Sat 21st to 23rd – We were up at dawn to take some photos of the pillar, it was freezing cold. We packed up and then headed into Alice.
The road into Alice was much smoother than the previous dirt roads we had been on. As you approach Alice from the south heading north you go through this amazing pass with deep red cliffs on either side of you. When we arrived in Alice we looked up where to stay, avoiding anything close to the Todd River as we had heard by several good sources it could get very noisy. We decided on the Wintersun Caravan park, more on this later.
They say first impressions count, so that is what we will give you of Alice Springs, but to be fair we spent all of our time there doing, washing, shopping, chasing around bits and pieces and fixing up a serious issue we had with the ute that we didn’t know about until we got to Alice, our time was not relaxing.
Things can be a little hard to find as things are spread out, which would be typical of a lot of large country towns. In the cities we have shopping centres that have everything in the one spot, in Alice, Target is in one area of town, Kmart in another, little shopping complexes here and there. Just takes a bit of getting used too. There are great supplies at Woolworths and Coles. There is a sort of industrial area that has heaps of different business including hardware stores, camping, Harvey Norman, Super Cheap, Repco as well as your more industrial type of businesses like engineering, bolts supplies etc. Alice pretty well has everything covered, prices were a little dearer than the cities but that’s to be expected but they weren’t exorbitant. Every shop keeper we dealt with was very friendly.
To get the best view of Alice and help put where everything is into perspective go up to Anzac Hill, great view of the whole town and you can clearly see where it sits in relation to the ranges and why it would of been an ideal spot to establish a town.
The bad, the place is filthy. There are free toilets near the info centre in town which are filthy and stink, you can also have a shower there for $3.50. The toilets in the Woolworths shopping centre cost 50 cents, you can workout yourself why they charge you to use loos in Alice. Some of the locals gather in small or large groups and just sit around. In the gutters, in the parks, on rocks, on dry creek beds, anywhere. On several occasions we saw groups with lots of rubbish around them. We’re had heard that some of the locals gather on the Todd River, which is usually dry, have fires, makes lots of noise and often fight. Our caravan park was across the road from Charles River, also dry. Every night we heard lots of yelling and screaming that went on into the wee hours. We heard several gun shots every night. Most places have high fences with barbed wire on the top, our caravan park included. When we checked into our park we were handed a brochure on personal security of yourself and belongings. There are lots of police around the town and the Woolworths shopping complex seems to hires it’s own security with at least 3 guards walking around the place. At the time we were there, there was some sort of rally or protest in one of the parks opposite the police and court house. TV crews where there and more police than protesters. This went on for at least two days. We heard from some others travellers that they were told to stay away from Alice for several days due to something being on and that police reinforcements were call in. Of course that wouldn’t happen every day. Nevertheless we certainly were very aware to keep everything locked and not leave the ute unattended for too long.
This was our experience and could change from one visit to another. It’s a pity there is this element that isn’t very pleasant as it could be an amazing town in an awesome location. Because of our situation we didn’t get to just stroll up the streets and fully take the town in, we hope to be able to do this when we got back after doing the ranges and Ayers Rock.
The Wintersun caravan park was ok, our biggest issue was we were stuck on a small site, where it was previously part of a bigger site that had been cut in half. Our site backed onto a high fence with barbed wire, so the view wasn’t great. The second issue was the grass or lack off was very very dry, to us worst than the dust as bits of grass would get onto everything. We were told by people who had been there before years ago the grass and grounds used to be well watered, not the case now. We have learnt to ask for a concert slab next time and a larger site. The area was noisy, dogs howling at night, gunshots, and yelling and screaming from the locals, all none of the parks fault. Price was $34 a night for powered which isn’t too bad. If you want better then expected to pay for it, the Big 4 caravan park that is in a quieter area is $47.
These extremely rough, corrugated roads sort out the strong and week points of any vehicles . Last time it was the tyres and springs for us. This time the bolts that hold the canopy to the chassis of the ute had come loose or had broken leaving only one of the six bolts loose but there. We could of lost the canopy on the side of the road somewhere thank God we hadn’t. Long story short with some suggestions from the manufacture of the canopy Chris found a suitable solution to the problem, which included replacing the bolts with high tensile bolts and Ross Engineering making up some plates for the front brackets/support of the chassis that had actually broken. End result it is probably stronger that it was to start with. Metalink will do a proper repair when we get home. Metalink did say that when they do go on rough roads they check the bolts that hold the canopy on to their vehicle at the end of everyday. Something they neglected to tell us, so Chris will now add them to the list of things to check everyday.
All these things run fine and smooth in the main towns and on the bitumen but some of these outback roads are very harsh and hard on any vehicle, it’s a real test on man and vehicle. As the say “stuff happens”, we could stay at home or stick to the black top, play it safe but then we wouldn’t see all these amazing things. Gives you a real appreciation of how harsh and difficult it would of been for our early settlers and explorers.