Optional first step; visit the award winning and nearby Alice Springs Desert Park, it is one of best interpretations of landscape anywhere. It is run by Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife and they have done an excellent job in partnership with the local Arrente people. You will come away from this with an understanding of the landscape and a respect for the Arrente, custodians of this land for millennia.
Allow a half-day for this, details at www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au
Finish the Park visit at the theatrette, which leaves you with a stunning view of the feature on which the cache stands.
Now that you have a sense of place, get prepared. You absolutely must have:
- A good hat
- 30+ suncream
- Stout walking shoes
- Minimum 1 litre of drinking water.
Start out well hydrated.
Download or key in the additional waypoints NOVOTEL, BOTTOM and TOP shown below.
The route is short, only 900m horizontally and 200m vertically from the road, but it is steep and rubbly, November to April can be dangerously hot, there is almost no shade and there is no water whatsoever en route. Just because the route is entirely within the Alice Springs town boundary doesn’t make this place any less arid. Allow 40 minutes to the top, 25 minutes to get down, you will want to linger on the top, it has lovely views over the Alice and to the empty South. A map will not help other than to interpret the view.
The local harriers run up here in ten minutes but they are acclimatised, you just take it easy, OK? There is a safe route passing through the two waypoints BOTTOM and TOP; try to pass through these waypoints. The route winds up the spurline. Before you leave BOTTOM try to identify the safe ramp up through the rockband to TOP.
There is actually a zigzag track marked by the harriers with little white arrows on the rocks leading from BOTTOM to TOP but it is not obvious, it is criss-crossed with roo trails and you will almost certainly lose it. When you do lose the track don’t worry just stay out of the gully and keep to the crest of the spurline until you hit the rockband cliff, waypoint TOP should then be on your left up a safe ramp. You should stay on your feet throughout, if you find that you are using your hands, get back onto the spur and reassess your route. The rock is crumbly and makes unreliable handholds; don’t go rock climbing, it is not necessary. If you do arrive at the ridge summit anywhere other than TOP get a GPS fix before you leave the edge to avoid getting bluffed out on the descent.
Once on the top you can romp around safely and easily for miles, you’ll love it. Thirty meters around the cache is safe territory, so if your GPS is leading you to search around anything you can fall off there is an error somewhere. The whole route is safe, up and back, if it doesn’t seem safe to you go back and reassess.
On descent go to TOP, look for the ramp down and to your left leading to the spur. Stay on you feet.
Early morning or evening avoids the heat November to April and the sunsets can be lovely from up there but check the moon to avoid getting benighted as you need to see the way down the scarp. Back at BOTTOM reward yourself with a cold drink at the conveniently placed NOVOTEL waypoint.
The two best ways to experience the Territory are on foot or from the air. You have to use the road but really, get airborne or get trekking. If you can’t get airborne, climb something. Ask Parks about the Larapinta trail in the West MacDonnells if you want a camping trail. TOP RED CENTRE is as near as dammit to the centre of Australia. The really-truly centre depends a lot on the mathematics used and what land mass is included in the calculations. The official geocentric point is not far away and there is a cache there, GEOCENTRICAL GC7CED, which you can visit with a 4WD. Find out more about the centres of Australia at Centre of Australia by this author.