Written by Jctravel1983 on 22 Nov, 2010
I myself, along with a good friend, drove through the Outback. It took a while before we arrived in Alice Springs, but I can already tell that the remote village was worth the drive. I myself went out three or four times (the fourth time…Read More
I myself, along with a good friend, drove through the Outback. It took a while before we arrived in Alice Springs, but I can already tell that the remote village was worth the drive. I myself went out three or four times (the fourth time I am less sure).A night out in Alice Springs? Follow my instructions and you will be guaranteed of a great evening/night.General infoAlice Springs is the second city of the state Northern Territory in Australia and is called simply "Alice" or "The Alice". The village has about 27,500 inhabitants and is located in the "red center" of the country. The traditional inhabitants were called 'Arrernte', this aboriginal tribe has lived for more than 50.000 years in the desert around Alice Springs. Through the city flows the river Todd, but nine times out of ten it’s completely dry. In summer the average temperature is around 38 degrees and in winter it can get around 7 degrees.Anybody there?Because everything is so remote you might think will there be somebody? Well the opposite is true. Alice Springs is the place of the famous Uluru Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta's. These are three great natural wonders of Australia. A number of large tour companies offer tours to these natural wonders and it is standard that at the end of the tour everyone here dives into the pub. Each year approximately 500,000 people go to the Ayers Rock alone.The big threeHere is everything done, these are the places where the tour companies and the locals gather, eat and drink. I've put them in chronological order. Annie's PlaceWhere: Traeger Ave 4. (Straight on from the Todd Mall)Close: Around 0:30.Start your evening here with a snack and a drinkRestaurantThe restaurant belongs to the same hostel and there is a very friendly atmosphere. The meals are inexpensive and they have every day of the week a new $ 5 meal. This is a full meal where you really get enough of and for five dollars. Great. The restaurant exudes not very much, there are large fans and you have two big long wooden tables where the tour groups are usually in the evening. On the left side of the restaurant, you have more tables where you can sit. BarThe bar and restaurant flow into each other. The beer is as expensive as the whole of Australia, if you want cheaper you can drink the best out of the "Jugs", here you pay on average $ 2 less and you get five glasses. Outside in the garden you have the best atmosphere. Here is live, background music. You can also choose to walk up the stairs and sit on the roof terrace, slightly better view but it gets later in the evening quite a bit colder. BojanglesWhere: Todd Mall 63 (a small 5 minute walk from Annie's, follow the crowd!)Close: late at night but at 3 o’clock it gets empty, then everybody goes to the next pub.You now had a bite to eat at Annie's and enjoyed a drink. If you're hungry you can eat at Bojangles, but here you pay three times more compared to Annie's Place. Welcome to the cowboy atmosphere! Bar:The bar in the middle and runs a full circle. The staff is very friendly and provide a very efficient service. They must be, because the beer really flows generously every night. They give beer on tap and they have also a good collection of beer bottles. Of course they also have wine, soft drinks and stronger drinks. Beer costs about $ 5 per glass, the standard price in Australia. Music and atmosphereThis is the cowboy place of the Outback. The music is varied and very luckily I am very reminiscent of a mistake 90 years celebration. On stage plays a DJ. All sounds good and there is a good atmosphere. CasinoWhere: 1993 Barrett Drive (go along with the pack, ask a local or buy a card).Close: In any case still open at 08:00, unfortunately.If you still have energy left after about 3 hours Bojangles you follow the crowd into the tent Casino. A bar / casino / restaurant. I'm there twice, but my memories, I especially have to get the photos. Luckily I still have some things in general! Now the real party animals remaining, along with the locals who have nothing else to do.CasinoA very dangerous area at the time. The casino is open 24 hours a day and is an ideal opportunity to get drunk gambling. They seem to encourage gambling under influence. Please do not spend more money than necessary. RestaurantAnnie's Place is cheap, Bojangles is already more expensive and Casino is the most expensive. You paid the highest prize for the dishes. I have once ordered a sandwich around 07:00, it was fast and friendly service and paid $ 12. Good service, nicely decorated tables and chairs and beautiful decorations on the wall. A classy place.BarNear the restaurant you will find the bar, the atmosphere and all the people are all night, bouncing back from Annie's Place. The tent is fairly "idiot-proof" (there can be little overturn or damage) is made. They give the same here as in the previous two bars, only here you pay something like $ 1 per drink more. Atmosphere and musicThe atmosphere was in my eyes just fine, but this was more fun because a large group of drunk people standing around me. They have a more hip music. After Bojangles is a welcome change in my opinion. Now back home, it's late, time to sleep!Close
Written by catsholiday on 17 Mar, 2010
THE ALICEEver since reading Neville Shute’s ‘A Town Like Alice’ when I was about sixteen, I’ve had this great desire to see Alice Springs. Alice is famous for a number of the more famous Australian icons such as the Flying Doctor Service and the…Read More
THE ALICEEver since reading Neville Shute’s ‘A Town Like Alice’ when I was about sixteen, I’ve had this great desire to see Alice Springs. Alice is famous for a number of the more famous Australian icons such as the Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air. It is also well known for its famous boat Henley on Todd; the river so rarely has water in it that this boat race is run by people ‘wearing’ or carrying boats with the bottoms cut out and carried along the dry river bed. The year there was water in the Todd River this boat race had to be cancelled! We flew from Darwin to Alice Springs which has a small airport but fresh and modern looking. It is possible to drive from Darwin via Katherine or up from Adelaide if you have time available and can cope with the very long and hot drive.SCHOOL OF THE AIR:From the airport we went straight to visit the School of the Air which is the largest (physically) classroom in the world. We were there in time for an assembly where all the teachers were introducing themselves to the pupils who were part of this school of the air class. There was a short film explaining how the service has changed over the years when they began using two way radios up to the present day and using the internet. It was very interesting and surprising how few children the service caters for. It is a very costly service and the children include those from the huge cattle farms and a number of Aboriginal children in isolated areas as well. THE ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE:We went from The School of the air to the Royal Flying Doctor service which serves a huge area geographically and is funded by the government for running costs but relies on donations for capital expenses such as the planes and equipment. We were given a talk before being allowed to view the working area of this amazing service We were advised that we should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day in the heat and we were able to enjoy some lovely cold tap water in the canteen. My husband enjoyed his first real Aussie meat pie and I had a small cold trifle which was jolly refreshing. THE FIRST TELEGRAPH STATION:We then went to the historical village built round the First Telegraph Station. There were more houses in the original settlement but still there and restored were the school teacher’s house, the Telegraph operator’s house, the barracks and a few other buildings such as the blacksmiths, the carriage and other storage buildings. All round the settlement were labels telling you a bit about each building and explaining how the people lived and who they were. There were photos of the families and other furniture and artefacts too. There was a building dedicated to an explanation of how half caste Aboriginal/white children were removed from their mothers and taken into care – educated and brought up in the settlement. There were some of these children’s stories retold on boards too which I found quite upsetting. It was a shameful period in Australian history which is still having an effect on these people’s lives today. If you have seen the film ’Rabbit Proof Fence’, then you will have an idea of how this awful idea was implemented.ANZAC MEMORIAL:We then went up to the Anzac memorial which is on a small hill and from there you get a good view of the whole of Alice and surrounding area. War memorials are greatly respected in Australian towns and this one is no exception. It is in a great position above the town and is kept very nicely.OUR BUSH BBQ:As part of our your we were offered an optional extra of a Bush BBQ. A couple who owned about 250 hectares local to Alice began this business of offering Aussie Bush BBQs to tourists on their farm. This 250 hectare farm is too small for cattle and too dry and infertile for anything to grow so they decided to ‘‘farm’ the tourist industry at $75 Aussie per head. They used to do this every day of the week but now they only do a couple each week. We calculated that in our group there were 40 people at $75 a head was not a bad evening’s work. They did nothing to the property just let it be the natural bush.They had built a large corrugated iron roofed shed beside the dry river bed. There were a couple of generators for electricity and the BBQs. They had a few enormous cool boxes for the drinks and the cold food.At 6.30 we were collected by Geoff and Alice in two mini vans. During the drive Geoff told us quite a lot about the local flora and pointed out ghost gums, red gums, coolabahs trees and nulla trees. When we arrived on their property he drove around looking for wallabies and we were lucky enough to see at least 20 of differing sizes, both males and females.We first went into the dry river bed and Geoff showed us how to throw a boomerang. Boomerangs are not thrown at an animal to kill it as some people think they are used to throw over a waterhole to make the water fowl fly and then they could be killed by spears or other weapons. The idea of it returning was to save going to find it or falling in the water. The throwing ability of our group was mixed – some truly pathetic attempts while others were quite good. It certainly gave us an appetite for our barbequing steaks which were ready to go on the fires as we were trying to throw our boomerangs.By this time the flies had disappeared and we were able to shed our glamorous fly nets and hope that our insect repellent would keep the mossies away. We made our way towards the fire and BBQ area where there was a large roofed hut with tables and chairs. We were offered beer, red or white wine or soft drinks and then Geoff made 3 big dampers in cast iron pots which he then put on cinders and placed hot cinders on the pots too. Then the meat was put on the Barbie – steaks and sausages which were really good and there was a choice of baked potatoes, beetroot, tomato and cucumber, coleslaw, pineapple and coconut. Desert was a huge piece of damper with golden syrup.After we had eaten our fill we then moved our chairs out into the open and Geoff gave us a star gazing guide and we looked up at the stars, we saw the Southern Cross and also a satellite. On our return drive back to our hotel in the minibus we were treated to a |CD of Australian folk songs such as ‘Waltzing Matilda’ ,’ Click go the Shears’ and other similar songs which rounded off a very Australian evening in the bush. It was a really great evening.For me this area and the Top End of Australia are the real Australia that you read about in books, the romantic stories of shearers, cattle drives, the Flying Doctors and the School of the Air. This is a tough life where the land unforgiving and harsh, where the flies are more plentiful than people. The flies are a pest and I really hated them. I was happy with my fly net as this kept them away from my ears and moth but I still couldn’t stand them buzzing around me. There is no way I could live out in this area. It is hot, 40°C and above for the summer months and then the flies all day, once the sun goes down you get a break from the flies but then out come the mosquitoes to chomp on your exposed bits. No, it was great to visit and see these Australian icons and I have a huge respect for those that live there now and an even greater admiration for those people that lived there in times past – they were a tough lot.Close
Written by actonsteve on 17 Mar, 2006
The dromedary camel stood in the middle of the red sand track and wouldn't let us pass. It was only 20 feet in front of us and the track was too narrow to drive around the grazing creature. The four-wheel-drive growled nearby until the camel,…Read More
The dromedary camel stood in the middle of the red sand track and wouldn't let us pass. It was only 20 feet in front of us and the track was too narrow to drive around the grazing creature. The four-wheel-drive growled nearby until the camel, spooked, headed off into the bush in a lumbering comical gait. There it blended in with the red earth, gum trees and spinifex.One of the highlights of the trip to Australia is the four wheel tour to Ayers Rock/The Olgas. This was spread over three days involving sleeping in the open for 2 nights and many, many hours travelling over bumpy desert roads. And of course the advantage of the four-wheel-drive is that you can get off the tarmack onto remote tracks. These petrol guzzling vehicles really do visit the inaccessible corners and you have a better chance of spotting wildlife from the bumpy trail. These are not for everyone, you spend a lot of time travelling. You get used to the bumping after a while. Your backside gets use to moving up and down of its own accord. But the rewards and sense of adventure you get are indescribable.Our route was very impressive. Imagine the routes spreading out from Alice Springs as a giant rectangle hundreds of miles across. In the top right hand corner is "the Alice" itself, heading south on a tarmacked road is the roadhouse of Erldunda - which makes up the southeast corner of the rectangle. The real attraction of Ayers Rock/The Olgas is in the southwest corner along the Lassetter highway, and Kings Canyon is in the northwest. A shortcut of a hundred miles is possible to Kings Canyon/Watarrka on the sandy track of the Luritja road. And to get back to Alice is another 200 miles along a newly carved sand track of the Ernest Giles Road. This is pretty tough terrain and our driver, Carolyn, could often be spotted wrestling with the steering wheel as if she was battling with a ships wheel at sea. But all the time she kept us on track and on schedule whilst pointing out the natural wonders of this part of the Northern Territory.Erldunda RoadhouseThe first stop on the first day was the Erldunda roadhouse smack in the middle of aboriginal territory. It is almost 200 miles south of Alice where the Stuart Highway turns west into the Lassetter Highway. It was a corrugated iron-roofed building, surrounded by sand and many road stops have captive animals to entrance the tourists. This one had a huge paper mache echidna and frilled lizard kept behind wire netting. But it was mainly a place for travellers to replenish water supplies, eat, and relieve themselves in the toilets helpfully labelled "blokes" and "sheilas." There are also beds for $50 a night.But as you move around you realise that this seems to be a transit point for those arriving/leaving for the aboriginal lands. Behind the cafeteria was a gallery showcasing aboriginal art. About 20 pictures lined one wall showing the artist and what tribe they belonged too. I was stunned on the sheer amount of aboriginal tribes - almost like a continent made of many nations. For sale were authentic didgeridoos, boomerangs and paintings on canvas. I bought one for $20 which showed a "snake god" and the woman who served me took the time to explain to me the legend behind it. Curtain Springs RoadhouseBlink and you will drive past Curtain Springs. It stands on a slight buff cliff overlooking the immensity of the Outback east of Yulara. The flat terrain is broken by Mount Connor which is like a miniature Uluru in its own national park and is often mistaken by overeager tourists for the monolith itself. Curtain Springs lies on the Lassetter Highway about 80 miles east of Ayers Rock, the dirt track of the Luritja Highway stretches north from here. This track cuts 4 hours off the route from Uluru to Kings Canyon but can only be traversed by 4 wheel drive vehicles.Overlooking the highway is a sandy buff which is a good photo opportunity for Mount Connor and about fifty miles to the northwest is Lake Amadeus. This is a massive salt lake in the middle of the territory covered by light salty crust. It made its name in Australian history as early pioneers trying to cross would lose their horses to the soft mud underneath once the crust cracked under their weight.Hazards of a different kind were at the roadhouse. Most of it is built on stilts overlooking the buff allowing the building of a "drop toilet." The only other place that these exists is sub-Saharan Africa and you need a strong stomach. Instead of chemicals to destroy the waste they have maggots. And woe betide anyone who looks straight down into the "drop." Ten feet below was a pile of refuse literally blue with crawling things.The Luritja HighwayDirectly north from Curtain Springs is the remote Luritja Highway. This is simply a dirt track that bumps and rolls through the spinifex to the Ernest Giles road near Kings Canyon and can only be traversed by four-wheel-drive vehicles. The advantage of this is that while you can spot goannas and hawks from the tarmacked major highways from the dirt track you can get up really close to the big game of the Australian Outback - the red kangaroos, the emus and herds of feral camels.I'll not deny the going is tough. First consideration is the hea—it was the Australian early spring but the temperature inside the four-wheel-drive reached 35ºC. You were constantly drinking water. Emus were the first animal we saw but they were far in the distance. The muscular shape of a red kangaroo was spotted bounding away through the bush but after an hour we turned a corner and there were a family of dromedary camels blocking the track. They moved off but a few minutes later we encountered an even bigger herd of twenty individuals including very cute white furred baby. I was stunned by the size of the dominant male, he must have been 12 feet high at the shoulder and spent his time herding the females together. We followed them for 20 minutes until they reached a drinking hole where we went off track to get as close as possible. I couldn't believe the size they had grown to in the Outback. They were introduced by Afghan stevedores in the 19th century, as they found they were ideally suited to the harsh climate.The Ernest Giles HighwayI let out a sigh of relief when we left the Luritja and clambered back onto the tarmack on the way to Kings Canyon. When we left it on day 3 we had another option. To get back to Alice we could either drive back the way we came via Curtain Springs and Erldunda or cut across country on a newly made track (it was so new they were still smoothing it) which cuts 4 hours off the journey and takes us 50 miles from Alice.The Ernest Giles track starts 100 miles east of Kings Canyon. Ernest Giles was a 19th-century explorer who was famous for losing his horses due to dehydration. The first 50 miles of this track is smooth so our four-wheel-drive could get up a bit of speed. But soon that ended and we were back to bumpy sand track. At one point we saw dog tracks in the sand and discovered a mother and pup trotting down the track. With pointy ears and showing no fear we slowed the four wheel drive down beside them. Whether they were wild or belonged to a nearby aborigine tribe I don't know. But they pulled at my heartstrings, I hated the thought of them fending for themselves in the "never never"We stopped for a rest on a dry riverbed. This river was bone dry, wide and covered in yellow sand. We enjoyed the solitude and sense of space - until the flies found us. We must have been the only moisture for miles around and they buzzed around my eyes and mouth. We also noticed the remains of a fire and used tinnies strewn around. Aborigines had obviously used the riverbed as a camp recently - our driver said for a people who go on so much about respecting the land, they don't always do it themselves...Close
I am rather proud at completing the Kings Canyon hike.I can now add this to my list of accomplishments. The view from the rim into the inky depths and across to the red rock landscape was heart-stopping. From its edge you could not just see…Read More
I am rather proud at completing the Kings Canyon hike.I can now add this to my list of accomplishments. The view from the rim into the inky depths and across to the red rock landscape was heart-stopping. From its edge you could not just see the walls of the canyon but all around me was a fantasy land of strange russet red rock shapes and textures. The great horseshoe canyon has rusted over the millennia to reveal fantastically rich reds and orange. And from the rim you can see where the great canyon opened up out onto the plains, which from this height seem to stretch into infinity..Kings Canyon is unmissable. Its a long way from "Alice," over 320 miles directly southwest. And makes up the northwest corner of the Alice/Erldunda/Uluru rectangle. If you come from Alice then its about eight hours driving over some very bumpy roads. When you get there, although the Canyon is free to hike, there isn't many facilities. The camel rounding station of Kings Creek is about twenty miles away (www.kingscreekstation.com.au) which has camping and cabins. But at the Canyon itself the amenities are basic providing water, toilets and a car park for visitors. The usual rules for hiking in the Outback apply - wear comfy shoes, stock up with water and avoid the heat of the day. Most visitors, like us, seemed to hit the Canyon at 8am in the morning.And it is an arduous climb. By the time I had ascended to the rim of the Canyon I had lost my sense of humour completely and felt like I had run a marathon. The reason being is that to climb to the canyon rim you must climb a near vertical stair. From below it looked sheer and reminded me of "The Stair of Cirith Ungol" from "Return of the King. It was 300 feet of sheer cliff wall, with stairs carved into it somehow. Carolyn, our guide, takes this trip three times a week and bounded up like a Thompsons gazelle. Myself and the others were somewhat slower taking our time. After the first hundred steps my back began to ache—it was very hard going. But I gamely ploughed on concentrating on one step at a time and using my knees to propel me. I reached the top in a foul mood and turned around to watch the others come up and noticed the 300 foot drop behind me. Several Aussie pensioners bounded up, showing no sign of strain and putting me to absolute shame.The climb was worth the view from the Canyon rim. All around me was a lunar scape of scarlet rock called mereenie sandstone. The bright red colour impregnated everything from the rock slabs we stood on to the walls of the Canyon. We could see across to the far side as the Canyon is a horseshoe with vertical water stains noticeable to the naked eye and the far wall was made up of a rich red hue of horizontal bedding planes. Our guide got nervous about anyone approaching the edge and we were advised that if we did want to see the bottom of the Canyon it was better to crawl to the rim on our stomachs and look from there. I tried this and although it alleviated our guides worries about one of her charges going over the edge - it didn't do much for my vertigo.On the northern side of the Canyon was one of the strangest landscapes I have ever seen. Stretching into the distance was "The Lost City" - hundreds and hundreds of red shale domes stretching into the distance. It was a sight that stopped you in your tracks and reminded me of the pictures I had seen of "The Bungle Bungles" that newly discovered geographical oddity in Western Australia. The beehive rocks looked so weird and otherworldly (see photo) that they reminded me of the surface of another planet.You have to be careful around the edge of Kings Canyon. A trail of little blue stars leads you around its edge but it is extremely uneven and on occasion precarious. The usual urban myth told of a Japanese tourist (aren't they always) who backed up too far and went over the edge. But everyone follows the trail to the apex and wooden stairs leading down to "The Garden of Eden". It was cautious going descending into the cool of the Canyon. No one is going to take risks on a staircase 100ft above an abyss. Eucalyptus and palms grew on the walls of the Canyon and began to block out the light and the floor of the Canyon was covered in cicadas and gum trees. At the back of the Canyon were the sheer walls of a red cliff. These were reflected in the still waters of a pool. It was too cold to swim, but it was a nice place to sit back and watch the sun turn the waters gold as it caught the edges of the Canyon.Close
I think I enjoyed the Olgas even more then Ayers Rock.I felt I got closer to the desert here. I felt part of the Outback as we scrambled up slopes of scarlet scree, wandered through scrub and gum trees and gazed up at the biggest…Read More
I think I enjoyed the Olgas even more then Ayers Rock.I felt I got closer to the desert here. I felt part of the Outback as we scrambled up slopes of scarlet scree, wandered through scrub and gum trees and gazed up at the biggest monolithic rocks I have ever seen. There is something primeval about The Olgas. They are standing like sentinels in the desert over 400 miles from the nearest city. The Olgas are just so powerful. Colossal orange mesas and domes looming out of the flat Outback. The Olgas was once a mesa ten times bigger then Ayers Rock, but over the millennia it has been broken down into 36 towering domes.The Olgas is even further out into the desert then Ayers Rock. In fact it is another 50 miles to the west from Uluru. The combined ticket for $25 lets you into both sights as they are within the same national park. The best advice I can give you is to hit Kata Tijuca early. For those taking the trail walks there is a real chance of dehydration. In fact they shut the park to visitors when the park hits 35ºC - and in summer it can reach 45ºC easily. There are two walks within the park. The first is Olga Gorge Walk, which is a simple one kilometre walk taking you in between two of the monoliths. More impressive is Valley of the Winds - a 7km loop trail that takes about two hours. No prizes for guessing which one we were encouraged to try?Its when you step out of the four wheel drive then you get a scale of these monsters. Up close they are very impressive - intense red domes stretching hundreds of metres into the air and broken up by smooth high valleys. The same orange/red that makes Uluru so distinctive permeates here and there is never a cloud in the sky. The contrast between deep orange and bright sapphire makes the Olgas one of the most visually stunning things I have ever seen. And you are dwarfed by their size. Like Uluru, when you get up close you see they are made of little orange platelets covering the soaring walls. You get the impression the Olgas are more permanent, more in tune with nature. This was brought home to us by our Aussie guide, Carolyn, who took us along the trail describing the flora used by the aborigines. The aborigines used the plants for medicine and one prickly thorn was exceptionally good at getting rid of warts. Carolyn swore it worked as the properties of the thorn work on the wart for two weeks. None of us felt confident to try this.The trail circumnavigates the first dome. You slowly move up a rocky trail - your body is diagonal to the ground as you tentatively put one foot in front of another. You have to angle your shoes to the slope and tread gingerly - the alternative is a nasty slide 40 feet to the bottom. At the end of the trail is the an oasis surrounded by three enormous domes which soared 550 feet above us. Each one was as bare as the moon and a striking orange that almost overpowers you. We were then to take the "Valley of the Winds" trail and found ourselves on a very lonely stretch where we were the only human beings. Carolyn led us up; past streams gurgling down the face of cliffs and the trail became backbreaking. My calves ached and I would stop once in a while to catch my breathe and take a swig of water. But the summit was worth the climb.We had reached the Karangina lookout - a natural rock balustrade/dam between two enormous domes. On the other side another trail dropped steeply into a gorge overlooking a valley housing the rest of the domes. Mountainous domes, one after another rolled off into the distance. Sticking together the group (sans Carolyn) took the vertiginous trail down into "The Valley of the Winds". In parts it was quite difficult with much slipping and sliding. At the bottom of the gorge it opened out into the valley. The floor of the valley was peppered by gum trees and the 50-feet high Olgas stretched in a massive ring about the floor of the valley. I have never felt such a sense of space and emptiness as I did then. I was awestruck by the barren beauty of it all.It took another 2 hours to return to our 4-wheel drive but I loved every minute I spent there. If you make the effort to reach them- the Olgas will make you smile at the memories for years to comeClose
Adjectives to describe Ayers Rock?Majestic? Monstrous? Magnificent? Awesome? Spiritual? Magical? Exhausting?All of those, plus - flyblown, hot, desolate and forbidding.To stand beneath Uluru/Ayers Rock is simply humbling. The whole experience is overwhelming. The sheer scale of the monolith dwarfs everything and it stands like an…Read More
Adjectives to describe Ayers Rock?Majestic? Monstrous? Magnificent? Awesome? Spiritual? Magical? Exhausting?All of those, plus - flyblown, hot, desolate and forbidding.To stand beneath Uluru/Ayers Rock is simply humbling. The whole experience is overwhelming. The sheer scale of the monolith dwarfs everything and it stands like an island above the desert around it. This scarlet monster lies at the heart of Australia. A place like nowhere else on earth, and the whole area gives off vibes that feel aeons old. To come here is to travel back to pre-history where giant megalithic rocks dominated the landscape, paintings two thousand years old are daubed on cave walls, the only grass is the dry brittle spinifex and animal life consists of hawks, dingoes and goannas. Uluru is 400 miles from Alice Springs so seeing it becomes an expedition in itself. The practicalities of reaching the national park are covered in an earlier journal. A minimum of six hours driving time is necessary and a trip out to see the epic monolith is to experience the outback in all its hot scorching ferocity.The Outback and Uluru demand respect. For it is also the home of the aboriginal gods, a place as magical and spiritual to them as any cathedral is to us. In 1985 the national park was returned to the aborigines who are responsible for its upkeep. Before then the Anangu tribe decided the park wasn't being well looked after, their sacred places were not used in a way that their ancestors taught them. Nowadays they ask visitors to respect the rock (to climb or not to climb?) and visitors are watched over by Anangu rangers who I noticed went barefoot as they moved around the national park.Admittence is $16 per person and before parking and taking a look at the monolith it might be an idea visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre built in its shadow. This is a kind of ochre "wattle and daub" building showing the "dreamtime" gods and how they mattered to the lives of the tribes who roamed this area for thousands of years. I found the exhibt on the wildlife very interesting with over 74 kinds of reptiles including the "thorney devil" and frill-necked lizards thriving in the vicinity. And since the tourists arrived in the fifties there is a sizeable population of dingoes as well.Getting up close to "the rock" is everyones main objective. One side is a mile across, its streaked red sides soar into the air contrasting with the icy blue sky. Its the redness which draws you in - as you get closer you realise that it isn't so much continually russet red but hundreds of little orange pustules/platelets covering the surface of the rock. Also you are aware of the desert around it - spinifex, gum trees and red earth march right up to its angular sides. And the silence? The rock seems to absorb sound. Everything around Ayers Rock is as quiet as the grave.Our group was allowed to circumnavigate "the rock" on foot with an Anangu guide. We started on the eastern side of the rock at a number of caves. The Anangu tribe throughout history used certain caves for different stages of life. We were shown birthing caves and caves for the elders. Certain caves were warrior initiation caves. Uluru was part of life for the aboriginals from the cradle to the grave - or as I called it "a one-stop shop". Cave paintings that were 800 years old were shown to us and the forms of men and kangaroos could be made out. I was stunned by how much the sexes were segregated, but that was the way of life. The aboriginals who lived like this for thousands of years realised the rigid role of each sex was essential for survival.. As we moved around the northern side the guide pointed out specific contours and indentations. Until the eighties the northern side housed a campsite where you could stay literally within touching distance of the rock. This all changed when the Anangu took the rock back and was also where Lindy Chamberlain claimed a dingo took her baby back in the early eighties. This was made into a film starring Meryl Streep called "A Cry in the Dark". The entire walk around Uluru is about 8 kilometres and for the most part we were on our own. This enabled us to get up close to the 350ft towering walls and take our time in the 35 degree heat. We also got to see the culverts where water pours off the rock during storms and hidden billabongs amongst the gum trees.Thanks to our guide "the rock" then became a living thing, with a history as strong as any building. I came as close as I could to discovering the ancient heart of Australia....Close
One of the most memorable things about my trip to Australia was being woken up by dingoes.They howled with the dawn light! After a freezing cold night in the outback the howling sounded terrible. It was the way a wolf howls. You can imagine them…Read More
One of the most memorable things about my trip to Australia was being woken up by dingoes.They howled with the dawn light! After a freezing cold night in the outback the howling sounded terrible. It was the way a wolf howls. You can imagine them out there in the bush, stretching with the new day and announcing their presence to the world. Our guide says they are harmless and just hang around the campsite. But it is a most unnerving sound when you are struggling to wake up after a hard night under the stars.I wouldn't have missed my tour out of Alice Springs to Uluru, Kings Canyon, and The Olgas for the world. I truly got a sense of the vast scale and harshness of the Northern Territory. The Red Centre of the continent is what can only be described as historically rich and scenically spectacular, and harbours the kind of landscapes that you came to especially to Australia to see. It also is one of the harshest, most forbidding places on the planet. Summer temperatures regularly reach 45 degrees C and don't drop down to 30 degrees C at night. This is a place where water is scarce, the plant and animal life hardy, and the people as tough and unbending as the landscape around them. There is a sense of real wilderness out here, real hardship. Water is precious and as valuable as the opals that come from the red ground. Where mistakes in this wilderness can lead to death and the sight of another human being is as rare and as welcome as you can get.Desert practicalities Alice Springs is in the centre of the driest continent on earth.Before setting off, we got a lecture on how to look after oneself in the desert. The first thing is water. It was drummed into us that we must drink 2 litres of water an hour. Dehydration is a real problem, especially in the 35 degree C baking heat. There was an incident the week before with a Japanese tourist not taking any water up with her when climbing Ayers Rock. She had to be brought down by helicopter. We were also told to wear strong sunblock and a hat. The sun is a real menace, and it goes some way to keeping the flies off. Also strong boots - there are snakes out there amongst the spinifexTravel between Alice Springs and Ayers RockLet's get one thing straight: Ayers Rock/Uluru is over 400 miles from Alice Springs.It's a long way. The prospect of flying in, seeing "the rock", and flying out again within a short space of time is an unrealistic one. It can be done. Emu Tours famously do a tour that gets you to "the Rock" and back to Alice in a day. This, of course, means 8 hours on the road and only an hour and a half at the monolith. Alternatively, you can fly direct from any major Australian city into Ayers Rock airport (which also has direct flights from Tokyo and Osaka). You can combine this with a stay at the Yulara resort (see below) for luxury in sight of "the rock" itself. But this is generally for tourists who are quite happy to pay for high prices.The majority of tourists either use Alice as a base or join one of the 2- to 5-day tours, which stretch out into the outback taking in Kata Tijuca and Kings Canyon. It is possible to do this with a degree of luxury, but you must remember you are in the heart of the hardest, driest continent on earth. Relief in air-conditioning and protection from the flies isn't always an option. And what better way of getting close to the Australian outback than taking a camping trip. They are usually taken by knowledgeable guides who know all the history, botany, and legends of the aboriginal lands surrounding sacred Uluru, and the experience of sleeping in the desert under the stars is one which will stay with you for a long time.Camping in the OutbackI picked WayOutBack tours (www.wayoutback.com.au). This had the reputation for small parties of tourists and the advantage of using 4-wheel-drive vehicles to get to places where other tourists can't. My tour was for 2 nights/3 days and cost A$388 (£200). We travelled hundreds of kilometres each day and slept at campsites. There were no frills and we were expected to pitch in, from doing the washing up to rustling spare wood from the roadside for the campfire each night. Our guide, Carolyn, was excellent, a fountain of knowledge about the local area. She would brook no nonsense - each one of us had a duty to perform, whether it was get the fire started, unpack the "swag bags," or put the "billycan" on the fire. Our "swag bags" were arranged around the fire, and we fitted sleeping bags inside these. Most useful, as the temperature plummeted to 0 degrees C at night.The Yulara ResortOf course, it doesn't have to be done as penny-pinching as a budget camping tour. Tour companies offer luxury accommodation at TheYulara resort, which stands in the shadow of the famous Ayers Rock. Uluru will hove into view as you drive along the Lassetter Highway, and this resort has won awards for its consideration for the environment. Not one of the ochre-coloured buildings is above gum tree height, and most of the hotels are disguised and spread over 30 acres. The cheapest beds are in the hostel for $50, and it rises to $1350 a night for Longitude 131,whose super-luxury tents are hidden amongst the dunes.Buses do run from Alice Springs direct to the resort. And all accommodation should really be booked in advance via Ayers Rock Resort, which is based in Sydney (firstname.lastname@example.org). The central part of the resort is Shopping Square, a sort of terracotta area with sail awnings to keep off the sun. It's a good place for practicalities, such as digital camera batteries, camping utilities and a supermarket. The restaurants, however, are uniformly expensive. Although I can recommend Geckos, which had wood-fired pizzas for about $15.Kings Creek Station CampgroundI feel I have to mention this because to me this exemplified the Dead Red Heart of Australia. Kings Creek Station was our last camping stop before heading back to "Alice." It was a working station about 30 miles from Kings Canyon (Watarrka NP) and the nearest cheap accommodation. I have to say that, with the exception of the Pantanal in Brazil, this is the remotest place I have ever stayed in. First of all, it is a working camel station. There are so many wild camels in the area that they round them up using helicopters and shunt them off to the city to be sold overseas. Though some I suspect don't get that far, camel burgers are available at the restaurant.You can experience the work firsthand with helicopter flights over the outback and quad-biking (www.kingscreekstation.com.au).You can hire their cabins for about $55 a night, which includes breakfast. We were using their campsite to "swag" down for the night, which was situated in a sandy clearing with views of the George Gill range. There was a table, barbecue, washbasin, and campfire. A little way off was an open-air shower that needed to be kept going with a wood burner. It was open to the elements - all I can say is, I hope there weren't any camels watching...Close
"Hey mate! Where's Meyers Hill?"I shrugged my shoulders, "Sorry can't help you... I'm a tourist here myself.."He ambled off, "no worries..."The above aboriginal stopped me in the street and asked for directions, but that is Alice Springs for you—the biggest city within thousands of miles.…Read More
"Hey mate! Where's Meyers Hill?"I shrugged my shoulders, "Sorry can't help you... I'm a tourist here myself.."He ambled off, "no worries..."The above aboriginal stopped me in the street and asked for directions, but that is Alice Springs for you—the biggest city within thousands of miles. Its the focus, not just for tourists coming to see "the rock," but it also is a lifeline for ranchers/shearers, etc. A name synonymous with the harsh climate of "the Never Never," It is an oasis in the desert and has reached legendary status for its remoteness—a sort of Timbuktu of Australia.Personally, I liked it. It vies with Sydney as my favourite destination Down Under. A lot of it has to do with atmosphere, as it is heavily influenced by aboriginal culture. The Northern Territory is 20% aboriginal anyway, and they almost have their own country up in Arnhelmland (the Northern Territory coast). But in Alice Springs, they wander the streets chattering in their own language,which is unlike anything I have ever heard before. But its the feel of the place which I enjoyed, the feel of hot air constantly on your face, the dusty Ute's driving up and down Larapinta drive, the didgeridoo music coming from the shops, and a sky so blue and vast it seems to dominate every waking moment.Its a marvel that "Alice" is here at all. Of course for thousands of years it was the only waterhole in the vicinity called Tjanrejili by Aranda tribesmen. In the 1870s, the overland telephone cable from Melbourne to London was pushed through here, and it dawned on them that the place would have to be permanently occupied. The Old Telegraph Station is still there on the northern outskirts of town. Charles Todd set up shop here and got a river named after him and a billabong upriver gave the town its name. The "Alice" came from his wife. And slowly it has been linked with the rest of the world—railway (1929), wartime evacuation (1942), and tourist boom in the 1950s. It is this tourist boom which is the lifeblood of Alice as buses, Utes, and 4-wheel drives fan out from this small town to explore the strange centre of Australia and its geographic wonders.The layout of Alice is easily mastered. It lies in the middle of the desert but is surrounded by mountains called the McDonnell range. The airport cannot fit in this bowl and is outside to the south. To get from the airport you have to pass through "Heavitree Gap" which is a sun-blasted pass surrounded by gumtrees. The town has one main road - Telegraph Terrace - but most of the action is one block to the east on Gap Road where most hotels/hostels/motels are situated. This leads to Todd Mall an open-air mall where most tourists gravitate too with enough souvenir shops, restaurants, banks and a couple of good bars/pubs. To the east is the Todd River, famous of course because it never has any water just yellow sand. Memorable for the Henley-on-Todd regatta in September where bottomless boats are run along the dry riverbed. Unfortunately I missed this event by a matter of days.To pay for your tour you may have to use one of the banks in the Todd Mall to change up money. Its a short walk down the Gap Road. Gap Road is interesting for the sheer different amount of different tourists that stay here. The $400 a night motels are here next to backpacker hostels which do $5 a night barbecues. There are lots of nice cafes, souvenir shops and bookshops some with beautiful coffee-table books of the surrounding area. There's plenty of local history in "Alice" and you can loose yourself in the tales of explorers and pioneers in these tiny little shops. Also on Gap Road is "The Ghan" ticket agency where you can book seats to Adelaide/Darwin on a train that comes in twice a week. There are a couple of bars/pubs down the Gap Road. Bojangles is good for live bands, but we were told to avoid Melankas the backpacker bar as it had a reputation for trouble.Todd Mall is at the end of Gap Road and is a small street paved over with terracotta tiles. Sail-shaped awnings have been set up to protect shoppers from the fierce sun but protection from the flies is harder. Some tourists were wearing "beekeepers" hats of muslin netting to keep off the buzzing pests. Its the moisture they want in this dry climate—that's why they go for the mouth and eyes. A shopping centre lies at the end of the mall and on a piece of green grass the aborigines of Alice Springs sit. There was no tension, they just sat there and watched the world go by..I rather liked Alice Springs - it was different and interesting. The Todd Mall is a good place to pull up a seat, order a "coldie" and listen to that didgeridoo music played not so far away...Close
Written by Kikapa on 29 Oct, 2001
We flew out the next morning to Alice Springs, $200 AU. From there we drove to Ayers Rock. Watch out! If you have a couple of days, take a tour bus. If not, be prepared for expensive car rentals.
The car rental rates are reasonable…Read More
We flew out the next morning to Alice Springs, $200 AU. From there we drove to Ayers Rock. Watch out! If you have a couple of days, take a tour bus. If not, be prepared for expensive car rentals.
The car rental rates are reasonable at first, but it's the limited kilometers that get you. You get 100 KM a day but it's over a 1000-KM to drive to the rock! $380 later we got to the rock, by the way, the hype you'll hear about the Crater before getting to Ayers Rock? Is not worth the time at all, just a tourist "con". The desert, however, was beautiful! Sunset on the "Rock" is a must see!
The "rock" is a huge monolith; I've never seen anything like it! However, lodging surrounding the rock is very expensive! Make your reservations 6 months ahead (Desert Sands is the most inexpensive). We drove back the next day to Alice Springs. (It is good advice not to drive at night - camels, cows, kangaroos, etc. are out and running!)
For pictures see:
Written by spuguru on 13 Dec, 2000
We wish we had: 1) visited King's Canyon and Serpentine Gorge west of Alice. 2) Visited Alice Springs Reptile Centre in Alice. 3) Gotten to witness either the Henley-on-Todd Regatta (dry river bed race) or Camel Cup races - these are seasonal events. 4) Taken…Read More
We wish we had: 1) visited King's Canyon and Serpentine Gorge west of Alice. 2) Visited Alice Springs Reptile Centre in Alice. 3) Gotten to witness either the Henley-on-Todd Regatta (dry river bed race) or Camel Cup races - these are seasonal events. 4) Taken a camel ride.
We wish we *hadn't* 1) Driven to Ayer's Rock instead of flying. The drive is 5+ hours and once were were 1/2 hour out of Alice, it was so boring that seeing a cow was considered a highlight. Perhaps if we'd gone via King's Canyon instead of Stuart Highway? 2) Visited a small aboriginal town south of Standley Chasm. It was an incredibly long drive beacuse the raod was so rutted. When we got there, it was a very small, poor town, reminicent of an Indian Res in the US. We did walk out of the only shop with two nice souvenirs, but it wasn't worth the trip.