Category Archives: Adventure

The Most Fascinating Railway Adventures in Australia: Alice Springs and the Red Centre

Alice Springs

Alice Springs sits at the southern border of Australia’s Northern Territory. Framed by the MacDonnell Ranges and an intense desert landscape, Alice Springs is THE Outback town of Australia, and a great setting for Outback adventure. Quad and mountain biking, trekking along the Larapinta trail, 4WD desert treks, bush camping, excursions to gorges, ghost towns and working camel farms – all are adventure options on offer in the Red Centre. Alice Springs is also the starting point for a trip to Uluru, popularly known as Ayers Rock.

We had planned our first train holiday stopover here, intending to discover the region and to visit the Kata Tjuta National Park, home to not-to-be-missed Aboriginal Uluru, or Ayers Rock.

We arrived early morning, in time to take the day to explore Alice Springs. Alice Springs Desert Park was our first stop, and afforded a fascinating microcosm of Australia’s Outback and Aboriginal heritage. A combination of botanic garden, zoo, Aboriginal cultural center and Conservation Park – all rolled into one – this park includes desert habitats, bird, kangaroo and emu enclosures, a snake and lizard house and so much more. It offers a veritable model for visitors heading to the Outback.

The Reptile center, with its displays of snakes and lizards, was especially fun for the kids, as they could hand feed and hold some of the friendlier creatures. The Aboriginal Art Center illustrates the region’s Aboriginal heritage, and in general, the town provides a sense of what the pioneering days of the Outback were like.


We took off for Kata Tjuta National Park the next morning. Located nearly 500 km. from Alice Springs, we arrived in time for the main highlight – watching the splendor of the sunset on Uluru, Ayers Rock.

In a vast red desert, Ayers Rock towers some 350 m. high with a circumference of nearly 8 km around. This monolithic sandstone rock formation stands naked of vegetation, with rain grooves caves and pools along its sides. We had considered a climb to the top – however, that was before we knew how strenuous and hazardous such a climb could be! Upon arriving, we also learned that Uluru is a sacred Aboriginal site whose climbs are reserved only for spiritual leaders.

The most intriguing feature of the rock is its ever-changing colors at sunset and sunrise when viewed from various angles. At sunset, the deep orange, then crimson, glowing above the already darkened expanse of the Outback is spectacular. Sunrise brought with it the magic of a mass that nearly glowed and glittered in the morning light.

In anticipation of continuing our Ghan train adventure, we headed back to Alice Springs.

Adventure Travel Close to Home and on a Budget

Traveling for the adventure of it is becoming much more popular these days, but, it can be quite expensive. Others may find it too dangerous to even consider it, but I’m going to give you some great ideas for safe, close to home, adventures that are affordable and fun. Take a look at the list below to get some ideas of your own.

Learn rock climbing. Take local rock climbing lessons in your area. It may not be the highest mountain in the country, but you probably can find a fairly steep mountain to climb just for the adventure of it. Most of the East Coast, and West Coast will not have any problem locating somewhere to climb, and there will be plenty of local schools ready to teach you. With a trained climber joining you, this is one adventure that is not too dangerous.

Find all of the local swimming places and make it a goal to hit them all this summer. Each of them will put you up for a hike (to get there) and a nice cool dip in the water during hot summer months will not cost you anything. You can find these by word of mouth (from your friends), or just by watching for others dragging food and picnics into the woods. At that point, you know it’s pretty likely that there is water around.

Take up snowshoeing. Being in a winter environment (in the Midwest) has not always been fun. That is, not until my wife and I took up snowshoeing. This is a very inexpensive sport, with two options for equipment: 1.) rent it from a local sporting goods store, you will get modern equipment and can decide if you should buy your own, or 2.) visit a local park during the winter that offers snowshoeing hikes, they almost all have snowshoes for rent, but they will usually be the old fashioned kind. Any way, you get a good chance to try out the sport. If you enjoy it, consider calling your golf courses in the area and ask them if it is OK to snowshoe there in the winter, all of them that I called had no problem with it.

Consider a spiritual journey. If you have retreats or monasteries near you, make a day of traveling to them all, spending some time and relaxing, and then decide if you want to return for a longer stay. Almost all of these type of spiritual centers will allow visitors, and they generally have very cheap rooms available. Stay the night and see how relaxing it can be.

Find a public, county, or state park and go canoeing. Many local parks will have canoes available for rent. You can spend a day just floating, and the park people will pick you up down the river and drive you back to your car.

Think about getting into treasure searching. You can usually find a good, cheap used metal detector online, or in your local classified ads. If you pick one up, you can plan an entire weekend around treasure hunting at a local beach, or woods. You never know what you might find. If you’re really adventurous you could go to your courthouse and look up old historical records for locations like old picnic areas, parks, or watering holes and search there. Old coins and jewelry may add up to enough to pay for your metal detector, especially with the high price of gold these days.

Take a hobo trip to wherever you end up. How does this work you ask? Well, you pack enough food and drinks and clothes to cover you for a few days, then everyone jumps in the car and you take off for an unknown place. Have travelers randomly pick a direction every few hours and just drive until you decide it’s time to stop. Spend the night in a different town, or consider making a camping trip out of it by bringing along camping and tent gear. This trip is really inexpensive too.

An adventure is defined as any type of activity or destination that you visit and take part in that is completely new to you and that does not have an outcome that is entirely predictable. This can be just about anything you like, as you see from the examples above. Take one of those, or think up an entirely new one, either way enjoy your next adventure that stays within your budget too.