North into the Territory

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Departing Marla just after 9am, we crossed the border into the Northern Territory (NT) and discovered that we arrived before we’d left! Confused? Us too! The NT has yet another time zone, and we wound the clock back an hour. It certainly makes things interesting, keeping track of all the time zone changes along the way.

Kulgera Roadhouse also houses the pub, known as the “first and last pub in the NT” depending on which direction you’re travelling. We topped up on fuel on the drive north, but there are no BP service stations before Alice Springs on the route we were driving. These remote fuel stops are very expensive!

The Big 4 Macdonnell Range Holiday Park showed their support of our journey by providing us with a powered site AND ensuite for our stay. Everyone was lovely, and so excited to meet Luna whenever we visited the office. The kids spotted the waterslide as soon as we pulled up of course, but they know we have the rules that setting up camp and schoolwork must be done before any leisure activities. After setting up the camper, we checked the temperature at the campsite, and read the air at 47.2 degrees Celsius. Yep, it was hot! We decided to go for a drive to get a feel for the town, get some groceries, and enjoy the airconditioning in the Legend.

Anzac Hill in Alice Springs is absolutely a beautiful memorial, to our military participation in overseas conflicts, past and present. The drive up the hill is lined with iron signs, marking in chronological order, the wars that Australia has been represented in. The views from the top of the hill, to the Macdonnell Ranges and over Alice Springs itself, is very special.

Paul was taking some photos from Anzac Hill and noticed that there were spots on the images – dirt on the sensor that couldn’t be wiped clean externally. While Kirstine was grocery shopping, Paul contacted Camera House and found the owner more than happy to clean our Sony DSLR for us, free of charge. We dropped it off and left it with him overnight. Picking it up the next day, he told Paul that there was “quite a bit of dirt” in the camera, but said that was to be expected after the remote roads we’d been driving. It’s so great to have the DSLR clean again – thanks Camera House!!

You can’t visit Alice Springs and not see the indigenous groups relaxing in the shade in the grassy public areas. Some of these are visitors to Alice Springs from outlying remote communities. We’d met a few fellas on their way into town, who’d run out of fuel. Paul always stops for people who are trying to flag down passers by. Whilst they needed unleaded fuel and we were only carrying diesel, we were able to refill all their water bottles while they waited for assistance from other vehicles. We’ve read that the Aboriginal Mens Council in Alice Springs has issued rules for indigenous visitors from outside communities, asking them to respect the sacred sites in town, the women and children, and not to drink too much alcohol or gamble excessively. They also suggest that visitors don’t stay more than a week or two, like a holiday. From what we’ve read and seen, being “on country” is important for our traditional owners. The more that connection is lost, the more lost the individual becomes in a town society that seems to see more of the negatives than the beauty of our indigenous cultures.

The Big 4 Macdonnell Ranges Holiday Park had given us wifi access, so we were able to work on our itinerary and blogs, while the kids caught up on school work. The heat during the middle of the day made it difficult to concentrate, so we found ourselves working in the morning, and then running messages in town for a couple of hours, while sipping on a cool drink.

Our friends at Clearview had suggested we contact one of their suppliers to organise a set of Rock Tamers for the Legend. RV Towing Solutions in NSW jumped on board and organised for us to pick up a set from their Alice Springs supplier. These Rock Tamers are an adjustable and removable mudflap system, designed to defect road debris from damaging what you’re towing, or your tow vehicle itself. After our experience on the Strzelecki Track, with an errant rock smashing one of the rear windows, Paul contacted Clearview to see what the options were. These products are so popular that they can be hard to find. Paul fitted these the next morning, and had a park staff member stop and ask about them while they were being fitted. These Rock Tamers look MEAN on the Legend!! We’re so grateful to have these. No more taping a tarp onto the rear windows while driving remote roads!

Paul had noticed some issues with a loss in storage capability in the second (accessory) battery in the Legend. He contacted an automotive electrician business in town, explained our situation, and they agreed to have a look at the system that very afternoon. These guys are so busy that they’re booked out till Christmas, but they made time for us, to help keep our trip running smoothly. As it turned out, the Redarc BCDC system was operating as it should, protecting itself from overheating due to the excessive heat in the engine bay whilst in the outback. The boss wanted to help us out, and fitted a Redarc Smart Start Battery Isolator to replace the BCDC until Paul can refit it in a cooler part of the vehicle. This was two hours of work for a business already working under pressure towards Christmas, but the owner saw the importance of our trip and wanted to help. This man was humble and wasn’t wanting any recognition, but AutoSparky in Alice Springs went over and above at a super busy time of year. The entire staff loved Luna, and we highly recommend you contact them if you need any work done in Alice Springs!

Eventually the heat got to us and we went to cool off in the pool. Paul runs the rule that if it’s too hot for us to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for Luna. We put her rubber soled booties on to protect the pads of her paws, and she actually seemed happy to have them on! Kirstine had broken a toe, and limped her way to the waterpark. The kids had a complete ball on the waterslide, Luna desperately wanted to be in the water with them, and even tried to climb the stairs to the top of the slide! We made sure Luna got some water play with the hose once we got back to camp, but our last trip to the pool was amazing.

We met Ms M, who’d brought her son to the pool to celebrate the end of the school year. Ms M adored Luna, and was intrigued with how Luna works with Paul. Ms M has a friend, ex military, who also suffers from PTSD and now has an assistance dog to help him with the stresses of life after exposure to the harshness of war. This dog has changed his life, so Ms M was thrilled to meet another canine with the same role. Ms M has a difficult role, negotiating the problems associated with interpreters who assist with victims of violence giving their statements. These interpreters listen to the victim, and have to tell the story in the first person, for official court records. Ms M is concerned with the trauma that these vitally important people may be suffering, as they tell a story that is not theirs, as if it were. The legal reporting aspects of this role are being reviewed, and it is an important discussion.

Another gentleman joined us in the pool, after making friends with Luna. He admitted to being enlightened by Paul’s story of his journey with Luna, and we discussed the fact that dogs are still underrated in Australia when it comes to assisting with medical conditions. There are many groups attempting to change the perspective of the population in this respect.

Alice Springs is a place of contrasts. A town with cultures which clash, sometimes within their own. Natural beauty and a sprawl of human habitats. Do visit, but don’t do it as part of a tour where they only show you the bits you want to see. Talk to people, read the local news, look beyond your initial impressions. It’s an iconic part of the country that is worth visiting and trying to understand.

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