Alice Springs – The greenest desert I’ve ever seen

So I’ve been meaning to get this updated for a while as is always the way. But the longer I have left it the less I feel like trying to summarise near on a year in one post. I decided the best way forward was to put fingers to keyboard, draw a proverbial line and at least get something done.

This part of my travels has been completely about getting the required regional work completed, so that I have the option to apply for my second year visa. This should have been quite straight forward as I had a job as a deckhand on a prawn trawler lined up. Unfortunately my appendix would not play ball, so that was that out the window. After being ambulance-d and flown about Queensland I got that sorted thankfully.

Following an awesome break in Indonesia with Mummy dearest it was off to Darwin, Northern Territory to find somewhere I could complete the last 46/88 days I had to do. Work in Darwin was intermittent however, so when I found a position in Alice Springs which promised 10 weeks work, I jumped at the opportunity.

The position sounded simple enough. It was as a labourer helping a plumber to undertake maintenance work at the local hospital. I was advised it would be very tough and would just be digging holes. I thought to myself “Hey, it can’t just be digging holes right?” Wrong. Tedious does not describe the work. Luckily I work with a good group of guys, bar the boss and Alice Springs has a LOT to offer.

So after a couple of weeks finding my feet, I have now moved in to a room near the centre of Alice Springs and am getting in to a bit of a routine which doesn’t completely revolve around drinking. I like this.

As I mentioned I really do feel that Alice Springs has so much to offer. For starters, I was so shocked at the temperature upon arrival. I remember getting off the plane to what was a very pleasant temperature as opposed to the constant ‘you’re-gonna-sweat-and-have-no-choice’ kind of climate that is Darwin. This was most unusual, especially as I thought I was travelling to a desert. There was a lot of green around and the centre of Alice Springs is actually pretty built up. I have heard it described as a ’10 minute town’ as everything within is reachable in 10 minutes any time of the day. When you go out there are seldom any queues to get in places, it has a couple of supermarkets so food isn’t ridiculously expensive and due to the size and density there is very little traffic.

Landscape wise there are lots of rocky ridges and ranges, all different shapes and textures either from their former life as rivers or erosion over the years. However all of them look very climbable and it’s incredibly fun to do just that. Just have a look –

IMG 20160612 - Wallace Rockhole

The first range I went up was the Heavitee range, the summit on the range is known as Mt Gillen and is approximately 300m high – not much of a mountain right?! I had such an awesome time and went up by myself, the end was quite daunting as it has a near vertical climb of maybe 3-5m, it doesn’t sound like a lot but my head was going. When I got to the top the feeling of elation was unbelievable.

After this I was just looking for opportunities to hike or be out doors. Last weekend was a particularly hectic one. As it was the Queens birthday they have a public holiday on the Monday for everyone to celebrate. Whilst the queen is pointless, as long as she keeps the holidays coming, I can deal with it. So on the Saturday of my long weekend I got up early and decided to try and catch a sun rise. I headed up Anzac hill nice and early but as is my luck it was cloudy. Still it was cool to seize the day and it made for a pretty picture with an ominous glow.

IMG 20160611 - Anzac Hill sun rise

After this I headed towards the desert park and joined the Simpsons Gap bike track. From the town to the track it is 7km and the track itself was 17km. It was a pretty interesting ride surrounded by lots of different terrain and desert plants, however it didn’t blow me away. The gap itself was amazing. It was just so surreal in its shear size and presence.

IMG 20160611 - Nearly there...

I then had a little walk around and headed back along the track, making the whole ride about 50km. The following day I’d arranged ot go for a hike with the local bushwalking club. We met in a car park nice and early. I’d spoken to my recently acquainted pal Shai, (pronounced Shy(insert unique “you’re not shy!” joke)) who was also keen to come along so both of us turned up not quite sure what to expect. The trek of the day was to be around Wallace Rockhole which is southwest of Alice Springs by approximately 100km. It was led by a chap called Steve who had planned it all and been up to check out the area.

Everyone from the club was super friendly and interesting. These factors coupled with the scenery made for a very easy 8km hike, that was thoroughly enjoyable. Wallace Rockhole is an Aboriginal community so access can be an issue.  Not only did I go on a cool hike but I learnt a new word. Petroglyph. There were several petroglyphs (cave drawings or carvings) around, some caves and some extremely old looking pestle and mortar.

IMG 20160612 - Wallace Rockhole

One of the gentle hills of the creek that we went up:

IMG 20160612 - Wallace Rockhole

The vast expanse of nothingness surrounding-

IMG 20160612 - Wallace Rockhole

A short video looking out at the landscape around:

During the hike we got talking to one of the girls and decided on the next days activity. A hike around Mount Gillen. Whilst I had already been Shai was really interested and we had weighed up another option, Section 1 of the Larapinta trail, however it is much longer and we didn’t want to go too crazy.

We set off fairly early. after a slight hiccup – Shai oversleeping. However coffees in hand we headed up at about half 9 at a much quicker pace than my previous ascent. The end was nowhere near as intimidating as the first time and we made it up in about 30 minutes, compared to the near hour it took first time round. So on the whole it went really well.

It’s activities, scenery and alcohol-freeness like this that are getting me so hooked on the Centralian lifestyle.

What is this?!

I cannot believe it but it has already been nearly 4 months since I left the little island we know as the United Kingdom. Even more unbelievable is that apart from a few photos and Facebook posts I have almost no record of what I have been doing. So I feel that as we are all wondering (me included) what I have been up to it is probably about time I did something about this. Especially when due to time differences and us all having busy lives it has been so hard to keep in contact with everyone, that added to the fact that when I eventually do speak to people I normally only have a short amount of time, have been drinking, am tired or better still…hungover! This doesn’t usually make for the best of conversations.

I tried a paper diary for a short time but with us being in 21st Century I found it most inconvenient. It was actually Ryan who suggested the blog as it will be an online digital diary of sorts and I will have something to look back on in years to come! Much easier than paper and we can all look at it whenever I want. Here goes nothing!

A time before records and photos

I left home on the 29th June both excited and nervous at what to expect. Before going through the gate I frantically loaded as much media as I could from the movie hard drive on to my laptop to keep me entertained for the 12 hour flight, this was all whilst trying to charge it as much as possible. I remember a tearful fairwell from Mum in the airport but then what was to be expected?! It would of been concerning if not.

After making my way through security any nerves had disappeared and I became dead keen to get started and see some different things.  I boarded the flight where I unfortunately discovered there was no power plug on the plane as it was very old so I wouldn’t be able to charge my laptop. Entertainment down! Fortunately I got talking to the guy next to me, who turned out to be a really interesting American who worked in Kuala Lumpur for Paypal. He told me about areas to go to, places to eat (all of which were not used) and what life was like for a technical director there. This helped to pass the time quickly and gave me a taste of what it was like to meet new and interesting people from different backgrounds.

I arrived 12 hours later after was actually a very pleasant and easy flight. Leaving the aeroplane I immediately felt the heat hit me as I walked in to arrivals from the plane. Walking around the airport I took in all the signs which were actually in a totally different alphabet.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 17.09.55

It is worth mentioning though that below all of the signs in Malay was the English equivalent, but being the first time I had seen it it was still very novel! It was here that it dawned on me that while being very modern and design wise western it was completely different to anything I had seen before. This was actually quite daunting and that earlier nervousness surfaced again being surrounded by so many people all completely different to me. I made my way through airport and caught the train to the city centre as this was the quickest and cheapest way to get in as with most major cities. On the train I met a German back packer who had just been in Australia for 2 years and was now heading home via Kuala Lumpur. She was literally the first person I sat next to which was the closest available seat. It showed me just how many people would be traveling and that whilst being in a totally different place there would be countless people in the same position.

From the city centre station we caught the underground and made our way to our hostels which were on the same street. I made my way to my room which was a 24 bed dorm. I walked in and there were 6 or 7 people already talking to each other, we immediately began talking and after I packed my stuff away we went up to the roof top bar for a few beers. My first night was awesome meeting so many people who were all at different stages of their travels, finances and plans were discussed with stories exchanged. It was certainly easy meeting people who were all quite similar!

Unfortunately after all the fun I woke up to an unusual alarm of “Aren’t you flying in 2 hours mate?” at which point I groggily realised I had to pack my stuff and retrace steps to the airport as my flight would be taking off in under 2 hours! There was a mad dash through the underground and to the airport; along the way I met a local man by the name of Kamarudean. I explained my situation on the flight and he was by chance on the same one. We spoke on the way and he was super friendly. When we arrived at the airport he actually directed me the best way to the gate, I had less than an hour to make the flight!

The first check in desk I approached said I was too late to board the plane! This was not good. I decided I couldn’t give up so easily and removed my fluorescent orange bucket hat. I armed myself with a sob story about meeting family and it being the first time I had been away by myself and approached a different lady. She use the phone in the same way as the first desk but this time I received the extremely good news that I was allowed to board the plane, but would have to hurry due to how late I was running.

I ran as quick as I could all the way through the airport, on the way my backpack undid itself and laptop fell out and smashed on to the floor. This was definitely a day of highs and lows! I didn’t have time to worry though and put it back in to my bag then hurried on through the airport. I actually made the gate fairly easily and was surprised at how complicated they had made it initially. On to Cambodia!