This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Down under revisited - Pt 4

It was a relatively short coach ride to our next destination - a mere four hours or so to Townsville. We were to stop overnight then join another coach for the long slog to Alice Springs in the morning. It was Saturday afternoon when we arrived and everything was shut - well all the shops in town anyway. Saturday afternoon in Australia is devoted entirely to sport - whether you are participating or a spectator. Shops close up because there is no point staying open. The pubs and bars do however. Funny that. We did however find the aquarium open which was excellent - the long tunnel with sharks swimming above you being particularly memorable.
We overnighted at some boozer by the coach station. We grabbed a bite to eat, had a few games of pool and had an early night - it was to be a very early start in the morning but really we shouldn't have bothered. The room was hot, stuffy and pretty grubby too. The air con unit in the window didn't help much either, just added to the increasingly raucous noise from the occupants of the bars below. We'd have been better off joining 'em. Still the landlord was kind enough to provide us with some company. Every so often, a gecko, or little lizard could be spotted racing up the walls in search of an stray spider or fly. They were usually rewarded for their efforts.
Across to Alice and the last of the epic coach journeys. If I recall correctly it was about 27 hours or so, heading west more or less all the way and incorporating a time change, such was the distance. It was an early start as I said, so early in fact that we had to wake up the landlord of the pub to get our key deposit back. He wasn't amused even though we had already told him of our early start. I was more prepared this time - an unread book, batteries and cassettes (yes, them) for the walkman for me. 100 cigarettes for Trev. You couldn't smoke on the coach but he sure as hell made up for it on the frequent stops!
Six hours or so into the journey and we stopped for lunch at one of Australia's many road houses which were basically a petrol station, café and shop combined. The food was, well, just edible. Mostly. Anyhow, not wishing to blow the budget in the café we opted instead for sarnies and crisps from the shop and found some shade away from the searing heat to sit down and eat. A young lad ambled over and asked if he could join us. He was travelling on the same coach and had got on with us at Townsville. He asked us about our trip and we told him, seeing again that smile unique to the Aussies when we mentioned the cricket. Git. We asked him what his trip was for and he explained that his parents were divorced and that he had spent the summer holidays with his Mum near Townsville and was now going back to his Dad - somewhere in the middle, I forget where. But get this - He was just nine years old, yet full of confidence, happy to be on a long journey all on his own and to talk to fellow passengers. Good on him.
The journey continued, deeper in to the red centre. We stopped at a number of places such as Conclurry, Mt Isa and Tennant Creek where more or less, you turn left for Alice, or right for Darwin. These places really are in the back of beyond and there appeared to be nothing here for the casual tourist at all. Many words popped into my mind whilst looking round, but I can categorically assure you that cannibalistic and incestuous weren't among them, honest! We appreciated the chance to stretch our legs for a few minutes though.
As the light faded, the driver (or Coach Captain, to give them their official title) came on the radio. We were advised that we would be travelling on unfenced roads and that there is a chance that he may have to brake suddenly to avoid Kangaroos etc. He suggested that we should remain in our seats as much as possible as standing in the aisle may result in a painful assignation with the dashboard, should a creature of the night suddenly appear. Worthy advice without doubt but most of us were planning on sleep anyway.
The coach trundled on west through the night and as it became light it was clear the weather had changed - it was now seriously raining and the roads were getting flooded. Fortunately, Alice was soon in sight and it was with some relief that we soon be off the coach. We learnt later that we were the last coach to get through for a while - the roads, not used to the wet simply crumble and wash away. At first glance Alice looked a pretty miserable place, not helped by the torrential rain. Situation considered and cash reserves counted, we jumped in a taxi and went to the motel.
It continued to rain heavily for the rest of the day so we just chilled out. Literally actually, thanks to a very quiet and very efficient air-con unit. The rain had not lowered the temperature at all, just raised the humidity level.
The following day it was still raining but much less so. We boarded that tourists favourite, the hop on, hop off bus tour to see some of the local sights. I forget all of the stops but do remember the date farm, the transport museum with it's beautifully preserved old cars and number plates from every corner of the earth. Also on route was the old Telegraph Station and Flying Doctor service - both of particular importance ago when you consider how remote Alice is and Anzac Hill which would have afforded a fine view if it had only stopped raining. We crossed the fast flowing Todd River and the driver informed us that this was so rare, that if you were to see the river flowing twice, you could be considered a local. This was the first rain they had had for five years. The banks of the river are normally as dry as a Nun's **cough** the driver told us! Last, but most definitely least was the, er shopping centre. At least it was dry though.
The following morning was bright and sunny. And hot. Very. Normal service had been resumed and the mercury was pushing 40. It was our last full day in Alice and those of you who have been paying attention (what both of you?!) will know that I recalled this day in my blog from Puerto de Mogan (pt 6) back in February. Anyway, we made full use of the bird bath that was masquerading as the motel pool. All this jumping in and out of the pool had worked up a thirst so we ambled over to the bottle shop to buy a six pack (if only 'twere that easy to get a real six pack!). A short while latter we went for another. And Another. And Another. Then we decided I needed a haircut. My hair at the time wasn't long but a bit wavy and no amount of gel, wax or hairspray could reign it in. So Trev set to work, first with the clipper attachment on his ageing Phillishave then with a Bic and eventually I had my new look - and it weren't bad either although it did look a little odd. We'd been in Oz for about three weeks by now and had gotten quite substantial tans - so my head looked something like a reverse fried egg! As most will know, I don't keep it quite that short now, but apart from the once or twice when I've decided to let it grow a little, I've had essentially the same haircut ever since - there was no grey in them days though!
Anyway, the following morning we got a taxi to the train station in readiness for our trip on the Ghan Railway down to Adelaide. Two surprises here. First, the cabbie was a Scot and despite being in Oz for the last twenty years still had a very broad accent. Secondly, he rounded the fare down. Yes, you read it right. Down. So you see it's not true what they say about Scots - or cabbies. Not always anyway!
Soon we were on the platform and anticipating the arrival of the mighty Ghan for the overnight journey down to Adelaide...

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