Time for another reprint of one of my articles for Australia and New Zealand magazine. Not only am I going to save you £3.99, I’m going to throw in a video! That’s something you don’t get in a magazine. So last month I started with the first in my miniseries about plane hopping and at that time ‘A’ was for Adelaide.
This time A is also for Alice, Alice Springs to give it its full name and that’s what this article is all about.
I once read somewhere that no matter where you are in the UK, you’re never further than 73 miles from the beach, something like that anyway. That can’t be said of Alice Springs. The magazine called my article “Seeing red“; the title I gave it was…
Plane hopping to Alice Springs.
If Australia were a dartboard, Alice Springs would definitely be the bull’s-eye. You couldn’t get any further from the beach if you tried. I visited the town during the end of autumn a couple of years ago on another of my plane hopping Australian trips. So, what’s the attraction of “Alice”? In my head I imagined empty red dusty roads, flies in my face and a dryness that would be difficult to cope with.
When I got there though, I found myself in a quite modern feeling town, with a plush air-conditioned shopping mall, some traditional old pubs, no irritating flies and, would you believe it, rain. The real fun of visiting Alice though is when you leave the town to check out what we would call the countryside, but what is, for sure, Australian Outback.
Driving around the West MacDonnell Ranges, stopping by at places like Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge and the spectacular Standley Chasm, it’s a different world. I didn’t see any kangaroos or snakes, but I did see wild camels, dingoes and a cute little spinifex hopping mouse.
The big attraction though is at the end of a five-hour drive down very open, straight and deserted roads. According to the BBC’s 50 places to see before you die, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is twelfth on the list.
By the time we got to Uluru the rainfall had reached levels rarely seen in these parts. Somebody who had worked at a nearby resort for nine years told me she had only ever seen these kinds of conditions six times before. So no red rock for us, more of a dull brown…
Here’s a closer view of that image of Uluru…
Some people, when they visit Uluru, are determined to do what is called “The climb”; click this picture to see it in full size…
It is not illegal to climb Uluru, but the rock’s traditional owners would rather you didn’t. For them, the climb is the traditional route taken by ancestral Mala men upon their arrival at Uluru in the creation of time, and has great spiritual significance.
Did I climb Uluru
Despite that though, on average, around 250 people apparently climb the rock each day. Was I one of them? This isn’t some soft little mound like where the Teletubbies live; this is hard rock that’s 348 metres high. If it were a building, it would have 85 floors!
No, I didn’t climb it.
I was the guy standing at the bottom staring upwards, open mouthed, doing some kind of Woody Allen impression in my head “What, are you crazy? Somebody’s going to get hurt…”
Yes, somebody will get hurt.
My research suggests as many as 37 people have died doing the climb since 1950 when records began. But no-one, as far as I’m aware, has come to any harm walking the 9.4 kilometres around the base. So that’s what I did.
Awesome is about the only word that can describe Uluru. There is certainly something very special about the place; having seen it, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Weeks after I returned home, I was still thinking about Uluru. Definitely a place to see before you die, just don’t climb it, as it may also be the last place you see.
For more about Uluru and Alice Springs see…
- So, What’s it Really Like in the Middle of Australia?
- Journey to the Centre of Australia
- To Climb Uluru or Not to Climb Uluru?