Like an old song, Alice Springs is literally in the middle of nowhere. Located in the centre of Australia Alice Springs is 2,850 kms from Sydney [NSW], 3,100 kms from Brisbane [QLD], 3,630 kms from Perth [WA], 2,270 kms from Melbourne [VIC], 1,533 kms from Adelaide [SA], and 1,489 kms from Darwin [NT].
Prior to white settlement the area was home to the Arrernte Aboriginal people who are still regarded as the traditional owners of Mparntwe [Alice Springs]. Initially the town was known as Stuart after the pre-eminent explorer John McDouall Stuart, who crossed the Centre in 1862 during his third [and final] expedition to the north coast.
In March 1871 during the exploration of the MacDonnell Ranges, the government surveyor W.W. Mills on discovering a waterhole in the area named it Alice Springs after the wife of the Superintendent of Telegraphs, Sir Charles Todd. Built adjacent to the waterhole was the Alice Springs Telegraph Station.
To avoid the confusion of the dual names the town was officially named Alice Springs on 31st August 1933.
Although a remote location it is easy enough to get to either by road, rail or by air. There are several hotels in the town ranging to all budgets; and there are numerous restaurants, cafes, and pubs. The town is not short of shops, parks and galleries, as well as street markets. The latter have a wide variety of stalls to be explored. For more information you can visit the official website [http://www.toddmallmarkets.com.au/].
The hotel we stayed at was the Voyages Resort in Stott Street. On checking the website as I write this I see it has now changed ownership and is now known as the Chifley Hotel. I certainly hope the standard of accommodation has improved with the new owners, as the only decent thing about the place had been the swimming pool. The room and housekeeping left a lot to be desired; and the restaurant was very disappointing. Fortunately there were some good restaurants in the town.
Due to the vast distances and sizes of the numerous properties [stations] scattered around the Alice the only way children can be educated is by “air” [radio transmissions]. The School of the Air was officially opened on 8th June 1951 with its first transmission made from the Royal Flying Doctor Service base in Alice Springs.
Today the school is located at 80 Head Street and caters for about 120 children who are living in settlements and properties covering an area of one million square kilometres throughout Central Australia. The visitors’ centre is worth visiting.
The climate comprises of hot summers where daily temperatures can top 40*C. Rain is a rare occurrence, although summer rainfall is usually accompanied by spectacular thunderstorms. During the winter months of May – September the night temperatures can drop to below freezing. The days are usually cool and bright with cloud cover a very rare sight.
The dryness of the area is best realised by the Todd River which runs through the town. The river plays host to one of the town’s many events, the Henley-on-Todd regatta which raises money for various charities [http://www.henleyontodd.com.au/].
Alice Springs is certainly worth a visit at least once.
RLB – Tomewriter