Alice – An Eccentric Old Lady

Alice Springs, ‘The Alice’, ‘The Red Centre’, movie set extraordinaire, (A Town Like Alice, Last Cab to Darwin, Pine Gap, Queen of the Desert… dozens of others, some brilliant, some ghastly, no, that’s too gentle – appalling!) Certainly, an Australian icon and not just on Australian shores. So what is the old lady of the desert like today? What has so much fame done to her? I thought perhaps she’d be like Broome – done to death, ripe with cliches, a caricature of herself.

Certainly ‘The Red Centre’ -Heading for the Alice through that native plant killer, buffel-grass plains – McDonnell Ranges on the right
What will she be like after all these years?

However, we find she’s aged gracefully, the wild desert crags of hills towering over her flat streets on all sides – maybe they watch to see she does not get too big for her boots.

These days she’s often called Mparntwe – at least on all the signs around town, and the Todd River is still the way it was when I first visited around 1983, natural, graceful, dry as toast. 

The Todd Mall is still a relaxed place, with artists lolling on the lawns selling their wares, or just lolling (no we don’t take photos of the people lolling…).

Nature seems still in control… the Gaps dominate – Emily, Heavitree, Jessie, Simpsons – ageless, breathtaking, the red rocky hills will outlive anything.

Now she seems to see herself as an aboriginal art town – galleries galore, some humble, private, run by the artists, others grand and spacious, spread among the desert trees, run by the NT Government. When Ted is not arranging new tyres, new wheels, new dust cover for one rear disk brake after our small adventure on the Tanami, we wander the streets on foot or on our bikes, haunt the art centres – never time enough.

Here, half way through our planned trip, we totally change our future itinerary, because (only a few months earlier than planned) Ted has decided to upgrade ALL the tyres instead of just the new spare, and have it done in the only place which has the supply right now, and it’s – wait for it – Katherine, a cool 1200km north of here.

So, instead of west onto the Plenty Road, once in Katherine, why not take the Savannah Way across to Normanton and Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria, – both roads are dirt, both remote, but north is good for another reason – it will take longer to reach the Covid-crusted areas of more southerly climes.

(Secretly, too, I want to stave off winter as long as possible, maybe miss the rest of it altogether! – but please don’t tell Ted)

So Katherine, here we come!

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