Please note all photos in this post were taken by me...if used, credit Kita the Explorer!
Australia has always been on my list of places to go and during 2017 I decided I was going to make it there in 2018! In April 2018, I made my trip halfway around the globe to Australia. I entered the country through Sydney (to be discussed in another blog post) and on my second day there I flew to Alice Springs.....the entry into The Outback. In this post, I will discuss with you what I did, my accommodations, how much I spent, and lessons learned.
Above: An image from Google Maps displaying where Alice Springs is located
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Things To Do
My first day there, I took a sunset camel ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks. The company will transport you to and from your hotel to the camel farm. There you will learn some quick things about the camels and how to mount them (you must lean back when they stand up other wise you will fall off). I was partnered up with the camel Cookie. Cookie was the youngest and most lively of the group.
After everyone was safely on their camel, we were guided out into the pasture as the sun began to set. It was beautiful and worth the experience. This probably took about two hours in total. You may learn more about Pyndan Camel Tracks here: http://www.cameltracks.com/. P.S. We all got a free bottle of camel beer at the end!
Above: A picture of my camel group on our sunset tour - Photo Credit to Kita the Explorer
On my second day there, I took a Palm Valley day tour with Emu Run Experience. This tour allowed for me to really become one with The Outback. The tour guide picked everyone up from their perspective hotels for a total group of six people. We first drove about an hour to a place near Palm Valley to have tea and cookies before heading out to the park. Oh and use the toilet (mind you there aren't many once you get started). Before getting to tea, we drove past John Flynn's grave site who founded the world's first air ambulance.
From there, we headed to Palm Valley within the Finke Gorge National Park on our 4WD tour. The terrain is very rugged and you will definitely feel it as you ride. It took us about 30 minutes driving across this terrain before we reached the "parking" area (just a stopping point - not a real designated area). There is a shelter right next to this area for those who do not want to hike out.
Once parked, it was probably another 30 minutes to get to palms area but with a lot to see on the way. While headed there, the guide (who randomly lived in Atlanta at some point) explained that Finke Gorge National Park is the smallest in Australia but holds 1/3 of the country's vegetation. It is able to grow so much because of its sandstone which can hold water for longer periods of time. But the most important plant is the prehistoric palms still living there which looks like a cabbage!
Above Left: Group of Palm Valley Palms; Above Right: Me walking towards the palms. Photo property: Kita the Explorer
After looking at the palms, we headed to have our picnic lunch prepared by the tour company and was included in the cost of our tour. Once lunch was finished, we began to exit out of the park by first stopping by a gorge and Kalaranga lookout.
Above: Picture of a man taking a picture at Kalaranga lookout in Finke National Park by Kita the Explorer
When we exited the park, we returned to where we had tea which was Hermannsburg Historic Precinct. Per their brochure, this was the first Aborignal Mission in the Northern Territory by the Lutheran Church on the traditional lands of the Western Aranda people. The Aranda people are who were in Australia LONG before the British (sounds familiar). It was great learning about the history of Australia in which presents a lot of similarities to back home.
To book this Palm Valley Day tour, please visit: https://www.viator.com/tours/Alice%20Springs/Palm-Valley-4WD-Day-Tour/d358-6762P11.
Above: Picture of the welcome sign to Historic Hermannsburg from Kita the Explorer
I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs Lasseters which was in a convenient location, if that even matters in this town. But here are the pros and cons of staying at this hotel:
Contains multiple restaurants on site.
There is a casino at the hotel.
It is only 10-15 minutes away from the airport.
There is a large swimming pool within the hotel.
The first room they put me in was extremely unsecured. The peephole had been removed where someone could look into the room and there wasn't an extra latch to secure the door.
The first room they put me in also had thin walls and luckily I didn't have to sleep there as the neighbors were LOUD.
I went to the restaurant Tali and was followed out of the restaurant for not signing my bill. But the signed bill was left on the table I sat at.
The hotel is NOT for those who are trying to work remotely. I spent hours trying to work with the hotel to get it resolved as my work computer could not connect to their Internet (the ONLY hotel this has ever happened at). They couldn't get it to work nor did they have a hard wire option.
After discussing the security issue with the first room, the hotel did change me to a normal room with proper security (i.e. functioning peephole, door latch, etc.). But eventually the TV went out. I called to ask about getting it fixed and they told me to pull the TV back, unplug it, and plug it back in.
On my last day during check out hours, I went upstairs to the 3rd floor to pick up my baggage via the elevator. Ten minutes later I come out to go to the ground floor only to find out they were doing maintenance on the elevator and to use the stairs! I go down the stairs right next to the elevator and got to the first floor just for the door to be LOCKED! Then, I went back up to the 2nd floor and eventually found a connection to another building. BUT IT WAS INAPPROPRIATE TO STOP AN ELEVATOR DURING CHECK OUT HOURS WITHOUT SIGNAGE ON HOW TO GET TO THE NEXT ONE!!! My knee began to hurt after transporting the luggage up and down stairs.
With these pros and cons, I recommend to NOT stay at this hotel. Now, there are only a few options within this town. I did consider the DoubleTree but decided to go with the Crowne Plaza. So, do your due diligence and pick your poison wisely.
Flights: I flew to Alice Springs from Sydney and went to Cairns after leaving there. I flew Qantas both ways for a total of $576.41 USD. Beware it is hard to get there! My tour guide says it could cost her a minimum of $900 AUD ($700 USD) to get to Sydney for the weekend. I used BYOJets and SmartFares to book these flights.
Baggage Fees: $0 as Qantas has a one bag checked allowance.
Hotel: I stayed at the Crowne Plaza as mentioned above for a total of $110.15 USD and 8,813 points with Chase (equal to $110.17 USD).
Tours: The Pyndan Tracks Camel Tour cost me $73.86 USD. The Palm Valley 4WD tour cost me $118.72 USD. Total tour cost was $192.58 USD.
Souvenirs: $0 as I didn't buy any souvenirs at this location.
Airport Transports: $56.93 USD in total. I booked in advance a round trip transfer with Alice Wanderer. They were great when my flight arrived as the shuttle was there to pick up everyone who arrived at that time. But on the way back, they were a bust and I had to spend almost $30 USD to take a taxi down the road!!! This is because they arranged a pickup for me at 10:25AM yet they came at 9:45AM and I wasn't in my room (I was at breakfast)...so they LEFT! They did issue a refund for that portion of the trip and I would still recommend them for use. But be sure to double check that pickup time. You can check out Alice Wanderer here: http://alicewanderer.com.au/transfers/airport-transfers/.
Food: $43.76 for one lunch, three dinners, one breakfast and any drinks along the way. Lunch was included the one day in the tour. I also brought some snacks from home to help with breakfast.
Total amount spent for the Alice Springs excursion was $979.83! This was by far the most expensive portion of my Aussie excursion but it was worth it! You can make this trip cheaper if you have time! You can fly to Adelaide and take a train to Alice Springs!
The flies are RELENTLESS in Alice Springs! Try to have a net for your head to not be so annoyed by them. Otherwise, bug repellent will not work and you will be waving your hands a lot. I was told the flies are looking for water which is why you (humans are made up of a lot water), water in heavy areas in the desert, and camels will get them.
Beware of what food you bring into Alice Springs. Different ports in Australia have various restrictions regarding food. If you have a restricted item, you can throw it out upon arrival. This helps keeps pests out of these areas of the country.
When flying Qantas domestically from Sydney (which is how I got to Alice Springs), they have their own terminal. Plus, the entire check in process in Sydney is automated! You check in online or at a booth, go to the bag drop, print the baggage tag and put it on a conveyor belt.
With most domestic flights in Australia, you do not have to show your ID to security but you have to go through a baggage check and metal detector. You are also able to carry your water bottles through security.
I did not learn this because this has happened to me, so I understand the pain. Unless they are a celebrity who signed up for the spotlight (and celebrities need their space also), do not take pictures of people as if they are an exhibit! This goes for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
When flying out of Alice Springs, you do not need much time. I was the only person in the security line!! An hour is all you need to check in and get through security.
Well, this was a quick run down of my Outback experience! Have you ever been to Alice Springs? Do you want to go to The Outback? Comment your thoughts below!
Would you like my EXACT Australian itinerary which includes this and other cities? If so, download a copy for ONLY $1.00 today from my site! Check it out here: https://www.kitatheexplorer.com/product-page/australian-adventure-itinerary!
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Alice Springs Adventure is here! Check it out below or at https://youtu.be/BQG7gFL0840!
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Thank you for reading!
- Kita the Explorer