With the little Aussie dollar slipping inexorably below the 90 US cents barrier the pressure is easing to make overseas-travel hay while our currency rate shines. So I’m catching up with great Oz destinations that have long been on my “must visit” list, such as the Red Centre.
I chose Alice Springs as my gateway into Central Australia instead of flying direct into the Yulara resort, a fortuitous choice. While Uluru and Kata Tjuta are genuine natural wonders – up there with awe inspiring monuments of nature like the Grand Canyon, Mt Fuji and the Victoria Falls – I found The Alice surprisingly appealing and the 450-odd kilometre journey to The Rock across a seemingly barren landscape revealing for its surprisingly diverse terrain and plant life.
My mental image of Alice Springs, formed mostly through media reports, was of a dry, desolate and isolated frontier town with a major drinking problem. While it is physically in the middle of nowhere, its busy airport and thriving tourist industry make it far from isolated, or a frontier town. Instead the visitor finds a well ordered, bustling borough of 27,000 residents shaded by copious river red and ghost gums nestling neatly under the jagged red fringe of the MacDonnell Ranges. Yes, it looks just is like an Albert Namatjira painting!
The Alice is surprising rich in well-presented tourist attractions. In one packed afternoon I visited the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Reptile Centre, the Overland Telegraph Station and Anzac Hill. The Overland Telegraph, which opened in 1892 and reduced Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world, is a monument to the ingenuity and hard work of the pioneers. It was built across 3000km of tough, arid terrain from Adelaide to Darwin in an amazing two years.With a few more hours I could also have visited the Old Ghan Railway Museum, the Alice Springs Desert Park, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame and the Memorial Cemetery, the final resting place of noted Australians including Albert Namatjira, ill-fated prospector Harold Lasseter and anthropologist Olive Pink. With a few more days I could have added in “Kangaroo Dundee” Chris Barnes’ kangaroo sanctuary, the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, and the Araluen Cultural Precinct and the Finke George National Park.
Maybe a second trip is on the cards?