Favorite thing: The 2010 VT Alice Springs Meet and Greet was held in the picnic shelter at the Desert Palms Resort on the evening of August 19th. We had the picnic shelter reserved but another group showed up and started using the BBQ grill and fireplace just before we got there. We had some snacks, salads and wine while we waited until they were finished. We had plenty of time to talk and take pictures. It got really cold before we finished cooking and eating though. Attendees included 1+1 (Zyg), adelaidean +1 (Deb and Bob), betska (Betty), lou31 +1 (Lou and Russell), rosie235 (Rosie), stevemt (Steve), TheWanderingCamel +1 (Lesley and Maxine), tiabunna +1 (George and Pauline), and wise23girl + Wisedancer (Marg and David).
Favorite thing: Besides the nice snacks and salads, we also had a tasty picnic-style dinner at the 2010 VT Alice Springs Meet and Greet. Rosie and Deb did most of the cooking with Bob and Zyg helping. My only complaint was that there were not enough carmelized onions!
All this was behind us when we hit the dirt. The road is listed as 4WD and it’s almost beyond that in places. While going across one particular ford he relates how another company were doing their first run after the recent floods (they’ve had three this year) and the bus went head first off to the right and was stuck face down. The following bus, being more sensible, went around the left but struck the same fate. Both had to be retrieved.
Palm Valley is unique inasmuch as the red cabbage palms that are there can be found nowhere else in the world. There are around 3,000 plants only. Also featured here are cycads, remnants of an ancient past, but I had already seen quite a few of them at Inarlanga.
On the road in we were mostly doing less than 5 kph and I was dying to stop and get some pics but said nothing until Ann, Ken’s wife, piped up. Naturally enough she had my full support so from then on we hassled poor Ben constantly. However, I was singled out for a warning before the walk that the group was to stick together.
One poor man in our group could hardly see but insisted on doing the half hour walk along the creek bed and up the ridge. Our concern that he shouldn’t be doing it was ill founded as he trundled along 10 minutes later.
Our small group of 7 was diverse. The guy with the poor sight owned 7 horses, another chap’s body had shut down and he was on medication to alleviate the problem and Ken had had a heart attack years ago. What would life bring me I couldn’t help but think.
We then proceeded to Hermannsburg (pic 2), an old Lutheran mission for the blacks that is now an historical tourist attraction. It’s here where Albert Namitjira could be found on occasions though he always maintained his nomadic lifestyle.
There’s a gallery here with art from all the relatives. It’s a sad affair with hardly any of the lights working. Made me wonder why they bother as none are for sale.
Fondest memory: On the way back our driver put a CD on. It was a Rotary Club talk by a guy called Len Beadell. Here was a man who had been privy to some of Australia’s biggest secrets and had led an unbelievable life in the outback. That would have made it interesting but he had a dry sense of humour that cracked the whole bus up. We were literally crying, funniest things since Monty Python. It’s available at ABC shops. Try it, you’ll like it.
After finding out the previous day that Mount Zeil (1,532 metres) was the highest thing west of the Great Divide and being told that the ghost gum actually exudes a white zinc powder for sun protection, I suppose I should have expected more from the veritable font of information I was coming across in Alice Springs.
However, learning that two nuns had died climbing the famed Elephant’s Hide in the Grampians wasn’t something I expected. Apparently four had been going up Indian file and the third one slipped and took the fourth with her all the way to the bottom.
As humans are wont to do, a couple I’d been talking to and myself had slipped into a conversation about disasters. Ken then told how a group of snap-happy Japanese (are there any other kind?) had alighted from their vehicle on an African safari so they could get their picture taken with, can you believe it, lions! This foray ended in predictable disaster with three tourists dead. He then went on to relate how a French couple and their child were staying in a tent style resort and a leopard came at night and despatched the child.
While we were on the tar I got into reading a book I’d borrowed at the office of the tour I was on. I’d taken some pictures of Benstead Creek and here I found it was named after a young man of 22 who’d ridden all the way from Adelaide to manage Undoolya Station in 1877. 12 years later he bought two blocks of land and built the first pub in the Alice called Stuart Arms. He also found gold and got the first crusher to the field at Artlunga.
Apparently he was very popular and Trephina Gorge is named after his wife.
Fondest memory: Meanwhile our driver Ben was on the mike telling us there were an estimated 1,000,000 wild camels (pic 5) out there and that horses were a problem as well. He must have known, about two minutes later there was one on the side of the road. He got talking about large properties and said that when Victoria River Downs, known as VRD here, got their first chopper, they found 22,000 EXTRA cattle on their vast holding.
NOTE: Most of the pictures are panoramas so you need to click on to see the full picture
"His work abides; his memory is forever eloquent. For across the lonely places of the land he planted kindness, and from the hearts of those who call those places home, he gathered love."
Thus spake Reverend "Skipper" Partridge, ex patrol padre, at Flynn's funeral service. It's hard to overestimate just what a legacy inland Australia owes to the drive of this one man who was sent into it in 1912 to see what was required. He was appalled to see that services that city folk take for granted were manifestly absent in this wilderness and he spent a great deal of his life seeking to redress the imbalance.
That he had much success is testimony to his drive and ambition and Australia and other parts of the world with similar problems owe this one man a great debt.
Alfred Traeger's pedal powered radio, invented in 1928, was also instrumental (literally) in helping to bridge the great distances between people.
The monument of a special rock at the site also has a history. There's a famous site called the Devil's Marbles further north from which a rock was taken. Unfortunately it's a sacred site for indigenous women and, after 20 years of controversy, it was replaced with a similar one from another site.
Fondest memory: I just happened to be in town when there was a memorial bike race that started from the memorial and I took part in it. Sadly, for me, I didn't last long and, instead of the full 74kms, I turned short and only did about 68kms. It was all a bit much but the winners did well and it's such a nice place to ride I might do it again one day and get an even worse result.
Alice Springs is a very diverse and interesting place, set in beautiful desert country. If you like winter hiking this is the place to come. Walk the Larapinta Trail and experience the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges. The town has a lot to offer and it is worth coming here for the history, friendly people and the stunning country. You don't even need to go far out of town to walk in the hills with stunning views. There are great walking tracks everywhere on all sides of town. And don't forget we even have a local bus service! Get a bus timetable from the town council office in the centre of town.
Fondest memory: Alice Springs weather is full of surprises. November 2008 brought huge storms and rain. The rivers ran and the waterholes are now full to the brim. All the plants are in blossom and the insects have arrived, bringing more birds in. Now is a good time to visit - if you like the heat, that is.
Alice Springs is really the start. As you fly to the desert, you can either fly into Ayer's rock or Alice Springs.. I recommend you fly into Alice Springs as one has more options for food, accomodations and tours to take to see one of the four major attractions in the desert..
The four natural wonders which are Uluru (Ayer's Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Watarrka (Kings Canyon) and the East and West MacDonnell Ranges are all easily accesible either by tours or by hiring a car and driving yourself. Once in Alice Springs, in a community of almost 30,000 people, just make sure you visit the one if not all four of the breathtaking natural wonders Australia and the outback has to offer... Just in case you didn't know, Uluru (Ayer's Rock) is UNESCO World Herritage protected site :)
The thorny Devil is an Australian native reptile found in the outback deserts and bushland as well as Western Australia. The site of this reptile which is about 7 to 8 inches long is absolutely amazing.. The reptile is covered in thorns hence its name and what's amazing is that the thorns help the reptile collect rain water as rain falls on its back and help deliver the water to its mouth.
Don't be fooled by its looks... This reptile is completely harmless.. and their diet consists of different ants.. The thorny devil also has the ability to change colors.. So watch for this amazing reptile as you're on and about Alice Springs or the desert by the Ayers rock. You might just be surprised to find one by your feet :) and if you do, pick them up, they won't bite
Before we went to Australia, we KNEW that kangaroo would probably hop onto our plates at some point on the trip. We definitely associated 'roo as being "bush tucker". And, it most certainly IS a mainstay of meat supply in the bush areas. But, the consumption of kangaroo in Australia is much more wide-spread. You can find kangaroo filet on some of the finer restaurant menus in Sydney and Brisbane, and can find kangaroo burgers at roadhouses throughout Australia.
Before my first taste, I'd already assumed that I'd like kangaroo meat, because everybody in Australia said it was very very good. And, they're right.
Fondest memory: The only kangaroo that I tasted in Oz was at our Frontier Camel dinner safari meal. The splendid Chef Dieter served up, as an appetizer, a terrific kangaroo sausage.
This sausage was not very highly spiced, much in keeping with what we'd found in Australia. The Aussies just don't like to spice up their food very much, that's my impression. The thing that separated my 'roo sausage from other meat wursts I'd had was the lean texture of the meat. This sausage was extra meaty. There's a much lower fat content. It's quite tasty, and I'd guess that, while cooking it, you'd need to take care NOT to overcook, to avoid dryness. But Chef Dieter knew what he was doing, and our kangaroo sausage appetizers were just perfect.
It's probably taboo, but I sprinkled a bit of the Dukka spice mix (see recipe in later tip) over my sausage and sprinkled it a bit with olive oil. Very good.
As I've said in other Alice Springs tips, we had a wonderful meal on our "dinner camel safari". Chef Dieter put on a terrific spread after our camel riding adventure.
One of the appetizers served to us was.....smoked camel. Now, I have to admit that I felt a bit guilty munching on a camel after having only recently reached a form of detente with the camel carrying me through the Outback. I was assured by the folks at Frontier Camel that they did NOT "smoke" any uncooperative camels at their farm. The camel meat supplied to Frontier comes from the same basic source as most camel meat available in Australia. Animals are both hunted and raised specifically for the production of meat, much in the same way as is cattle. Although not a huge part of the Aussie diet, camel meat continues to increase its sales and is winning over a cadre of admirers at the dinner table.
Fondest memory: Well, I don't know exactly why, but I'd pre-supposed that I'd not like camel meat. Somehow, I thought it would be tough, or gamey or something.
Smoked camel meat is very lean and tasty, having a flavor a bit like beef, or perhaps beef pastrami. A very tasty appetizer, and I'd think it'd be very good with a stout cheese and some crackers, too.
Alice Springs really IS the center of Australia. And as a crossroads, you find travelers from all over the globe as you stroll Todd Street. The entire scene is one that fosters a friendly discourse, and you'll find it very easy and natural to make friends and conversation with your fellow travelers.
And since Alice is kind of a small town, you're going to keep seeing the same people during your time there. You might as well become friends. : )
Fondest memory: As with everywhere we visit, we enjoy meeting and becoming friends with the locals and with fellow travelers. Alice Springs was no exception....in fact it was exceptional. It was the sort of place that just made everyone feel a little more comfortable, a little more willing to open up the the people sitting next to them.
We met a lot of wonderful people in Alice Springs, and they contributed a great deal to our enjoyment of Australia. I have made email contact with quite a few of them already.
The young couple in the accompanying photo are Hans-Christian and Melanie, from Karlsruhe, Germany. They've been dating for about seven years, and I had a lot of fun needling Hans about still having trepidation about getting married. He just replied that she will be worth any wait. Hans has a point.... we all have that one right person who is always worth the wait, right? : )
This Dukka spice/herb mixture was intended for the dipping of the beer bread, recipe above. One should dip slices of the bread into virgin olive oil, and then into a bit of the Dukka. Or, the Dukka could be incorporated directly into the olive oil in a small dipping bowl or plate. Again, don't forget the cold beer, too. : )
Fondest memory: Dukka herb mixture.
It consists of the following items, blended pretty much in whatever preportions may please the chef. Experiment. : )
acacia tetragonaphylla (good luck !!)
(check at your local international grocer...)
salt and pepper
We had a great time on our "Camel Adventure Ride", put on by Frontier Camel Tours of Alice Springs. One of the best and most surprising aspects of the tour was dinner. It was REALLY good. Fixed up by a charming Austrian fellow named Dieter, it was all home-made and terrific.
I think the folks at Frontier Camel are used to guests loving the food, because they already had recipe cards printed up for some of the dishes. One of the best was Dieter's freshly baked beer bread. The recipe is below.
This was an especially good pairing when dipped into virgin olive oil and then dusted with Dukka spice/herb dip (see recipe below). It made a fair-dinkum appetizer or pre-dinner munch, especially paired with a cold James Boag beer. : )
Fondest memory: Home-Made Beer Bread (2 loaves)
3 cups self-rising flour
1 can of beer
a pinch of salt and sugar
1/4 cup water
Mix the ingredients in a bowl with your hand - do NOT knead.
Grease two loaf tins and pour the dough (which should be "sloppy" and not dry) into the tins. Sprinkle with grated cheese, bran or sesame seeds as desired.
Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool before cutting.
Another great item on the Frontier Camel Tours evening menu was dessert. Chef Dieter's Sticky Date Pudding was the perfect accompaniment for a hot cup of hearty coffee....especially a hot cup of coffee with a little shot of cognac added. ; )
The recipe for Dieter's pudding, also readily published and shared by Frontier Camel Tours, is below.....
Fondest memory: Pudding:
2 tablespoons butter
180 grams castor sugar (6 ounces)
180 grams self-rising flour (6 ounces)
180 grams pitted dates (6 ounces)
1 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Mix the dates, bi-carb, water and let stand. Cream the butter and sugar and then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the dates/water/bi-carb mixture and then fold in the flour. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
140 grams (5 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup cream
vanilla extract, just a bit
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seed
Mix all ingredients, and heat gently until cream and smooth, blending constantly. Serve warm over freshly baked pudding.
Extracted and condensed:
..."The aboriginal flag consists of a yellow circle (the sun) on a horizontally divided field of black (the night sky) and red (the red earth, presumably this was from a group of Northern Territory aboriginals)
An alternative explanation is that black represents the skin color of the people, red the land, and the yellow disc represents the sun.
There has never been any definite symbolism given to the colours by the flag's supposed designer, Harold Thomas. There are several different interpretations; black has been said to symbolise Aboriginal skin and the night sky. Red can either be the red desert earth of the Aboriginal blood spilt over the last 200 or so years"...