The average tourist spends just three days in the Northern Territory, and we’ve already spent two in a contest of speed against a group of conference delegates to decide who can cover more must-sees of Alice Springs and its imposing backyard.
The delegates, half wearing high heels and chiffon, are no match for our fashionable but sensible suede boots as we sweep past them through the Aboriginal art galleries and Alice Springs Desert Park.
We went to see the bigger version at West MacDonnell Ranges, where at some point on our day-long tour we lost track of time -“ and our accelerated Sydney speedometer -“ wandering the dry rivers, stunning red cliff landscapes, and bursting-alive water springs.
It is easy to imagine losing yourself for days to a 4 wheel drive adventure, camping under the stars or jumping from one pub/lodge/petrol stop to the next every 500km. Near one of these stops is a big rock you may have heard of.
At the end of our trek across the ranges, we’re tuckered out and napping in the back of our tour vehicle returning to the comfort and lazy pace of Alice.
The conference delegates have already settled in for an extended night of fine food and drink at one of the outdoor restaurants, and this time we’re happy to follow and just enjoy the moment.
We’re having dinner with a friendly local couple, Phil and Glen, who run The Rainbow Connection accommodation for gay and lesbian travellers.
They’re just two of dozens who have joined the Alice gay social network from around Australia after seeking a different pace of life and better views and who have become an essential part of the town’s makeup.
Bar Doppio Mediterranean Caf?ff the mall is as popular for having the best coffee in town as for being lesbian-owned and operated.
More than 15 local operators sought to be part of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia’s campaigns, and it doesn’t stop with advertising.
Indigenous tour guide Bob Taylor from RT Tours mixed stories of modern Alice, gays included, with demonstrations of how it once was before the rivers were sapped by white man.
These next few years might be the last opportunity to see the town as it is now, with three new mines expected to open soon, driving more workers and traffic to the awe-inspiring region.
Alice has its problems, sitting as it does at the epicentre of two of the country’s biggest public issues, Reconciliation and sustainability. But it’s safer than Oxford St and the locals are friendly whether you stay for three days or three decades.
And that view could never get old.
Harley Dennett visited Alice Springs with the assistance of Tourism NT.