Last Sunday morning Alice-Miranda, my mother in law, Joan and I boarded a Qantas plane bound for Alice Springs. It would be a new experience for all of us and I was really excited to be visiting the centre of Australia. To say that Alice Springs is green at the moment is an understatement. The shocking contrast of red and patches of green grass was unexpected to say the least.
On Monday (the Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday) my mother in law and I were booked to go on a small coach tour of the West MacDonnell Ranges. When the driver arrived I asked if there were many people coming along (our hotel was the first pick up) and when he said that it was a very small group I immediately enquired if we could take someone else. His response was a very enthusiastic yes – even after he realised that the someone was Alice-Miranda.
So we boarded the bus and set off with Alice-Miranda in the front passenger seat, much to the delight of the passengers already with us. Others who joined us along the pickup were slightly more perplexed.
The outback is vast, with a sky that seems to stretch on forever and red ranges that create a spectacular backdrop. We visited Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Bighole (the most beautiful water hole where lots of locals go to swim but only when it’s really hot. Anything sub 35 I’m told is still too cold – and the water is always chilly), the Ochre Pits, Glen Helen Gorge for a delicious lunch and on the return run we spent a couple of hours at Ormiston Gorge. I climbed to the lookout and then walked the long way back, in the hope of getting a glimpse of a black footed rock wallaby. We spotted one – high on the cliff on a ledge. I was glad I had the zoom on the camera to look at him.
The return trip also saw us stop at Simpson’s Gap – another beautiful spot and apparently a popular wedding destination, only about 18 kilometres from Alice. Our final point of interest was John Flynn’s grave – which up until recently had been marked with one of the Devil’s Marbles. It was returned not so long ago and a new stone of similar proportions installed. Flynn is the pioneer who started the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Our tour guide, John, was a mine of information, from the fact that the layer of red on the rocks is thinner than a strand of human hair and below it the mountains are quartz, to the history of Alice Springs and that Sir Charles Todd, Superintendent of the Telegraphs named the place Alice Springs after his wife Alice – who never visited the town. At least my Alice visited the Alice!
I only wished we’d had more time to explore. I’d love to see Hermannsberg and King’s Canyon and of course, Uluru. But there were schools to visit and children to see and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the week would bring