Alice Springs is a fairly large town (population about 28,000) with a range
of supermarkets and other shops. We spent the first few days re-stocking
cupboards and refreshing ourselves on the layout of the town. The shopping
centre is laid out as a conventional rectangular street grid beside the Todd
Driving in Alice Springs needs some care; pedestrians (of all colours)
are very casual when crossing the road and often act as if they are
on a non-existent pedestrian crossing. Sometimes drivers appear to be
unsure where they want to go; indeed they may be overseas tourists in
who really do not have any idea what to do next. The number of signs in
Alice Springs and at Kings Canyon reminding drivers that cars drive on the
left of the road in Australia probably indicates a history of problems with
||Central Alice Springs from Anzac Hill.
The Gap is in line with the road.|
||Part of the Macdonnell Ranges from
Anzac Hill across light industrial and housing area.|
Buying alcohol is regimented in Alice Springs. Bottle shops are not
allowed to open
until 2 o'clock in the afternoon and photographic identification is required
to buy alcohol; the identification is not only checked, it is recorded so
that a history of individual purchases is available to identify
possible traffickers. A further restriction is that cask wine and ports
are locked away until 6 p.m.
We took advantage of the two week stay in Alice Springs to arrange for our mail to catch up with us. We have an Australia Post redirection from our home address to a mail
forwarding organisation which holds mail until I contact them with an address to forward all mail being held. We have to allow for the time it takes for mail to get from the mail forwarder in Gosford to wherever we expect to be.
There is a range of specialised shops dealing in 4WD equipment so I went to buy a replacement for the UHF aerial which had broken off some days ago. When I put my broken aerial on the counter it was immediately identified as the result of driving over corrugations and as being the wrong type of aerial to use in a vehicle on corrugations. The correct aerial was sold to me.
Early in the visit we went to the Information Office, but found it lacked information from National Parks about attractions in the Macdonnell Ranges and concentrated on tour bookings and accommodation arrangements. But there is a good tourist booklet available which does describe the region fairly well.
While we were exploring some side streets we stumbled on the Railway Station a few minutes before the Ghan from Darwin was due. We stayed to watch it come in to the station which doesn't have a platform; a set of steps is put in front of each carriage door for passengers to get on and off. The Ghan stays at Alice Springs for several hours while passengers visit the town. There have been a couple of versions of the Ghan train before the present one connecting Adelaide and Darwin; the previous Ghan, running between Adelaide and Alice Springs, is
commemorated in the Ghan Museum outside Alice Springs where one locomotive and some of the rolling stock (lounge car, first class dining car) are preserved.
||The Ghan from Darwin arriving at Alice
||The Ghan train is named after the
camelleers who provided the first transport service in Central Australia.|
In the first few days I drove to Emily and Jessies National
Park in the East Macdonnell ranges; this is actually two small parks
around gaps in the range with some aboriginal rock-art.
Later on I drove to two of the closer attractions in the West Macdonnell
Range, Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm.
Simpsons Gap is an imposing and impressive place where a river flows
through a narrow gap in one of the rocky ranges forming the Macdonnell
Ranges. Car parking, walking
tracks and signage are good; nearby is a nature walk with a guide sheet
describing the major plant species of the region. Standley Chasm, on
private property and not managed by national parks is not as well presented
compared with national park venues. There is no
explanatory signage at Standley Chasm and no attempt is made to identify
more common plants for visitors; the walking track from car park to
chasm begins well but deteriorates into a challenge for less
mobile, elderly visitors
Our caravan park is across the road from the Araluan Cultural Centre
which included the Alice Springs Museum. Once I found the museum, despite
the poor signage, it turned out to be a small, specialised establishment
dealing in Northern Territory geology and landforms, birds and animals with
a substantial section on aboriginal culture. Displays were attractive and
interesting. Nearby is the Aviation museum with an old Flying Doctor Drover
tri motor aircraft mounted on poles.
At the end of our stay we had lunch with family members who had completed the Larapinta walking trail in the West Macdonnell Ranges and were about to return to Sydney. We went to the Olive Pink Botanical Garden on the edge of Alice Springs which specialises in Central Australian plants and has an open-air restaurant. My kangaroo burger confirmed the lesson we had learned at Rawnsley Park in the Flinders Ranges that kangaroo has to be specially cooked and must be rare; if cooked as ordinary steak, kangaroo
becomes leather. The kangaroo meat in my burger had been seared so the surface looked medium well-cooked but the inside was rare and good to eat.
||Drover aircraft used by the Royal Flying
Doctor Service for many years.|
The weather during our two weeks in Alice Springs was variable. Most nights were fairly cold but days were sunny and warm, except for the cool to cold breeze we sometimes experienced. There were two warmer days including our last day when a strong, gusty and very unpleasant westerly wind blew until sunset.