overwhelming heat on a hot summer’s day. Here at Mataranka are a couple of super pools – Bitter Springs, Thermal Pool and Rainbow Spring. The pools are surrounded by paperbark trees and shaded by palm forests.
There’s a faithful replica of Jeannie Gunn’s home (author of We of the Never Never) and the pub on the highway is where you’ll feel the earth move as the leviathan road trains speed past.
Standley Chasm gets top billing in the West MacDonnell National Park. The ranges were formed more than 800 million years ago – and were once higher than the Himalayas. Stroll through the chasm and be transported to a sublime past. Best time to walk through is just before or after noon when the sun strikes the chasm and day turns to bright orange . . . pretty damn spectacular.
Litchfield National Park is only a speedy 100km south-west of Darwin. More magnificent spring-fed waterfalls flow from a plateau creating beautiful crocodile free (true) swimming retreats. Florence, Wangi and Tjaynera falls are the most impressive. The whole area is a diverse landscape that takes in most of the Top End habitats. Can get crazy crowded in school holidays.
Kata Tjuta is the little sister formation from Uluru. This is the rock’n’roll location of 36 stupendous, domed and coloured shapes spreading 35sq.km. Walk through the Valley of the Winds, winding through crevices and gorges.
The Walpa Gorge Walk is shorter and reveals some rare and delicate blooming flowers. This place was known as The Olgas until recently when it reclaimed its rightful moniker. (Wear a cork hat – even if you look ridiculous – the flies are fierce.)
There’s nothing quite like the first sighting of Uluru, your heart skips a beat as you see the great and grand monolith rise from the desert. Australia’s beating heat, the rock is that and so much more. A totem of the spiritual symbolism at the centre of our continent and significant site for many Aboriginal clans deserves and earns the word ‘unique’.
Probably the most photographed natural wonder of the world was until recently climbed over, scrambled on and generally disrespected by past visitors. It was another time . . . now, absorb its peaceful resting beauty and watch for the extraordinary colours that change according to the weather.
If you are lucky enough to be at Uluru during heavy rainfall (and it does happen) you’ll watch icing running down the biggest cake in the world, a sight to behold.
Another of the many gorgeous gorges is Katherine Gorge, down the ‘track’, 320km from Darwin. Take a boat cruise through this spectacular gorge. Look up, look up, at the craggy, rustic walls. The nearby town of Katherine is known as the place where “the Outback meets the tropics”.
World-heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is by far the most amazing environmental wonder in all of Australia. Many habitats from desert, sandstone hills, thundering waterfalls, monsoon forests to freshwater plains – this is an incredible place to discover.
Possibly some of the oldest Aboriginal rock-art is in the natural galleries here depicting life, extinct creatures and the first contact with Europeans. Crocodile Dundee introduced the world to Kakadu and everyone who has visited is the richer for it. Cruise the Yellow Water wetlands and snag a croc – well, photograph one up close and personal.
And some sage advice- keep your mouth shut while on Nourlangie Rock, there have been reports of flies entering gaping mouths – beware.