Most Australian’s I’ve spoken to will recommend Alice Springs and Uluru as a place to visit. It seems to be a destination on everyone’s bucket list, even though most Australian’s I know haven’t quite made it there yet. I don’t know why that is because the red centre of Australia is one of the most fascinating places you will ever see.
Nature, history and indigenous culture collide here to offer a fascinating, enthralling insight into the original Australia, with a breathtaking view that reminds you how huge this island nation really is.
The modern-day Alice Springs was founded in the mid 1800’s when the telegraph line was being constructed across the country. Aboriginal history here dates back many thousands of years, so in this location you get the tales of two Australias.
The stories of indigenous life here are fascinating. Find someone to translate aboriginal art and you will find a new appreciation for it. This is a culture that did not have a written language as such. The pictures told the stories, and the stories were not just decorations. Where to find food, what plants to avoid, where the meeting places were, where the water could be found, all of this information resides in what we might call aboriginal art, transcribed into rock faces many thousands of years ago. Much of today’s aboriginal art (on canvas) uses similar techniques to tell a story.
The story of Modern Australia in ‘The Alice’ is equally fascinating. It’s a story of grit, determination, persistence and perhaps a touch of crazy as well. This town (eventually) called Alice was discovered when John McDouall Stuart led his third and final expedition through a harsh and inhospitable terrain. Shortly after the telegraph came, then gold was discovered close by, then transport came and Alice Springs was the hub.
Today tourism is a large part of Alice Springs. It serves as a starting point for central Australian adventures. The biggest attraction figuratively and literally is Uluru. The photographs do not do this monolith justice. At just under 350 meters high, Uluru is taller than The Chrysler Building in New York, the Eifel Tower in Paris and the Shard in London. But this thing is not just tall. It’s over 3.5 k’s long and nearly 2k’s wide, and when you get close you can see the toll the elements have taken on it. Once covered by an inland sea, you feel like you can see waves carved from constant pressure, there’s a smoothness that comes from standing tall through the beatings of wind and the rain and the sands of time. When you’re physically close to Uluru, you see it’s not just a rectangular shaped rock, you see the cracks and the folds, the plants and the waterhole that all combine to make this a very special place to visit.
Effectively next door is Kata Tjuta, slightly less known than Uluru but still an impressive site in the middle of the desert. 36 sandstone domes spread over 20 odd kilometers make up Kata Tjuta, which is a phrase from the local language meaning ‘many heads’. Something to contemplate while enjoying one of the walking tracks and watching the sun and light dance on the heads is that these sandstone domes are believed to be millions of years old.
These two sites are amazing but the red centre has even more to offer. Around half way between Alice and Uluru in the middle of nowhere is Kings Canyon. What I found particularly stunning is that you really get a sense of how big Australia is here. Stand at the top and as far as the eye can see is land. Flat red and brown land that stretches forever in every direction. You can’t help but feel like a tiny speck in the big scheme of things at Kings Canyon.
Carved from sandstone over millions of years, the geological formations are an impressive site. The 6k Canyon Rim Walk has a fairly taxing start. Some say it’s 500 steps, some say 1000, some say it’s 100 meters. I’m not the fittest person in the world and the beginning of this walk was hard, really hard. There are lots of places to rest though and the once you’re at the top, the view was definitely worth it. Walk around the rim and see the evidence of nature in action. This place is open, uncovered and exposed. You see the folds and cracks in the red rock that are the result of erosion over time. From the top you can walk down into the Garden of Eden, a green watery Oasis in the heart of the Canyon that is a stark contrast to the barren rock above.
These are just three of the spectacular sites this area has to offer. From natural wonders to indigenous education to historic stories of modern Australia, a visit to the red centre is deserving of a place on the bucket lists of all travellers.