The Walpa Gorge is a 1 hour return walk amongst giant red sandstone formations that will slowly close in around you. Walking here is a bit surreal, like exploring he moon’s rocky surface. The valley floor is rough and littered with stones and pebbles, you need to watch your step. Since the kids are tired I explore the gorge on my own. Around me there are still a number of other visitors, but the sun is setting fast, the shadows growing longer and longer with each passing minute.
The walk rises slowly but steadily. Along the way, rough boulders and rocks, pockets of green. To the left the ephemeral stream appears, fringed by shady trees and thick shrubs. The walls of the sandstone domes above are sprinkled with holes, like Swiss cheese.
In the late afternoon sun the colours of the stone a reflecting back in bright red and oranges. In the shadows, the red is almost black.
The path is marked with lose pebbles. The only evidence of human presence are occasional bridges that help across the worst sections and a bench or two. I realise I am alone in this alien landscape, the last walkers that had returned from the end of the walk had passed me minutes ago. Not a human soul in front of me or behind me. However, some echoes carrying human voices, some kids having a go each. The atmosphere is almost eerie – the light subsiding, the canned voiced reflecting from the stone surfaces, not a human in sight. Suddenly I realise I might be the last visitor of the day. A sprained ankle and I might not be able to make it back to the camper van before the last light disappears.
The thought is uncanny and a bit frightening. I make sure I treat more carefully, now acutely aware of my own vulnerability in this harsh Australian environment.
I stumble upon a little Garden Eden in this desert of stone – a little pond with clear water, framed by tall weeds, welcomed by a variety of shrubs that cherish the unusual offering of water. I marvel at the sight for a few minutes before arriving at the end point of the walk – a viewing platform suspended over grasses and bush vegetation that is partly unique to this little place on earth. From the platform which is mine alone this late in the day I enjoy the most enchanted view of the narrow opening of the gorge, with clouds of green vegetation covering the opening like gigantic moss.
It is time for me to go. With no one around me I return as quickly as possible to the car park, escaping the shadows and the silence around me until I find myself again in the company of fellow travellers. Before returning to our campsite we stop one last time to see The Olgas bathed in the warm light of the setting sun. Tomorrow we will leave the Red Centre behind us, heading back to Alice Springs to continue our road trip to Cairns.
>>> Australian Outback Travel Blog – click here for related articles <<<