Friday, 14 September 2018

Day 10 - Mount Connor and Alice Springs

It’s just over 450km from Yulara to Alice Springs travelling east on the Lasseter Highway and then north on the Stuart Highway turning at the Erldunda Roadhouse.  It’s a well maintained bitumen sealed route with a significant volume of traffic; mostly tourists.  Where money isn’t a major consideration, many tourist elect to fly directly to the airport at Yulara.  Those on a smaller budget, or who have made the journey by train to Alice Springs, then take a bus trip to see Uluru (frequently this is a day trip because staying in Yulara can be expensive).  I suspect it’s those visitors with their own vehicles that spend the most time looking around the area.
At one point in my working life I was responsible for train operation on the Central Australian Railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs and regularly visited the town.  I’d have my 4x4 loaded onto the train and travel with the crew in the loco returning home by driving the 1500km in a long day.  On one occasion I was on the passenger platform in Alice Springs with one of my employees when a young male German backpacker alighted from The Ghan’s (the passenger train) budget seating carriage and asked “Which way to Ayres Rock?”  The shunter pointed back towards the south and said “That way!”  The backpacker promptly started striding down the platform towards the south when the shunter called out “450km!”  Smile
Distances are vast in Australia.  A similar situation sometimes occurs with Alice Springs taxi drivers.  The tourist alights from the train and jumps into a taxi with the command “Take me to Ayres Rock!”   “Are you sure?”  As the drivers eyes brighten at the thought of a 900km fare.
I digress, but only because some 300km from Alice Springs in Mount Connor.  When tourists travelling by road to Yulara first see it they frequently mistake Mt Connor for Uluru.  Mt Connor isn’t a monolith and unlike Uluru it’s flat topped.
The mountain is actually horseshoe shaped, but from the road it does look slightly similar to Uluru.  There is no public access to Mt Connor as it’s located on the privately owned vast 416,000 hectare (1,028,947 acres) Curtin Springs cattle station.

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Alice Springs is the third largest town in the Northern Territory and is locally known as “The Alice” or “Alice” and is the southern most town in the Territory.   It’s located on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges and accessible from the south via “The Gap”.  The MacDonnell Ranges run east and west across the middle of Australia with Alice in the middle.  “The Gap” is a narrow opening in the range formed by the Todd River which rises in the MacDonnell Ranges and flows south.  The Gap was sacred to the local aborigines and women were forbidden from using it.
Today ‘The Gap’ allows river, road and railway access to Alice Springs.  On the southern side and to the west of The Gap is the joint US/Australian intelligence gathering station Pine Gap.  To the east is the airport.
On the northern outskirts of Alice are the remains of the original telegraph station along with the springs which are the source of the Todd River. 
Whilst the springs had been known to local aborigines for tens of thousands of years it wasn’t until 1861 that the explorer John McDouall Stuart “found” the location as part of his expedition to discover a route between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north.  Today the main north-south highway is named after him.  An overland telegraph survey was subsequently conducted by William Mills who named The Gap “Heavitree Gap” after his former school in Heavitree, Devon. 
Mills named the Telegraph Station Alice Springs after the wife of the South Australian Postmaster General Charles Todd, whilst the river was named after Todd himself.  The Todd River is usually dry (local residents claim you’re not a true Territorian until you’ve seen it in flood) when it does rain further north the river can rise very quickly changing from dry to a bank to bank torrent in 15 minutes.  The Gap forms a bottleneck at the southern end and the flood waters can cut the road and rail connection.  Water that backs up can also cause local flooding.   There have been numerous drowning's when people camp or get caught in what, minutes earlier, was a dry riverbed.
Todd Mall… the shopping precinct
Monique is into all things horse
Whilst I just look at numberplates
The major feature in the middle of the town is ANZAC Hill
In 1934 the hill was dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand veterans of WW1.  On top is a memorial and a lookout.  I recorded video of Alice Springs from the top.  The Gap can be seen approximately 40 seconds into the video.

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Oh, Trevor, my blog reader in Adelaide, told me he only sees a black screen when he clicks on the video clips.  If that happens to you… try click on it a second time to get the video to run!


Jenny said...

Thanks Tom, we are enjoying your trip, bringing back memories of our own a couple of years ago. While we were there the Todd River was in flood and all the locals were playing in the Ford, crossing over and back again in the water. As you say, this doesn't happen very often, so we were fortunate indeed to see it.

Robin and Jenny Romany Rambler

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Jenny

If you have seen the Todd in flood then you can both claim to be "Territorians"!