Ayers Rock and Alice Springs
And Now for Something Completely Different
Australia – Chapter 2
Ayers Rock and Alice Springs
We're here in the Northern Territory, at Sails in the Desert Resort, within sight of the legendary Ayers Rock, or its traditional name, Uluru. This is a completely different setting than the big city of Sydney. There are no cities around, or even towns, unless you count “City Centreâ€ which is the few businesses – post office deli, restaurant, grocery store, beauty salon, and clothing/souvenir shops – clustered around the courtyard here at the resort. We're thrilled to be here! It's a 3 ½ hour flight from Sydney. We traveled on Qantas, and were again vey satisfied with the service. There was a movie, music tracks, and even a sandwich for lunch. All drinks were included in the fare. Our pilot alerted us several times to landmarks down below. The outback is magnificent. The red earth is the dominant color, but there are greens, silvers, yellows and browns. It's like nothing we've seen before, and already we don't want to leave. We drove out to Uluru and took some pictures and film. It was just before sunset, and people gather to watch the sunset there. Many were sipping wine or drinking beer, and had their chairs and tables set up, creating a festive atmosphere. As we walked around the fence built for the rock's protection, we saw Uluru from different angles, and so have an even greater appreciation for its beauty! The day is warm and clear, and we feel at home. http://www.crystalinks.com/ayersrock.html
Sunset at Ayers Rock
Our hotel is completely luxurious. We have a hot tub on our covered porch, and two lounge chairs on our open patio. There are a fridge and electric kettle, warm terrycloth robes and slippers, large screened TV, plenty of storage, a dining table, room service, a pool, gardens, a small town complete with post office, IGA grocery, shopping, restaurants, and best of all, a view of Ayers rock! There are two queen sized beds, and a couch, so a family would be very comfortable here. It is a luxury and an experience, and so the price is worth the celebration, in our opinion. We're celebrating our first trip to Australia! Before turning in for the night, we relaxed in our private sauna. Heaven!
At a cost of $550 A per night, or about $440 USA, it's definitely a place for special occasions! http://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/sails/
HINT: The TV has no TV shows. It's all movies, and the picture was awful, and we couldn't figure out how to select a movie, anyway. The fridge is a mini bar, but the prices are generally reasonable.
Trying to save a little, we bought some fruit and pastry at the IGA and enjoyed breakfast in our room. We made coffee with the electric kettle, and thought it was a wonderful meal. We watched the sunrise from the comfort of our porch, and it was extraordinary! The sun coming up and illuminating Uluru is incredible! A short drive to Uluru National Park brought us to the Cultural Centre, where we learned about the Aborigine culture. It really is fascinating! We learned many things: there are three seasons – cold, warm winds blowing, and hot; boys learn from their fathers, grandfathers, and older brothers the ways of the people; there are many remarkable folktales to explain the world. There is shopping and a cafÃ© as well. Then began our series of bush walks; Liru, Mala, Puni, and Kuniya. All of them were exciting, but Kuniya was the most appealing because we saw Aboriginal drawings from ancient times, and the waterhole, or billabong. Drink plenty of water while hiking. A liter per hour is recommended. Wear sunscreen and insect repellant – the bugs were pesky today! http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/
Back at the resort, we ate lunch at the Gecko cafÃ©. Greg chose Seafood Pasta, and MaryJo had the Chicken Schnitzel. The total for both was $44 A or about $33 USA.
Sounds of Silence! That's the dinner we had tonight, in the Outback. First, we embarked from the bus to see tables set with linen and crystal, and a full kitchen behind. Then we were escorted to a rise in the Outback for our cocktail party, champagne flowing, and soft drinks, served with canapÃ©s such as kangaroo on toast and crocodile mini quiches. We watched as the sun set over the bush. Dinner was a feast! Lamb, kangaroo, crocodile Caesar salad, couscous, roasted potatoes, fresh fruit, carrots with fennel, and chicken sausage were among the offerings served buffet style. We were offered either Australian red or white wine. After dinner the dessert buffet included bread and butter pudding, brownies topped with cheesecake, carrot cake, and several toppings. Coffee, tea, and port were served. A talk about the night sky and didgeridoo music were the entertainment after dinner. It was a wonderful setting for a wonderful meal! The people at our table were friendly and jovial. It was cold after the sun went down, but we'd like to do it again! The cost of $150 A or about $120 USA is worth the experience! We celebrated our first trip to Australia!
A soak in the hot tub looking at the stars ended our day.
Personal notes: Beau, you would love the bush walking we did today! Angel, you'd love the Australian beers! Andrew, no one makes gin and tonic like you do! Katie, how are you enjoying your vacation? Don, we thought about you and all the new plants we saw! John, we're doing lots of walking.
This morning started with a trip to see the sunrise over Uluru! It was spectacular! the colors changed as we watched! It was very cold – the wiper fluid froze on the windshield, but the frosty temperatures we endured were worth the sight. Unfortunately, we had to leave! Fortunately, we were on our way to Alice Springs! The drive through the Outback was long, but beautiful. We noticed words and symbols written in white stones in the red sand, we got out several times to investigate, and wonder who, why, and when the person constructed the messages. We stopped at Curtain Springs, Mt. Ebenezer Station, and Stuart Wells Station. They all had a snack bar, beer bar, campground, gas station, motel, and rest rooms. Curtain Springs had an aviary and an emu. Mt. Ebenezer has an Aboriginal Gallery. While we were there, the Bush bus dropped off several Aborigines. Stuart Wells has a camel farm with rides, lama, and emus. We'd like to spend a night at the campground, or caravan park, at some point. There is nothing, and we emphasize, nothing, between the Roadhouses! No houses, gas stations or stores. The Roadhouses are the lifeline. We were disappointed that the only animals we saw were dead ones. We did enjoy watching the landscape change – from plains to hilly, from bright red sand to orange stony earth, and the evolution of the plant life.
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Finally, we reached Alice Springs after about 5 hours. http://www.alicesprings.nt.gov.au/ If we hadn't stopped to look at the roadhouses, we would have made it in a slighter shorter time, but we're really glad we did. Our hosts at Nthaba, William and Ann, are very gracious and helpful. We met their delightful grandsons Patrick and Jamie and son Robert. William told us about the colony of wallabies that live nearby. The price per night is $185 AUS or about $145 USA. Although Wi-Fi is offered, we couldn't get a connection, even with help from Ann. http://www.nthabacottage.com.au/
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After tea and cake prepared by Ann, we visited Bo's, or Bojangles Saloon, for supper. The camel and stout pie was delicious! Tender and flavorful – our first taste of camel. The price for our entrÃ©e was $17.50 AUS or about $13.25 USA. It also came with chips and salad. Our bartender, Nathan, was fun, and the place itself is designed to confuse. The door knob is in the opposite side of the opening; turn on the water at the sink, and the next sink turns on, hot water and cold water are on the wrong side, and the toilet seat has razor blades enclosed in plastic. The dÃ©cor is decidedly eclectic. Go to see the pythons in the display case also showing the skeleton on the rusty bike. Cheers! http://bossaloon.com.au/
Exploring Alice Springs, Chapter 1
For a small town, Alice has many sites! We recommend you spend at least 3 days here. Unfortunately, we had only allotted ourselves the two nights. We started out after a delicious fruit, egg and toast breakfast, with The School of the Air, the world's largest classroom. As a teacher, MaryJo is very interested in this educational system. While there, we were able to see and hear two teachers conducting their class. One was a year 8, or third grade teacher, and the other was a second grade, or year 7 teacher. We listened as the students and teacher interacted. The idea was born in 1951 with radio as the means of communication, and utilizing the mail for assignments. In 2005, each family was given a computer, scanner, and fax, through a government grant. There are at least 160 students being serviced by The School of the Air. Children live on station, roadhouses, or Aboriginal reserves. The children have about 6 hours of school per day, including at least 1 hour with the teacher. Our guide, Judy, was very informative! http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au/
Todd Mall is full of shops, places to eat, and historic sites. We saw Adelaide House, the first hospital in Central Australia, and Flynn Church. John Flynn was instrumental in organizing the Royal Flying doctor's Service, which we went to see a little later. He called it the “mantle of safety.â€ Browsing and people watching is free.
Then we visited the Reptile Center, where we saw Terry the crocodile, and many venomous snakes, lizards, goannas, and turtles. The black headed python was pretty. A favorite is the thorny lizard! A Fossil Hall is also at the Reptile Center, showing some of the many Australian animals of pre historic times. The admission price is $12 A or $ 9 USA per person. http://www.reptilecentre.com.au/
Next, we walked across the street to The Museum of Pioneer Women. This is a must see! Australian women who lived in the bush during the 19th and early 20th centuries were faced with many obstacles, including isolation, drought, and heat. The Museum spotlighted pioneers in aviation, sports, medicine, the arts, public service, and other careers. It is housed in the old gaol (jail) and we were able to learn how the inmates lived, including how the whites and Aborigines were segregated. The history is similar to that of US segregation. Admission was only $7 A each, or about $5 USA. http://www.pioneerwomen.com.au/default.html
Next door is the Royal Flying Doctors Museum. The dedicated doctors and nurses of the RFDS serve all people of Australia. Originally begun in the 1920s to serve the people of the Outback, and provide medical care, the flying Doctors now help people in cities who must be transferred to a special hospital, and visitors to Australia. A short film highlighted people who credited the Flying Doctors with saving their lives. We saw a medicine box from 1958 compared with one from 2008. Quite a contrast!
Time for a late lunch! The Red Ochre Grill in Todd Mall features kangaroo, emu, beetroot and other native Australian fare. Our sampler platter was $33 A or $26 USA , adding an Australian beer was another $8 A for a total of $43A or about $32USA. http://www.redochre.com.au/
Off we went to Anzac Hill, a memorial for the Australian – New Zealand Army Corps of WW I and later WWII. Included in the Monument are remembrances of Korea, Malaya and Viet Nam, The view of the town of Alice Springs and the Hightrees Mountain ranges are spectacular!
Exploring Alice Springs, Chapter 2
Finally, we stopped at Telegraph Hill. The telegraph allowed Alice Springs and other parts of Central Australia to communicate with the rest of the world. The telegraph station was really a small village, including a blacksmith shop, school, animals, and water storage. It's nestled right above Alice Springs Waterhole, a permanent waterhole on the Todd River. The bed is usually dry, but there is a river underground, giving it the name of the upside down river. http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/find/astelegraphstation.html
After all the “doing the townâ€ as William put it, we headed to Overlander's Steakhouse, where Greg chose the kangaroo mignon and MaryJo had the bugs, a giant crayfish. Both were very spicy and tasty. We had the damper cob as an appetizer. It was very dense bread, traditionally cooked in a can over the camp fire. A flag of the USA was placed on our table after the maitre d' asked where we were from. Our waitress, Melanie, was friendly and efficient. Our meals were $84.50 A, or about $67 USA. http://www.overlanders.com.au/
Dessert was back at Bo's – Bojangles. It was a pyramid of three ice creams, acacia, lemon myrtle and pistachio with fresh berry compote, and coffee. There was some confusion over the coffee. We ordered, and the bartender asked what kind of coffee – latte, cappuccino, etc. Just coffee, we replied. “I don't understand. A shot of coffee?â€ Finally we conveyed the idea that a cup of black coffee was all we required. Total tab was $20 A or about $16 USA.
Sadly this was our last day in Alice. Ann whipped up a yummy omelet for breakfast, and made coffee for us. Our only excursion today was to the Desert Park. We wish we had more time there! The Desert Garden, Ann tells us, is the icon of Alice Springs. Admission was $20 A each or about $16 USA. There are three distinct types of environments featured: Woodland, Desert, and Sandy Land. There are demonstration such as Aboriginal Desert Survival and Desert Birds of Prey, which was highly recommended by William. Aboriginal guides were very helpful. I have a connection with one who also likes butterflies and admired the one I was wearing! The bird show was very informative and exciting, as the birds swooped down over our heads. We saw along the walk kangaroos, emus, and many types of birds. A nocturnal animal building showed night time animals in their natural habitat. The aviary had many different types of birds. There were demonstrations throughout the day, so a day long stay could be in your travel plan. http://www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au/
Chapter 5 – Desert Park
Off on a plane again, to Brisbane, and a stay at Annerley B & B! It is absolutely charming! Our hosts, Peter and Morna are friendly and helpful! Brisbane promises to be fun!
Our suggestions for a wallet friendly getaway:
The Desert Park is a definite must see, and the admission is a bargain for all day! Dinner and entertainment at Bojanlges is a good pick. The School of the Air was most interesting. The Botanical Gardens are free. Anzac Hill is free, worthwhile, and the views are spectacular! Todd Mall has some good quality shops and places to eat, so it's a fine place to browse.