The Green Centre

Where is this?

The hilly terrain perhaps rules out a lush green prairie. And true, the cloudy sky is a more familiar sight in dear old Blighty. But would you believe me if I said the photo was taken in the arid red centre of Australia, in the height of summer?



Miraculous, but true.

They were saying it was a 1 in 50 year event.



It could (almost) be an English country road.



But no, this is the East MacDonnell Ranges, a short drive from Alice Springs.


I’d always harboured a rather romantic image of Alice Springs. This place dead centre of the outback. So very remote. The origin of the Flying Doctor Service. And the School of the Air. Surely it would be a sleepy, cosy and community oriented sort of place? It isn’t a town geared up for tourism in any big way, not that that’s a bad thing. Perhaps it doesn’t help that the advice very strongly is to refrain from wandering the streets at night.

The town has a large indigenous population and despite recent endeavours towards more effective integration there is still a huge feeling of separateness. It’s not my place to dwell on the injustices of the past but suffice to say that history has not treated these people well and the British had a huge part to play in that. Not that I ever felt threatened in any way. I just found it all rather sad.



The red glow from this rocky outcrop was visible from many miles away and we turned off the road to take a closer look.



The Ghost Gum, Trephina Gorge, East MacDonnell Ranges

Estimated at 33m tall, the largest Ghost Gum in Australia and thought to be over 300 years old.



 We were in Alice Springs for just a couple of days, an opportunity to see some of the stunning landscape which surrounds it. A real experience of the outback. And I’m so glad we did, it is quite breathtaking.

I’d feared that we’d struggle to walk anywhere in temperatures in excess of 40C. Just stepping out of the airport felt like entering a furnace. Our allotted car had a deep scratch all down one side that wasn’t marked on the documentation. While Mike returned to the hire desk to remonstrate it rapidly became unbearable to stay inside the car without the aircon (he’d taken the keys) forcing me to find what little shade there was amongst the car park scrub. They must have known we were coming though, within hours the temperature dropped by several degrees.



Mountain ranges reminiscent of the Flinders Range in South Australia. I wonder if a snake had something to do with this one too?



Ormiston Gorge

The following day we struck out west, driving along the base of the 100 mile long West MacDonnell Ranges. At intervals along the road there are spectacular spots to stop and explore. And doesn’t the lushness add so much to this place? Fresh green leaves, red rock, the white trunks of the gum trees, blue(ish) sky, abundant water. It’s an absolutely stunning combination.



A near permanent waterhole, estimated to be at least 14 metres deep.



Just beautiful



Back on the trail, water flowed generously across the road. You can imagine my thoughts on crossing it. Mike had different ideas. “Pah. A mere puddle.”

Well, you decide. I swear it was even deeper on the way back. There was an information sign visible from the far side too. Finke River. How many puddles do you know of that have names?



The Ochre Pits

A sacred place where indigenous Australians used to mine for pigments used in painting, for ceremonies, medicinal use and trading. Quite incredible to see the layered colours in the earth set out in a palette from white through gold to crimson. Ochre has always played an important role in Aboriginal culture. The mine is still owned today by descendants of the Western Arrernte people.



Ellery Creek Big Hole

A tributary of the Finke River has cut a gorge right through the West MacDonnell range over the millennia, with years of flooding carving out the spectacular waterhole at its foot.



There was certainly plenty of water around back in January. And as it turned out, it was catching up with us. Fast.



Standley Chasm

As the skies darkened we optimistically paid our dues to enter this protected indigenous site and set off down the path. Floodwater gouged out the crevice in the rock here too, producing a chasm a staggering 80 metres deep. It’s best to see it at midday when the sun is directly overhead.

For us the timing was somewhat academic, large rainspots were starting to fall. As they got heavier we turned back to the path, a brisk walk that turned into a somewhat undignified legging it back to the car as the shower turned into a deluge.



Looking back the way we’d come!



But my favourite stop of all had to be here, Simpsons Gap.

The now familiar colours, the gently flowing water, the perfect juxtaposition of those three rocks give it an almost zen like feel.



Rock wallabies inhabit these slopes. I tried very hard to spot one but perhaps the rain had proved too much even for them.



Could you want for a more idyllic spot? Even more remarkable given that it’s a mere ten minutes from the outskirts of town.


The following morning, on the way out of Alice Springs, there was a car broken down in the middle of the road that I’m convinced hadn’t been there the night before. It was only 7.30 a.m. and it had already lost all of its wheels.

Maybe Alice Springs wasn’t the place I expected to find. But no-one can deny it has character.





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2017-10-26T10:15:36+00:00April 11th, 2017|Tags: |


  1. Linda B. April 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Every time you post about your trip the images are even more amazing. We visited a desert in Spring after a rainy winter and got to see it looking much different than usual. Always a treat to be able to have that kind of experience.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      In a way I sort of felt cheated because I wanted to see it looking all rugged and extreme. It’s a bit difficult feeling like you’re on an adventure when it could be England, complete with rain! But I know it was a rare treat and I’m privileged to see something out of the ordinary. We even saw the desert blooming, fabulous.

  2. susurrus April 11, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    This is a fascinating series of images. I’d have been reluctant to cross the ‘puddle’ too. I loved seeing the ochre pits and the chasm made me feel a bit claustrophobic. I’d not do well potholing, that’s for sure!

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      I am susceptible to claustrophobia too but the chasm was OK. Difficult to see from the photo, it was impossible to get the whole thing in, but it’s open at the top and that made it better somehow. Also it’s wider than it looks, I should have stood in it for scale! Potholing would be absolutely terrifying for me. Constricted spaces and water… urgh!

  3. plantbirdwoman April 11, 2017 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    I’ve been reading recently about torrential rains in Australia this spring. Apparently, some of it fell in the center – pardon me, centre.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      The Uluru National Park was closed for several days, we wondered whether we’d get in and there were certainly signs of flooding. Reading about the geological history of this area I guess they’ve seen it all before, albeit sporadically. Perhaps now it’s getting more frequent. Dreadful news from the Barrier Reef again this week.

  4. bitaboutbritain April 11, 2017 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Fascinating, Jessica. You’re right – the contrast between those colours is just fabulous and, to my eyes, unique. I particularly liked your 4th photo. My knowledge of Alice Springs is limited to Nevil Shute(!), so it sounds as though I have a rather romantic/idealised image in my head that, sadly, needs to change. Not as fair dinkum as I thought, evidently… great post.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      Alice Springs is an interesting place and I’m glad we went. It would be nice if someone built an upscale hotel but I doubt the market is there to support it. Never mind, a bit of adventure now and then does no harm. And after all I do like to see the ‘real’ side of places we visit.

  5. jannaschreier April 11, 2017 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Ah, I’d completely forgotten about the ochre pits. It’s so lovely having my travels replayed to me! It’s an absolutely stunning part of the world. Whilst I’ve remembered, you must add Devil’s Marbles and the smaller, less famous, but I think even better, Devil’s Pebbles, to your next itinerary. A more confronting part of Australia than Alice Springs, but one of the most atmospheric, incredible places I’ve ever been.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Just the names were enough to set me off googling. Only in Australia. The marbles and pebbles do look rather interesting. I’d still like to do that drive from Adelaide to Darwin one day. Several days!

  6. wherefivevalleysmeet April 11, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Loved the natural colours in this post Jessica – the red rocks, the incredibly rich blue skies, the ochres and the greens – real eye candy

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      It’s a stunning combination isn’t it. Around the waterholes I would imagine it’s green all the time, but it was the views across the desert that got me. I never expected it to be that lush. It showed up even from the plane flying in.

  7. Amy at love made my home April 11, 2017 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Truly spectacular! Australia is an incredible place isn’t it!

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      It certainly is. Full of surprises!

  8. smallsunnygarden April 11, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    It’s so beautiful… You have no idea how the sight of those ochre cliffs fires the imagination of a potter: just thinking of all the clay and glaze colours that could be made from that! X)

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      The layers of the pigments are amazing and that it survives, looking as if it were only uncovered yesterday, in such a harsh environment.

  9. Jennifer April 11, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    The rocks remind me very much of the kind of rocky formations and cliffs you’d see in my neck of the woods, I almost thought you’d been here.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

      In that case I would definitely love New Mexico. I’ll be sure to let you know if we come, especially if you’ve been baking 🙂

  10. Diana Studer April 11, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    How magnificent to see that water and the green response

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      I would love to see South Africa blooming after the rain. Now that would be quite something. Fingers crossed for a wet winter for you this year.

  11. Sue Garrett April 11, 2017 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    You have captured some truly beautiful images and certainly packed lots in to your visit.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      It’s such a long way to Australia, we wanted to pack in as much as we could. It was a balance between seeing as many places as possible and having enough time in each to relax a bit.

  12. Bonnie April 12, 2017 at 12:05 am - Reply

    I enjoyed a Netflix (U.S.) film about a cross-country drive in Australia, maybe you’d like it: Last Cab to Darwin. Both your lovely photos and this film gave me a much better idea of the beauty of some sparsely populated areas of Australia. Envious of your visit!

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      That sounds right up my street, I’ll look it up. Thanks Bonnie. I really loved the outback. I only wish we’d had more time and a proper 4×4.. so much left to explore!

  13. Kris P April 12, 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Just when I think you couldn’t possibly serve up any more glorious scenery from your trip through Australia, you do! The first few photos were vaguely reminiscent of some of the inland areas of Southern California after this winter’s drought-busting rains but then you showed the gorge, and the chasm, and those lovely pools of water.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Australia is a truly glorious country Kris and so diverse. It’s not difficult to capture beautiful images. Some of those waterholes are permanent apparently. They must look even more refreshing in a normally dry summer.

  14. germac4 April 12, 2017 at 8:37 am - Reply

    I have never been to Alice Springs, but how incredible to see it when it is so green….it brings a different sort of beauty to the red rocks. I loved your photo of Simpsons Gap, as you say, almost Zen-looking with the still water and the magnificent rocks dotted around. What a great trip you did!

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      It was a great trip. I’m left with a love of Australia that will stay with me forever, regardless of whether we get a chance to return. I think we were very lucky that the temperatures cooled. Some of those places would have been unbearable at 45C and no shade!

  15. Rosie April 12, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Such beautiful photos, the stillness, the colours, the heat all came across in them:)

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosie. That part of the country certainly provides some vivid images.

  16. derrickjknight April 12, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Lovely photographs, excellent text, and intriguing opening comparisons

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      It just seemed odd to me to see so much grass. Although a lot of it is spinifex, very typical of central Australia but not something you want to meddle with particularly. Spiky in the extreme!

  17. Brian Skeys April 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    The colour and shapes of the rock formations are wonderful, I particularly like picture seven.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      I loved those rolling hills with all the strata. The sun on it really picked it out as we were driving along and warranted a stop to take a photo. But then there were so many places like that.

  18. An Eye For Detail April 12, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    So very beautiful, and especially with all that green! My daughter had been to Alice Springs so I sent this on to her. What gorgeous country and so dramatic: you are indeed very fortunate to have seen it.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      Very fortunate to have seen it looking so green, not something I expected at all.

  19. Beth @ PlantPostings April 12, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Gosh, I’ve enjoyed your posts about Australia! It’s definitely on my bucket list for so many reasons. It will be hard to decide which part of Australia to visit, since it’s so diverse. Your images are stunning, as always!

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      That was my problem exactly, where to go. There’s just too much choice. In the end, apart from the all too brief excursion to the centre, we stayed mainly on the east side. I hope we get a chance to do the west on a future trip. I’d like to go north west, but that would need to be at a different time of year, much of it is impassable in ‘the wet’. And then there’s Tasmania. And New Zealand.. oh, oh, oh!

  20. snowbird April 12, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    wow, the colours in the rocks are simply stunning, you where certainly spoilt for choice re those beautiful landscapes, it must have been wonderful friving there, it looks deserted, the way I like it. That puddle would have set my teeth on edge too!!! xxx

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      I suppose, in fairness to Mike, I’d better let on that we did have an idea how deep that ‘puddle’ was. A Land Rover got there the same time as us, from the other side. As we watched the chap’s wife got out in her wellies and started walking across, testing the depth. Like I’d have done that.. not. We let her get all the way across, and passed the time of day with them both, before starting out ourselves..

  21. hb April 13, 2017 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Wonderful. Thank you for another post on the marvels of Australia.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      It is a marvellous place. Thanks Hoov.

  22. kate@barnhouse April 13, 2017 at 10:36 am - Reply

    Such a powerful series of very fine images, Jessica, Those rock formations are stunning and how interesting to hear about the ochre pits.

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      I was fascinated by the ochre pits. And we were able to walk right into them too. Signs say don’t touch and it looks like that is respected. Thank goodness.

  23. Rabbitquilter April 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    It was bright red and loads of tumbleweed when I was there!!! And ‘dryz a bone’ and very hot!!!! Loved every minute, I also went to The Olgas and had Billycan tea!!! Think I prefer PG tips!!!!!!!! Your amazing photos are stirring up some fabulous memories for me!!! Thank you!!😍

    • Jessica April 13, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome. The Olgas will be in the next (and sadly, last) Australia post. Aren’t they fabulous? I managed to escape Billycan tea, just as well by the sound of it.

  24. Virginia April 14, 2017 at 4:09 am - Reply

    Thank you for a spectacular post, Jessica. I would never, in a million year, have guessed that was anywhere near the centre! We saw the dessert flower in from San Diego some years ago, and that was pretty spectacular, but this would be even more unusual.

    • Jessica April 15, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

      Even the locals were surprised at how green the desert had become. It was a spectacular sight. I’d still like to see it properly red though!

  25. Cathy April 14, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Made me think about the Town Like Alice two part series from years ago which the last time I looked was still not available on DVD. I did record it on video but sadly it never seemed to play properly. It made such an impact on me at the time

    • Jessica April 15, 2017 at 9:16 am - Reply

      I’m not familiar with that one. It would be interesting to see what their take on Alice was. It was certainly a contrast from all the other places we went, but that’s no bad thing. Travel is all about discovery.

  26. John April 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    This looks like it was a trip of a lifetime! You have inspired my wife and me with your pictures and stories to strike out for the land down under!

    • Jessica April 15, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Hi John and welcome. It was certainly that and I’d do it all again tomorrow. If you get a chance, go!

  27. Sarah April 22, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Amazing pictures and scenery there is so much contrast in the different landscapes you explored on your trip to Australia. I wouldn’t have expected so much green against the red rocks. I thought it was very hot when we experienced temperatures in the 30’s. Sarah x

    • Jessica April 23, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Overall it wasn’t as hot anywhere as I’d been expecting. Which is probably a good thing.. we did far more, especially walking, which I don’t think we’d have managed if the temperature had been really high.

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