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mistybleu Alice Springs - A travel report by Amanda
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Alice Springs,  Australia - flag Australia -  Northern Territory
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mistybleu's travel reports

An Arid Red Land

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Be sure to get a window seat when flying into Connell Airport Ayers Rock as the views and colours are inspiring. It’s bizarre to have completely flat land then see the monolith of Ayers Rock.


Uluru
Uluru
The NORTHERN TERRITORY is a hot dry land and most of the inhabitants either live in DARWIN, ALICE SPRINGS or around national parks. Nearly 50% of the land is owned by aborigines and as a result, THE RED CENTRE has the largest concentrations of aborigines in their traditional communities in Australia. The first thing to greet me at the airport was the flies, which is something my guidebook omitted to highlight. The temperature can be extreme, so it is best to always wear a hat, drink plenty of water and use sunscreen; also whilst it isn’t cool, a face net works wonders to keep the flies at bay. Alice Springs has a number of shops, restaurants, cinema and casinos; and most of the town’s activity centres on the TODD MALL. There are limited things to keep you occupied in ‘the Alice’ but some are: visiting the ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE BASE (www.flyingdoctor.ne-t) and the SCHOOL OF THE AIR (wwww.assoa.nt.edu.a-u) and the TELEGRAPH STATION HISTORICAL RESERVE. I found the telegraph station a little disturbing; as after the station closed it became an orphanage for mixed-raced children and there is a display depicting the struggles of the orphans and the resentment they felt in being taken away from their families. Then there is ANZAC HILL at the end of Todd Street, this monument commemorates the union between Australia and New Zealand’s and their war efforts. A local tourist information service is available for additional help on 08 8952 5800, or for general help try these websites: www.aussie.net.au, www.centralaustralia-ntourism.com. or www.nt.gov.au.

Favourite spots:
Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta
Ayers rock was renamed ULURU, a fact I completely missed before my pilgrimage, is monolith formed from sandstone and is 348m high. It is surrounded by desert grass and oak tree sand plains. The best times to see it is either at sunrise or sunset, when the colour changes almost every minute. There are many ways to experience Uluru. Weather permitting, climbing it (but the Anangu people prefer you didn’t), bike around, fly over it in a hot air balloon and my favourite, a 3-hour walked around the base. I saw aboriginal cave paintings, watering holes and heard stories about certain features of the rock. I got up close and felt the texture of the surface and saw the results of the oxidation. It was marvellous! The conglomerates of Kata Tjuta, which means ‘many heads’; 36 rounded domes are divided by valleys and gorges. They are weathered and fragments of the rock are found at the base, right where they fell and are viewed from raised platforms.

What's really great:
Sammy throwing spears
Sammy throwing spears
The first morning I made the mistake of taking the wrong coach to watch the sunrise, the trip was good; however the following morning I took the Anangu Cultural Tour. We watched the sunrise as usual, but after we went to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre for a hot buffet breakfast. Then assisted by an Anangu Cultural Tour leader we done a 2m Mala Walk, which was brilliant. Our guide told us stories of his people; he showed us how they made glue, spears and how they passed information down the generations. How they hunted and followed the sign on the ground and searched for water and how they used kangaroo droppings to make fire. It was a fascinating experience and I felt privileged to have experienced this little snippet of their culture.

Sights:
Mount Conner
Mount Conner
The best way to get to Alice Springs from Yulura is to drive along the Stuart Highway. On route you pass the second monolith of the area and that’s MOUNT CONNOR which is located on the Curtin Spring Cattle Station. Visiting the station gives you a chance to see a real cattle ranch and understand how come the area has so many flies.

Then you can stop at KINGS CANYON, Australian’s Grand Canyon. It is a fabulous site, located in Watarrka National Park, only 3 hours drive from Yulura. This is a sand stone gorge and the best way to see it is to take a 6km walk on the canyon rim. The initial climb is very strenuous but the views are great; the vegetation and the waterholes enhance the experience.

Accommodations:
Ayers Rock Resort - Yulura, is a nice resort and everything you need is located here, post office, supermarket, bank; and there is a bus service which takes between hotels and the shopping area.

There are only about four places to stay; each hotel caters for the particular level of accommodation required, including a campsites.
I stayed at the Outback Pioneer (a backpacker-type accommodation). It was a chalet, with very basic decor, just a bed, chair, TV and fridge; with neither sink nor toilet. The communal shower rooms and toilets were found a little way off. I spoke to one of the cleaners and she said ‘I couldn’t tell you the things I’ve found in the rooms after guest had left for the day’, I could only image. The best thing about the room was that it was air-conditioned and that I was only spending two nights.

Hangouts:
Playing the Didgeridoo
Playing the Didgeridoo
I didn’t look for or find any pubs, but the Outback Pioneer had a bar and pool table where everyone hung out; they also had an air-conditioned TV/common room. But with getting up every morning to see the sunrise, there weren’t too many late nights.

Restaurants:
Invitation to Sounds of Silence Dinner
Invitation to Sounds of Silence Dinner
Each hotel has a restaurant, but by far the best experience I had in the desert was to attend the ‘SOUNDS OF SILENCE’ dinner. At first I thought I would feel out-of-place being on my own, but it was a wonderful experience. We drove, what appeared to be, deep into the desert and then listened to the harmonic sounds of the didgeridoo, while sipping champagne and watching the sun go down far behind the Oglas. Then ushered to our tables, we dined on Australian delicacies, including crocodile, emu, kangaroo, barramundi and bush salad. The best part of the evening was after dinner, when all the candles were extinguished and we sat in silence with only the moonlight to light our way, listening to the wind rustle through the oak trees and desert grass. Then our guide pointed out the constellations; it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Other recommendations:
Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm
Once in Alice Springs, you can take a day trip to the WEST MACDONNELL RANGES. Try renting a bike as it is only an 18km ride from town. You pass the famous ghost gum tree captured by an aboriginal artist, then the white sand beds of the TODD RIVER through SIMPSON’S GAP to STANDLEY CHASM. Standley Chasm is a narrow break in the Ranges that if you time it right, the midday sun paints the walls a brilliant orange.
In the opposite direction to MacDonnell Ranges, there is GEMTREE. A small town where you can go gem searching or as the locals say fossicking for zircon. If you participate on a tour all licenses and extras are included.
A plane ride away is DARWIN, a great place to visit; some if its main attractions include CROCODYLUS PARK where you can get up close with crocodiles in a safe environment (www.wmi.com.au/crocpark), or LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK, to see the magnetic termite mounds.

Published on Saturday December 18th, 2004


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Fri, Feb 16 2007 - 10:25 PM rating by travler

Wonderful report I like the picture of Uluru.

Sat, Nov 05 2005 - 10:12 AM rating by toribio

I LIKE A LOT

Tue, Jan 18 2005 - 06:03 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

its a great report indeed

Wed, Dec 22 2004 - 08:16 PM rating by picasso

Brilliant writing with a lot of info,interesting images completing this great report .For me it was a pleasure to read this ***** Plus report.

Boris

Wed, Dec 22 2004 - 02:50 AM rating by gloriajames

great job!! loved the oic on sounds of silence dinner setting!

Mon, Dec 20 2004 - 08:30 PM rating by maehof

gee, this is brilliant, good on'ya, now i know i must go there

Sat, Dec 18 2004 - 11:46 PM rating by magsalex

Great pictures of Uluru. Informative report!

Sat, Dec 18 2004 - 05:22 PM rating by bootlegga

Nice pictures, informative text and personal anecdotes. Excellent job!

Sat, Dec 18 2004 - 04:34 PM rating by rangutan

Wish I was there!

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