The Beginning of the Story
And so I found myself in Alice Springs, Australia. Quite the literally the middle of nowhere.
I’d just been on an awesome 4wd road trip in a Landrover up from South Australia to Central Australia with a new friend of mine and now it was all over.
I’d spent weeks enjoying all the sights and sounds of Outback Australia on our road trip, including Lake Eyre, Uluru and the MacDonnell Range.
I’d trekked, swam and enjoyed countless sunsets as we’d free camped our way around the Outback.
But that’s another story …
Sadly, at that time, it was a moment for us to part.
My new friend had to head back to his home in Noosa, Queensland for work and was taking the beloved Landrover with him!
As he headed off across the Simpson Desert, he kindly dropped me in the nearest town on his way – Alice Springs.
We joked, all smiles and laughter, that he was abandoning me in the middle of the desert; but in reality, this was not far from the truth at all.
- Top 5 Day Walks in Central Australia
- Alice Springs to Uluru : 6 Breathtaking Spots
- Best Budget Road Trip Itinerary for Central Australia
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For those who are yet to experience the isolated civilisation that is Alice Springs in Central Australia, you’ll perhaps not fully understand just how remote is it.
Almost 1000 miles in any direction from another major settlement, the town sits in the geographical centre of Australia and, as such, is surrounded by little else but red dust as far as the eye can see.
Its desert climate of scorching hot summer days and freezing cold winter nights, make it an even harsher environment; yet, by the same turn, it’s also a welcome respite for the many who live even more remotely – providing, as it does, the majority of Central Australia’s amenities and services.
In many ways, this accounts for the transient feel of the town, a sense increased by the many travellers who all make it a key stop on their way through, across or around Outback Australia.
People had told me that I would love Alice Springs,
“It’s different, it’s out of the way, it’s culturally diverse”, they said.
Sadly, from pretty much the moment I got there, I just didn’t get it.
I’m not saying dear Alice doesn’t have any merits – I went to the lovely Bean Tree Café in the botanical gardens and stayed in the fantastic Alice’s Secrets Travellers Inn, which had a great pool, BBQ and kitchen – but I have to admit that overall, I found the town dull, dear and drab.
Understanding of the fact that all the food etc. has to be shipped into Alice from miles away, I can almost forgive the dear part; but unfortunately Alice has little else going for it to compensate.
Outside of a few interesting galleries, there is almost nothing to do, and this is for someone who really only requires the sunshine to be happy!
Needless to say, from the moment I got into Alice Springs, I was pretty much looking to get out again!
Heading For Darwin
This, however, proved no easy task.
Isolated as Alice is, options of transport are limited, especially if you don’t have your own set of wheels and you’re travelling alone.
I knew where I wanted to go to.
Darwin in the Northern Territory, over 1500km away, was calling my name.
But how to get there?
Sure I could have hopped on the bus to Darwin for a $250 AUD, 22-hour bus journey, but really, who wants to do that?
It’s stuffed full of backpackers taking the way too easy option (sorry!) and it also meant I’d have to drive right past all the sights between Alice Springs and Darwin I wanted to see.
Unlikely as I thought I’d be making a journey to Outback Australia again in the near future, I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see all the amazing things there I wanted to explore.
Hiring a vehicle was another option, but this was way beyond the stretch of my meagre solo budget.
So my only choice left, or so I thought, was to try and find a lift with other travellers.
Well accustomed to this form of transport, I spent hours trawling the rideshare pages of gumtree, couchsurfing and coseats, trying desperately to find some people heading north soon, but to no avail.
It seemed everyone in the whole world was shuttling south and I’d just come from there.
Then a fortuitous conversation in the Alice Springs hostel kitchen reminded me that I still had another option, namely the possibility of finding a relocation deal.
I quickly jumped online and hit up a few rental companies, but nothing was available, so I signed up with a 3rd party website in the vague hope something might come up on their books in the next few days.
Then, to save cash while I waited to get the hell out of Alice Springs, I found a lovely couchsurf host and moved out of the hostel.
I mean who knows, I could have been stranded in the middle of the desert for weeks!
Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long however, because the very next day the agent called me saying a relocation deal was available to leave Alice Springs for Darwin tomorrow.
Hoorah, I was finally getting out of here!
Ever keen to keep costs as low as possible, I then rounded up a few more people I’d met in the hostel to join me on the adventure and share the cost.
So off we set – 4 foreign girls driving up through the centre of Australia!
As 2 of the others were under the age of 21 and the third didn’t fancy driving on the left-hand side of the road, it was left to me to take the wheel!
Not being the most confident driver, it was therefore hilarious to find myself sitting at the helm of this huge vehicle, the likes of which I’d never even been in before, let alone driven.
Traversing the 3 day, 1500km journey up to Darwin stretched before us with mixed emotions!
The great things was that the relocation deal was only going to cost us $10 AUD per day.
The hire company I was relocating the vehicle for were also going to chip in $100 AUD for fuel.
We decided we’d split the cost 4 ways and headed off!
Driving Through the Middle of Australia
And so it was that the 4 of us ended up enjoying the outback adventure of a lifetime – bathing in hot springs, visiting remote pubs, hiking in gorges and watching an incredible amount of stars!
If you want more ideas, check out my Central Australia road trip itinerary.
The relocation vehicle had come equipped with a water tank, cooking equipment, fridge and a whole load of tents and sleeping stuff, which meant that after buying a few bits of food we didn’t need to pay for anything else.
With our complimentary camping stuff, we simply slept for free along the side of the road and cooked our meals right there with our free gas stoves!
None of this cost us a thing!
After 3 days of driving and exploring, we finally rocked into Darwin; tired, dirty but thrilled with our achievement.
Nevermore so than when we found out the entire experience had only cost us A$60 each!
That’s 1500km for less than the price of a round of drinks in Australia.
We’d seen everything we wanted to along the way, the other girls had got their fix of the outback and we’d all saved money
Well, we couldn’t have been happier!
So, if you’re looking to find a cheap way to travel anywhere in Australia (or the US, Canada or New Zealand for that matter), I can certainly recommend relocation deals.
Not a big fan of Alice Springs, I never the less have this town to thank for my discovery of such a great budget way to travel around and I’ll certainly be searching for relocation deals again as soon as I’m in need of another way out of the middle of nowhere!
5 Packing Essentials for the Northern Territory
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national parks! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strolling, I love mine.
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together.
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
Travel Insurance for the Northern Territory
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
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