Outback 3 West MacDonnell Ranges: Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm differed from the water-gouged gorges we'd seen up until then. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the earth's crust was stretched in this region; then magma filled in the 'stretch marks'. The magma cooled to form dolerite, an igneous rock that was softer and more easily eroded than the surrounding quartzite, principally by a small creek's flood waters. Today, there is no dolerite left in the Chasm and the sheer quartzite walls rise to 80 metres.
Forty-six kilometres west of The Alice, we joined Larapinta Drive: the turning to Standley Chasm was 6 km nearer the town. It is located in a private reserve owned and run by the Iwupataka Aboriginal Land Trust. There is a $10 entry fee. I regret to say that, during my straw poll conducted at Ormiston Gorge, there was criticism of this charge; but the Land Trust receives no funding and runs the attraction as a business. The Kiosk Cafe offers meals, refreshments and gifts in what is far more than a kiosk.
Ida Standley was the first school teacher in Alice Springs, in 1914, and the first non-Aboriginal woman to visit the Chasm, which the Traditional Owners call Angkerle. The walk takes about 30-40 minutes there and back and is not challenging, although the path is rocky in places. The gully gets narrower and narrower and is filled with a variety of plant species – some of them rare – ranging from Grevilleas to MacDonnell Ranges Cycads. An hour either side of midday is supposed to be the best time to go, when the sun is at its highest and most likely to illuminate the walls, which otherwise present a challenge photographically.
I wish I could report that, from a visitor's point of view, Standley Chasm is well looked after, but I can't. There's a lot of 'stuff' lying around, some of which is rubbish. Pipework and cables aren't buried properly, and routine maintenance hasn't been done. In places the boardwalk is loose, so it bangs as you step on it, reducing your chances of spotting wildlife, especially shy Black-footed Rock-wallabies. It's all a bit down at heel, except the toilets, which looked brand spanking new.
We didn't see Rock Wallabies, and the only bird we were able to positively identify was a Grey Honeyeater. This visit was in sharp contrast to my last, when I saw no other humans, and nature laid on a spectacular show in the form of a thunderstorm. The rumbles grew louder as we walked up the gully, but the heavens didn't open until we were right inside the Chasm. I remember flattening myself against the wall in the hope that a slight overhang up above might shelter me from the downpour. It didn't.
This post was last edited on 1 October 2015