Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Alice Springs

Curtin Springs, Red Centre
From Uluru, we took a bus transfer to travel roughly 250 miles to Alice Springs. It isn't a difficult route - you basically drive down the Lasseter Highway then turn left onto the Stuart Highway, and you're there.

We stopped off a couple of times along the way, with the main one being the Curtin Springs Cattle Station and Inn. The cattle ranch was started back in 1956, when Peter and Dawn Severin arrived and brought with them 1500 cattle.
Mount Connor, Red Centre

Since then, the cattle numbers have reached around 4000, and the owners have branched out into the tourist trade, with petrol pumps, rooms and a bar and café. They have a few interesting bits of historical information on their walls, but they also have a lot of 'Daily Mail' style articles, full of sensationalist anti-foreigner type of stuff, that irritated us sufficiently that we chose not to buy anything or hang around in their presence.

Vegemite tree
We had a very brief stop to take a photo of the huge tabular Mount Connor in the distance, and also had a look at the Vegemite tree. For those who've never heard of Vegemite, (which would mean you're obviously not an eighties person then, as how could you forget Men at Work's vegemite sandwich,) it is vaguely similar to, in my opinion the much superior, Marmite. Well for reasons best known to themselves, people have taken to putting their empty jars on the branches of a tree.

As we get close to Alice Springs, we pass by Pine Gap, a large US military base where they monitor satellites. And then we follow the perpetually dry riverbed of the Todd River, through the small gap in the 400 mile long MacDonnell Ranges, to find the town of Alice Springs.

Alice Springs
The origins of the town were at the Overland Telegraph Station, established in 1872. The Todd River was named after Sir Charles Todd, postmaster general and pioneer of the telegraph. The settlement was named after his wife, Lady Alice. The present day town only emerged some fifteen or so years later, when the gold rush increased the number of people coming here. That new town was originally called Stuart Town, and it was only changed to Alice Springs in 1933.

Until WWII, the town remained a small outpost, but having had many troops stationed in the area, it became better known and increased to a population that is now around 29,000.

Alice Springs
Of course, long before Alice Springs emerged, this was an area populated by the aboriginal people. They now make up around twenty per cent of the population, but it appears to be an uneasy mix. We had been interested to visit, because we had figured that this would be a place where the two cultures would have learned to live together and combine. Sadly, it seems not.

In fact, far from being a positive experience of the aboriginal people, I found myself feeling that I could never live here. In fairness, it was only a short visit, but there were a couple of incidents that made me feel uncomfortable. The main example was, walking past a park, where an aboriginal man was standing with his beer can, and proceeded to spray beer from his mouth, onto the two women he was with. This happened a couple of times, and is the sort of behaviour that I don't think that I could put up with seeing on a regular basis.

Aboriginal Art
I know that we have some pretty awful behaviour in the UK too, but I do at least feel that there are mechanisms for dealing with that. From speaking with people here, this kind of behaviour is not at all unusual. I get that people have cultural differences, but that is not the kind of behaviour that I want to live alongside.

I also know that the aboriginal people, like many original inhabitants of places that we British and other Europeans decided to 'settle', have been pretty badly treated in the past and that this disruption to their lifestyle has been the cause of many of the issues they now have, including problems caused by alcohol. So my comments above aren't intended to condemn a group of people, I know it isn't that simple, but rather they are just to explain my discomfort with the town.

Aboriginal Art
Of course, with such a high aboriginal population, there are numerous art galleries here. We took a good look around, and picked out a couple of smaller paintings, which were still traditional in the sense that there were dot paintings representing the aboriginal culture, but they were a bit different to the normal ones that you see everywhere. Thankfully they roll up well to go in the rucksacks.

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