It is but a stone’s throw out of Alice Springs but once you leave the verge of The Old South Road and round the corner in past Pinch Bore, you may think that you have left civilisation as you know it and that you are now in really remote country.
On a typical winter day in Central Australia we ventured once again in search of Hells Gate Pass. The pass lies in the Ooraminna Ranges and is part of what has been Deep Well Station for many years. The pioneering Hayes family arrived in 1884 with horses and bullock teams loaded with steel telegraph poles to replace the original wooden poles on the Overland Telegraph line. They took up the Deep Well Station lease and it is still theirs today. The 450, 000-acre property is situated between the MacDonnell Ranges and the Simpson Desert and it boasts magnificent red sand hills, weathered rocky outcrops, and a profusion of plant and wildlife.
We had obtained permission from the station owner to access the area and armed with a packed lunch, some cold drinks and my trusty GPS mapping we set off in the Discovery for a day in the bush. For once in a long time, I was now the passenger hanging on to grab handles so as not to bounce out of my seat.
Driving along a short distance past the Alice Springs Airport and the Old South Road we remarked that the road was in quite good condition. We had not been this way for many years and were surprised to find the Ewaninga Art Site, now on our left instead of as we remembered it, on our right. Ha! They must have built a new road. Sure enough they had. The (old) Old South Road had become too dangerous as continuous grading and flash floods during the summer seasons had cause the road to wash out to a depth up to two metres in places and unsuspecting tourists found themselves in dire straits during one of the flash floods.
Closer to Mount Ooraminna we had to find a track crossing over to the old road so that we could find the station track to Pinch Bore. The latter bore lies within s mall pound and the next watering point for stock is some eight kilometres away through the range.
There were no watering points towards the markets in Alice Springs around the range to the west and the small pound around Pinch Bore was surrounded by flaky sandstone ridges making it impossible for cattle to be driven out of the pound to the north. So the station owners decided to cut a short pass through the sandstone using rudimentary tools and dynamite and it must have been quite a task as the place became known as Hells Gate Pass. This pass would also serve as a gateway to the Arltunga Goldfields, where sales of meat on the hoof to the hungry miners was at a premium. At the entrance of the pass the words written in charcoal states ‘Jack Gowan..Stuck Here’. The sandstone base has been worn out into track grooves over the years from the various vehicles spinning wheels over it.
Further along to the north of the pass, a ridge of granite protrudes out from the surface of the valley and in accordance with the reference to Hells gate it is known as Devils Wall. Strange intricate rock art figures may be seen on some of the weathered surfaces of the rock and a rock on the ground showed where spears had been sharpened over time.
Once out of the valley the country opens up to some low hills and Hells Gate Bore comes into view. At that point I saw what looked like a bulldozer blade scar running up one of the hills nearby. We looked through the binoculars and then tried to get to it but we were thwarted by fences on either side. The scrape will remain a mystery until explained by someone who knows.
Leaving Hells Gate Bore we crossed over a deep dry creek and saw another track heading straight up a hill in the distance. So off we went to investigate this one. It became evident that it was much steeper and rougher driving on that anticipated and Low Range gearing was needed. The Discovery did well however over the stones even though it is shod with street tyres. Once at the top the track came to its end. The vista from there is spectacular looking over the plains towards Yam Creek and the Santa Theresa Community. A short winding track took us back to the bottom of the hill. We can only surmise that some of these later tracks had been put in when the station was running tours of the station out of the Ooraminna Bush Camp.
We were soon out of the station country and on to the Old Andado to Alice Springs Road which took us back to our start point at the edge of the Alice Springs Airport.
It had been a great drive out into the ranges.