It was still dark when I got up this morning. I finished packing, dropped my key in the drop slot at the front desk, and headed for the front door, where a taxi was waiting for me.
We drove through the city and out along the river. Away from downtown, Brisbane is largely unchanged. The dawn was glorious. The just-past-full moon still hung in the deep blue sky. Mist was rising from the river. Opposite the moon, a silver and pastel sky brightened until the huge, orange, fireball sun topped the horizon. It was splendid.
Brisbane airport is hugely spacious and filled with plants. At this early hour, I breezed through and out to my gate. We took off on time for Sydney, heading out over the ocean and nearby islands before swinging south.We followed the Great Dividing Range, and below me, the mist-haunted mountains looked beautiful and green: dark green of forests, brighter green of paddocks, fields, and clearings. In Sydney, it was an easy stroll to the gate for my flight to Alice Springs—and then out over the broad, red land. My seatmate on the flight was a delightful woman from the office of Aboriginal Affairs. By the time we landed, we were well enough acquainted to happily share a taxi into town.
My heart sang as we crossed the rust-colored miles to town and nearly burst as we passed through Pitchi Ritchi, the pass through the MacDonnell Ranges that admits passengers from the south into Alice Springs. It’s unbelievably good to be back.
We reached my destination first, Toddy’s Backpacker Cabins, and I was dropped off. Toddy’s offers a level of accommodation equal to some of the places I stayed toward the end of my previous trip: clean, safe, cheap, laid-back, friendly, and very basic. I was shown to my room across a broad yard and then given a tour of the facilities, including the shower block, barbecue area, small shop for necessities, and laundry. The furniture in my room is a bed, a chair, and a large, strange wooden contraption that appears to have been designed to hold a couple of backpacks. The floor is linoleum, which makes sense given the pervasiveness of dust. There is a hand basin (cold water only, but still, nice to have water in the room). But it is enough.
The yard is littered with 4WDs, and a dog was sleeping in the dust as I passed. The clientele is pretty young, and the staff appears to be a mix of young locals, young Europeans, and older Aborigines. This place is perfect for Alice Springs. A bonus I quickly discovered is that these folks are really into the whole outback experience. They offer cheap tours, bike loans, and if you can get six people together, George, a member of the staff here, will drive you anywhere you want to go. Plus tonight, they’re having a barbecue (with kangaroo on the menu). Could hardly ask for more.