Saturday, 28 May 2016

Half-lap Day 24: Finke River -> Alice Springs

We were camped quite near the highway and we throughout the night we could hear road trains coming for a minute or two before they actually came past. The noise would gradually get louder and then it would be like an aeroplane going past, and then it would recede over the next couple of minutes. It wasn’t too disturbing though, there weren’t a lot of them and in between it would be completely quiet.

I was up in time to see the sunrise, I went down to the river and watched it slowly come to light and enjoyed the reflections in the water and the incredible peacefulness. I saw a few tour buses pass over the bridge on their way to Uluru – would have been an early start from Alice Springs! As the morning went on we saw many army trucks going south, big trucks carrying lots of supplies – and 2 of them were carrying tanks! That was pretty exciting to see.

Early morning on the Finke River
As we were packing up the tent we found a tiny scorpion inside it, running along the floor near the wall. We all watched him for a while, then I scooped him up in a cup (I did squish one of his pincers as I tried to catch him) and threw him outside (away from the tent). We chatted to our friends about the Ernest Giles track (I was thinking we might leave the trailer and just drive back in the 16km to see the meteorite crater) and they said it was the worst road they’d ever driven on, corrugated all the way with no respite. We decided to give it a miss, if they struggled in their huge 4WD. The other couple had broken several things on their van and both of them said everything they had was covered in red dust.

An extra camper in our tent
The kids wandered off to explore while we finished packing, then I went to take them down to the river while Tony put the last things on the top of the trailer. I found them talking to another family, a mum with 2 boys. We chatted for ages, and Tony joined us after a while with everything packed up and trailer attached and ready to go. Eventually I took all 5 kids down to the river, the water was beautiful and they were soon all completely wet (in their clothes, but since it was a hot sunny day, and fresh, flowing water, I wasn’t worried). They played in the water and in the sand, which was a bit like quicksand in parts, it was easy to sink in up to the knee. I waded around a bit then found a shady place to sit and watch them and enjoy the location. Tony joined me after a while and then the other mum and we chatted and the kids played for a couple of hours. It was a pretty magical way to spend the morning.

Swimming and exploring the sand in the Finke River
We got everyone out of the river and headed off around 1pm. We’d planned to stop at Stuarts Well for fuel and lunch, but the kids had had a sandwich before we left and Tony and I were happy eating in the car, and we had enough fuel to get to Alice Springs, so decided not to stop. There was a camel farm though that the kids wanted to see, so we pulled in to check out the camels, and an emu who was being amorous with the fence, a dingo on a chain and some birds. Not the greatest animal place we’ve seen so far.

There were several ranges of hills that we drove past before reaching the McDonnell Ranges and then Alice Springs – a bit different seeing many hills after so much flat land. We drove in to Alice Springs through a gap in the ranges and it was exciting to be here. We checked out a campground which was only $11 a night, but none of us felt comfortable there and the reviews we read were very mixed so we decided against it. We were stopped by the police on the way in, who asked if we were going to the bottle shop or the campground – later when I saw police checking ID outside liquorland at Coles we realised that the police check ID before anyone goes into a bottle shop. I hadn’t seen that anywhere before.

We drove up Anzac Hill – a lookout over the city – to rest for a bit and figure out where we would stay. It was a cool place to get a bit of an idea of the layout of the town, and the kids thought we were going to physically look for caravan parks from up there – we did it the digital way however. There was a place out of town where we wanted to stay, we rang them but they were full, so we found a place in town that seemed all right and not too expensive. It seemed nice when we arrived, nothing special – it’s a fairly basic caravan park with everyone laid out in a neat grid, not much atmosphere but clean and quiet and a good place to rest for a few days.

I crashed when we arrived. Last time I arrived in Alice Springs I was overwhelmed and a bit teary and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – I thought that was because I’d just been on a 20 hour bus ride from Darwin. But this time I felt exactly the same. It’s an odd place – part city, part country town, part regional centre, part cultural and arts centre, part violent and unsafe, part touristy, part multicultural, it’s hot and dry and sometimes stifling, it’s a remote town but so full of tourists that it doesn’t feel remote – I am reading Tracks by Robyn Davidson (a lady who came to Alice Springs, learned about camels and rode a camel train from here to the Indian Ocean) and she says that having the ranges so close to town drives everyone a bit crazy and I see what she means.

Tony recognized that I was not coping well so he sat me down and made me a cup of tea before we set the tent up. The kids explored the park a bit and eventually I was up to helping set up. We used the free wifi for a bit, I sorted out my washing, and then we went for a swim in the pool. The water was freezing and I just had a quick dip before I got out, Tony stayed to supervise the kids and I went to Coles to stock up on much needed supplies, and got a hot chicken for dinner. I enjoyed driving around the town and discovering where things were, I even went over the river to get some hot chips to have with our chicken (there are Indian food places everywhere here, but only 1 fish and chip shop. Shopping in Coles felt like shopping in Griffith, very multicultural and the food options available reflect that.)

We were in bed pretty early, read for a while then off to sleep, keen for a quiet relaxing day tomorrow.

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