Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia

Our view from our balloon flight, to the south of Alice Springs. You can ‘spy’ Pine Gap in the top right corner of this image.

A place that is a bit of a conundrum for the relaxed traveller. Keen to experience the regional heart of the Red Centre, there are some precautions to observe after sundown, when some less savoury aspects of the town’s culture are revealed. Accordingly, we of the maturing age chose to stay bundled safely in our accommodation. However, during the day, it is apparent that there is much to explore in Alice. Being a town of around 28,000 people, there are all the usual amenities, including plentiful shopping and services, cultural, sport and entertainment venues, and the nearby East and West MacDonnell Ranges.

We did not have time to go east but discovered many gems of places in the Western MacDonnell Ranges. Highlights there including Orniston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge, Ellery Creek Bighole and Simpsons Gap.

Nevertheless, our primary highlight was an early morning balloon flight. That was fun and illuminating about the ballooning process. Our very skilled pilot navigated us past the local airport just after sunrise, landing some 50 km downwind after a pleasant and sedate flight. Yes, the morning was cool, requiring extra clothing, but that also predicts a safer flight, as opposed to the hotter months when ballooning is less manageable.

On that ballooning flight, another highlight for me was to see the Pine Gap joint US-Australia military base poking up at the base of the nearby hills. No, we were not close, but it did highlight how close the base is to Alice Springs. Politics or military matters aside, it does add to the mystique of this very isolated (compared to the mainstream cities of Australia) town, even given its big brother NT city of Darwin is some 1500 km north up the Stuart highway.

When we left Alice Springs, we headed south along that same highway, enjoying very good road conditions and the ability to travel at the speed limit of 130 kmh for much of the way, before we took the right-hand turnoff on our return trip to Uluru and Yulara. That trip is about 450 km. 

The Stuart Highway – a long way in to Alice, and out, to the north (Darwin) and to the south (Uluru) and further, Adelaide, South Australia.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.