Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Alice: a wonderland?

At first sight, yes. It's a shiny, clean, modern town nestled in the shadow of the Western Macdonnell ranges - from the main street you can see the mountains rising up behind the buildings. It has the magnificent setting of those bush towns, without being bleak. Closer inspection reveals more problems, however - Aboriginal people are everywhere on the street (it's an outdoor culture), but somehow utterly separate. There is evidence of poverty and alienation, and signs up banning alcohol in public places, which - as in the communities - clearly don't apply to Westerners. Two peoples are living uneasily side by side - UK's assimilation problems are nowhere near as severe as this.

Having said which, I continued to be a tourist too. I visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum, which is absolutely fascinating. The "mantle of safety" continues today, mostly funded by the public, which I think is scandalous! The states pay for the running costs, but the planes and their kit are paid for by donation. I've been dropping money into RFDS tins since I've been here, but having learnt that I'm going to have to step it up. Elsewhere, I visited the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame, in the old gaol (again, fascinating - great stories about the women who gave up everything to come and make a life in the bush in the 19th century). And climbed Anzac Hill to get amazing views of the town and its gorgeous surroundings.

Even more touristy was my hot air balloon trip - I thought I would die when I had to get up at 3.30am the morning after the outback trip (the balloon has to get in the air before sunrise because the wind picks up then), but I've recovered now and have a certificate and photo souvenir to make up for it! I must confess, for the money it wasn't the most amazing experience - we were 16 in the basket, in cramped conditions, which made it less than peaceful, and it was hazy over the horizon so the sunrise was less than spectacular. However, I can say I've done it, and it was rather special to take off silently, to see the trees below us with kangaroos hopping about, and being so high that the birds were flying beneath the basket. Plus, the gourmet breakfast was as delicious as billed.

Actually, I'd have stayed in Alice longer, but had already booked the Greyhound so was on my way in only two days. I've passed through Katherine, which was something of a lost weekend - the hostel was booked up (it's a one-hostel town), so I had to get a motel room (shame!), and it was so nice I mostly stayed there! Not very intrepid, but I am going to the falls on another tour so I don't think I missed much, and I needed the time to recuperate by a pool. And now I'm in Darwin, back in hostel world, and preparing to go out and explore. I'll let you know what I find...

No comments:

Post a Comment