By ERWIN CHLANDA
Austrian optometrist Alfred Pruckner – Ozfred to his mates – has been to Central Australia before. In fact he’s been here 18 or 19 times since 1995 – he’s not quite sure.
His routine is simple: He hires a 4WD camper and sets off, leaving civilisation behind as much as possible. He knows the backroads and loves them: Palm Valley, the West MacDonnell gorges and waterholes, Rainbow Valley.
He’s been there, done that, loves it, the last few trips with Erika after they married a few years ago, and they will be back. He must be The Centre’s most experienced and passionate ambassador in Europe.
In shorthand, this is their summary of the latest trip, just finished:–
We started in Adelaide, visited Clare Valley and Barossa Valley, nice landscape, great wines.
Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges: We made a scenic-flight and a walked through the pound.
Campground very big with good and clean facilities.
Oodnadatta Track: William Creek – Coober Pedy (bizarre town in the opal fields). Oodnadatta (Pink Roadhouse, funny).
The Red Centre is my favourite.
Ayers Rock Resort: Many tourists, but the Rock and the Olgas fascinate me each time.
Kings Canyon: Simply beautiful.
Palm Valley: One of my favorite places in The Centre, remote campground with full comfort (warm showers, clean sanitary faclities, gas BBQ, also clean).
Ross River: Campground in a wonderful landscape, but the toilets and showers are dirty (last cleaning weeks or months ago). It is a pity!
Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley: Fascinating like Ayers Rock, but quiet and wonderful. Simple toilettes, but clean!
Alice Springs: The development of the town during the last six years has unfortunately not been to its advantage. Aboriginal people hanging around in the Todd Mall and in other places in the centre, that is not what tourists want to see.
For me this is sad because I like this city, and it is not funny to see how the tourist industry and economy is going down. It is good that most tourists don’t know Alice as well as I do.
Nevertheless, it was a great and wonderful journey, and for me the Red Centre was the highlight once more.
Apart from the big picture – nature – Mr and Mrs Pruckner’s observations about the little things are worth noting by tourism operators.
Their vehicle doesn’t have a toilet, so when they pay money to stay the night, rather than bush camping, they want the facilities to be perfect, and they appreciate it when they are.
Not a big ask!
A more difficult issue is putting a resolute end to the anti social behaviour in the town: Sweeping it under the carpet just isn’t working. The choice is simple: If we want tourists, it has to stop.