Our first stop in Alice Springs (after checking into our motel) was Anzac Hill, 234 steps from bottom to top. There is a 360° view from up there, and it’s a great introduction to the area. At the top, we discovered that there is also a road that goes up the back side, in case you don’t want the hike.
We wandered through the pedestrian mall, visiting some of the tourist souvenir shops along the way. One shop, the Sounds of Starlight Theatre, offers free (or at least it was when we were there) didgeridoo demonstrations, and we gave a try at that. Andrew was pretty good at it, and it sure sounds funny with all the sounds one can make from a simple wood tube.
We rode camels at Pyndan Camel Tracks (A$50 for a one hour ride) right at sunset. It was quite peaceful in the outback, and the ride is remarkably comfortable.
The next day, we took a drive along the MacDonnell Range and stopped in at a couple of the gaps in the 644 km (400 mile) long mountain “wall.” Each one collects water and is a natural habitat for all kinds of wildlife. The aboriginals camped at many of these watering holes. The first we stopped at was Ellery Creek Big Hole.
We also stopped at Serpentine Gorge.
This hole requires a bit of a hike along a mostly level path, and the pond in it is considerably smaller than the Ellery Creek Hole. It is also more quiet and peaceful, since fewer people visit it. There is a side trail that climbs to the top of the ridge, and Andrew climbed up there for a view of the desert.
On the way back to town, Andrew decided he wanted to hike up to the high point of the MacDonnell Range overlooking Alice Springs. It took him less than 45 minutes to gain the top, though the trail is rough. This point offers excellent vistas in all directions.
The next day, we spent several hours at the Alice Springs Desert Park (wildlife centre), just 7 kilometres outside of town. We highly recommend visiting this place, which costs A$25. The Park has a huge variety of ecosystems and animals.
One of the highlights of the Desert Park is the amphitheatre, where there are frequent bird shows with birds flying in on cue to show off their abilities, including snatching tidbits of food out of the air.
There are enclosures all around the place where you can view birds and other animals in their natural habitat. In the Nocturnal House are many night-time animals. It is fascinating seeing the variety, and simply trying to spot them is challenging, as photographing them clearly is nearly impossible. We both very much enjoyed our few hours wandering around the Desert Park.
That afternoon, while I caught up on work (yeah, silly to have to work during our holiday/vacation; won’t happen again), Andrew took the drive out to visit the original telegraph station just outside of Alice Springs. This is how Alice Springs came into being, as a telegraph station between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north. It was a fascinating study of history. He also took a short hike to the top of the ridge north of the station, again for a wonderful view.
There is much more to do at Alice Springs, including other historic sites and other drives through the outback. After three days in Alice Springs, we drove the six and a half hours out to Uluru (Ayers Rock), the next stop on our Australia sampler trip…