A town called Alice

Trip Start Oct 13, 2011
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Trip End Jun 07, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Annabel: For those of you who he hasn't already told (not that he wouldn’t stop going on about it at the time, and even now!), on the way from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs there is a mountain called Mt. Conner.  See, it isn’t even spelt like his name!  Only joking.  This was in fact only one of the many highlights on our bus journey from the rocks to the town of Alice.  The others included a cattle ranch, the only roadhouse which consisted of a pub, petrol station, café/shop, some emus (real) and a gigantic echidna and a bearded dragon (not real!).  Oh, and of course lots and lots and LOTS of sand and shrubs!

We arrived in Alice in the evening and got checked into the hotel.  It was too late to really do anything so we just got ourselves settled, did a bit of washing then watched a bit of tennis before heading out for some dinner at a Thai place me and Conor found in our book and thought it would be cool to go to to show my parents my new eating habits!  The only thing was, the book forgot to mention that everywhere in Alice Springs shuts at about 8:30pm!  It wasn’t that surprising really as the town has a very strange feel about it due to the history between the Westerners and the Aboriginals who sort of 'haunt’ the town.  There was really no integration between the two groups which meant the overriding feeling in the town was that of hostility.  After coming across a few restaurants (filled only with tourists)which were still open but only really had meat on the menu!  We settled on an Italian restaurant which turned out had amazing pizza!  As you can probably already guess from my description of the town, there was nothing to do in the evening, me and Coner had even decided that we would be cancelling our trip to the cinema the next night as we weren’t too keen on the prospect of walking half way across town at 11pm at night.  So it was off to bed, after some more tennis of course!

The plan for the next day, our only full day in town, was to go and see the Flying Doctor Museum, the Telegraph Station and a nature reserve called Desert Sands, voted number 1 attraction in Alice Springs by Trip Advisor!  As you can see, that was a rather ambition itinerary for one day and unsurprisingly we didn’t quite manage to get it all done.  Our first stop was the Flying Doctor Museum.  So after a lovely continental buffet breakfast (I am making the most of the nice food while with my parents!) we set off to the museum, only to find when we arrived that they had no power so couldn’t open!  We waited for a bit but in the end decided we would have to move on and come back later as we had a lot to see.  We then went back to our hotel where we were picked up in a private car, there were hardly any tourists in the town, and taken to Desert Sands.  None of us really knew much about this place, only that it was meant to be good and have some animals there, so all thought it was going to be a bit like a zoo.  It definitely was not a zoo.  But it definitely was really good!  Me and Conor even thought we would rate it as one of the best attractions we have been to on our trip.  It was basically a nature reserve consisting of different areas that show the differing environments in the outback, such as river beds and woodland.  There where aviaries of birds, a nocturnal house and an enclosure for kangaroos which you could walk through and get pretty close to them.  You also got a free audio guide which taught you loads about the outback.  We all really enjoyed it there.  After we had got a bus back to the hotel, this time is was a actual mini bus not a car but there was only one other tourist, we went back to the Flying Doctor Museum to catch the last tour, hoping that the power was now back on.  We were in luck!  We all though the museum was good, but not quite what we expected as there wasn’t really much information charting the history, more things about equipment and the service today.  It was not about 5pm so we didn’t have time to go to the Old Telegraph Station, but learnt from the night before and went for dinner earlier!

The next day we were all catching the Ghan train down to Adelaide.  As the train didn’t leave till 12:45pm we had decided to go up to the Old Telegraph Station in the morning, as I was really keen to see it!  The only ways to get there were by walking about 3.5km, not something any of us were particularly keen on in the heat, or by taxi.  So we decided on taxi.  As we had booked a taxi from reception, we were a little bit perplexed as to why our taxi driver didn’t really seem to know where we was going, why we had been picked up in a rather smelly, old, people carrier and why he had asked for a phone number from us when we said we had also organised a taxi to take us back to town.  All was to become clear later…

Despite the slight taxi confusion, we made it to the Telegraph Station in one piece!  When we got there we were really impressed with the set up.  The museum consisted of some buildings of the original settlement, with the interiors set up how they would have been at the time.  I really loved it, it was a bit like being at Milestones in Basingstoke!  If any of you have been there!

Conor:  We started off by going on the walk to Alice Spring, i.e. the spring after which the town is named. It was basically at the back of the telegraph station and, unsurprisingly given the heat around, the spring was dry. As was the riverbed around it! On the plus side we did come across our first wild Kangaroo! We first saw it digging around in the riverbed and we couldn’t work out why. After it had hopped along  to suck some water off a leaky tap we walked over and realised it had been digging up the river bed to find submerged water, which he had. Obviously the tap was more tasty!

We spent an hour walking around the telegraph station which was really good as Annabel said. It was very well put together with recreations of the rooms and lots of history to read.

After this we walked back to get our taxi and found someone waiting for us. As we drove off I noticed the taxi we arrived with passed us and not long after Annabel’s mum got a call on her mobile, the number of which we had given to the initial taxi driver. He wondered where we were, and eventually it turned out he was not the guy we booked and had stolen our custom. Shocking!

Anyway, we carried on in the correct taxi, collected our bags and drove to the train station to meet the Ghan train. As we pulled up we got our first look of the train and I thought it was awesome! It was very old school, big silver carriages and an old fashioned locomotive at the front in bright red. It quickly became clear, as we thought, that the train entirely full of tourists, which was fine. I can’t imagine the locals have used it for quite some time! We deposited our bags and found our seats, which as seats go were pretty good, with plenty of space to recline (if not to lie sideways). After a few briefings from the train crew we got underway (after going backwards for a bit) and we had a look around the train. Basically you were stuck in section of the train you paid for, so we had the seating, a lunch car with a food shop and then a lounge car. You had to pay for the right to go to into the lounge car, but there was loads more space, with tables and chairs etc. The four of us decided to hold up there and relax for our 24hr journey.

Well, there’s not a massive amount to say about sitting on a train for 24 hours, but I’ve got to say we really enjoyed it! We sat, ate, drank, read, played cards, talked and watched the world go by. The lounge car was really comfortable and much better than sitting in the normal chairs. Watching the outback go by was brilliant. As we had learned at Desert Sands it was by no means a desert, with trees, scrub and even the odd animal. We saw a few Red Kangaroos at one point as well as some Emus. We passed cattle stations, random houses, mountains and salt lakes. We had the pleasure of watching some of the passengers (especially middle ages English lady right out of an Agatha Christie novel) get progressively more and more drunk. All in all it was a really good experience and well worth it.

The only real downside of The Ghan was that we were on it for Australia Day and these went unnoticed. We have heard since that not much happens publicly for Australia Day, but still I kinda felt like we missed out a bit.

After an okay (but less than perfect) nights sleep we woke up and went back to the lounge car. We were meant to get into Adelaide for 12.30 in the afternoon. This was pretty crucial for us as we were picking up a hire car and had one day to drive the 600 or so miles from Adelaide to Melbourne, which would be tight! Annabel’s parents also had a flight to catch at 4.30pm. Anyway, we discovered after breakfast that the train had stopped for 4 hours overnight and had to borrow another train’s engine, as our breaks weren’t working perfectly. That sounded reassuring I can tell you! The long and short of it was we were running 2 hours late, which made us a little bit nervous about our long car journey. We eventually pulled in to Adelaide at 3.30pm and made our way directly to the car hire. After sorting things out with the dreaded hertz we were ready to go by 4.30, so way behind schedule! We hurriedly said good bye to Annabel’s parents and drove off to the east. We had a lot of ground to cover before night fall, but that’s a story for the next blog post! Hopefully we’ll get that up soon! 

Hope your all good at home!
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Comments

Dad on

Annabelle looks very fit in the pictures but Conor's shorts seem to be lower each time I see him.Keep up the blogs; gives a lot of pleasure to lots of people.

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