Living Life in Alice Springs

It’s now been twelve months since Kevin and I relocated from Cairns to Alice Springs. It’s taken me this long to formulate an opinion on the journey from then to now and continue the story I started the night before I left Cairns. A life changing road trip from Cairns to Alice Springs (click on link)

It’s certainly been an interesting adventure from the day I drove myself the formidable distance of 3500km, over 4 days. Despite saying I never would, I actually passed four quadruple road trains (53+ metres in length). They are just too slow for even me to sit behind. Gripping the steering wheel really tight and a line of concentration on my brow, I just put my foot down and went for it. Each time was the longest 20 seconds of my life. I learnt early on that truck drivers don’t like being followed when one pulled over to get rid of me after I sat behind him for at least 100km out of Charters Towers. I stayed overnight in a cabin in Charters Towers, a cheap motel in Mt Isa and a tiny donga in Wauchope and then I was in Alice Springs. For me, just getting here took me so far out of my comfort zone. I was so proud of me and felt so brave.

This was an awesome moment. I made it all by myself.

For a couple weeks we lived in our Trayon Camper in a caravan park. The novelty wore off that very quickly. We bought a lovely modern unit in a nice location as renting in Alice Springs is astronomical in terms of cost and there was no way we could live long term in a Caravan Park – jammed in like in a sardine can, listening to the musical accompaniments in the facilities every morning not to mention the delightful aromas that waft by during the morning shower.

We needed our own little sanctuary. A place to call home and we found that to perfection. No regrets. I have lovely Sturt Desert Pea flowers growing in red sand. My life here is complete 😊.

One thing special about Alice Springs is the abundance of work. If you want a job you’ll find one easily. Within a month of moving here I had a new career. Kevin went from coming here as a truck driver to running the depot within six months. That’s Alice Springs. A guy we knew from our tourism past 20 years ago who was making scones at Mt Ebenezer roadhouse is now the Mayor. Our Chief Minister of the NT worked at Big W. Want to climb the career ladder fast, come to Alice.

So the move wasn’t a step backwards for us. It brought new opportunities. Someone asked me early on if our move here was a permanent thing or just an adventure. I wasn’t sure then but now I know the answer.

There are things I love about life in Alice and things I don’t like.

For people like us who love remote camping, 4×4 adventures, constant sunny blue skies, outback scenery, stunning sunrise and sunsets and the feeling of vast spaces, it’s a fantastic sojourn. Every weekend we have free we are out and about. There is so much to do and see out of town. I’ll never tire of campfires under the most amazing night skies and the sounds of the birds. Just wonderful. Alice Springs for us, is and has always been, about the stunning landscape around it.

From hiking the Larapinta Trail to 4×4 adventures. Life in Alice is fantastic for outdoor enthusiasts
There’s been many a walk down dusty tracks

The town itself has issues related to the high indigenous population. It’s very much a government town now with a high need for health and other government interventions. This is just how it is. Just little things annoy me, like not wanting to go to the cinema at night and risk my car windows getting smashed by roaming packs of kids. You wouldn’t believe how common this is. Getting the third degree by police going into a bottle shop – where will I be drinking and whom will I be drinking with and showing of ID to prove I’m me? I feel guilty just going in there to buy a fine liqueur to sip. Just a couple of examples. There are quite a few.

The weather here is both wonderful and awful to live with. Most days are so bloody perfect and it’s very liveable. In summer though the temperature can get scorching for a couple of months straight (45 degrees C), dust storms roll in frequently and the damn flies drive you insane. In winter the bird bath freezes in the bitterly cold morning, that all day cold wind gets right into your bones and ugg boots are a necessity. It can be a place of dramatic extremes. There are at least 4 months of the year where we didn’t use the reverse cycle split system air conditioners though. Perfect weather. So perfect. And I must mention how exciting it is when it does actually rain here – especially when it’s enough to make the dry Todd River flow. The feeling in town is pure elation and everyone’s out taking photos of a light sprinkling of rain.

Yes I photographed rain drops on my Akubra Hat. Such a rare sight to see in Alice.
The dust storms that roll in over the summer are quite an awesome sight. It’s get in every crevice if a window at home happens to be open.

I am so glad we came back here. There’s been times when the rose coloured glasses slipped off and my world became a bit bleak and grey. The Corona Virus situation made us feel trapped and isolated and I miss being close to family. There’s a sense of isolation living here, it’s very expensive to fly out of but overall I feel that I’ve gained a lot. Change, although hard to do, really is good for us as human beings. We grow. We evolve. We expand our horizons and attitudes. We learn what’s important.

So, is Alice Springs our forever place? An unequivocal NO. Has it been a wonderful adventure? Hell YES. It feels like we are on a working holiday trying to squeeze as much experience out of living in this amazing landscape as we can before we do move on one day.

I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity. Not for one moment. The photographs below say more than words.

THE AMAZING OUTBACK WATERHOLES AROUND ALICE SPRINGS

NOTHING BEATS A SWIM IN THE RED HEART OF AUSTRALIA

Hidden throughout the panoramic Western MacDonnell Ranges, to the West of Alice Springs, are a myriad of Gaps and Gorges with pristine waterholes.

These waterholes are beyond a doubt, in my opinion, the most exquisite feature of Central Australia. Tourists worldwide flock to that big red rock, Uluru, which is special, but an expensive and commercialised natural attraction. For me, its the natural and serene gaps, gorges and chasms of the MacDonnell Ranges, the spine of this ancient landscape, that totally capture my heart.

The landscape around the town of Alice Springs is as old as time and visually striking. Its the way the colours change with the direction of the sunshine that makes the magic. The ranges glow like fire at sunrise and sunset, like they are filled with a strange energy source . During the day are stunning shades of red, orange, pink, ochre and purple on the sheer walls of rock framed by an endless blue sky. Clumps of golden spinifex grass and a lonely white ghost gum perched elegantly on red rock paints the scene. These are the colours of Central Australia. The reflection of this landscape in a pristine, cool waterhole is the pure magic of Central Australia.

Nothing is more special than a swim in an Outback waterhole on a hot summer day. A picnic on a sandy beach under the shade of a gum tree. An inviting waterhole with rippled reflections of red rock and blue sky. A little slice of outback heaven. I find the view through a fly net is still lovely too. The little blighters are a bit thick in summer and love to try and get in your eyes and your mouth. I wouldn’t be the first person who has accidentally swallowed a fly here.

Summer flies in Central Australia. Be prepared.

Despite the presence of flies, I love all the waterholes and each one is unique. You can do a waterhole crawl and see them all in one day but each is worthy of spending time, taking a picnic, swimming, exploring, relaxing and just absorbing the view and the serenity of the scene in front of you.

To the west of Alice Springs my favourite waterholes are Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and last but not least,the adventure swim at Redbank Gorge, 155km from Alice Springs.

ELLERY CREEK BIG HOLE – a very deep big hole and gorgeous swimming
ORMISTON GORGE – a waterhole framed by dramatic scenery with a lovely sandy beach
GLEN HELEN GORGE – a lovely swim with access to a bar, coffee and meals.
REDBANK GORGE – the adventure swim

Redbank Gorge is unique and I classify it as the adventure swim. You need swim across the waterhole to enter a narrow cleft in the range. The further in you swim, the narrower and more stunning it is. Its icy cold, crystal clear and just beautiful with gorge walls towering at arms length on either side and a patch of blue sky way up above. This gorge is the furthermost from Alice and the 1.2km walk in involves a bit of rock hopping.

Of course, the best time to enjoy the waterholes is when its hot and you can savour a cool refreshing swim. There is no finer way to cool off in the Outback when its hot. Alice Springs in summer is hot but the waterholes are blissfully cold and picturesque to boot. Bring a noodle, float in the shade and ENJOY.

RUBY GAP NATURE PARK – Paradise Found in Central Australia

4 x 4 Adventure Trails in the Centre of Australia

The road is rough as guts and a bit of a 4WD adventure but the sight of Ruby Gap and Glen Annie Gorge in Central Australia is so worth every corrugation and diff scraping boulder. This is the real Outback of Australia. Red rock, gum trees in dry river bed and that sky that is the bluest of blues.

“ Surely the sky is not really that blue”, I say to Kevin, as on a warm sunny November day, as we hike along the river bed in Ruby Gorge.

Big blue sky country along a sandy dry river bed

We take off our Polaroid sunglasses to check and it was even bluer without them. An incredible shade of deep sky blue, a stunning backdrop to the red ochre walls of the gorge. These are the colours of the Outback that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The clarity of light here is brighter and it’s a special sight to behold.

Ruby Gap Nature Park is a “must see” piece of Central Australia. This part of the far Eastern MacDonnell Ranges will leave an imprint on your soul. I kid you not. It’s a remarkably pretty piece of country in a dry arid region. Only accessible by high clearance 4WD, it’s raw, natural and way less touristy than the Western MacDonnell Ranges. No allocated camping bays, no board walks, no fenced off areas, no caravans and most importantly no crowds of people.

So few other people that you can swim in the nuddy (because you walked 3 km to get to Glen Annie Gorge without togs and didn’t know that the swimming hole would be so amazing). We love a place to camp in the bush in solitude. Just the sounds of the wind, the birds, the crackle of a campfire and the wild donkeys that ee-aw from the scrub. This describes our campsite here to perfection.

Ruby Gorge was so named because of the gems scattered in the sandy Hale River bed. They are actually garnets not rubies as first thought by explorer David Lindsey in 1886. We fossick as we hike the visually spectacular 6km return from our campsite to Glen Annie Gorge and collect ourselves a few.

We are rich (in experience) Just worthless garnets but pretty nonetheless
Patches of glowing red garnets in the sand

Glen Annie Gorge is so lovely with a long waterhole framed by reeds and the towering red Gorge walls. It’s peaceful. Just the wind, the ducks and flocks of finches that flit between the gum trees. A swim here is pure magic and just divine on a warm November day. Almost a religious experience.

That would be yours truly in Paradise

At the end of the Gorge we find the lonely grave of JL Fox who died in 1888. No idea who he was but there is an eerie quality finding an old grave in such a remote, timeless place, surrounded by ancient sunbaked hills as old as time. And year, after year, after year, time marches onward and the grave of a man who once existed just bakes in the sun on a lonely hill………..

J L Fox buried here in 1888
A remote lonely, lonely grave in an ancient timeless landscape

A poignant moment and then we swim in the heavenly waterhole. Because right now we are in this lovely gorge under the clearest blue sky and we are alive. Living the life that makes us happy. What more is there?

Is this or is this not just a stunningly beautiful place? Glen Annie Gorge

Gourmet Pizza at Ruby Gap with a long cool spritz. I learnt on this trip that you can indeed make a magnificent Italian Pizza on a gas burner stove in a tiny camper. Oh the joy. Long gone are the days of a tin of baked beans with mini cocktail frankfurters.

Michelle’s new camping specialty
Memories of Italy in the Australian Outback. How awesome that we take a little bit of every holiday with us wherever we go. SALUTE
Cheers to my Outback man who I love to be in a 4WD with

BOGGY HOLE – Finke Gorge National Park, Central Australia

4 x 4 Adventure Trails in Central Australia

The landscape of this beautiful red heart of Australia never changes. Its ancient and timeless and has a feel that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Its the landscape that makes Central Australia remarkable, worth visiting and with a bit of 4 wheel driving and free bush camping, Boggy Hole on the Finke River is the perfect place to experience the heart of Outback Australia.

The Finke River is located to the west of Alice Springs. Like all Central Australian rivers, the Finke is dry but is special because its the oldest, unchanged river bed in the whole world. Its been eroding down in the same course for 60 million years. That’s pretty special. Along the river bed is the occasional waterhole that creates an oasis. Boggy Hole is one such waterhole. Its there we go to find that ‘heart of the outback’ that we are longing for, with the striking outback colours.

Boggy Hole is located in the Finke Gorge National Park to the west of Alice Springs. Following Larapinta Drive, it’s 125 kilometres of bitumen to Hermansburg and then just before entering the Aboriginal settlement there is a sign post to the left indicating ‘Boggy Hole’. A very rough and corrugated dirt road. This is where a little bit of adventure starts and Kevin stops to let some air out the Coopers. We keep following this road straight (don’t deviate) until it reaches the dry Finke River bed where it becomes a two wheel track following the watercourse.

The National Park Gate. Only 9.5 km to go

And there we are. Four wheel driving in the Outback with the windows down. Just the two of us. In complete solitude. Its like a breathe of fresh air. Meandering our 4WD slowly down a dry river bed, around gum trees, over boulders and through soft sand. The bluest of blue skies above and the rich red of towering gorge walls to each side. The clarity of light and colour is amazing. A little bit of outback magic goes a long way.

Although the distance is no more than 15km it takes us a couple of hours to reach Boggy Hole. We have our own private oasis here. Water is the all magic ingredient when camping in the bush even if its just to look at. We explore on foot and then swim through the weeds to reach the deep, cool green water on the far bank. We didn’t have togs on but when you have the place all to yourself what does that matter? It was a most delicious swim.

Lovely shady campsite at Boggy Hole
A nice deep waterhole
For a swim. Maybe even a skinny dip if you have it all to yourselves.

As dusk approaches we prepare for the show and light the campfire. The setting sun is always the most spellbinding show in outback Australia. And it doesn’t disappoint. The sky turned from pure gold to a fire in the sky. The gorge walls glowed with an intensity that was mesmerising. Like a light bulb inside them. And the scene was reflected in the still waterhole giving us a double glorious view. It seemed to last for ages but eventually faded and we sat by the flickering firelight waiting for the encore performance. The star show. The night sky in Central Australia is truly a spectacular sight and there is nothing better than looking at it next to a campfire. Look at the fire, look at the stars, look at the fire, look at the stars……… Its so good.

A lovely sleep followed with a cool breeze and a view of the stars through the windows. A couple of curious dingos wandered by during the night for a drink at the waterhole. Little things that enhance a bush experience.

This is what camping in Central Australia is all about. Complete solitude, blue skies with red rock, green shady waterholes, campfires, clear star filled nights and 4 wheel driving along dry riverbeds. A little bit of outback magic.