Alice Springs, Australia
23° 42' S 133° 52' E
Jul 12, 2009 04:15
Distance 1292km

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Blog 25 Alice Springs


Flying into Alice Springs, the reality of being in Australia began to sink in. Having come in from Bali on a short flight, it was very difficult to really appreciate that we were now on the other side of the world. However passing over mile upon mile of what seemed to be completely barren landscape with only the odd dirt road, it began to dawn on us that what we had seen on television of the Australian Outback actually now lay below us.


Coming over the massive stone ridge that marks the edge of Alice Springs or ‘The Alice’, we flew through heavy turbulence as the thermals rose off the desert landscape and there was a real feeling of adventure as we circled tightly before beginning a steep descent to the narrow strip of blacktop in the middle of a massive flat land of red sand.


Collecting our luggage off the conveyor, we found the ‘free shuttle’ desk for Annie’s Place hostel that we had booked into. After being told that we would have to wait until another flight landed (“which is delayed and may not arrive today”) we sat in yet another arrivals lounge where we were greeted by the surreal experience of a television showing a repeat of ‘Antiques Roadshow’.


When it became apparent that the other flight was not going to arrive anytime soon, we, along with a welsh couple, and a couple of Irish girls (there must be a joke in there somewhere) piled on board the bus and headed into town. Again, the views along the road to town were straight out of clichéd Australian Outback with ‘caution kangaroos’ signs and bone dry, red-sand creek beds to either side.


Arriving at Annie’s Place, despite the good reviews we had heard, was a bit disappointing when we were told (despite having booked in April and had a deposit taken) that there was no room for us. The Irish couple that had travelled in with us had the same problem and after some complaining, a phone call to the hostel’s owner (the reception staff seem pretty useless and couldn’t see a major issue with telling you at 6pm they have no rooms and everywhere else in town is full) they were offered a room in a motel and we were given a room which met about half the specification of what we had booked.


The $10 ‘backpackers dinner’ in the bar area helped to improve the general impression of the place but after having to pay $8 to wash and dry my clothes (another fun-filled Saturday night after we finally managed to get some change from the unhelpful bar staff) and an expensive wi-fi internet system that didn’t seem to work, we weren’t overly impressed with our first ‘real’ backpackers hostel.


Taking a walk into town after completing my laundry, we discovered a town which made Darwin look positively cosmopolitan. Walking through the town centre, we were met with a deserted, dark shopping area with the occasional aboriginal sitting on a grassed area – usually with a ‘carry out’. Pretty much like home really! And it was possibly this similarity that, despite all its roughness, made me feel a special affinity for Alice Springs. Rough and ready, possibly the final ‘frontier town’, the place still has a real attraction to it and it is somewhere I would love to visit again – possibly to use as a base for a tour into the Outback.


After a not very comfortable night’s sleep in the rubber-sheeted bed, I got up, found a toilet with a lock on the door then had a quick shower while being watched by a dodgy-looking spider, and headed into town for breakfast. Once again, the comparative cost of Australia hit us hard (there are just under $2 to the pound at the time of writing) as we paid nearly $35 for breakfast – a sum that would have kept us in food for a week in Vietnam.


With the intention of spending one night at Ayres Rock then returning to Alice Springs the following day, we packed up and headed once again to the airport. Again, Annies Place was less than helpful since, despite advertising a free airport shuttle, told us we could have paid $8 for the bus, but it left ten minutes ago so now would need to phone a taxi.


Despite all this, leaving Alice Springs and flying down to Ayres Rock was probably, in terms of views,  the most impressive flight I have ever taken with a truly stunning vista of red sand and dry desert below us.


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