We actually stayed in Alice Springs right through the hottest summer on record. It wasn’t planned. As nomads we never plan we just go where the day takes us and it took us to a magical place. We were working there; I was at School of the Air and the Telegraph Station as a tour guide and Geoff was working on new infrastructure in town but at every opportunity we visited the Mac’s.
The West and East Macdonald Ranges are more beautiful than anything else in the Red Centre. The West Mac’s start at the Telegraph Station and travel past Glen Helen Gorge into Namitjira Country where you become part of those paintings you’ve seen all your life.
We wallowed in Ellery Big Water Hole just out of Alice where signs warn against, of all things, hypothermia! I mean, it’s nearly 50 degrees and you could die of cold here?! It’s happened and we could feel the icy water under the surface. The further down you went the colder it got. Our granddaughters visited us and they certainly had shocked looks on their faces when they went in.
The Telegraph Station was the first settlement in the red centre and I was fascinated by a medical marvel. We talk lot about how technology enables people in remote areas to have medical treatment despite the distance. Well, back at the end of the 1800’s the telegraph station manager was the judge, jury, telegraph chief, postmaster and stand-in doctor. If there was an emergency he would put the patient on a bed in the telegraphy room and communicate by Morse Code with doctors in Adelaide who would talk him through operations and the setting of bones. He saved many lives in Caterpillar Dreaming Country. The energy around the Telegraph Station is ethereal and you can feel the ghosts of thousands of years past.
15 minutes out of Alice in the East Mac’s is Emily and Jessie Gaps and on the radiating, shining red walls is a beautiful gallery of caterpillars that was painted in the dream time. The dry river beds of places like Standley Chasm in the West and these gaps in the East suck the life out of any drop of water that falls and in 9 months in Alice I never saw them wet but their crunchy, dry sand hides a secret.
At the Alice Springs Telegraph Station which is on The Todd River and which isn’t a spring but a waterhole, you only have to dig down a foot to find water. After work in the silent, blazing late afternoon I’d sit in the shade behind a ghost gum on the bank and wait and the Kangaroos would come. They’d dig and put their head into the sandy hole and drink. Once a dingo waited ‘til the roo’s head was down the hole and jumped him from behind. Not a happy day. I love Alice. It has its problems like many places but its beauty outweighs them all.
Tell us, have you ever been to Alice Springs? What did you enjoy most?
To write for Starts at 60 (and potentially win a $20 voucher), send your articles to our Community Editor here.