Before doing anything else, we visited the Britz campervan depot coincidently, and conveniently, located opposite the hotel. We already had a quote of AUS$91 daily for a HiTop van from GetaboutOz, but felt sure that Britz would be cheaper. It was. We managed to secure a 4-week rental from Perth for $65 per day. Next stop was “downtown” Alice to find an Internet café.
By the time we left Alice Springs, it was already nearly midday, and we had some 450km to drive (in the heat of the afternoon sun) to reach Kings Canyon. We topped up with fuel at Stuarts Well Roadhouse, and had been going about an hour when we came to the slow realisation that we really would not have time to see the Canyon. By the time we got there, it would have been time to leave, in order to have any chance of getting back before sunset. (You really don’t want to be driving around Australia’s outback in the dark – hitting a 45kg wombat can take the bottom out of a 4×4 SUV, and ‘roo bars’ are standard issue for good reason!)
Instead, we spent the afternoon touring the very excellent Desert Park. We can thoroughly recommend the Desert Park (off. Larapinta Drive). It costs AUS$18 to get in, and you are then free to follow a painless 2km walk in natural bushland teaming with native wildlife. In case the native wildlife is hiding when you visit, the curators have carefully enclosed sections of a particular habitat, where you can view the resident creatures from behind glass.
The real showpiece is the ‘moonlit’ nocturnal house, where you can see creatures that don’t normally venture out into the blazing Australian sun. Make sure you arrive at the kangaroo and emu enclosure before 4.30pm, otherwise, like us, you will find the gate locked.
For a novel dining experience, we booked the Aboriginal “Red Centre Dreaming” performance. For AUS$55 we were treated to traditional territorial food (not to be confused with stomach-turning ‘bush tucker’) including kangaroo and barramundi. During dinner, a local Aboriginal called Gary, gave a talk on their culture. Dinner was followed by a dance performance. The audience were invited to join a “bird dance”. We seemed to be the only pair prepared to make fools of ourselves!
By the performers’ own admission, the performances were not entirely authentic, but then Aboriginal culture is very private, and their ceremonies can only be attended by ‘initiates’. At least this way tourists get a glimpse of what it is all about – with the great bonus of being able to take photos!