One of the features of Australia’s Longest Shortcut is it takes you right through to the very heart of Australia. The Red Centre.
Part of the shortcut is the Plenty Highway. The signs warned of the need for four wheel drive with high clearance. Maybe they hadn’t got around to updating the sign as apart from a few rough sections, the many now sealed parts make it an excellent shorter trip to Alice Springs.
It was disappointing though to see the impact covid has had on Alice. The international tourists and backpackers are still largely missing and Todd Street Mall is certainly showing the results of their absence. Many stores and pubs are closed or operate on limited hours.
But amongst this unfortunate transition, there’s much to enjoy in this otherwise thriving centre of Australia. From what used to have the feel of a rough and tumble outback cowboy town, Alice now has all the elements of a thriving and sophisticated centre.
Like the popular Page 27 cafe, tucked away just off the mall, or the welcoming and fully booked Gday Mate Caravan Park… right next to the busy micro brewery. Or the great night out at the theatre to enjoy a sold out Bill Bailey show.
Further west, the original aboriginal Hermannsburg community is now listed as a Heritage site. Retaining the original character of the settlement, brought back memories fifty years ago. Back then, riding in to town on our motor bikes amongst the heat and dust, Hermannsburg had the feel of a western movie set.
While the buildings have been preserved to its past era, there is one new delightful treat that awaits you… a cuppa with home-made scones and apple streudel. Yum.
Back then there were certainly no scones or streusel to greet us. Hermannsburg was however the one final step before the jewell of our hot and dusty adventure… Palm Valley. So typical of the outback. Hundreds of kilometres of nothingness, to then discover this amazing palm tree studded oasis in the middle of the desert.
Unlike back then, we can now arrive in air conditioned comfort so we’re not in as much need to rest in an oasis. One thing hasn’t changed though, for now at least, it’s certainly still provides an adventurous four wheel drive experience getting there.
One of the many spectacular destinations in the red centre is Ormiston Gorge. Sitting within this magnificent gorge, surrounded by its rich red cliffs, the natural Amphitheatre qualities of the gorge offered the perfect setting for the crowd that came to experience the final day of the annual Desert Song Festival program.
Experiencing the very heart of Australia has seen some significant changes over the years. Infrastructure has been improved to make access so much more available. I mean, you can now also even get a streusel in the middle of no where.
And like many popular tourism destinations where access has become restricted to preserve its natural state, the red centre still offers many very adventurous outback experiences.
So no matter the level of adventure you seek to enjoy, there’s one experience that will always remain. And that is being surrounded by the sheer majesty and deep red landscape that is so unique to this part of the world.
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