Aug 17 – Left Darwin, headed for Alice Springs. Alice has always had a special ‘ring’ for me, ever since my 1st visit to Oz in the sixties. Now, I was about to see her for myself. It was a 3 day drive from Darwin to Alice – uneventful and boring even. A lot of driving through featureless scrub land – flat without any visibility, like driving through a scrub tunnel.
One noteworthy exception – on the 1st day out of Darwin I stopped for a break at Larrimah, a blink and you miss it town on the Stuart highway south of Katherine. Went into Fran’s Tea House. Fran’s about 5′ 2″ and built like a brick you know what. Her café is in the old Larrimah police station and museum. She’s posted hand-written signs everywhere – chalk on blackboards – menus galore, others reading “don’t enter, private, blah, blah” – It would take a good half hour to read them all. I asked Fran for a coffee and a scone, and she came out of the kitchen with 2 scones and a slice of banana cake – just wonderful – the best scones I’ve tasted in a long, long time. The coffee was just so delicious too – “I grind the beans myself” Fran says with this huge beaming smile. Photo courtesy of Australia’s Outback Northern Territory website. Fran’s on the left.
At one point, a customer arrived and walked into Fran’s kitchen, not knowing she was entering the kitchen. Fran asked her not to come in there because …. The woman left in a huff without ordering. You’ve got to picture this – in the middle of nowhere, about 5 people at a café – the next ‘watering hole’ a long, long drive away and a person takes offence at such a trivial event? Anyway, I sat there enjoying my coffee and scone (took the other scone and banana cake with me for later on the road), soaking up the surroundings and taking in the ‘show’ – man there’s a ‘show’ everywhere you go, even in Larrimah!
When it was time to pay, Fran invited me into her kitchen, yes into her kitchen, where she gave me 2 stuffed toys – she had a collection in there. Fran insisted the kangaroo had to go to Canada. So Natalie, here it comes. The little pink teddy went in the mail to Riley. Sorry Amber, I’m thinking of you, but I only had 2 and you’ve probably outgrown teddies anyhow – I love you too.
If you’re ever in Larrimah stop at Fran’s, say “G’day”, sample her goodies and just sit and enjoy the experience. Wonderful!
Alice sits in the very centre of Australia, surrounded by desert country. It’s ~1,500ks from Darwin in the north and ~1,500ks to Adelaide in the south.
Alice somehow fell short of my expectations. I guess it’s the old saying about “the best part of a thing is the anticipation of it”. I imagined so much and pictured an old town in the middle of the desert with cool Aussie pubs up and down main street, folks sitting out on the covered verandahs enjoying a cool one. Well, it turns out it’s just another modern town with that plastic feel they have. I mean there’s even an enclosed mall, a Woolies, a Coles, a MacDonalds, a Hungry Jacks … and sadly, a lot of vacant store fronts. No offence Alice – very nice, but … hmmm. I did find a yoga studio though.
I loved the wild country around Alice – she sits in the middle of the MacDonnell ranges, east and west. Here’s a few photos – rugged and beautiful with hints of what lies in the country beyond. Do the 2 click for the best view.
The Todd River ‘flows’ through the centre of Alice. Some locals have a hard time remembering when the water last ran, but apparently it has flooded parts of the town in the past. They hold annual ‘boat races’ here running through the sandy river bed – the Henley-on-Todd. There’s a great walk along the Todd. In no time at all you’re in the outback, walking through this wonderful Mars-scape country – hilly, dry, rocky, sandy dirt, all to yourself. Walked there every day.
Day trips out of Alice visiting the gorges in the east and west MacDonnell ranges.
Baggy ass shorts, sorry Billy.
Do the 2 click below to count the flies on my back and hat. You you can’t see the ones buzzing around my face.