NT Outback Alice Springs Bob Taylor Sunset over Simpsons Gap

A fiery Red Centre sunset

NT Alice Springs Todd River

The Todd River is dry nearly the whole time

Lying near the geographic centre of the huge Australian continent, Alice Springs is the undoubted “capital” of outback Australia – the Red Centre. While there are veritable checklist of things to see and experience in Alice itself (a topic for an upcoming article), it is difficult to quickly capture the essence of this remote city.

As an Arrernte man (the local indigenous people who have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years), Bob Taylor runs tours that helps visitors understand some of Alice Springs – its history of European settlement, its Aboriginal history and culture, the superb natural setting and the local food.

NT Outback Alice Springs in the Todd River

Alice “Springs” – Water lies just below the surface of the Todd River. Notice the kangaroo tail marks – this hole has been dug by them.

Inhabited by the Arrernte people for millennia, Alice Springs opened up in the 1870s as a key repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin and through to Britain (reducing news time from 21 days to one day). Built near a semi-permanent water hole on the typically dry Todd River, the Telegraph Station highlights the rugged conditions that the early European settlers experienced in the remote red centre. Bob slowly walks the group around the area, detailing the history of the city and showing the water hole, digging only a foot below the surface of the apparently bone-dry river.

NT Outback Alice Springs Bob Taylor Sweet Apple Plant

Bob describes a plant that has the gentle aroma of sweet apple

Passing various plants, Bob highlights bush passionfruit, the wichity bush(which hosts protein-rich grubs around its roots), a plant that smells of sweet apple, a lemon scented medicine for stomach aches and a variety of shrubs which are either a source of indigenous food or herbal cures.

NT Outback Alice Springs Bob Taylor Bush Passionfruit

Bush passionfruit – very tasty

The Aboriginal Dreamtime, a complex mosaic of beliefs, knowhow and tribal rules told as stories and legends, are taught and handed down from generation to generation to describe and teach the layout of the land, importance of critical resources such as waterholes and food, key elements of the landscape and more. It shows the deep and lasting spiritual bond with the land and living things.

A kangaroo seeks out the choicest green shoots

A kangaroo seeks out the choicest green shoots

Bob also tells of his own experiences growing up as an Aboriginal boy in Australia with some of the prejudices, highlights and lowlights of his formative years and the tremendously strong family, cultural and tribal bonds and values of sharing and community ownership in the Aboriginal community.

At Simpsons Gap, a spectacular rock gorge area of sheer rock walls just outside Alice Springs, Bob describes the Dreamtime story of two lizards, the patterned walls of the rock representing the lizard’s structure and a rock indentation corresponding to the lizard’s eye.

NT Outback Simpsons Gap

Simpsons Gap and giant rock walls

Australian Ringneck Parrot feeding in a Ghost Gum

Australian Ringneck Parrot feeding in a Ghost Gum

Simpsons Gap played host to a number of sacred ceremonies, the area being a rich source of food while water was often available even during times of extended drought. Rock wallabies camouflage effectively in the rock fall areas while a wide variety of birds including the stunning Australian Ringneck, a green and blue parrot with a dazzling yellow.

As the sun slowly sinks over the MacDonnell Ranges, the fiery red sky faded to black and evening outback sounds emanate, Bob quickly transforms the secluded bush setting into an outdoor restaurant. Within a few minutes the small group is seated in comfy chairs with a cool drink (it is BYO alcohol but soft drinks are supplied) while Bob starts to cook up a veritable feast.

NT Outback Alice Springs Bob Taylor Cooking up a Treat

Bob cooking up wonderful bush flavours

The sun sets on another day over the MacDonnell Ranges and Simpsons Gap

The sun sets on another day over the MacDonnell Ranges and Simpsons Gap

With 25 years working as a chef in Europe and Adelaide, Bob combines local meats, vegetables, bush fruits and herbs over an open fire to produce a scrumptious four course meal.

While Bob cooks the starter and main course, nibblies such as home made bread with wattle seed, native black pepper and bush tomato dukkah, bush tomatoes, bush raisins and spiced macadamia nuts stimulate the taste buds. Bob describes with passion the source of many of the ingredients (some seen earlier in the day). Tender kangaroo fillet (must not be cooked too long according to Bob) is quickly ready and eaten as juicy bite-sized pieces with toothpicks.

As the group relaxes and chats and the fire warms the chilling air, main course is served featuring a traditional outback beef stew with sweet yam fritters, a tangy bush tomato relish and a medley of locally grown vegetables. With the generous serves, make sure you leave space for the dessert – a quandong (a little like a desert peach), white chocolate, apricot and wattle seed steamed pudding drizzled with a coconut and caramel sauce, all served in a typical stockman’s tea mug.

Bob Taylor’s afternoon/evening Mbantua Tour offers a wonderful snapshot of the Red Centre, highlighting the history of Alice Spring, giving a taste of the complex and historic Aboriginal culture all served with a superb four course meal cooked over an open fire as you relax in the enchanting Australian outback bushland.

Bob Taylor runs a variety of tours through his company RT Tours Australia. This article describes the Mbantua Dinner Tour. More details can be found on the website.

The author travelled as a guest of Tourism NT and Plus7.

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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