Alice Springs to Sorrento


 (Written by Helen) -  received Oct 29

Itís called The Red Centre for good reason.  Sometimes it feels like you are in the middle of Mars.  The dirt is a crimson red in colour and there isnít much growing in this very arid climate.  We spent a few days in Alice Springs and stayed in a very nice Holiday Inn with a beautiful pool.  There isnít much to do in Alice Springs other than walk down the main street and visit the many souvenirs shops and cafes and restaurants.  We were walking the main street when we saw some of our friends we met on the Outback tour bus.  Itís funny when you travel that you meet up with people youíve met all over the country.  It really is a small world.

We spent four days here but I really donít have that much to say about it.  There is a river that flows through this town and I should say that it actually flows water only once a year sometimes less than that.  Well, they had a huge rain storm before we arrived and the river was flowing so well that it flooded one of the roads.  Most of the residents told us that itís an actual honour to be in Alice Springs when the Todd River flows.  So we feel honoured!

A day before we left, Nikolas spiked a fever and was just feeling really lousy.  Whenever he gets a cold or the flu he spikes a fever so we werenít that concerned.  We loaded him full of Tylenol and he was quite a trooper as we made our way to Uluru (aka Ayerís Rock) via Kingís Canyon.  There are two ways to get there and we chose to take the more adventurous route by foregoing the paved road and heading out on the dirt road.  We stopped at a roadhouse just before the dirt road began and they recommended that we take the paved road because of the recent rain and the potential for poor road conditions on the dirt road.  We decided to just check out the dirt road and see what condition it was in and then we were going to make our own decision.  We started driving it and it seemed fine so we kept going.  At one point another truck was stopped on the side of the road coming the other way.  We stopped and asked the gentleman if he drove from Kingís Canyon (where we were headed) and he said no.  When we did stop we smelled this burning smell and just assumed it was the other guyís truck and thought it was the reason he had pulled over.  Oh how wrong we were!

Well, we kept driving and you can refer to Steveís story about how that all played out.  In short, we most certainly should not have been driving that road.  We found out, when we got to Kings Canyon, that the road was actually closed.  We didnít see any signs or blockades but there were spots where we barely made it through.  In fact, in a few spots we had to leave the road and drive around some massive puddles that engulfed the whole road.  The craziest thing was that I was never really worried.  Imagine that!  I am usually worried about everything but for some reason, when I really should have been worried, I wasnít.  Now that worries me!!!  Oh, I am pathetic arenít I?

Anyway, we finally made it to Kingís Canyon and pulled up in front of the reception.  While Steve was inside I noticed some smoke coming from under the hood of our truck.  When Steve came out he looked under the hood and was shocked to see that the oil cap was missing and that the complete engine was covered in oil.  The worst part was that when Steve checked the oil level he found that there was none!  We drove through the deserted desert road with no oil.  Had we broken down it would have been about a 50km hike in 35-40 degree scorching heat for the family.  Very scary!

The whole fiasco with Avis has just been resolved now (itís 2 weeks later).  We had to get another car and they towed the truck all the way back to Alice Springs. 

Everybody told us that Kingís Canyon is a must-see even over Ayerís Rock.  It is a massive red sandstone canyon and there are two options to climb it.  A short half hour option staying at the base and then a 3 hour long option that takes you to the top.  We arrived at the middle of the day in the most intense heat.  Nikolas was on fire with his fever and the flies were unbearable.  Everyone was wearing nets over their faces except for us of course.  Needless to say we aborted our walk after approximately 5 minutes and the kids and I headed back to the truck while Steve jogged in a bit to take some pictures since we just spent hours and hours driving here.  I canít really comment on Kingís Canyon because I really did not get the opportunity to see it.  What little Steve did see, he said that it was beautiful. 

We stayed at the resort in Kingís Canyon and we had a beautiful room that had a huge soaker tub in the room and it looked out over the landscape.  It was great for the kids to play around in.  We went for dinner at the restaurant and had a scrumptious buffet.  It was certainly nicer than what we had planned to do here as our initial plan was to camp under the stars.  Because Nik was so sick we had to keep him indoors where the air-conditioner could cool him off. 

The next morning we set out to Uluru, or Ayerís Rock.  As you drive along the flat terrain it suddenly pops up in the horizon.  This gigantic red rock in the middle of the desert.  As you get closer, it looks like a huge blob of red play-do has been dropped from the heavens.  It is rounded and has pot holes all over.  There is next to no vegetation growing on it and it really is a sight to see.  Just seeing it from the car I can say that personally I found it to be a more impressive sight to see than Kingís Canyon.  The Aboriginals consider it a sacred site and when you stand there and look up at it you can feel that this is so true.  There is a spot where you can climb the rock but the Aboriginals ask that you donít.  There is a rope that has been secured to one part in order to help people who do decide to climb it.  Steve wanted to climb it but did not get a chance.  We drove around the entire rock and even got a chance to watch the sun set and watched the different colours reflect on the rock.  Magical.  It is truly a must-see.  We just loved it there!

We treated ourselves to a beautiful hotel and it was so refreshing to jump in a cool pool after spending hours out in the heat!  Nik was feeling lousy and just spent the whole time in bed watching TV. and sleeping. 


The next morning we packed up and headed to Coober Pedy.  We had heard about this place from many people and really wanted to see it.  It is renowned for its underground buildings.  It is also the Opal Capital of the World.  Just a little historyÖ.(taken from a brochure)

ďApproximately 150 million years ago the ocean covered the Coober Pedy region.  After the sea water receded, there were climatic changes that caused the lowering of the underground water tables.  Silica solutions were carried down to deposits in cavities, faults and fractures in the ground and now, millions of years later, these silica solutions have formed into opal.Ē

The first opal mining pioneers who came to the area could not handle the extreme heat during the day and cold during the night.  They introduced the unique method of living underground in Ďdugoutsí.  Since then 60 percent of the population live or do business underground.  It is quite a sight to see.  We even found a Serbian Orthodox Church (my religion) built into the side of a mountain.  It is the only underground church of its kind.  Very cool! 



The majority of the population is European as many migrated after the Second World War.  The opal mines surround the town for miles in all directions.  It is a little eerie in a way because there are thousands of piles of dirt everywhere.  They donít have to refill the spots they dig up so that they donít dig in the same spot again.  As we were walking home from dinner we came upon an opal store and I wanted to go in and have them explain how the opals are mined.  Well, we really lucked out and met this mom and son who run the family business.  There names were George and Stella.  The dad actually mined the opals and the son made the opals into beautiful jewellery.  He explained to us how the opals are mined and showed us all the different processes.  I was admiring the rings and noticed that Steve was quite interested in one that was just dazzling.  When we got married I was working for minimum wage and Steve was just starting his fire fighting career so the wedding ring I bought him was nothing extravagant.  When I noticed that he really liked this particular ring I convinced him to get it as his new wedding ring plus his birthday was coming up.  George and his mother were amazing and did not pressure us at all and we were so pleased to buy this ring from this great family.  If you are ever in Coober Pedy do not hesitate to go into Discount Opal House and have a look around!  So, Coober Pedy is a bit of a Ďhickí town but well worth the stop.  You have to see it to believe it! 

From Coober Pedy we drove to Adelaide and stayed in the city centre.  It is a beautiful, clean city and even though it was raining we really enjoyed it.  We didnít do much here as we were recovering from all our driving.  It was a very well needed rest stop. 

From Adelaide we drove to Sorrento and on the way passed the Twelve Apostles.  They eroded rock formations on the beach and there use to be twelve but now there are only nine.  One actually just crumbled and fell this year in July.  The pictures tell it all.  The coastal drive from Adelaide to Sorrento is spectacular.  It reminded us of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. 

We caught a ferry across a bay and landed in Sorrento where we are now.  We are staying with Ann and Mel whom we met on the QE2.  They are the most amazing couple I have ever met.  They light up a room when they enter and are full of life and laughter.  We have laughed more in these last three days than we have during our whole trip.  We are having a blast!  Again, we are hoping that they will come see us in June next year as they will be heading to Canada.  Canít wait to show them our great city!