Our recent trip to Alice Springs was created around visiting the Kangaroo Sanctuary to meet Brolga and his rescue kangaroos, but we had an afternoon beforehand and the next morning free, so what to do to make the most of our time?
My previous trip to Alice was in 1989, so I can’t really remember much about it, other than the Piggly Wiggly (a kind of convenience store) that acted as an informal pick up/drop off point for the local Aboriginal youngsters, and my very grumpy boyfriend (who unfortunately later became husband #1). I couldn’t remember what I’d seen or what had been missed out on that trip, so I asked for advice on the TripAdvisor forum.
Most forum suggestions pointed me to the west MacDonnell ranges, an obvious choice for desert scenery, but someone also suggested the Ewaninga rock carvings which were new to me. I was also keen to see some local aboriginal art, particularly from the Tjanpi desert weavers.
We arrived in Alice around lunch time, picked up our car, dropped our bags off at our B&B and then hit the road baby!
Driving alongside the MacDonnell ranges
If you don’t have much time, even driving a few minutes out of town gives you some incredible views of the ranges
Standley Chasm – 53kms west of Alice Springs
A short, flat walk gets you from the carpark/ticket office/café to the Chasm in no time, so it’s a place where you can really take your time to admire the beautiful rocky scenery and ancient cycads that really do look out of place in this desert landscape.
Local wisdom tells you to arrive around midday when the overhead sun lights up the chasm, but our timing didn’t allow us to do that, so we saw it in shadow. Still amazing, and with the added benefit of having it completely to ourselves for a few minutes.
Simpson’s Gap – 23kms west of Alice Springs
Another short walk from the carpark and you arrive at a waterhole, which is a bit of a surprise in this semi-arid landscape. It’s pretty here, a shady place to retreat from the desert sun and perhaps have a dip. It’s also a place where you can see black-footed rock-wallabies, although we didn’t.
If we’d had more time we would have continued further west to see some of the other sights. Find out more about the MacDonnell Ranges here.
Sunset tour of The Kangaroo Sanctuary
You can read about the sanctuary here, and about our visit here
Napwerte / Ewaninga rock carvings – 35 kms south of Alice Springs
This small reserve was a bit of a find. It doesn’t appear on regular tourist lists of things to do, our B&B hosts had never heard of it, and it isn’t signposted until you’re off the main road. The last 16 kms are dirt, but it was fine for our 2WD rental car. The upside was we were the only ones there, which is just the way I like it.
The Ewaninga rock carvings, or petroglyphs, are easily seen in several clusters from the short walking track. The symbols hold sacred meaning for the Arrernte people, which cannot be revealed to the uninitiated like us.
I have visited many Aboriginal art sites before, but have never seen anything like this. Being out there all alone in this stunning desert landscape felt quite magical.
Araluen Arts Centre
Back in town we got out of the sun and paid a visit to the Araluen Arts Centre to see ‘Big Mob of Dogs’, a group exhibition of work from visual art students from the Alice Springs correctional centre.
I love dogs, and I also love the idea of people (hopefully) transforming their lives through art, so I knew I was going to love this, and I was right!
Seeing all the dogs together was a spectacular sight! Dogs made from metal, paperpulp, string, alfoil, wool, and other scrounged materials, occupying every bit of space.
Even better (and something I hadn’t realised before I got there), the artwork is for sale! The exhibition had been open for a week by this time, so at least half the pieces were already sold, but I was very excited to purchase Red Dog by Cameron Cooper (the long red dog top centre) and Rinny by Alwyn Gallagher (not pictured).
The exhibition continues until May 7, 2018 and you can read more about it here
We also enjoyed visiting other galleries at the centre.
I love the work of the Tjanpi desert weavers , and desperately wanted to visit their gallery, but it was closed for Easter. I was however incredibly lucky to buy a piece made by one of the desert weavers at the Uluru Cultural Centre a few days later (more on this in another post).
Coffee and vintage treasure hunting
While we had a lovely breakfast at our B&B earlier this morning, our host didn’t offer espresso, so by this time we were in desperate need of good coffee. The House of Talullah (64 Hartley St) looks like it’s probably the most interesting café in Alice, with good coffee, super friendly staff and a great vibe. Even better, it’s right next door to a vintage store, Alice Texas.
A bit of rummaging uncovered this wonderful home-made piece, which brings two of my collecting themes together – religious iconography and shells. I’m particularly fond of the black Madonna, so this was a very lucky find.
Off to Uluru
And that was it for Alice. Time to head back to the airport for our short flight to Uluru.
More Red Centre adventures coming soon!
Until next time, happy travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni