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Alice Springs in Australia's Red Centre
How to Get There
Definitely the best way to get to Alice Springs is to travel by the Ghan.
Of course you could fly there or even drive along the Stuart Highway that stretches all the way from Adelaide to Darwin. From Adelaide to Alice Springs, or The Alice as it is frequently known, is about half way, that is 1,530 km, so it's quite a drive.
To get there by plane is the fastest and there are flights daily, but for me the best way is to travel by the train, the Ghan, that is operated by the Great Southern Railway. It arrives there twice weekly from both Adelaide and Darwin. It's fun and there's plenty of time to sit and enjoy the passing scenery. There's something very special about snuggling up in a bunk on a Sleeper and falling asleep to the sound of the chattering wheels and hearing the change as they clatter hollowly over the culverts along the way.
Around Central Alice
Walking is a good way of seeing many parts of central Alice. Begin by climbing Anzac Hill. It's not very arduous and from the top there are great views in several directions. This helps in orientation and getting a good idea of where places are around the city.
In the town there are good museums, interesting monuments, churches, shopping centres and the base for the School of the Air for children living in remote areas. There is also the beautiful stone Adelaide House, the original hospital that was built in 1926 by the Rev. John Flynn, the founder of the world's first Flying Doctor Service. It is now a museum. No visit is complete without seeing the springs and the Repeater Station of the Overland Telegraph Line. The Line linked Adelaide to Darwin - and Britain - and was completed in 1872.
Alice Springs is situated on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges on the Todd River, which is quite wide, but usually dry. It is about 576 m. above sea level and sits near the southern border of the Northern Territory, surrounded by arid red desert country. It is the geographical centre of Australia, the Red Centre, and is the third largest town in the Territory.
The major industry in the area is tourism. There are several events that occur during the year and these are especially of interest to tourist. The events usually take place in the more temperate seasons when the weather is much kinder to visitors; in summer the average temperature is 35.6⁰C and in the winter the minimum is 5.1⁰C. Events include the Henley-on-Todd Regatta (usually on the dry river-bed), the Alice Springs Show and the Camel Cup.
The Camel Cup
Held each year, the Alice Springs Camel Races draw crowds of locals and tourists. Many are dressed for the part. There are other events as well and a general air of anticipation and fun. Tents and stalls abound with tempting delicacies and mementoes of the day. Later the camels are paraded and behave well.
Eventually it is time for The Race. The camels are lined up at the starting-line with the animals sitting, the rider on top and a 'strapper' at the front to keep them sitting. The gun sounds, the camels are urged to rise, the strappers hurriedly remove themselves and the race begins. Some lurch ahead, while others turn and gallop back to the start despite the admonishments of the riders. At last there is a winner. We wander off to the tents to rather tentatively try the emu and camel pies that are on offer. Surprisingly, they are delicious.
Nearby Places to Visit
Places close to Alice Springs that are traditionally interesting for tourists to visit include Emily Gap, Billy Goat Hill, Heavitree Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Elusive mirages beckon along the roads as they disappear in the heat-hazed distance along the way.
South-east of the Alice lie giant red sand-dunes and the great wilderness area of the Simpson Desert. The surrounding country is mainly dry scrub land or arid desert where introduced animals such as wild camels and goats decimate any growth that survives the harsh climate, making it difficult for native flora and fauna to survive.
The northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges run from east to west through the southern part of the city. It provides hiking trails and gorges, including the beautiful Ormiston Gorge where the colours continually change as the sun moves during the day. The brilliant red and orange cliffs of the gorges contrast with the mysterious purples of the dancing shadows.