We left Perth midmorning, arriving in Alice Springs after a three hour flight. The flight seemed shorter than it should have been, but that may have just been because I was working on my blog while we were in the air. We landed about 5 PM (oddly enough, 1½ hours ahead of Perth) Alice Springs time and found it to be somewhat chilly. I can’t think of much that has surprised me more on this trip than finding Alice Springs, in the middle of Australia, chilly at 5 PM in the afternoon. Our pickup from the airport wasn’t there waiting for us, which I did not expect. It seems that once we left Melbourne, there have been more errors in the services provided (no washcloths or hand towels in our hotel room, for example), than we have seen before. I’m going to attribute it to a more lackadaisical attitudes as you get more remote. After about 20 minutes, a very chatty fellow shows up to take us to our hotel. He spent almost the entire time talking about either his family or himself – not very engaging, but he got us where we were supposed to go.
The ride into town showed us the first real clusters of the aboriginal people we’ve seen. I’ve seen one or two people walking in the city, but that was about it. Here, it was shocking to see them. There were a lot of Aboriginal people on the street, walking aimlessly down the streets, or sitting under trees, in parks and dry river beds. It was also quite a different city from any others we’ve seen. It was hot, dry and dusty, and it seemed quite a bit more run down, even compared to the towns we passed on the Great Ocean Road or on our journey to Wave Rock.
When we checked into our room, our cashier seemed to be very spacey, and she had a bit of a time understanding our desire to do laundry. We eventually got it figured out, and found we had a pretty crappy hotel room. It had a sliding glass door as our main door, the obligatory 8-10 channels (4 sports, the rest miscellaneous and generally disinteresting), and a queen bed beside a twin bed.
One of Justine’s goals while she was here was to try Kangaroo, and our time here was coming to a close. She found a place that served such things, and it was near our hotel (then again, most things in Alice Springs are close together.) It was a mondo touristy place – The Overlander, and somehow our waiter ended up annoyed with us before we even sat down. I think it was Justine’s elusive answer to where we were from when he asked (we got an American flag for our table.) Justine got smoked Kangaroo and smoked Emu, and I got a Camel Steak wrapped in Pig Bacon. I didn’t think her meal was very good – just smoked, but mine was pretty tasty. I found the Camel to be a bit plain in flavor, but pretty good overall.
Afterwards, we walked to the Grocery Store and Liquor Store (separate, but attached.) On the way, we passed quite a few Aboriginal people hanging out in the park, one drove by in a car and cat called (is that the right phrase?) Justine, and a few more in the liquor store buying booze. In the Northern Territory, which is the state Alice Springs is in, there are pretty strict liquor laws, generally aimed at keeping booze away from the Aboriginals. You have to give an ID to buy any alcohol, and it goes into a government computer. Of all places, this is the last one I expected to be asked if I lived in Washington State or D.C. While I was there, I watched the same cashier make the Aboriginal in line in front of me take off his hat so she could verify he was the person on the ID, and from their interaction, it seemed like it happened almost eve day between them. It seemed very Alabama 1965.
In this same little shopping mall, there was a little camera store, just like the ones we’ve seen in other parts of Australia. However, this place was chock full of very, very nice gear. In the windows they had a full compliment of top of the line Nikon lenses, and the D7000, which was just released in Australia. There seemed to be an equally robust selection of Canon and Sony gear, I guess they do a good business selling to people on their way to Uluru. I didn’t see their prices, as they were closed, but I was curious if it was Australia expensive or if there is another category of Outback expensive.
Once we were back in our hotel room, I found two things that made me very happy. One was an NFL game (Packers vs Falcons.) The NFL games here are much, much quicker. They don’t have commercially at every turn, and there was no halftime to speak of. The entire game took maybe two hours, including the Packers loosing in overtime. The other was fantastic Internet speed. It wasn’t cheap compared to other place ($11 in Melbourne, $22 in Perth, but half off because I joined the hotel club thing, $16 in Alice Springs), but the speed was fantastic. The other two places only offered 512K speeds for those prices – yes, 512K. I don’t know what Alice Springs offered, but it was quite fast. I do love me some fast internet. Oh – after the NFL was over, Borat was on TV. It pained me to turn it off because we had an early morning pickup.