Australia 2011: Alice Springs and Adelaide

We’d arrived to Alice Springs and the end of our exploration of this enormous country’s red heart. True, we’d only scratched the surface, only had time for a brief flavour of the extraordinary landscapes, but we’d still a lot more to see and do. We had time for a peremptory examination of Alice Springs, a town I’d hitherto mainly associated with the Nevil Shute novel, ‘A Town Like Alice’ and film of the same.

Modern Alice is a pleasing place with a hint of wild west about it and enough shops, bars and restaurants to satisfy passing tourists. I still have [and wear] the rust coloured safari shirt patterned with Australian wildlife that I bought there. By now we’d passed a substantial part of the UK autumn in the southern hemisphere- their spring, and Christmas was not too far ahead, would be upon us once we got back home. But there was little in Alice to herald the event, and it was hot, although by this time we were well acclimatised.

We had a domestic flight arranged for Adelaide, where we were to spend a couple of nights before picking up the next [and final] van for our trip along the south coast. Our hotel in central Adelaide was swanky indeed, the room uber modern with one of those glass bathrooms in the centre that leaves you exposed to your room-mate whatever activity you may be engaged in. Hmmm…

Unlike Alice, Adelaide had moved into full Christmas mode, our hotel foyer bedecked with decorations and Christmas trees and across the street, a department store entrance bore a sleigh complete with reindeer and Santa Claus. And all of this in sweltering heat, the tinsel glinting in sunshine as the air wobbled above the pavements. I suppose anyone who has grown up in what to us is a topsy-turvy climate is accustomed to snowy scenes in stifling temperatures, but it felt incongruous to me.

Adelaide itself I considered to be an elegant, beautifully laid out town with attractive parks and wide avenues. It also seemed to be a bit of a party central, the restaurants and bars not short of revellers of various kinds.

All too soon it was time to leave and to collect our third van of the trip, which was to take us along the famous South Coast Highway and a spectacular coastline, if the guide books were to be believed. There were to be more sights and experiences before our arrival to Melbourne, but best of all, if all went well I’d get to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen since childhood!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia: The Long, Hot Road South

We were on the next leg of our Australian Odyssey, travelling by bus, a seven hour road trip. In the previous post I described how our driver made what could have been a tedious and tiring journey a fascinating and enlightening seven hours by sharing stories and radio clips as well as entertaining facts. The beginning of our drive was early- and dark, meaning that visibilty was limited and as the driver explained, roadkill was inevitable along the road, even though traffic was sparse. Enormous ‘land trains’ are not designed to make emergency stops.

There were breaks along the way at lonely cafes where we could buy meals and drinks as well as art and craft work by indigenous Australians, who were sometimes around, seated outside. The sun’s heat was as unrelenting as the red, dusty road was straight.

We arrived to our stop at King’s Canyon National Park, where we were to undertake a guided walk. As we descended from the cool of the bus the heat assaulted us. Our guide explained that we must choose between a shorter, less taxing walk or a longer, more arduous one. We needed to make this choice on the basis of how fit we were, as if we chose the longer route we’d have to carry at least 2 litres of water. We judged that we could manage the longer hike, a smaller group. Before we got going we were advised not to gulp down large amounts of water but to sip, swigging leading to the necessity for bladder emptying- not a convenient situation out here in the bush. I must point out here, however, that those of us who are used to camping are also used to dealing with peeing outdoors. I’d say the guide was more concerned with leaving the landscape unsullied than our sensibilities.

It was hot. The walk was, at times, hard. Sometimes we had to clamber up and down. There was a point when, on the way down some rocks, I inadvertently trod on a snake. We’d been specifically warned to avoid them, but whilst negotiating a steep descent I hadn’t seen the small, black, wriggling creature and it fell foul of my boot. Horrors! I watched aghast as it threw itself out of the path. At least I hadn’t murdered it- although Husband issued a stern admonishment!

There were some wonderful views, including a pristine pool- astonishing in the desert environment- the reflections beautiful. There were also beautiful birds and flowering plants, eking out a living in this parched, unforgiving environment. The rock stacks and ravines towered or plunged, the colours changing through a varying palette of russet, ochre and deep red. It was worth the effort- the climbs and the seering heat, to see such an astonishing place.

We returned to the bus, filthy from sweat and dust but jubilant from having completed the hike. Then it was on to our next destination, Alice Springs, for a stopover and I was looking forward to seeing such an iconic town…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.