On a recent 40+ degree day, Max Bialek from Germany cycled out from town to the Alice Springs News home office in the rural area. He brought greetings from his father whom we’d met as a tourist and skydiver here before Max was even thought of. More than 20 years later the hardy young backpacker has followed in his father’s footsteps. He is loving his time in The Centre. Right now he’s helping bring in the crop at Rocky Hill. We asked him to convey his first impressions of Alice.
By MAX BIALEK
“Alice Springs – what are you going to do there?”
“Now, in the middle of summer? You’re crazy mate!”
That is how my backpacker friends reacted when I decided to make my way – contrary to the mainstream – from Cairns over nearly 2500 kilometers to Alice Springs. While the vast majority of backpackers, escaping the rain season, wanted to travel down the east coast, I took the decision to visit the outback and its cultural heritage due to various reasons: gain new impressions of the landscape, people and wildlife; meet up with my travel friends and find work.
Each new place you encounter certain expectations and demands. Considering Alice Springs, these were primarily influenced by prejudices that circulate among backpackers. It is hot there, dusty and above all boring. The truth was my part to find out about.
When I arrived it was a bit chilly and rainy. Of course, an unusual situation, clearing up the first prejudice!
Exploring the city for the first time, I was truly surprised. Alice Springs presented itself as a small, trendy, very tourist-friendly town with a beautiful mall, a few small shopping centers and a handful of pubs. It’s easy to find your way around, to discover the highlights. Thus you feel familiar quite quickly, all adding up to a very positive impression.
But what’s special about this town? I began strolling around, getting to know the city much better. The botanical garden is quite handsome – nothing spectacular. The market proved slightly disappointing as it takes place only fortnightly and is therefore rather small. The lovely art galleries and museums which are free and offer lots of useful and interesting information, really impressed me however.
The nightlife of Alice Springs is not more than average. There are a nice club and a few pubs and bars, which are just right to have a relaxing drink after work or on weekends. The ones who seek a big party won’t find it here, at least not at this time of the year. There are souvenir shops, the casino, travel agencies and restaurants, but you’ll find that in any other town, too. Exceptional is different!
After one week you’ve actually seen everything. Now what? I wanted to change my point of view, away from the tourist spots, meet locals, get to know everyday life. Finding a job was not difficult. Businesses take casual workers with open arms. I got a job in the first restaurant I applied at.
Not many backpackers want to work in Alice Springs, so every enterprise is happy to welcome travelers who choose to stay a little longer in the city. Mainly Asians take this opportunity, remain in the region for a few months to fill up their travel budgets as work can basically be found in any sector – from catering trades to farm work.
Through my job I have met people who spoke in an honest, rough and open way about their home country; people who do not hesitate to tell their opinion and to show their original outback mentality. A conspicuous number of residents were not born in the region. For a variety of reasons they came to Alice Springs, fell in love with the town and have stayed ever since.
A recurring theme among both locals and tourists is the problem of the many loitering Indigenous People. Many tourists feel rapidly harassed and even threatened by them. Of course, one is on vacation, wants to relax and not care about other people’s problems.
Even though I myself have not made any negative experiences yet, a certain degree of caution – especially at night – is necessary . Therefore one should have an understanding for all the primarily young travelers who just come to Alice Springs for one day only or even avoid it.
Who is not interested in culture, art or history, is easily touched or even frightened by the situation of the Indigenous People, might quickly be bored or feel uncomfortable. Such people should rather spend their time at the nearby sights such as water holes and rock formations.
Of course it would be presumptuous to claim to be able to assess Alice Springs after just spending two weeks in town. But you can certainly relate a first impression.
Alice Springs is a very special town with an important history and significance for the development of the entire continent. It is a city that doesn’t artificially try to attract tourists. It is a city that has preserved its natural charm and promises what it represents. It is down to earth, honest, not too spectacular. That’s exactly the reason why tourists like me and the inhabitants of Alice Springs like their city so much. I, for my part, have decided to stay a little longer and will return for sure.