Seeing Red: Plane hopping to Alice Springs

ANZ May13Time 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…

ANZ Uluru

Here’s a closer view of that image of Uluru…

Dull Brown UluruOn the other hand though, not many people get to see Uluru with streams of water rolling down its sides as we did.

Some people, when they visit Uluru, are determined to do what is called “The climb”; click this picture to see it in full size…

Climbing Uluru

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…


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Phil August 10, 2013, 2:22 pm |

    Bob, what is it about Uluru that makes it so amazing? And the Olgas? I am not the only one, nor are you . . . while Down Under, a friend from France on work visa in Sydney as well visited the site and also felt spiritually connected to the place. It is the most amazing thing, something primal really. God, it is so starkly beautiful.

    Thank you once again for sharing this.

    • BobinOz August 11, 2013, 8:51 pm |

      I don’t know what it is Phil, but something is going on. I’m not a very spiritual guy, I don’t think so anyway, but when I was actually there I thought the place was awesome to look at, but that was about it.

      It was when I got back, after the holiday, that’s when I realised I could not stop thinking about the place and how awesome it was. Couldn’t get it out of my head, and I wasn’t expecting that.

      When I walked around the perimeter, I took lots of video footage, about 40 minutes worth or so. I have now made that into a video, personal use only, with some of my weirdest and most spiritual music as backing. Just watching that video, headphones on, kind of takes me to a place that nothing else can.

      Cheers Phil!


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