Day 8/9 – Alice Springs to Darwin

Written by: Dian

Just want to reiterate what we mentioned in the last post – that it was freezing cold that night as we slept in the uninsulated tin can of a room. FREEZING. It must have been, what, 10 degrees?

I had my fleece sweater and pants on but the cold was unrelenting nevertheless, even when we woke in the morning (Brandon could handle it but he is actually a bear so…).

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We may have underestimated the cold out in the Outback during Spring. Our bad. We had enjoyed our time there regardless, but it was finally time – it was the last day of our road trip. 😥

Leaving Stuarts Well

Before we set off for Alice from Stuarts Well, we decided to indulge in a massive hearty breakkie (because why not!) and have a last look around at the roadhouse.

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(Camera phone quality)

I believe it’s 12 to 18 AUD for each platter. Well worth it because they fill you up good.

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He is literally a bear, eating his fill for hibernation (he couldn’t finish it though – that’s how much we got)

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Such a quaint place!

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It was much too chilly for a swim
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One of the resident cockatoos

Before long, it was time to set off for Alice Springs to catch a domestic Qantas flight to Darwin.

Capture

It was only an hour away, but we were aiming to arrive a good few hours before our flight so we could return our rented four wheel drive and do some last minute shopping.

We stopped by the camel farm next door to have a look. They all had nose rings and were tied to the fencing. I felt sad for the ones who weren’t in the shade – though I’m not sure whether camels are built to withstand being in the sun for extended periods? Regardless, I wish they would let them roam. 😦

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Last chance for a selfie in our Aussie hats!

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The home stretch

Alice Springs

When we got to Alice, we had to return our car first. To get our full deposit back for the car (which turned out to be quite a hassle…), we had to make sure the tank was full, and that the car was clean. Ours most definitely needed a wash, what with the smashed bugs on the windshield, mud stains and dust.

The car washes there aren’t like back at home. Basically you drive your car up, choose the services you’d like for your car (and pay accordingly), and then do it all yourself.

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Convenient for clearing out all the change we’d been carrying.

And that was that. Bye 4WD! You helped us cover 1536.4 kilometres in total.(Which Brandon drove all of that. Tsk -Brandon)

Once we had returned the car, our Airbnb host Lynn (who had very kindly offered to pick us up and drive us around) fetched us and dropped us off at a supermarket where we bought stuff to bring back to Singapore. And by stuff, I mean chocolate.

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How to spot a tourist

We then said our goodbyes to Lynn and off we went on our flight to Darwin.

They provided us a hot snack box with a pie and blondie. The sun was just setting too, so we saw this lovely sight.

Darwin

The first thing we noticed upon landing in Darwin was the humidity. It was pretty much akin to Singapore, being so far up north. We had gotten accustomed to the dry air in central Aussie.

Our Jetstar flight home wasn’t until the next day, so we checked in to a hotel for the night that we had booked beforehand. Public transport in Darwin isn’t great, and a taxi would cost you 20 AUD per journey, so we settled on Quality Hotel Darwin, which is near the airport and provides a free pickup service.

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Since we didn’t want to pay to take a taxi into town, we decided to have a look at the restaurant next door, where we had dinner.

The next day, we got up early and caught our flight home to Singapore. We didn’t want to leave. 😦

Home sweet home

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All in all, we truly enjoyed our road trip around the heart of Australia. It’s not something Singaporeans would normally go for, but we found that it was right up our alley (nature, outdoors-y stuff) and would do it again given the chance! It wasn’t very cheap despite our attempts at budgeting, because the airfare and 4WD rental cost quite a bit, but no regrets there.

If we could change one thing, though, we would have extended the duration our trip. Seven days is enough to cover the Red Centre, but it would have been nice to spend more time exploring the places along the way. But I suppose you can only take so much annual leave, and it would have cost us more too.

One thing’s certain – we’ll definitely be back for more! Next up, a road trip up to Darwin from Alice Springs, maybe?

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Reflections on the trip by Brandon:

To chime into Dian’s thoughts on the trip, yes! I think a good 2 weeks and a half would have been great as we did not manage to fully explore areas like Alice Springs (Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Monthly Alice Spring street markets, Kangaroo Sanctuary), Gosse Bluff, Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve and Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve) as we were pressed for time.

As a photographer

Even in the middle of one of the harshest terrains and environments on earth, the outback is beautiful.

In an seemingly endless horizon of red, orange and yellow, massive natural formations such as Kings Canyon, West MacDonnell Ranges, Kata Tjuta and Uluru make for great landscape shots and are filled with great vantage points and views when we explored them. When not cloudy, these formations are backed by vast clear colbalt blue skies. It’s pretty much postcard or landscape portfolio stuff! The best times for photos around these sites will be anytime except midday. When the rising or setting sun hits the right angles. these formations start to glow deep vibrant colours of red and orange and it makes for really nice photos.

As the Red Centre is a relatively remote place with no major cities with the exception of Alice Springs, On clear nights, a 30 minute drive out of alice springs in any direction will yield you dark brilliant night skies which are very suitable for astrophotography! If you struggle with finding the location of the Milky Way, look for a cloudy cluster of stars. If you spot it, that’s the Milky Way! Remember to bring a fast lens for this!

I brought with me a Nikon D7100 with an 11-16mm and 35mm lens and they served my landscape needs perfectly with the 11-16 attached to the body for about 95% of the time. Your mileage may vary depending on what you intend to shoot there!

The outback is a dusty and sandy place especially when the wind picks up. Do ensure that you take caution when swapping lens in the field and/or bring a lens that is weather sealed! To prevent/reduce all that dust getting into your sensor! Bring a simple cleaning kit as well.

As a visitor

It has always been a dream of mine to visit the great Australian outback and Uluru since young. It was pretty damn surreal to see Uluru pop up in the distance and even more so when I stood at the very base of it. Landscapes and natural sights are a must see and do and must not be rushed. We took our walks slow and easy and just really letting nature surround us with all its beauty and splendor while learning about the rich and long history of the outback.

I personally love road trips with lots of varying landscapes and nature and the outback is a perfect for this. Driving down roads with nothing but the great outdoors, blue skies, great company and music is something I really miss doing and I really do hope to come back to do this again with another route!

The people are really really friendly. There were no instances in our entire trip where we were met with hostilities of any kind. No matter where we went be it Alice Springs or in the middle of nowhere the people were warm, friendly and made us feel right at home people such as Lynette our airbnb host with her friend Kay and the exceptional customer service given at Kings Canyon Resort by Tracey.

Though it’s not my first time being able to see hundreds if not thousands of stars and the famous Milky Way with my own eyes, each time is always a truly unforgettable experience and I highly recommend you do stargazing when you go into the outback!

The outback will always hold a special place in my heart and I’ve told Dian that I do want to come back here someday again with more time on our hands (hopefully). Though roughing it out in the middle of nowhere, eating basic budget food, living in simple conditions is not everyone’s dream holiday, for me it has been a real eye opening and personal experience for me and I hope you, the reader would have been inspired to go explore uncommon places such as the Red Centre.

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