Searching for Red Dirt – Alice Springs

After five months of work on an island, you can imagine how thrilled we were to finally embark on our journey across Australia. We spent hours on end pondering, researching, discussing and inquiring about where to go and what to see, and there we were; driving in our fully equipped home on wheels, with hard earned cash in our pockets and seven million square km of land to explore.

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So where to go first? For months we have been telling ourselves and others that once we took our early retirement from tour guiding, we would first head West. But a sudden alignment of planets brought colleagues and friends all at the same time to the red center. So in a split second decision, we set the wheels in motion for the Northern Territory instead.

From Adelaide, there is only really one way to get to the red center; drive to Port Augusta and then tackle the Stuart Highway that stretches all the way up to Darwin – a whooping 2,834 kilometers. The second way takes you through the Simpson Desert and is a lot longer. Yes, if you want to tick all the boxes in Australia, you need to come to terms with the fact that a lot of driving through a lot of barren land needs to be endured. But don’t be fooled, come prepared with the right podcast, soundtrack and conversationist and you might just start to love the long stretches of solitude.

For starters, there’s really not a lot of people in those parts, so as we zoom past the occasional drivers at a 100km/h, we take the time to acknowledge each other’s presence with a wave – which frankly always makes us smile. Moreover, the daily concern of ‘where to spend the night’ is inexistent as the highway is surrounded by a plethora of flat dirt patches to park up and sleep. With such a wide array of choices, it is easy to pick a secluded spot and enjoy a peaceful dinner by a fire in front of the Milky Way. And to top it all off there is a free birds of prey show every morning along the Stuart Highway, as dozens of wedge-tailed eagles and falcons feast over the trail of roadkills left by the 53.5 meter long road trains driving through the night.

Eventually, we made it to Ayers Rock (also known as Uluru) for our first social call to Gary and Antoine. This wonderful Belgian couple have been traveling around Australia for almost two years now, and we had the chance to share a small part of the road with them on our little island off the coast of Adelaide. Unfortunately, we parted ways with a heavy heart, not knowing whether we would cross paths once again but things always somewhat fall into place, don’t they?

And what a spot to hold our reunion! The wandering fries were waiting with Cédric and Charlène – a French couple also meandering around the world – at Ayer’s Rock main carpark to enjoy the sunset. Once Uluru showcased its iconic shift in color, our friends lead us to a hidden gem they previously discovered: a secret and secluded camp spot off the beaten track with a view on the famous rock! After a lovely campfire and time to catch up over dinner, we all hopped in our respective homes and called it in for a night.

After a pleasant morning hike at Uluru’s curvier cousin (Kata Tjuta), we headed for King’s Canyon -the piece de resistance. If you find yourself anywhere around Alice Springs, you need to make the detour for the Rim Walk. We were lucky enough to enjoy this six kilometer hike without another soul around, and it has been one of the highlights of our trip! The Canyon looks unbelievable, and the entire hike is not fenced nor does it have a single pathway, giving absolute freedom to explore. Just take a look at these pictures, if these don’t convince you to come, we don’t know what will.

Before we could give our legs some rest, there was one last hike on the list: Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Be warned though; the only way there from King’s Canyon is through a heavily corrugated dirt road. We did not account for that minor detail as we set off in the morning to find toilets and.. let’s just say that we were all really relieved at the end of the 150 kilometer bumpy stretch. Now to steer your mind away from this thought, here are some more pictures of this incredible hike:

It was now time for all of us to return to civilisation, direction Alice Springs where our second social call was waiting: Nathan, Kate, Kristal and Sam – our colleagues from Kangaroo Island.

Alice Springs truly is a picturesque town. Nesting in between the impressive West and East MacDonnell Ranges, we could not get tired of observing birds of prey constantly gliding above our heads or of the daily glimpse of the ranges bathing in the warm golden light. In addition, there are plenty of hikes and 4×4 tracks to pick from – so what’s not to love? As a sidetone, we did feel a little unsafe in Alice itself. It’s somewhat known for car break-ins and living in one makes this thought an uneasy one. So keep all valuables out of sight and no loose change!

If you do decide to visit – which you definitely should – we recommend you to opt for the ‘Alice Springs Insurance’ at only 23$ a day (per vehicle)! Temple Bar Caravan Park is a fifteen kilometers drive out of Alice Springs, and that’s enough to be reminded of the sheer beauty of this place. Use it as a home base from which you can explore the fascinating art galleries and cultural events held in town. The awesome owner patrols the park in her golf kart, and greets every newcomer with a heartfelt smile and pitch that will make you feel straight at home.

We ended up staying a week, enjoying the serenity of the campground and going on several outings with our friends. Sadly, every encounter you make on the road always comes to a point where you need to part ways. No matter how strong the connection or the amount of time spent together, you both know that there is a strong chance you will not meet again. But that’s okay, because you can live on knowing that you will always have your traveling family scattered around the globe, and that at any point in time, there is the possibility of crossing paths once again, picking up right from where we left off to discover another portion of the unbeaten track.

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