Category Archives: Alice Springs

— Alice Springs —

Outback Travel Guide – Rise Above with Outback Ballooning

WRITTEN BY EDITOR • FEBRUARY 15, 2016

  • ***Created in partnership with our sponsor Outback Ballooning***

    Float over the Red Centre as the first morning light illuminates the rugged MacDonnell Ranges on a hot-air ballooning adventure with Outback Ballooning. Keep an eye out for native wildlife and gain an appreciation of the outback’s remoteness as the balloon glides over this arid land. After this breathtaking experience, enjoy light refreshments, sparkling wine and fruit juice in the tranquil Alice Springs desert. Return transfers from all accommodation in Alice Springs are included. We operate every day, weather permitting.

    Contact: 1800 809 790; outbackballooning.com.au

    Australian Traveller issue 67

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 67 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Outback hot air ballooning Alice Springs’ style

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JULY 10, 2015

    A serene ride in a balloon is the perfect way to see the outback in all its glory, a bleary-eyed Jennifer Pinkerton finds.

    The alarm clock screams like a ghost from The Exorcist at 4:49am. Outside, the air is black. It heaves with fog and chill. This is madness; fun things do not begin before 6am.

    I clamber into a woollen jumper and long pants, tug on a beanie and sleepwalk a path to the hotel driveway. Ballooning over the outback seemed like a dreamy idea 12 hours ago, but right now, the notion feels thin on romance.

    I’m contemplating a coward’s crawl back to bed when a mini bus pulls up. Carrying 10 other sleepy souls, the Outback Ballooning vehicle heads through Alice Springs’s famous gap in the MacDonnell Ranges and makes a beeline for the bush.Through foggy windows it’s hard to see much, but red dust plumes all around, forming a curtain that closes out the township and, 20 minutes later, re-opens upon the desert.

    After a stop or two to check the wind speed and direction, our guide Byron Hall announces we’ve arrived, adding that if we choose to stay in the bus while the balloon inflates we won’t be judged.

    Pre-flight turtle impressions

    A couple of passengers take up the offer and perform turtle impressions by reversing their necks deep into scarves and puffer jackets. The rest of us find a spot standing amid the darkened field. We’ve anchored at Owen Springs Cattle Station, 15 kilometres south of Alice.

    I grew up in Canberra, a place where the morning sky is often awash with hot air balloons, (including the 34-metre high ‘Skywhale’: a controversial balloon that resembles a bouquet of breasts, designed by artist Patricia Piccinini). Despite all this, I’ve never taken a flight myself.

    I expect to feel uneasy. After all, I’m an anxious plane passenger. And flying in a wicker basket minus the safety of an aeroplane cabin? Dead-set shaky.

    Our pilot, Jason Livingstone, pulls up in a second car and hauls the basket from his trailer. He and Byron breathe life, otherwise known as propane, into a sea of silky, orange fabric unfurled on the ground. Jason, we discover, reckons piloting “isn’t a real job”.

    Years above Africa’s game parks

    “It’s just one of those things that started as a hobby, and grew into something more.” ‘More’ is quite the understatement. He’s flown in Canada, New Zealand and the Gold Coast, and, most recently, spent three years drifting above game parks in Tanzania, where he spotted lions circling carcasses for breakfast, as well as the mass migration of wildebeest and zebras. In comparison, “the outback is full of a beautiful emptiness,” he says.

    One-by-one, our party straddles the basket edges to claim a space inside the mothership. The basket lips reach collective neck height, making our beanie-wearing group resemble
    a dozen Easter eggs. Jason tugs on a bar within a tangle of engine work overhead.

    Up shoots a flame. We begin our journey skywards. Unexpectedly, our rise and eventual float couldn’t be smoother. Nor could it be quieter. The silence takes me by surprise.

    The ochre and green canvas

    I slip into a meditative open-eyed trance, and as five-metre trees turn into linden-hued dots and roads morph into brush strokes, the land below becomes a canvas – each frame mixed with ochre and green.

    “Here comes the sun,” says Jason. A flirty golden glow seeps over the MacDonnell Ranges, until eventually the sun appears full monty. We gaze at the long, thin shadows stretching across the plains like pencil lines.

    “The impressive thing about ballooning over the desert is the sheer sense of vastness,” Jason says. “Most passengers don’t know what to expect from the flight. They think it’ll be like an aeroplane and that the landing will be rough and tumble. They’re surprised by how calm and relaxed things actually are.”

    I’m struck that no one feels the urge to talk. Instead we watch the ground move below us. Camels and emus can sometimes be seen, Jason tells us, and closer up, budgies, galahs and red-tailed black cockatoos.

    Red ‘roos in the sunrise

    For our group, red kangaroos are the species of the day. Three leap through spinifex and mulga scrub, conjuring an aerial scene from a classic outback flick. Our Easter-egg basket buzzes with delight.

    Drifting downwards, a bunny hop or two is all that marks the descent. With 11 passengers now on solid ground, Jason and Byron pop a bottle of bubbly and explain that it’s “tradition to drink champagne after a flight”.

    The French, who invented ballooning, carried bottles of the stuff as a peace offering for farmers should their paddocks happen to host surprise landings.

    It’s when yellow grass flicks at my shins, a champagne flute meets my lips and orange fabric pools in the warmth behind me that I feel a mental back-flip rise. Scratch that alarm clock recalling screams from The Exorcist.

    Maybe the 4:49am wake up came from a friendly ghost instead – one who knows, intuitively, fun things start in the dark before dawn.

     

    The details: Outback hot air ballooning

    Getting there: Alice Springs is 2700 kilometres west of Sydney via the Stuart Highway. Fly there with Qantas or Virgin Australia from $350.
    Staying there: We stayed at Lasseters Hotel Casino, which has views of the MacDonnell Ranges and is a 10-minute walk from the town’s main shopping district. Deluxe room rates from $180.
    Playing there: Outback Ballooning runs early morning flights for 30 and 60 minutes, with champagne and snacks served upon landing. Prices from $290.

    Australian Traveller Issue 63

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 63 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Alice Springs Camel Cup – behind the outback bizarre

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MARCH 5, 2015

    The Lasseters Camel Cup race is one of the most bizarre events on the outback calendar. Jennifer Pinkerton meets characters as authentically Australian as they come, after defeating a bout of first-day shyness.

    A flush of gold light thaws the shoulders of Alice Springs’ MacDonnell Ranges. I open my eyes. Ring-necked parrots dip beneath clouds. The pool filter spasms to life, then hums bass like a monk. It’s time to get up. But I don’t feel like it. Not yet.

    The shyness. It’s become a handbrake during times I travel alone. While most wouldn’t pick it from the outside, the bare-faced truth is this: my first day someplace new can be pockmarked with anxiety. An exercise in feeling adrift. This time, however, a single day is all I’ve got.

    I’m in Central Australia for one, slightly odd, reason: the Lasseters Camel Cup. It’s held on a winter Saturday at Blatherskite Park showground, five kilometres from the CBD – and a butcher bird’s flight from the mountains surrounding town. The cup is a decades-old tradition. Around 20 camels and their riders travel from farms around the region and race eight heats, leading up to a finale. But the event is more than a competition. It’s a carnival. An eccentric one at that.

    Frocking up

    By mid-morning, I’m loitering around park perimeters in my best denim frock. Utes, campervans and trailers clog either side of the Stuart Highway. They’re parked six rows deep. Grey nomads form part of the patchwork, too. In the early bird, front row parking bays I spy a van with the words ‘The Wrinklies’ splashed above its windscreen.

    Inside, ribbons fly through a royal blue sky. Children bounce on inflated castles.  A backpacker couple kiss like no one’s watching. This 4500-strong crowd is a knitted blanket of bushies, tourists, families and friends. Men limber by in chequered shirts and chewed-out Akubras.

    Ladies do the same in a stream of glittering cowgirl hats. A small band of locals wed glamour with practicality by affixing fascinators to woollen headbands – though at 20-something degrees, it’s nowhere close to freezing.

    I cut a path past the food stalls. Each trades in a sole, simple cuisine. Baked potatoes. Hotdogs. Strawberries and cream. At the ‘business end’ of the park, a judge’s box stands on stilts. From it, four women descend in Arabian robes, merrily divulging the fact their jobs are far from strenuous.

    The camel form guide

    It’s usually clear which camel comes first, they say; this race is not marked by neck-and-neck ties. Horse racing might be an elegant affair – at least until the stilettos fall off after too many champagnes – but camel racing is altogether different.

    Horses, for the most part, behave. They’re predictable. Camels are anything but. “I’ve been kicked by a camel, stood on by a camel and I’ve held on for dear life,” I overhear one competitor confess. Remind me again why they do this?

    Here are the facts I’ve pre-packed. Hailing from Afghanistan, Arabia and India, camels were brought to Australia in the 1800s. They provided less water-dependent transport for the exploration and establishment of communications routes.

    But when trains finally arrived, the camels were no longer needed. Most were set free in the wild – despite the resulting environmental headache. ‘Wild’, too, defines their nature.

    A visit to the camel-holding pen illustrates this point. Here the animals grunt, spit and make groaning sounds deeper than Barry White ballads. It’s a bevy of unruliness. And this is all before the start gun fires – which will be a task for the start marshal whose real name, incidentally, is Graeme Marshall.

    The quirky cup

    The quirks don’t stop there. In fact, they seem to flow all morning. Like, say, during the Worst Rendition of the National Anthem Ever Performed. For three long minutes, two amateur singers, an older bloke and a younger lady, transport the collective eardrums of Blatherskite Park to someplace-you-don’t-want-to-be. Awkward silence and weak clapping ensue. The male singer coughs two words into the mic: “My apologies.”

    By midday, six camels enter the field. A flock of galahs squawk their support. Again, the start-line is chaos. Traditionally, camels begin the race from a seated position. At least that’s the theory. In truth, they’re all over the shop.

    I notice an exotic-looking bystander calling instructions through the fence. As competitors struggle to lower their animals, she shouts: “Put your foot down!” I’ve no clue what she means, of course. Nor do I feel able to ask – I still feel out of place.

    Once away, gangly legs wobble. Dust plumes on the track. “Tony, you’re going the wrong way!” someone yells to ‘Tony the Taxi Driver’ who’s galloping in the opposite direction. Turns out Tony isn’t so much driving as he is gripping on for survival. This is one crazy soup of a race.

    A rambunctious history

    As far as the earliest of races go, the Camel Cup’s inaugural run occurred in 1970. The yarn is that two feuding mates, Noel Fullerton and Keith Mooney-Smith, wished to settle a bet. So they pitted their camels against each other in a duel beside the Todd River. This rambunctious race has run every year since.

    But with so many participants, it needed to upscale. As well as the camel race, the day includes belly dancing, kids’ rides and an animal farm. There are also wagon runs and ‘fashions on the field’. Today’s winner of the latter, Ruth Allan from NSW, symbolises one of the ways the cup has changed from its humble beginnings. While this was once a community event, today it attracts visitors from right across the map.

    Ruth came to Alice for a spontaneous weekend with friends. Interviewed by judge Tahan Lew-Fatt, a part-Malaysian, part-Aboriginal Territorian and former Big Brother contestant, Ruth explains that her outfit, a matching floral-print suit, was last worn on a Star Cruises ship in the ’80s.

    “It feels incredible to win. We ladies entered as a joke. If one of us was in, all eight of us were in.”

    I leave the fashionistas to make my way back to the track. A piece of the puzzle slips into place: I see that camels spell adventure. I see, too, that the race is fun for riders. It’s an act of endurance, like riding a bucking bull. But what about the crowd-goers, what’s in it for them? To find out, I’ll have to beat the shyness.

    The exotic woman

    I feel my stomach tighten as I pass visitors lounging on blankets and chairs. There she is. The exotic woman I’d seen calling out through the fence. She’s with her daughter, chatting arm-in-arm. I know that I just need to leap.

    “G’day,” I say. “I heard you speaking to the racers before. You seem to know what you’re talking about.”

    She blinks: “Who me?” She seems more nervous than I must do.

    Yes, I nod. You. “I’d love to hear your story.” She broadcasts a smile, then fixes her eyes on her jacket.

    “My name is Rosalind, and my maiden name is Fazulla. I am a descendant of the Afghan cameleers who came to Australia many years ago.” I feel my stomach tighten again, but not with anxiety this time. It’s a feeling akin to relief, laced with a surge of delight.

    “My grandfather on my father’s side is Fazulla Zaidulla. He lived in Broken Hill. My grandfather on my mother’s side is Akbar Khan. His father was Rameth Khan and they grew up in the Oodnadatta area,” she says. Strands of cropped hair catch in the wind. She lifts her eyes and giggles.

    “I rode a camel to my wedding. We’ve always kept that strong camel connection. The Northern Territory has always been part of our lives, too. We travel to the outback and to the places where my parents and my grandfather walked and lived.”

    Explaining why she treasures the cup, Rosalind speaks of the camel’s special beauty. “Their rolling, swaying gait is so unusual,” she says, “it’s why they’re tagged ‘ships of the desert.’” Plus, each camel is loaded with character. They’ve got personality in spades, she believes.

    “People say, ‘The Camel Cup? Why’s that happening? What is this animal?’ Well, this is an event that spotlights the camel. This animal helped to open up the desert. It’s not a part of our story that’s well-known.”

    A secret shared

    What were the secrets she shared earlier with racers, I ask. Rosalind steps closer. She was instructing riders to press their feet against the rear-side of the camels’ knees, she says.

    “Back in the old days, when my grandfathers and uncles ‘whooshed down’ – that’s when you get the camel to sit – the men would put their foot in the camel’s knee so that it knew it had to stay down.”

    I pinch myself. I can’t believe my luck. Rosalind brings to Alice Springs the spirit and inherited wisdom of old Afghan cameleers. She puts the cup in context, revealing that just below its skin sits a deep network of veins, connecting little-known lines of history.

    Heats pass. Hotdogs sell. Then, finally, as a last whoosh of hooves and dust ploughs to the finish line, we have a winner. But she couldn’t look more unlike a weather-beaten camel handler if she tried.

    The camel whisperer

    Hannah Purss is an elfin 25-year-old, a former special effects make-up artist. And today she stole the cup just ahead of her boyfriend Evan Casey, a handsome surfer-looking lad with a messy crown of hair. Hannah tells the media throng: “He’s been giving me a hard time for months, harassing me, psyching me out.” Evan shrugs.

    “I would have liked to have won.”

    Originally from Sydney, Hannah has a story that reflects a new breed of long-term traveller. She became distracted from her original career plan three years ago after passing a noticeboard at an Alice Springs hostel. Pointing to a picture of the Camel Cup, she asked, “What’s that? I wanna do it.”

    A slew of camel farm jobs later, she won her first cup last year – making today’s victory a back-to-back win. Hannah kisses her camel ‘Roman Ruma Ruma’ for the cameras as Evan beams beside her. They look as proud as desert plum punch.

    As wind-down musician Fat Boy Slim Dusty takes to the speakers, I spy Ruth from ‘fashions on the field’. She’s already on the slip, sashaying down the ghost gum-studded trail that ushers visitors from the park. I note she’s still wearing her winner’s ribbon over the floral two-piece. Hannah, too, flits by. She’s holding her trophy tight.

    While this was once a men’s event, women surely steal today’s show. They judge, they win and they best tell the stories. Provided we pluck up the courage to ask for them, and conquer our own brand of shyness.

    A second time, I pass Rosalind. We trade details, then part ways – jointly tickled pink over having shared tales. Like a rusty hinge in the breeze, I hear a camel moan melody behind me. It’s time to go.

    But I don’t feel like it. Not yet.

     

    The details: Lasseters Camel Cup

    Getting there
    Qantas operates direct daily flights to Alice Springs from Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Darwin and Perth. Fares start from $179 per person.*

    Staying there
    Lasseters is just a six-minute drive from Blatherskite Park, beneath the MacDonnell Ranges, on the banks of the Todd River. It has comfortable accommodation ranging from standard rooms (from $140 a night) to premium two-bedroom suites (from $395 a night). There’s also four restaurants, three bars, a heated pool and spa.

    Need to know
    The next Lasseters Camel Cup will be held 11 July 2015. Cost is $17 per adult, $38 for a family pass and kids under 12 free.

    Australian Traveller Issue 61

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 61 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Riding Alice’s red earth camel train

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 4, 2014

    Megan Arkinstall relives a childhood fascination, a vivid memory of the outback’s red dirt, but this time on the back of a camel, somewhere south west of Alice Springs.

    The only other time I remember seeing dirt this red was during a trip to the back o’ Bourke, where my mother was born and bred, more than 15 years ago.

    I was absolutely fascinated by it, so much so that I scooped some of it up in a film canister (remember those?) and took it home. I still have it in my box of special and very random things that I’ve collected over the years.

    Now, at almost at 30, I have finally returned to the outback – on board the Ghan, no less – and am still as fascinated by this deep red dirt that the heart of our country has in droves. In fact, I am fascinated by the outback in general: the colours, the history, the people, the wildlife, the towns, the absolute isolation. And here I am in Alice Springs, the centre of it all.

    More than just the gateway to Uluru, Alice is a town of extraordinary character, shaped by its history and people. The town has been a part of extraordinary infrastructure projects, such as the Overland Telegraph between Darwin and Adelaide and the original rail link from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, saw a boom in 1887 when gold was discovered in nearby Arltunga, was a major army supply depot during WWII, an integral base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and has been the stage for some of the country’s most successful indigenous rights campaigning.

    On board the train journey to Alice, I got stuck into reading about the huge role the train’s namesake, the Afghan cameleers, had on the transportation of goods through our country’s inhospitable interior by way of camel. And, although Alice was the last place camels were settled in this country, they too have forged their place in the town’s history, being used to transport goods here from Oodnadatta and as part of the Overland Telegraph and major rail links.

    I had also just read Robyn Davidson’s memoir, Tracks, a recount of her epic 2700-kilometre journey across the desert fromAliceto the west coast, with only four camels and her dog. She describes camels as being typically misunderstood: “camels are cowards hiding delicate hearts behind aristocratic demeanours,” she writes. “They have human qualities – they’re affectionate, cheeky, playful, witty, hard-working, charming…”

    So, although I wasn’t about to pack up life and mimic a transcontinental trip like that one – and with only a short stop in this glorious town as part of the Ghan journey – a camel ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks seemed fitting.

    Owner Marcus Williams, who greets us with a soothing “G’day” and a friendly grin from beneath his Akubra, caught his first herd of camels from Todd River Downs Station, just south of Alice, in 1994.

    “An old fellow out there pointed towards the Simpson Desert and told me to look for the camel tracks,” he explains. It took him three weeks of training in a desert camp before he could walk them back to Alice Springs where he set up Pyndan Camel Tracks.

    Two of these once-were-wild camels, Trillion and Anna, are still part of his 10-strong herd. These two ladies are also part of our ‘camel train’, along with Pixie, Dock, Ruby, Saleh and Odin, who is trailing at the back.

    Each camel has its own distinct personality. Odin is described as being a little knock kneed, a bit dopey and pretty much blind, but a dependable anchor at the end of the line. I’m always rooting for the underdog, so Odin steals my heart.

    As does my noble stead, Saleh who was bought “from a camel fella” in 2009 and is, apparently, the most faithful of them all. He doesn’t like being spoken to harshly – who could do that? – and was incredibly shy at first. After a not so graceful mount (it’s a little tricky, but not as tricky as dismounting), my riding buddy and I are sitting high on board Saleh. Camels are magnificent creatures in manner and size: they can grow to be 2.3 metres tall and a whopping 690 kilograms.

    We are led into the neighbouring White Gums Station, following a track lined with mulga trees and iron bark, across clay pan flat and passing a herd of cows who stare as we meander on by. The station is surrounded by the majestic and ancient MacDonnell Ranges, offering the most spectacular setting with a colour palette of sage green and gorgeous ochre red.

    It’s incredibly quiet and peaceful (apart from Odin who occasionally bellows for his mother, Anna, just ahead of him on the camel train) as the sun sets a warm glow over the ranges. We stop so that our guide, who juggles iPhones among SLRs, can get the token tourist shot for us. Who can pass up the opportunity to capture this quintessential Aussie scene – a camel train in the desert, with the MacDonnell Ranges in the background?

    As we are posing Anna – who was named after Marcus’s friend ‘No-Tooth Anna’ because she, too, has lost a tooth – cheekily comes up behind me and gives me a big sloppy kiss on my leg. Yes, these camels know how to make an impression.

    Back at the camp, suitably sweaty and a little bit stinky, we sit in the ‘camel lounge’ – where there is some interesting camel memorabilia depicting their history in Australia and Alice – and enjoy a frosty beer, a welcome refreshment in the stifling heat and the perfect end to this Alice experience.

    Oh, don’t forget your film canister when you come out this way.

    Details: Pyndan Camel Tracks

    Where: 17 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs(15-minute drive)
    Cost: One-hour camel rides depart four times a day – $60 per adult; $30 per child. Half-day camel tour run from 9am to 12pm (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) – $110 per person/ If required, transfers from you accommodation are included. See Pyndan Camel Tracks

     

    MORE:

    How to get there? Six reasons to hop aboard The Ghan

    — Alice Springs —

    100 Incredible Travel Secrets #28 Muk Muk Fine Art, NT

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 3, 2013

    A hidden bonanza of art

    Muk Muk Fine Art, Alice Springs, NT

    Muk Muk Fine Art is tucked away in an old Alice Springs butcher’s shop, and is what McEvoy claims as “the best commercial collection of Indigenous art I’ve ever seen,” scoring it 9.

    Expect contemporary art from our Outback heartland, from emerging artists through to renowned Indigenous names.

    Australian Traveller April/May Issue

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 50 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    100 Incredible Travel Secrets #95 Hot Air Ballooning Across the Red Centre, NT

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 3, 2013

    The Outback from a different perspective

    Hot air ballooning in Central Australia

    Hot air ballooning over the MacDonnell Ranges at dawn would have to be the ultimate way to see the Outback in all her red rugged glory.

    Australian Traveller April/May Issue

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 50 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    ‘Your Shot’ Winner: Brumbies in the MacDonnell Ranges

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • FEBRUARY 15, 2013

    This issue’s winning ‘Your Shot’  image was taken by Robert McRobbie from Kingsford, NSW.

    These brumbies were grazing not far off the road in the MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs.
    My family was experiencing Central Australia for the first time and as we were driving along we were ticking off the animals we wanted to see – dingo, kangaroo, emu, camel and brumby.
    We pulled over to watch these incredible animals and despite the herd being wary of our attention, they stood still for long enough for me to capture several shots.
    Shot with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, 100-300mm @ 136mm (270mm 35mm equivalent), 1/1300sec at f.5.6 (-0.33Ev), iso 160.

     

    Calling all Australian Travellers!
    Think you’ve got a winning photo? Send us the best Australian travel image you’ve ever captured for your chance to win a great prize. In the first instance, email a low-res pic to: photo@australiantraveller.com

    For this incredible winning image
    AT reader Robert McRobbie has won a Tamron SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) macro lens (model number A001), valued at $1249. This wide-aperture lens features low-dispersion glass for reduced chromatic aberration, and internal focusing.
    tamron.com.au

    Issue-49

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 49 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Photo Portfolio – Outside Alice Springs

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JUNE 15, 2012

    Steve Batten gets snap-happy around the outskirts of Alice Springs and shows why the local andscape is so special. Continue reading

    — Alice Springs —

    100 Best Views In Australia #21 Finke River Lookout, NT

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • APRIL 1, 2012

    Where is it?  Near Glen Helen Resort, 130km west of Alice Springs on Namatjira Drive

    How to see it for yourself?

    The ancient, 600km Finke River rarely flows and is often just a series of waterholes. There’s a permanent one in the gorge at Glen Helen in  West MacDonnell National Park, which is also one of the few points where you can access the river by sealed road. Glen Helen Resort has motel-style accommodation and camping

    Why I love it

    “This scene – typical of the country that inspired Albert Namatjira – was shot near Glen Helen. It was one of those rare occasions when the Finke River was flowing here. I had already packed up for the day when, suddenly, I saw the sky beginning to colour beautifully. I raced back out just in time to shoot this spectacular view.” – Ken Duncan

    Travelnt.com

    Kenduncan.com

    issue44

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 44 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Jungala Tours in Alice Springs

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 27, 2011

    With the help of an Indigenous tourist operator, Alena Duykers packs a lot in to a half-day tour around Alice Springs… Continue reading

    — Alice Springs —

    100 Things To Do Before You Die #042 Take A Hot Air Balloon Flight Over The Red Centre

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 28, 2011

     Where is it? Alice Springs, NT.

    One of the few times in life when a 4am wake-up call is welcome. As you drift effortlessly in a basket across the top of the MacDonnell ranges, you’ll be able to spot big red kangaroos bounding across the landscape. Easily the best way to take in the enormity of the Australian outback, this is a trip you’ll never forget.

    issue38

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 38 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    100 Things To Do Before You Die #074 Hike The Larapinta Trail

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 28, 2011

    Where is it? Central Australia, from Alice Springs Telegraph Station to the summit of Mount Sonder

    A gruelling 12-stage hike through the geographic heart of Australia, the Larapinta Trail stretches 233km along the West MacDonnell Ranges. It’s not a trek for the faint hearted but the Trail’s website is one of the best for planning a hike like this. It gives tips on safety, organising food, water and equipment, and tells how to tackle the trail. It even suggests tour operators who can guide you on the walk if doing it yourself sounds too difficult.
    issue38

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 38 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    West MacDonnell Ranges: Do It While You’re Young

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • FEBRUARY 25, 2011

    Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. While fighting fit, make sure the action-packed 200km-long West MacDonnell Ranges is on your bucket list.

    For everyone: A real Red Centre highlight is swimming in the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Must-dip spots include Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.

    The Simpson Gap bike path is a pleasant, easy ride best enjoyed between April and October, when days are cooler – no matter how fit you are, please don’t tackle this in high summer. The path is 17km one way from John Flynn’s Grave to Simpson Gap. Families should allow four hours to complete this stretch, stopping to enjoy a picnic and take in the views along the way. You’re likely to see lizards and wallabies en route. Alice-based cycle store Longhorn rents out bikes for $30 a day (longhorn.net.au). Mountain bikes, kids’ bikes and bikes with baby carriers are available, and the staff can suggest suitable routes.

    Avid cyclists can turn the ride into a 48km endurance test by starting in Alice and taking the bike path west for 7km to Flynn’s Grave, doing the return Simpson Gap ride, then heading back to Alice.

    For fitness freaks: Take a bike ride on rough terrain on the Araluen Mountain Bike Trails. The Central Australian Rough Rider Mountain Bike Club (centralaustralianroughriders.asn.au) conducts social rides along 15km of fire trails and single tracks every Wednesday night. The Hump Rides, as they call them, start at 5pm in winter and 6pm in summer, setting off from the Alice Springs Scout Hall offLarapinta Drive. Suitable for advanced, intermediate and beginner riders.

    The Larapinta Trail (www.larapintatrail.com,au) is just over 220km long and follows theWestMacDonnellRanges from the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs toMountSonder. The best time to tackle this rugged track in full is between June and August. It is not recommended from October to February. The trail is broken into 12 sections of 9-29km, so you can do a section a day. The longest day’s hike is about 10 hours. While the track is well signposted, planning your trip well is vital – there are no convenience stores along the way. There are tanks at each trail head to top up your water and you can organise food drops.

    Rock climbers will find plenty of crags to conquer in both the West and EastMacDonnellRanges. They may not be the grandest of peaks, but they are pretty spectacular for bouldering and climbing. Go to www.redcentrerock.info to find out where the best spots are; or grab a copy of Rock Climbing in Central Australia by Krish Seewraj, $35 online at Open Spaces bookstore, www.osp.com.au.

    For the less mobile: The Dolomite Walk, a lovely 3km loop around Ormiston Gorge, is 90km west of Alice Springs. It gives a little taste of the Larapinta Trail – sections six and seven begin here. Also great for bird watching, swimming, camping and resting in the shade of beautiful ghost gums by one of NT’s most picturesque waterholes.

    If your stay is short, or if you can’t get out of town, a trip to Alice Springs Desert Park offers an insight into Central Australian fauna and flora. A gentle walking trail takes you through three distinct ecosystems – woodland, sand country and desert rivers. Entry: adults $20; kids (aged 5-15) $10; www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au.

    Where to stay: There’s heaps of accommodation in Alice Springs, but if you want to get out amongst it, take your tent. Redbank Gorge offers two campsites with basic amenities (ie, pit toilets). This tranquil campsite is 156km from Aliceand about 5km along a dirt road off Namatjira Drive(4WD recommended). There are gas barbies at the first camp you come to, but the second camp has amazing views to MountSonder. You can also camp at Ellery Creek Big Hole, but you’ll no doubt have to share this beauty spot with others. For info on campsites and how to obtain permits, go to www.nt.gov.au/nreta.

    issue 037

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 37 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Kata Tjuta: Do It While You’re Young

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • FEBRUARY 25, 2011

    Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. It pays to go to Kata Tjuta, located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 460km south-west of Alice Springs, while you’re fighting fit.  Continue reading

    issue 037

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 37 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Uluru: Do It While You’re Young

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • FEBRUARY 25, 2011

    Every Australian feels the pull of the Red Centre, yet many of us leave it until we retire to visit. There are so many active adventures on offer, it pays to get out there sooner. Uluru, located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 460km south-west of Alice Springs, is best enjoyed while you’re fighting fit. Continue reading

    issue 037

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 37 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Australia’s Grand Canyon

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JANUARY 31, 2011

    Anita Kelman camps out under the stars at Kings Creek Station and hikes Kings Canyon’s rim.
    Continue reading

    — Alice Springs —

    Top Girls’ Road Trips Red Centre

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 21, 2010

     If you want four day’s worth of non-stop fun with your friends, I can’t imagine a better way to go than hiring a 4WD and hitting the Red Centre Way between Alice and Uluru. (Maybe practise changing a tyre before you go.) Continue reading

    Gnomesville

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 35 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Discover Central Australia

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • FEBRUARY 2, 2010

    Alice Springs is the oasis of the Red Centre, with world class art galleries, spectacular views and a community known for its innovation and experiences. Continue reading

    issue031

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 31 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    Dining In The Outback Supermarket

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JANUARY 27, 2010

    It’s grubs for dinner and honey ants for dessert as Ellen Hill samples her way through the Alice Springs Desert Park, a place where the hidden secrets of bush tucker and outback medicine are within easy reach. If only you knew where to look . .

    Continue reading

    issue031

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 31 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.

    BUY THIS ISSUE

    — Alice Springs —

    On Location At Uluru With McLeod’s Daughter Zoe Naylor

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MAY 28, 2009

    In dreaming up our ideal cover for this issue, we wanted to feature two icons of the outback: Uluru and, if possible, a McLeod’s Daughter. So when the delightful Zoe Naylor agreed to come on board to model for our little desert adventure, it really was a dream come true. Continue reading

    CLICK A STATE FOR MORE +

    NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA