With just over a week left, I’ve decided to reflect on my time here in the Red Centre of Australia’s Northern Territory. A place where I heard so many contradicting stories prior to my arrival. So many, in fact, that each story whether good or bad made me want to journey into the desert, even more, to see it all for myself.
I arrived after a very long (day and a half) bus journey from Tropical North Queensland, on a cold night and saw the stars so bright in the sky, through the light pollution caused by this little town. I knew I had made it and wanted to see how long I was to last in my new surroundings. Almost three months later and I am still here. In the same hostel, I arrived in, with the same job that I had acquired two days after my arrival. Alice Springs has left a special place in my heart and is probably my favourite place in Australia. If there was a place I would definitely go back to and stay for a long time, it would be here and here is why.
Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn
I remember waking up at this hostel when I first arrived. After having finally mustered out of my bed, I ventured outside to notice a very interesting design and layout in the back garden. An alpine hut, a bus and 2 caravans which I assumed have been converted into rooms, (I was right). A giant chessboard with bottles filled with sand as pieces next to a painting of the Northern Territory. Lots of different plants dotted around as well as other quirky ornaments. I thought to myself that this was by far one of the coolest hostel’s I’ve ever stayed in and I wanted to be a part of it. Unfortunately, the owner was on holiday so I didn’t get to meet him and talk to him about possible additions until weeks after but once he arrived, I offered to work at the hostel for accommodation and talked to him about my ideas to which he very excitedly agreed with. Not long after, I was planting little seedlings for the empty herb patch he had and I and another long-termer decided to clean and build vegetable patches at the back where there was an empty space. When I’m not working, I spent most my time here either working on some projects in my room or relaxing on an inflatable chair by the pool on hot days and on some night’s, the other long-termers, the owners as well as other guests and I would have barbeques on the evenings or when we have enough wood, I’d make fresh pizza and we’d fire up the pizza oven for our own fresh pizza experience. I’ve never felt more at home on my travels. Maybe I’ll ask to run the hostel when I get back? Thanks to Seb and Miriam for running such a cool place and I advise anyone stopping by Alice Springs to stay at this wonderful and vibrant hostel.
Before I came to Alice Springs I told myself that I was done with working as a chef. I did not want to work long hours, under pressure to cook food for people who don’t even know what they’re ordering, (Haloumi burger no cheese, are you serious?). No. I wanted to go on a different path and find another job in a different industry. But I knew that my occupation as a chef was gold and I decided to test the waters to see if that was true, and I was right. It was 2pm. I had just bought a guitar and had just wandered back into town. I had no particular place to be so I decided to test my theory. To no surprise, every restaurant/cafe I went to was looking for a chef and asked me to hand in a CV or for trial shifts as soon as possible. I walked away with a smug look on my face, feeling like a precious stone that everyone wanted but couldn’t have, knowing that I would not be in a place where I was not able to make money. (We’re all allowed these moments sometime). I was about to go home when I decided to make one last stop. Monte’s. This place had a very different vibe from the other places I went to. It had 2 stages, a beautiful open courtyard and nice music playing through the speakers. I spoke to the Head Chef who insisted to show me his kitchen and I immediately reconsidered my decision to not work in the kitchen. The kitchen looked good. The menu was simple but good and to top it all off, my working hours were significantly reduced from normal, yet my pay was evidently much better than my previous jobs. I took the job after my trial shift and soon became good friends with the staff. We’d spent most the nights after work drinking and enjoying life as none of us had to work earlier than midday. The beer was good and the 24-hour shop that sold the best meat pies was just next door. Bonus. This place was an amazing place to work, from the people I’ve met to the ideas I have gathered into opening my own burger bar one day. This place restored my passion for working with food and made me remember that my skill is considered a valued ability as well as the camaraderie that builds within a kitchen environment. Come to Monte’s if you’re travelling to Alice Springs for good simple food and great beer you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Things to do (or lack thereof)
If it’s busy streets and bustling city life you’re after then Alice Springs might not be for you. There really isn’t much to do here in that aspect so some would find it boring if for example the busy nightlife scene is your type of scene or you need an extreme amount of variety to ease your boredom. Life here is far slower simpler than most places, which I find very relaxing. No need to rush for the bus squeeze into overcrowded trams or trains. No need to worry about time as there’s plenty of it for everything. You’re free from the pressures of “having to do something with your day” because there’s not much to do. You’re free to just be and that is something so refreshing and something most people caught up in the race have forgotten how to do. Outdoor activities consist of trekking the desert plains or ranges, camping under the stars or visiting waterholes when there’s been a lot of rain. At night, you’d go to the same bars to drink or dance and if you feel that your night isn’t quite over at 2am, you’d either find someone having a house party or you’d head on down to the casino which closes at 4am. With that in mind, it is the perfect place if it was soul searching you’re after. It is a great place to focus on your personal projects and to gather your thoughts with just enough distractions so that you don’t end up getting cabin fever or over thinking yourself to the point of insanity. With my free time, I have been able to write a new EP, help get a garden going, gather thoughts and content for my upcoming website and business venture with enough time to socialise with other travellers as well as go on small solo adventures around the area. I have even been able to improve on my fire-twirling. So if you have a project you’d like to focus on or if you’re going through something and need time to yourself, Alice Springs is the perfect place to be alone but not by yourself.
An unforgettable stay on a land where time seems to stand still. With beautiful desert landscapes all around and a vibrant artsy community. There are still things left for me to do such as the 12-day Larapinta trail and learning more about Aboriginal culture but they will be for when I return.
Visit Alice Springs and see another side to Australia you never knew existed.