The Alice, what the locals call Alice Springs, right in the middle of the country, the outback, real Australia, my home for the next 3 days.
Today I flew, with Bob and Sally, from Melbourne to the Alice on Quantus airlines.
After a delay in Melbourne, we made up most if the time and arrived only 20 minutes later than planned. We got our rental car, some take-away sandwiches (to go) and we were on our way towards Uluru, about 300k away. We cannot drive our rental car after dark because of the liability that the nocturnal wildlife presents! So we drove and drove and drove with just a couple of stops for photos. The roads are mostly long and straight and not too heavily travelled. The speed limit is 130kph, or about 80 mph so we were moving right along. Beside the wildlife, the other potential hazard on the roads are the road trains ~ tractor trailer trucks pulling not one, not two, but three trailers! We saw a good number of these trucks going in the other direction on the two-lane road and Bob had to pass a couple of these long rigs. Click here to see the video.
The scenery is very different from anywhere else we’ve been in Aussie-land, but reminded us of the desert southwest in the USA with the red rocks and soil and low greenish scrub bushes. There were more trees than we expected and overall it was greener than we thought it might be. We passed by some low mountains and rocky outcropping, but the never-ending flat plains were never far from sight.
This area has several very distinctive huge rock formations that have strong cultural meaning to the Aboriginal settlers who originally lived here thousands of years ago. The first of these rock monoliths that we saw was named Mt. Connor, which reached an altitude of 2,500 feet. I don’t have any more data on this landmark because it is not the reason that people come to this area. That honor goes to Uluru (Ayers Rock), a spiritual haven to the Aborigines, rising up from the plains. We go there tomorrow and can hardly wait!
We are staying at the Curtin Springs Station, an enormous working cattle ranch that has also grown to include a campground, motel accommodations and a restaurant. The same family has worked this ranch and hosted visitors for over 50 years. The ranch is over 1,000,000 acres, or 1,600 square miles in size! We ate dinner at their restaurant, which is really an outside dining area under a very thick thatched roof. Most of the menu items were beef, some from the local cows. I had beef sausages from this ranch and they were delicious!
The only really interesting wildlife we saw on our drive this afternoon was a huge bird that resembled an eagle, but larger than eagles we know at home. We will have to do some research to identify that guy!
Tomorrow we will have an early start ( but not before sun-up because we can’t drive the car in the dark!), so we can have the day at Uluru. We plan to visit the Cultural Center there so we have an understanding of the importance of this place and then we will head out to hike around Uluru, a 6 mile trek.
It has been an overcast day and we are hoping it clears off for tomorrow. Actually, when I finish writing this, I am going outside to see if the clouds have parted so I can star-gaze, look for that Southern Cross in the night sky!
Along the road today there were many places with signs indicating that it was a flood-prone area, with gauges alongside the road measuring up to two meters of water on the road! I cannot even imagine that much water flowing through this area! The river beds that we crossed today were all dry, but the raging torrents that must flow after a big storm must be incredible!
Apparently there are not too many kangaroos in this area, and we are more likely to see a wild camel! That would be wild!!!