Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Go Ask Alice (Springs)

This blog is all about Alice!

No, no.  Not Alice in Wonderland.

And, no.  Not Alice from the Brady Bunch.

Yes!  It’s the most famous Alice in Australia… Alice Springs!

Alice Springs, or just Alice as most people call it, is miles away from Sydney.  In fact, it’s miles away from anything and everything.  Located smack dab in the middle of the continent, the nearest big city is Adelaide – a short 17 hour drive south.  Or you can try for Darwin – the capital of Northern Territory, where Alice resides.  Darwin is a quick 18.5 hours north.  Yet, with a population roughly 27,500 strong, Alice Springs is the most sizable city (town?) in the middle of the country – really the only city in the middle of the country.

When I say that Alice is miles away from anything and everything, it’s not just distance.  It’s really everything.  Like coffee.

Most Sydneysiders would cringe at this sign.  No skim???  No soy???  Where are we?!?!?  And don’t even get me started on the beer laws.

No heavy beer in the morning, but go ahead and knock yourself out with a light beer at 7am.  And if you want to wash that beer down with a glass of water… well, you’d better hop in that car and head south to Adelaide.

Alice Springs is known for three things:

The first:  being a gateway to the natural wonders of the Northern Territory.  The main draws of the middle of the country are Uluru and Kings Canyon.  As the only city in the region, Alice is a hub for tourists visiting these sites.  Both Uluru and Kings Canyon are super close – each over 6 hours away.  Huh?

The second:  Aboriginal art.  The Northern Territory is home to the highest concentration of indigenous people – and I’ll touch on that in another blog post.  As such, Alice has heaps of Aboriginal art galleries.  Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures in the galleries but I did snap a photo of this rubbish bin (garbage can for my American readers).

Notice the Aboriginal dot painting on the bin.  All bins in Alice have these types of paintings.  You can buy similar paintings in the galleries for a few thousand dollars.  No kidding.  I opted to buy a tie instead.  It has dot art on it.  I’ll get more use out of it and it only set me back $39.  Oh, also, there is public art.


The third:  being a complete shithole.  That’s right.  Alice is a complete shithole.  You can ask pretty much any Australian and they’ll tell you how it is.  My boss warned me before I went.  He was there for approximately one day a few years ago and vowed never to go back again.  And he was staying at one of the fancier hotels!  There are quite a few problems in Alice, including many associated with the large Aboriginal population – which I’ll explain in a later blog which is sure to garner criticism or agreement from many.  On top of that, Alice is in the middle of nowhere, there’s really not all that much to do, it’s hot as fuck in summertime, the crime rates are sky high, and there’s an abnormally randomly high percentage of lesbians (and you know that gays and lesbians get along as well as a pack of dogs and a three-legged cat).  It’s unsafe to walk around at night and we were also warned not to walk too far DURING THE DAY.

For me, I didn’t mind Alice… for a few hours.  It was something completely different.  But if I had to spend another day or two there, I’m pretty sure I’d want to do to it what the Americans did to Hiroshima.

Just to give you an idea of how crappy it is, I present to you two exhibits.

Exhibit A:

This is the Todd River that flows through Alice Springs.  The Todd River is… dirt.

Exhibit B:

Many cities in Australia have sister cities, and Alice Springs is no exception.   But while Sydney has San Francisco, Melbourne has Milan, Brisbane has Abu Dhabi, and Adelaide has Austin, Alice Springs is… stuck with some city in Afghanistan.

The city, called Paghman, is allegedly a popular tourism hub in Afghanistan as it has pretty rural scenery and tourist activities nearby.  Also, about half of the city has been destroyed by war.


That makes Darwin’s sister city of Anchorage, Alaska seem pretty frickin’ amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Bloody funny - but so true! Matches perfectly my experiences from Alice. You forgot to add that its bloody hot during the day and bloody cold at night (like in a proper dessert)!
    And you didn't mention either that the characters from the Pricilla the Queen of Dessert were travelling through dessert Australia to go to Alice and perform there their amazing show :-)
    And I don't think you mentioned the terrible smell of bats that hangs in the air all the time (yes - it's the bats not the people - though maybe in the heat you wouldn't know which one is it!!)
    Have you been to the Old Telegraph Station Historical REserve (on a hill with a bewutiful view of Alice! What is so good about that view is that you get to see the Gap - which is the narrow passage dividing Western MacDonnell Ranges from Eastern MacDonnel Ranges - one of the oldest mountain Ranges in the world (you need to drive through the Gap to get to the airport and most importantly to get to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon). These mountains are absolutely amazing (and do look old).
    When I was in Alice to make the day more bearable I went for a quads ride in the nearby cattle station - was so much fun and I got lost but thanks to that I got to ride my quad for 30 minutes more :-) I ended up all looking red dusted and its true it takes days to get rid of the dust of you (even if you scrub very well in the shower!)