G'Day from Alice Springs in the Red Center of Australia!
Besides having developed into an unlikely tourist destination in the last
couple decades, not much else about Alice Springs has changed in the last
century or so. It is still in the middle of nowhere. It is still shaped by
a harsh environment. Neither of those factors are likely to change.
Alice Spring...or a puddle?
The first day of my visit was a designated rest and recuperate day, but I still managed to tour around and see most of the historic sites in the core of the town. My first stop was a museum in the territory's first hospital. It is charmingly small, and boasts being the home of the Flying Doctor. Apparently he invented the 2-way radio three years before the person who now gets credit for it (whoever THAT is). There are pictures of his nurses contacting him on the radio, peddling it for power! He also had a huge air cooling and filtering system in the basement that still keeps the building very cool. The best part, however, is after you are done, you are invited be the ladies running it to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee (included with admission) before moving on. How absolutely marvelous! I LOVE this place!
Yesterday I took a long day trip to King's Canyon (I was picked up at 4:30 AM so that we'd be there in time - nothing is close in the Outback!). We walked up 'Cardiac Hill' and then along the top of a spectacular canyon, then down the other side. Words can't describe the colors or scale, and I'm afraid my pictures won't be able to do much better. It was incredible! It is not for those scared of heights, as there is nothing but common sense to keep you from toppling off the edges - not a railing in sight.
I should take a moment to note that it is very cool to wake and groggily, peer out your window to see what the day will be bringing, and have a kangaroo hanging out directly in front of you. If it wasn't for the screen in my window, I could've petted her. Okay, I'll admit she is a pet of my hostel, but I was still pleased to have her there.
A couple days ago I took a 4WD tour to Rainbow Valley. Again, it was a
spectacular rock formation that culminated the tour, but earlier in the trip
we stopped at "Dry Well". This was a well that had been dug for the Ghan
railway so that the steam engines could be replenished. These wells were dug
by hand, of course, with axes and shovels, in the heat of the desert - often well
over 100 degrees F! The thing about this well, as you have guessed by now,
is that they never found water. What is startling is that you can stand at
the top (again, not fence whatsoever), and drop in a rock. You wait a
Finally, it hits bottom. That is a LOT of hard digging for nothing. I have the utmost respect for the endurance of the pioneers.
Everyone has told me I should eat Australian food. I had some fish the other night that was spectacular (yes, Alice has good fish, because they get it from up north in Darwin). I also sampled camel (tastes like beef) at a touristy place called the Overlander or somesuch. They casually asked where I was from, and before I knew it I had an American flag placed at my table. I looked around, and everyone had a flag. So much for blending in! I was the only one with a candle, but I was too afraid to ask what that signified!
So all is sweet and pleasant in the Alice? Well, no. This may be the heaviest town I've visited since Berlin. The utter and complete separation between the whites and the Aborigines is appalling. The two move about in the main plaza and don't interact at all. The Aborigines in the city for the most part are distressed: poor, sick, addicted, etc. They mill about in small groups and camp out in the dry riverbed. It's like they are ghosts. Nobody gives them a second look, or a second thought. It has been said that Australia is like the US in the 50's. Well, their treatment of Aborigines is like looking back in time and seeing how we treated our native population. With all of the injustice in the US, at least our natives are beginning to enter into mainstream society. It is staggering how far Australia has to go on this issue.
Tomorrow I've hired a car for three days, and I will set off on some drives through the local countryside, so that I can take pictures at my discretion. I've only taken five rolls so far, but half of that was yesterday, so the pace is picking up!