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ALICE SPRINGS AND THE ROAD TO GLEN HELEN

During my week long stay in Alice Springs I have gone from sceptic to admirer of this area. The town is friendly, artistic and vibrant with a real community feel and all the amenities you could want.  

Population in 2017 approximately 29,000 (Bureau of Statistics).

In summer average temperatures range from 20 - 35°C and can soar to around 40°C. January is the wettest month with around 40mm (1.5") of rainfall, however the climate is considered dry and arid for most of the year.

During winter, average temperatures fall between 4.8 - 20°C, with July being the coolest month. Night time temperatures can drop below 0°C and thick frost on the ground can resemble a carpet of snow.

Daylight saving is not observed in the Northern Territory. The time zone in the Northern Territory is Australian Central Standard Time - half an hour behind Brisbane time.

The average relative humidity in Alice Springs is 24%. Humidity is lowest in September (18%) and highest in June (80%).

I personally found July had very low humidity - my hair went straight, my skin dried out and I had a lot of nose bleeds from dried out sinuses.

Clean, tidy and safe, AS does have a small portion of the population made up of folk who like to sleep off too much grog in the parks. We were gently accosted in public one evening by a young lady looking for money or belongings (she wanted my daughters necklace) but took it well enough when given a polite "no" and we walked away.

Other more motivated folk will sit in the park with their artwork, always stunning, and offer it for sale at slightly better prices than the galleries. Lots of art galleries btw just chocka with beautiful indigenous artwork. I brought home two small pieces but wanted more! 

The natural beauty of the region is simply stunning. I ran out of adjectives to describe the textures and colours of the landscape while driving around with my daughter. It's also much greener than I expected with variety in trees and flowering natives, perhaps owing to good rain they have had in recent times. I think I expected flat red sand everywhere but it's nothing like that. The place is dominated by the hills and mountains of the McDonnell Range - a feast for the eye in the variety of shape, texture and colour of the rocks.

We took an overnight trip out of town to Glen Helen Homestead Lodge on the Finke River and within sight of Mt Sonder - around 2hrs drive at 110kmh along a good bitumen road.

Along the way there and back we turned off to a couple of local gorges to check out the scenery and were never disappointed. The Simpsons Gap outing was later but as it is along the same road I have included it here.

RE-DISCOVERY CENTRE IN ALICE SPRINGS

8km out of town, where all things are re-purposed and sold for a pittance, the Re-Discovery Centre at the local tip is a must-see for the sheer wonder of recycling possibilities.

"Sheep" made by the local school kids as a project in recycling.

Glass bottles are bought from locals for 10c each....

....and recycled into crushed glass for landscape or art use.

VIEW OF THE TOWN FROM ANZAC HILL

Mt Gillen - part of the Heavitree Range.

THE RESIDENCY

Located in the centre of AS, the building was completed in 1928 and served as the official home for the first Government Resident John Cawood. 

Its most famous visitors, in 1963, were Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh who spent two nights at the The Residency as part of their Royal Visit to Australia. Today The Residency is occupied by Heritage Alice Springs Inc. and presented to the public as one of Alice’s most historically significant properties. It also hosts many events throughout the year, such as the Annual Spring Flower Show and Collectors Fair, and is available to local groups to use for meetings, exhibitions and special functions.

ELLORY CREEK BIG HOLE

About an hour and 20 mins outside AS and a short drive along a bit of a rough road.

Cafe, toilets, picnic and camping areas.

Ellery Creek Big Hole- good for swimming. Cold! Carved out by ancient floods.

A life ring for anyone who gets into trouble....

...like this popular local teacher who cramped up and failed to re-surface during a school excursion while swimming in 2016. A sweet message from one of his students: "I miss you Mr Leggett, you were my favourite teacher".

Well made walkways are a feature of each waterhole. Perhaps laid by the local correctional centre inmates.

The colour of the incredible rock formations are hard to capture with my little camera.

GLEN HELEN HOMESTEAD LODGE

Around two hours drive from AS and originally built in 1905 in a different location the property was originally used to run cattle. It has gone through many changes, including destruction by fire, and owners and is now a tourist destination on the Finke River.

View across from our unit at the lodge.

Simple lodge made of stuccoed bricks. Comfortable and snug with an ensuite.

Finke River gap a short walk from the lodge along the river bank.

Clare checking on the birdlife.

Looking back up the gorge towards the lodge.

Mt Sonder from the nearby lookout.

Birdlife was abundant - possibly a female Mulga Parrot.

And the best part of the stay - the helicopter ride. $210 for about 20mins of absolute bliss. Justin (our pilot) Clare and myself. Nadia took the photo.

And the view from the air.....

ORMISTON GORGE 

Close to Glen Helen and 2hrs drive from Alice Springs. 

Desert Rose growing wild - floral emblem of NT.

SIMPSONS GAP

A mere 20min drive outside Alice Springs.

Rock wallaby

Ghost gums growing in the river bed.

Wildflowers and edible Native Figs grew amongst the rocks.

As mentioned AS is rife with beautiful art - sold in retail outlets, in the park, at the mall markets on a Sunday. These are the few bits I picked up at the markets. The indigenous art is original, the water colours are prints. I found I was attracted to the botanical art.

Top left is by local artist Noreen Williams and represents Bush Bananas. 

Bottom left is by local artist Sally Williams and represents Wild Flowers.

Right are prints of work by local artist Jude Mapleson and are of (T-B) Glen Helen, Larapinta Trail and Ormiston Gorge.

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Comment by Lissa on August 5, 2017 at 17:28

My favourite pic is of the sinuous ghost gum growing up out of the sand of the dry river bed, with the intense blue sky above. The colours out there were just amazing.

Lots of people getting around with some incredible rigs and caravans. And many places for them to set up camp with nice facilities. They treat the tourist seriously out there and have plenty to attract them.

Comment by Christa on August 5, 2017 at 12:16

Thanks for sharing Lissa, Australia is a lovely country, when I see your photo's it reminds me of the camping we did years ago in similar locations.  Quiet, just the birds and trees moving, aren't the white gums beautiful, and the gorges are spectacular. Our son Paul goes out to these places and always gets a chopper ride to see the gorges from above, he says you can get a better perspective of the area.  The water colour prints are beautiful and are good examples of the places you have seen. 

Some of the photo's you have shared would make beautiful enlargements.  

Comment by Lissa on August 3, 2017 at 18:53

Thank you Juggsy. What sort of job did you have that let you work 6mths on then 6mths off?

Great place isn't it. How long since you have been there? Simpson's Gap had very little water in it and it was a bit on the scummy side. Perhaps that's why the ban on swimming.

Comment by Juggsy on August 3, 2017 at 14:52
I used to live in the Alice. In fact I spent the first part of my 20's going back out and working for 6 months and then coming back to Brisbane for 6 months. Sad you can't swim in Simpson's Gap anymore. I wonder why. Lovely blog entry.

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