Alice Springs Revisited

Journey # 10

Time: May. 2014

This was our cabin and rental car for the first few nights at Alice Springs.

We had an early flight out of Sydney and our good friend Bob, drove us out to the airport at 5am. We hadn't flown with Tigerair before, but it was a third of the cost of flying with Quantas so we went with it. Seating was tight and I am sure that the airline has squeezed in an extra row or two of seats, but it was only for a few hours and we were landing in Alice Springs in next to no time. Picked up out Hyundi hire car and headed off to the Gidday Mate caravan park, near Heavytree Gap for the next three nights until Chris and Alison arrived from Tennant Creek. Drove into town for lunch at the Water Tank cafe, which was nice, and then did some shopping in town. Cooked a barbeque dinner that night and turned in early for a good nights rest.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Alice Springs.

Today we went and visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service, starting off with a nice coffee and vanilla slice before looking through the museum. Watched a video which showed the remote areas serviced by the RFDS and the daunting landing areas for the pilots. The service is free to any who require it in the remote areas of Australia. The 'guide' who gave the talk after the movie gave the wrong information on a few medical terms, but in all. it was a good visit. Dr Google keeps us informed these days, so no mistakes go unnoticed. I cooked spagetti tonight for the arrival of Chris and Alison.

A venomous Brown Snake at the Reptile Park.

Yet another morning of shopping and then a visit to the Reptile Park. Ali and Chris are locals so they got in for a fraction of our admittance price. Went to a cafe for lunch, where the theme and name of the place featured a book. The cafe was called Page 27. Chris ate a whole chapter for lunch. We had dinner at Uncles Bar later that night and they had the biggest chicken parmas I have ever seen.

The camp site at Kings Canyon Resort.

Today we packed our luggage for the camping trip and dropped off the excess bags at Chris' work place. The car was still packed to the brim, so I was wondering where we would be putting the luggage when we got back and headed to Tennant Creek. We drove south out of Alice and then went for around 100klm on dirt roads which traveresed through mulga scrub, desert oaks and red sandhills. Quite spectacular landscape. We stopped for a look at the Henbury Meteorite Craters and then kept going to Kings Canyon Resort, where we set up camp. We had time to drive out to Kings Creek and have a walk along the valley floor of the canyon. There were hordes of flies which almost drove you mad. Had to breathe through your nose and they went into nostrils and ears and crawled behind sunglasses to buzz in eyes. Most tourists had netting over their heads to keep flies away. That night we slept with the fly off the tent with the mesh covering allowing us to sleep under the stars which lit up the skies. Lots of dingoes roaming around and taking anything which was not secured. Shoes, clothing, rubbish bags. You had to put everything away or it wouldn't be there in the morning.

Kings Canyon has many spectacular cliffs.

Next morning we planned to walk the rim of the canyon, a 6 klm hike. The night was mild again and we watched the stars through the mesh netting of the tent. Got up around 5am and I felt some water drops hit my face. It was starting to rain. Jumped out of the sleeping bag and Chris and I got the tent fly out of the car, over the tent and pegged down just as the wind came up and the rain came down. Lucky. Of course I didn't bring any wet weather gear or jackets, but the others did. It started to clear a bit just before sunrise, so I figured it would be fine and just wore shorts and T shirt for the hike. Walking to the first steep climb towards the rim, it got very cold with a strong wind and sheeting rain. Not very comfortable, but we were here now and had to do it. Beryl and I tried in 1975, but we got flooded in at Alice Springs and the roads to Kings Canyon in those days were dirt and impassable in wet weather. We weren't going to miss out again. The landscape is spectacular and the waterfalls cascading off the cliffs added another dimension. Later on, speaking with locals and others, everyone was envious of the fact we had seen it in the rain. Apparently an uncommon occurrence. Cotterills Lookout, Garden of Eden and a host of other scenic spots were amazing, despite me being soaked to the skin, cold and sore. My camera bag was also soaked and dripping water, so I hoped all was good with the Nikon. At one point during the walk, a young boy was complaining to his dad that he was getting wet. He had a raincoat on and the father said, 'look that man (me) is soaking wet and not complaining'. Beryl said, 'yes he is'. We finished our walk with waterlogged shoes and clothes and got back to the camping area to dry out. Of course the sun came out and it remained sunny for the rest of the day. We had dinner at the bistro that evening and went to bed with the dingos howling all around the park. There was a heavy dew that night, so it was a wet packup next morning and after a big breakfast of pancakes, we headed off.

Cooking dinner at Redbank Gorge.

We followed the Mereenie Loop road from Kings Canyon to our next overnight camping spot at Redbank Gorge. There are lots of Thorny Devil lizards soaking up the heat on the road and they often get run over, but Chris spotted one which we were able to rescue and take back into the scrub. We saw a few mobs of feral donkeys and wild brumbies as well. The National Parks cull them fairly regularly as they cause a lot of damage to the fragile ecology of the area. We arrived at Redbank Gorge and selected a campsite from the many that have been set up there. Got all our camping gear off and out of the Prado, leaving it unattended while we drove to the Gorge for an afternoon walk. The track into the gorge was rough and not very well defined, but we made it there. The flies were driving us all mad though. Made our way back to the car and headed back to camp to set up for the night. Chris and I left the girls and drove 20klm out of the park to collect some firewood, as gathering it within the boundaries was not allowed. The campsite had a big firepit and a big gas bar-b-que, so we lit the fire and sat around it while the dinner cooked. Chris made a damper and a beef stew, which was pretty good. The night arrived and was getting colder and colder. We rugged up and had a second sleeping bag to cover us up, but I have never been so cold. Around 11pm, the silence was shattered by the loud, angry bellow of a scrub bull heading up the valley towards camp. The sound echoed around and was immediately answered by a dozen others. Feral bulls are quite dangerous and these ones were heading our way. I have never heard anything so deep rumbling and fierce as they bellowed out challenges. There was crashing of trees being knocked down and loud impacts as the bulls fought amongst themselves. The rocks in the river bed were also being tossed around as they came to within 70 metres of camp. Chris got up and started the car and turned headlights on to try and encourage them to go elsewhere. Didn't work really and the mob kept heading off to where ever they were going. About 2am they stopped bellowing and I got back to sleep. It was short lived though, as they soon started up again and headed back towards us. Some of the bulls did go through the campsite either side of ours. Some culling is definately required here. Got up at daybreak, teeth chattering in the 5 degree temp and stoked up the fire. We had a big breakfast of bacon and eggs and started to pack up for the run back to Alice. I mentioned to Alison that the bulls got very close to camp during the night and she asked, 'what bulls'. She didn't hear a thing, including Chris getting up and starting the car.

Chris and Ali at Ellery Rock Hole.

We drove out and soon hit bitumen for a smooth ride back to town. Stopped at Standley Chasm and had a look around for a bit. There was a Ghost Gum at the mouth of the chasm, where I had taken a photo of Beryl in 1975 and it was still there but much taller and wider in girth. Also looked in at Ellery Rockhole and then hit Alice Springs. Picked up the bags we had left behind at Chris's work place and booked in to our rooms at the Casino and had dinner at one of the eateries in there. Huge servings which even I couldn't finish. Had a nice, long shower, watched some of the State of Origin football and had a good nights sleep.

Monte's Pub and Mulga's Trivia night provided a night of fun in Alice Springs.

We slept in the next morning and caught a cab into Alice, as Chris had taken his car in to Toyota for a service. Did a bit of shopping and met up with Chris. Alison went to get her hair done and we sat around in Gloria Jeans coffee shop for a couple of hours. Alison, Beryl and I had booked in for acupuncture as we all had sore backs and it is a treatment which has really helped me in the past few years. Chris went back to the casino and we hung around town until it was time to pick his car up at 5pm. Didn't surprise me that it wasn't ready, as the local Toyota dealership doesn't have a very good reputation. We got it around 6pm and picked Chris up to go to dinner at Montes Pub. I was also Mulga's trivia night so we joined in a got 2nd place. A great night and lots of fun.

Slow down, people ahead.

Next morning we loaded the car and headed off to Tennant Creek. I drove most of the way and towards the end, I was getting into a trance. Glad to get there and wake up. Straight roads, high speeds and long periods of driving are not a good combination. I set the cruise control on 130kph and was amused to hit a couple of 'built up areas' where there were signs to watch out for people and slow down to 130kph. They have an open speed limit up there. We had dinner at home that night.

Zorbas Dance amidst the broken plates.

Today we had Alisons birthday party at the local Greek Restaurant. The owners put on a huge spread for Alison, Jana and another friend who had birthdays that week. A real fun night with food and drink that only the Greeks can manage. The plate breaking deal came into play later that night and at the end, they wouldn't even let us help clear up. A really nice family and friends of Alison and Chris too. We had another couple of days before we had to go back to Alice, so Beryl and I drove up to the dam and then the Telegraph station and further on to Banka Banka staging area. It was very overgrown since we were there a couple of years ago and we couldn't really explore the site for relics of the WW2 era. Our trip was over all too soon and the kids drove us all the way back to Alice Springs, where we stayed for a couple more days until we had to fly back to Sydney. We miss our kids when they live so far away.


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