Long journey to Alice Springs

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Well it was an arduous 2 day one night journey north north from Adelaide to Alice Springs, 1300 km through South Australia and then into the Northern Territory, where the population and vegetation are both sparse.  To back up, I booked a 'Groovy Grape'  Boomerang http://www.groovygrape.com.au/alice-springs-adelaide-tour.ph p  tour to get to Alice Springs (closest center to Ayers' Rock) and the pick up at Adelaide Central Hostel was 1/2 hour late, at 7 a.m. instead of 6.30am. Then we had to pick up others, and one couple 'slept in' so we sat outside in this small van (20 seater) and waited for them.......... ANyway, Lawrence the tour guide was very personable.  Coincidentally, Beverley was also booked on this tour so that was good; for a change I knew someone else. As it turned out, my seatmate was a very personable 21 year old from France who had just finished 6 months of being a nanny in Adelaide and was going to Darwin etc before heading back home. Along with the others, there was a 19 year old from Germany who was going into Vet medicine in Sept. and a 20 year old from Sweden who was going to be teaching horse riding and they were all by themselves. Also sisters from Switzerland, a Korean woman and 2 Japanese all studying English in Aust. There are many more young single women travelling alone than single men. We stopped along the way at 'salt lake' and 'travellers' rest' stops at which one was giving camel rides - Camels were brought in from Afghanistan in the late 1800s to help transport goods for development, mining etc, along with handlers from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The 'Ghan Railway' was named for these camels, which were to be shot after 5 years of workign here but the Aust. could not bear to do that so let them roam free and now there are 300,000 in the wilds!  I saw some grazing in silhouette from the van window in the evening and it was a beautiful sight.  The terrain is really desert like, with cattle stations every few 100 kilometers. Some cattle are hit by vehicles but is cheaper for the owners than to build a fence.   A familiar sight are truck 'trains' with three trailers in tandem pulled by one truck.  Most people driving the road pull campers.  Kangaroos are often hit at night by these vehicles and the 'wedge tail eagle' loves feasting on road kill and is so greedy they gorge themselves on it and then are too heavy or too busy to fly off when a vehicle approached, so they are killed as well.  Because they are good scavengers, drivers are obligated to to protect them by a) stopping to pull road kill off the road and b) swerving to avoid eagles who fly dangerously low.  Many times the driver had to swerve to avoid one coming through the windshield!
Anyway finally made it to a bed at about 7:30 Sat. night, stopping at Coober Pedy, which mines 80% of the world's opals and where 70% of the pop live in underground houses as it is too hot in the summer, when temps can rise to 54 above!  Good thing we were there in the winter... our hostel was multi roomed with curtains for doors and built inside a hill. We went out for pizza that night and came back hoping some bedding had been s upplied but apparently there was a mix up and the driver did not advise the hostel we were coming. Anyway it was not a good sleep, managed to find a couple of sheets and used by coat as a blanket - these places have no heat and can get down to 0 during the night.  (Bathrooms outside with no heat as well...)  Got to Alice Springs the next night. I was only one staying at the YHA Hostel. I had to find some milk and cereal for breakfast in a hurry as grocery stores (Coles and Woolworths) close at 8:30 p.m. and nothing except for a few restaurants are open. Alice Springs is dangerouse at night apparently, where  people can be attacked .... Lots of native unrest, big changes coming here due to abuse within the aboriginal camps, pornography etc. and it is a big scandal here, although some skeptical it is John Howard election ploy to finally do something about it which has been documented for years now...So he's ordering more police, changing to dry communities, allowing no pornography to be shipped etc... 
Anyway the next morning I had to catch a 'Dash' Adventure Travel tour at 5:10 a.m. (yep, 5:10 a.m.) in a small van of 17 people of which 4 others got on at the hostel - one from Canada, a couple from Ireland/Aust and one from Korea who is going to University in Sydney.  Others on the bus were an older couple from NZ, a couple from Denmark, a son and mother from Korea (son was doing Masters in Aeronautical Engineering in Brisbane and mother was so proud of him, rightly so - it was his birthday so we sang Happy Birthday to him during the bbq that night at a campground). Anyway we travelled to Kings Canyon that morning where we hiked for 3 hours and then back to campground, enroute picking up some st ray wood we could find for a bonfire. We slept outside under the stars in 'swags'w hich are canvas covers with hoods that enclose a sleeping bag. The stars here are incredible - many more than in N.A and include constellations we have never seen - Orion, Southern Cross, Scorpio and the Milky Way ( see http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Night_Sky.htm)
The next day we went to Ayers Rock but I have to close now, will update later.
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