Alice Springs is the informal capital of the Red Centre with the population of 26000 people and it is the second populated town in Northern Territory. Also, Alice Springs location is so far from biggest Australian cities that make this place really unique.
Alice Spring surprised us positively and it is green and well maintained town. In Coober Pedy trees could be counted on the fingers of one hand. In Alice Springs, shops were very well stocked in comparison what you can expect in other smaller outback towns. Only liquor stores look like a war zone. Normally, outside of the shop there were two security guards and inside another two. At checkout, the driver licence is scanned and purchase limit is in place. So, again – a dry zone with full restrictions this time.
We arrived in our caravan park that was beautifully situated close to the mountains, and away from the town center.
Alice Springs Reptile Centre
Winter in the Red Centre is really not our cup of tea (cold winds every day), but it’s a perfect time to explore the surroundings. We started in the morning at Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
They really have an extensive range of reptiles including Python, Goanna, Thorny Devils, and other lizards. What was amazing was that everyone could have really close contact with animals.
Nell didn’t want to leave this place without her best friend Goanna. They walked together, Nell could even pat her – it was a love at first sight. Marius, on the other hand, had his five minutes with a 7.5 kg python called Zeus. They hugged each other a bit and both seemed to enjoy it.
On our way back to the town we passed the famous The Ghan, a train that is already an Australian legend. The Afghan Express (as it was called in the past) was built late 1800’s, and connected Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin. Nowadays the journey takes only 48th and covers a distance of nearly 3000 km.
The Ghan takes its name from the 19th century Afghan camel drivers who arrived in Australia and helped to explore the country’s remote interior. We said that one day, we definitely have take The Ghan and enjoy the outback from different perspective.
Alice Springs Desert Park
Alice Springs Desert Park is a must go when visiting Alice Springs. It is located 8 km west from Alice Springs. When we arrived we did not know they have so many presentations and activities. The whole day is made with a full schedule that includes: bird feeding, dingo dreaming, fighting extinction lecture, learning about nature’s supermarket (what you can eat in outback) and enhanced with some educational movies that are played in the theater.
However, I favorite was Free Flying Bird Show. They have well trained birds like hawks, eagles and parrots that fly free around the theater and come back as commanded. It is really awesome. Definitely it was a well spent money to visit the Desert Park.
In the afternoon we went to see the old telegraph station as history of the town began just there. The Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve marks the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. The name of the city comes from the telegraph operator’s wife, Alice, who lived close to the spring. The place itself is fabulously situated and I highly recommend visiting it if you plan to be nearby.
Nell discovered an old piano. I immediately remembered the dog from the day before and we had some laughs.
At the end we enjoyed a view of the city from the ANZAC hill. We clearly saw the town lies in a valley surrounded by mountains. Now I understand why it’s so cold here. Just kidding. It is winter, so it must be cold.
We planned for a day trip to the picturesque and less visited East MacDonnell mountain range. We went there in the middle of winter, so it was empty and in my opinion, magical. These very old mountains with a beautiful brick tint made a huge impression on us.
Emily Gap - Aboriginal Paintings
The information board promised us wonderful Aboriginal drawings, unfortunately the water standing in the dry river bed at times made it impossible for us to see them. We were really looking forward to seeing the dreaming stories of three ancestral caterpillars. Marius said that there was a very shallow section where you could easily walk, and he made me do it … I went, but the water was up to my knees and my pants were wet well above the knees…
It’s good that my shoes were tight enough that I didn’t get wet at all. Unfortunately, my intelligent husband saw it and still didn’t care to take his shoes off and he followed in my footsteps too! He ended up wringing his socks… But all this madness was worth the sacrifice, because we were finally able to see a sacred place, full of paintings.
We could finally see the caterpillars, painted on the red rock. Arrernte people consider themselves direct descendants of them. It looked phenomenal! This gallery (open to everyone), is really worth mentioning: a dry river “flowing” between huge blocks of red rocks. We were enchanted by this view.
There were so many things to see, but we had to move on.The next place of interest, simply knocked us off our feet.
Trephina Gorge is spectacular
The river flows in a wide bed (water reaching up to our ankles) and has some wonderful rock formations. There are several short walks around Trephina Gorge.
Nell was full of joy and bravely overcame the obstacles. We also decided to prepare our dinner there – potatoes, vegetables and grilled meat. There was a little bit of commotion, because we wanted to use park BBQ and we had no experience in this matter (we always use our own). The first one turned out to have no gas, the next one had gas, but we didn’t have any matches… Fortunately, some fellow travelers saved us from being hungry, or eating raw meat.
Always take your BBQ, or at least matches
After a delicious meal, we headed straight to the old gold mine located 110 km from Alice. The route gave us a foretaste of Kimberly, to which we are heading: a stone road, full of surprises, crossed by a dry river bed every few dozen meters. In two occasions it was a flowing river and our first independent experience of crossing it.
The dirt tracks were so corrugated that the radio antenna unscrewed itself and fell on the side of the road! Duct tape proved to be handy again. However, the inconvenience of the road was played by the views – they were phenomenal!
Arltunga Historical Reserve
On site at Arltunga Historical Reserve, we found a well-preserved police station with a prison. Town was born out of the goldrush and during its “peak” time 300 lived there. Nell tried to crush some rocks in big mortar and pestle in her search for gold, but ended up being unsuccessful.
Marius considered trade in our truck for the latest model of a miner’s car, which was in mint condition, but I thought otherwise.
It was getting dark and there were still 130 km to return to our camp. What a day! On our way back we met a kangaroo and countless cows wandering on the way. Marius mesmerized them with his eyes and asked loudly not to make any sudden moves. It worked.
After returning, we made a dinner of canned meat stew, which was so tasty (or we were just extremely hungry). It was a long day and we were exhausted. The mountains of East MacDonnell may not be as popular as West MacDonnell, but they are worth a visit. I recommend going to see this beautiful scenery.