home | europe | usa | canada | australia | guides | travel 101 | bakpak girl | about

Alice Springs: The Heart of the Outback


Piercing blue sky, dusty red earth. This is the Australian Outback every traveler comes in search of, and in Alice Springs, this is the Outback you find.
Bleary-eyed, you stumble off the bus. Stiff legged, dazed, you scoop up your mobile home and strap it, once again, onto your sore back. Feeling as though you have just traversed the circumference of the Earth, you rip off many air-con-induced layers you added throughout the long night. Your senses are assaulted. Swarms of flies encircle your head, the uninhibited mid-day sun pounds down with vigor. A childish grin spreads across your face.

You have finally made it. To the middle of nowhere, to the center of this colossal continent, into the true heart of Australia.  Welcome to Alice Springs, the capital of the Outback.

Wandering around the small downtown area, there is evidence of the town’s pioneering spirit. History is written on the faces, in the physiques of the locals. They emanate toughness, while still maintaining the friendly Australian demeanor. 

A mélange of folks line the pedestrian mall. It’s easy to pick out the cattle folk with their thick, bronzed arms and hardened faces, tanned except for the pale rivers that spoke out from their squinty eyes and swim across their temples. Even easier are the omnipresent tourists- new fly nets muffle their faces, still-creased t-shirts display images of magnificent red rocks.

You see members of the Arrernte Aboriginal group, who have dwelled here for 20,000 years. Swollen bellies, stick-like legs, dark, chalky skin. Many convene in the parks and in the dried-out riverbed. Others beg, small sun-bleached children clinging to their sides. Some sell artwork and jewelry, others simply hold out an empty hand. Your curiosity is peaked. You yearn to learn more about the people who initially ruled this powerful land. 

You visit the fascinating Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air. You turn to a backpacking companion and whisper, “Can you imagine what it’s like to live here?” This is the kind of destination that forces you to picture an existence other than your own. This is what you have come for.
You come through Alice en route to world-famous natural wonders - the emblematic Ayers Rock, The Western MacDonnell Ranges, The Olgas, Kings Canyon. What the town itself offers is unexpected. Character, uncomplicated charm, a throwback in time. Harsh elements and isolation have defined the essence of Alice Springs, and you discover an exhilarating air of human triumph.

On your last night, you sit at a long bench in the smoky Bojangles Saloon. Surrounded by historical memorabilia and authentic (modern) cowboys, you are transported back to the eighteenth century. A cold stubby of beer, a handful of peanuts, foot tapping to the beat of the live band, you enjoy one of those life-doesn’t-get-better-than-this traveling moments. Sure, tomorrow you will strap on your pack and board another bus, but right now, you soak up your final hours in the capital of the Australian Outback. 

Feedback Form