We’ve been at Wintersun Caravan Park in Alice Springs for a bit over a week now, so it must be time for an update.
Wintersun Caravan Park
This is a very nice place to stay. It is on the north end of town and is apparently the closest caravan park to town. We haven’t tried to walk into town but we have caught the local bus a couple of times – it costs $1 each for seniors with a 3 hour time limit. Facilities here are good and there is a large laundry. Most of the visitors here stay only 1 or 2 nights to do some shopping and washing after being in the red dirt and then continue on their travels. The walls around the park are topped with razor wire, and the gates are locked every night. We’re not sure if that’s reassuring or not! There is a small shopping centre only a few hundred metres down the highway with a good IGA supermarket, a gourmet butcher, a chemist, a bottle shop, and a large bike shop which is a bit of a surprise.
We have now moved to our previously booked site and have done a “full” set up with shade-wall side and end walls, as well as our new off-side shade wall. We added a sail track to the slide-out and slid in a standard size shade-wall and it does an excellent job protecting us from the weather (mainly heat from the sun) in our new location. We are fortunate to have a large concrete slab and that adds to our comfort. Naturally there have been several “housekeeping” days when we have tried to reduce the amount of red dust from Bertha and ourselves and our clothes.
The weather here in Alice Springs is wonderful. Nights can be cold but the days are usually somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees with not much wind other than some nice cool breezes throughout the day. Perfect weather for BBQs and generally cooking outside whenever possible.
We hired a small car for a few days to see some of the sites rather than drive Bertha everywhere, and just as well as visiting Anzac Hill in Bertha would have been a real nightmare.
We have had several happy hours with Downunda and Faye to compare notes of what we have been doing and where we have visited and have also met and chatted with many other travellers. Amongst them was a New Zealand couple who had recently picked up a brand new Jayco Optimum motorhome in Melbourne and were doing a 6 month tour around Australia before the motorhome is shipped across to NZ. It was interesting to talk to them about differences between travelling in Australia compared to NZ.
Anzac Hill Lookout
This is definitely a “must see” for any visitor to Alice Springs. Just don’t try to bring your motorhome or caravan up here! It is an indigenous sacred place which is shared with others as a place of remembrance for those Australians lost in military conflicts. There are many plaques explaining those various conflicts – this is a very moving and solemn place. The location provides great views down into the town of Alice Springs and the surrounding areas.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden & The Bean Tree Café
The Botanic Garden is only about a 10 minute walk from town and is another “must see” in Alice Springs. Our first stop was at The Bean Tree Café for a much needed coffee. We also succumbed to one of their delicious cakes (we shared). While we were enjoying our coffees, several small kangaroos (maybe wallabies) bounded through the café area, much to the delight of patrons.
The “Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve” was founded in 1956 after lobbying by Miss Olive Pink, who was an unconventional anthropologist, advocate for Aboriginal rights, and a botanical artist, amongst other things. The main building here, which includes the café, is made from rammed earth and sits well in the landscape. Some of the seating is very “rustic”. The 3 day NT Writers Festival was to start here the day after we visited.
There are a number of walks around the gardens, and we were fortunate to see several more kangaroos, including one with a joey, bounding through the landscape.
We found the Botanic Garden to be an interesting and soothing place to visit.
Todd Mall and the Town Centre
Alice Springs is quite spread out but the main tourist destinations are in the Todd Mall which is limited to pedestrian traffic only. This is where the gift and souvenir shops, art galleries and the cafes can be found. We were a bit surprised as to how “quiet” this place seemed to be, although it was probably better to visit without hordes of people around. Most of the Aboriginal artworks on display are amazing, but they often come with a decent price-tag. We enjoyed a casual stroll along the mall and visited several shops before stopping for lunch at The Red Dog Café. Very good food and coffee and reasonably priced. There are other cafes we liked the look of and plan to visit when we are back in town.
There are several shopping complexes near to the Mall, with Coles, Woolworths, Target and other major stores represented. There are also some other museums and places to see within the bounds of the town centre. Some of the architecture is of heritage value, but there are also some magnificent more modern buildings. The Supreme Court building is a knock-out!
On Downunda’s recommendation we drove our hire car out of town to see Simpson’s Gap.
This is a stunning natural gorge with amazing rock formations along the river/creek bed. As we were heading off on our walk along the gorge we couldn’t help but notice a group of about 20 painters with easels and other associated paraphernalia trying their best to capture the view along the river bed through the gap. I’ll stick with my camera I think.
As we continued down the well-made path the views upwards and around us were magnificent.
At the end of the path we came to a spot where there was water in the river bed through the natural gap in the mountain range. In the right light this would be an absolutely magic spot, but it was still pretty special when we visited.
Along the walk we saw numerous different native plants, some beautiful birdlife and a very confident wallaby with a long black tail.
Alice Springs Desert Park
The Desert Part is a fantastic facility only a few kilometres out of town on the way to the West McDonnell Ranges. Our first priority was for a coffee and shared cake at the cafe. Delicious! We then headed into the main centre where there is a great display about the general area, the native flora and fauna, and the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area. There is also a large gift shop where several purchases were made.
Unfortunately a couple of large tour buses arrived and disgorged their human contents so we decided to delay a proper visit to the Desert Park to another day.
John Flynn’s Grave/Memorial
On the highway close to the Desert Park we stopped at the John Flynn’s Grave Historical Reserve.
John Flynn was better known as “Flynn of the Inland” and was the first Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission and the founder of the Flying Doctor Service. He did a magnificent job initiating a wide range of services for Australians right across the country who were living in remote areas. This is the actual site where his ashes are laid to rest.
Downunda and Faye have left Alice Springs and were last heard from at Devil’s Marbles. Neither of us knows exactly where we’ll be at any point in time but we’re sure that our paths will cross again in our travels.
Ann has actually flown back to Melbourne to attend to various matters and visit Alex and Emily our grandchildren, so I am actually on my own here for a little while. I have a list of various jobs to do around Bertha and I have a number of other projects to work on as well. Also, I will have the opportunity to visit a number of local attractions that don’t interest Ann at all – like the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Kenworth Truck Museum.
We have a list of other places we plan to visit once Ann gets back before we leave Alice Springs for destinations further north (including Devil’s Marbles).
Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of Shorty’s RV Adventures ……………
Fantastic blog Tony. I very much enjoyed reading your well written comments and superb photos.