The following morning I got up, thawed out under a hot shower, and set off for the Western Macdonnell Ranges National Park. Alice Springs is situated in the middle of a range of mountains – the Macdonnell Ranges – that extend to the east and west, and along this range are various gorges and waterholes that make for a pleasant day's drive, especially as the tourist-conscious Territory government has sealed the roads to both sides of the range.
Heading west I visited Simpson's Gap, a pretty schism in the rolling red ranges with a pool of extremely cold water in the bottom (far too cold to swim in); Ellery Creek Bighole, a permanent rock pool with a lovely climb onto the surrounding mountains for a great view of the surrounding area; the Ochre Pits, an Aboriginal source of ochre, used for painting, healing and all sorts of other stuff; Inarlanga Pass, a brisk walk from the Ochre Pits, and thankfully well away from the tourists; and Ormiston Gorge, my final stop and home to a picturesque camping ground.
Ormiston Gorge is a not just a gorge, it's a pound too – a circle of mountains, like at Wilpena – and I'd fancied a good walk the next day; however, Wednesday didn't quite turn out as planned. The stomach bug I'd had since the Devil's Marbles, which I thought had subsided, flared up again on Tuesday night, and I had to spend Wednesday sitting in the shade, eating nothing but a little toast and Vegemite and drinking loads of water. To be honest, it's not so bad being ill in the middle of a stunning mountain range, it's just that I kept wanting to jump up and do the four-hour walk round the pound, but every time I stood up, the ground shook and the sky swam.
It would just have to wait: I was in no state to go walking, let alone continue the exploration along the road, which turned to gravel after Ormiston. I read a lot on Wednesday, mainly these terrible books that I'd exchanged for some of my terrible books with Ted and Gill. Still, when you're feeling crook and there's nothing else to do, you'll read anything, even what the blurb on the back cover so amusingly calls 'humour'. I didn't even have the energy to be annoyed at the lousy writing: I must have been ill. On Thursday I felt much better, despite the annoying German to my left, who whistled to himself all night and pottered around in a makeshift world of his own, just like Peter Ustinov in Logan's Run, and the loud-voiced French family to my right, who had managed to ensnare a couple of Aussies into a couple of glasses of wine and very, very small talk. I walked round the pound, a beautiful wander through Ormiston Gorge into a huge circle of mountains, and set off east, back to the Alice.
On the way I visited Glen Helen Gorge, with its surprisingly large amount of water, and Standley Chasm, which cost A$3 to visit, but which was worth it, with its very thin, towering crack in the rocks. I kept exploring past the chasm itself, despite the lack of a track and signs to keep off the rocks, and was rewarded by the most stunning ruggedness I'd yet seen in the Macdonnells; I think they stop you climbing the rocks because Elmer and Flo from Arkansas would probably slip and scuff an ankle, thus ensuring enough court action to close down the Parks and Wildlife Commission, but if you fly in the face of the bureaucracy, the views are well worth it.