Arltunga Historical Reserve – Ross River Homestead – N’Dhala Gorge (Northern Territory)

17/09/15  Ross River was 73kms further along the rough Binns Track from Ambalindum Station. We were on what was referred to as Section 2 of the track and were now well into the East MacDonnell Ranges. The country had become more spectacular with every kilometre and the track took us past massive ridges and hillsides as the ranges closed in around us. We could see in the strata of the exposed cliff faces how enormous forces had lifted up and twisted the ancient flat seabeds to form these mountain ranges. In some places the strata was almost vertical; in others it twisted back on itself like rope. White, blue and pink wildflowers covered the hillsides, and in the flats between the ridges, River Red Gums lined the presently dry sandy creek beds. Photos go nowhere near to capturing the physical presence of these immense ranges.

The Binns Track passed through Arltunga Historical Reserve, the site of Central Australia’s first major settlement following the discovery of gold in the late 1880s. At that time, Alice Springs hadn’t yet been established. The harsh conditions, lack of water and extreme isolation caused most of the activity to cease within twenty years. But the dry conditions that were so harsh on the miners helped preserve the sites and the historic buildings have not altered much over time.

We looked through the Police Station and Gaol built in 1912 and the ruins of the township site, and walked the trail to the old MacDonnell Range Reef Mine located in the surrounding hills.

The Arltunga Visitor Centre contained lots of information and displays about the history of the area.

 When we entered Arltunga Historical Reserve, we also crossed back over the Tropic of Capricorn and were now officially in cooler climates. Whether there is any truth to that theory or not, I don’t know but the days and nights since then have been noticeably cooler – our reason for heading south. The next morning, we took the back track from our camp at Ross River Homestead to N’Dhala Gorge and walked the narrow gorge trail to view the spectacular scenery and some of the 9,500 Aboriginal petroglyphs (rock engravings) that are up to 10,000 years old.

In an absolute fluke of luck, Di found on the walking path a rubber tip for a hiking stick to replace the tip she’d lost at Gunlom Falls two weeks earlier. Hope its previous owner is heading up that way so they can perhaps replace their lost one with ours…

“It was the kind of pure, undiffused light that can only come from a really hot blue sky, the kind that makes even a concrete highway painful to behold and turns every distant reflective surface into a little glint of flame. Do you know how sometimes on very fine days the sun will shine with a particular intensity that makes the most mundane objects in the landscape glow with an unusual radiance, so that buildings and structures you normally pass without a glance suddenly become arresting, even beautiful? Well, they seem to have that light in Australia nearly all the time.” – Bill Bryson

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