We felt a bit in the way in the flurry of activity to get everything ready.
Gerry and Corrine have conducted these tours together for many years and have a very well tried and tested method and so we’re trying to help and get a grasp on the way everything works while keeping out of the way as well.
Gerry has stripped down all the wheels on the passenger bus and replaced brakes, repacked the wheel bearings and put on a new set of tyres.
He has also installed a diesel heater in their motor home and completed many other mechanical repairs and maintenance to ensure the vehicles are in tip top condition for the coming seven camps.
Corrine has ordered all the supplies and she, along with Kerrie and I, has stripped down the Kitchen and store room and cleaned everything and then packed in the food stores. Everything is packed in a certain place and in a specific way as much of the terrain we will be travelling on is very rugged.
After two days of this we feel we’re starting to understand the way it all works although we realise that it’ll take all of the first 11 day camp before we’re familiar enough to be left alone with the cooking.
The food is such a big part of the business as there’s a number of special diet guests and Gerry and Corrine are meticulous when it comes to their customer’s needs. I guess this is why the majority of their business is repeat business with most clients returning year after year for many years.
The more we associate with this couple the more we are looking forward to the whole venture.
We’ve had the time to do a quick tour of Alice Springs. It’s bigger than we thought with about 26,000 people living here but the population swells as many Aboriginals drift in from outlying reserves.
The feature of the town that is hardest to ignore is the large number of aboriginals just wandering about, a great many of whom are extremely unkempt.
The significant number of well dressed and polite aboriginals in Alice signals to us that this is not a condition of race but of personal choice.
There appears to be a high crime rate here and we’ve been advised repeatedly to stay indoors after 9:00pm. Most homes and all businesses have serious shutters and bars on windows and doors and there is a heavy police presence in most areas of the business centre of town.
Having said this Alice Springs is a pleasant place with every facility anyone could want. It is unique in its location surrounded by the beautiful McDonald Ranges. The Todd River which runs through town is dry but there is a saying in town that goes “… where the rivers are dry or 10 feet high”.
It’s a harsh environment indeed with the summer temperatures often hitting 45 degrees and winter temperatures often below zero. It is, after all, a town grown up out of the ancient dessert where only the very toughest plants, animals and humans survive to prosper, but it is absolutely beautiful also especially when the rising or the setting sun picks out the red of the surrounding hills or in the midday sun when the distant ranges have a purple hue that makes the red of the closest ranges stand out even more. The spectacular ghost gums are everywhere adding their own unique colours to the already rich palette that surrounds the town.
Alice Springs appears to be prosperous although we are told that the once booming tourist industry is but a shadow of its former self. There are however convoys of grey nomads passing through the town in waves. There are caravans and motor homes of every shape and size everywhere you look.
We’ll check out the town a little more in the coming few days before we head to Trephina Gorge on Sunday for 24 days.