25 May St Paddy’s Day in Alice Springs
I knew I was going to like Alice Springs. I expected it to be like going back 50 years, with Crocodile Dundee walking through a set of swing doors wearing a cork hat and starting a bar fight. I wanted to see the real outback- small town Australia.
I flew into Alice Springs and all you could see for miles and miles was red dusty barren landscape- you couldn’t imagine a civilisation in the middle of the outback. But then out of nowhere appeared this cluster of shiny silver buildings, like an alien colony on the surface of Mars. Alice looked so out of place it was surreal.
I had booked to stay with Alice Lodge Backpackers, but the main ones people seemed to stay in were Annie’s Place, Toddy’s and Haven. All the hostels offer a free shuttle service from the airport but don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get a free ride back to the airport, it’s usually about $10. Alice Lodge was one of the quieter hostels, but because this is the base for doing the 3 day Ayer’s Rock tour, none of the hostels were particularly party places. The hostel had good facilities, with a swimming pool (essential in the outback heat), free internet (which is rare) and a kitchen with plenty of pots, pans and utensils and some free food (also rare). My room was clean and comfortable, although a little cramped, but they had decent mattresses and duvets, or doonas as the aussies like to call them. And it had hammocks, which is the main thing that matters to me.
I lounged in the 40 degree heat for a while in my hammock then took time in the afternoon to walk into town, which was about a 10 minute walk across the bridge over the dry river bed into the centre. Alice had warned me how backward Alice Springs is, but I was a little surprised as it had a Woolworths and a Coles which isn’t very backward at all. It actually had some nice cafes and aboriginal art galleries. A lot of aborigines can be seen wandering around the streets, but the sad thing is many of them have lost their way in today’s modern society and hang around on street corners drunk or on drugs. You always see big groups of them, and in aboriginal culture they share everything, so it is quite normal to see a group of them driving a car around town, then a different group driving the same car around town the next day.The car isn’t your car, it’s everybody’s car.
It just so happened to be St Paddy’s Day. It’s a weird thing is St Paddy’s Day, because even though it’s an Irish holiday, it’s not that much of a big deal in Ireland itself. Yet all over the world it is this one massive, boozed up drinking festival. Wherever you find an Irish pub in the world you will find people in massive hats drinking pints of guinness. I had even met people on my trip who had booked flights not realising it was St Paddy’s Day, and after realising their fateful mistake, had to pay a fortune to change them. So on this great day me and an ex investment banker from Switzerland, and an Indian girl from Sweden who I met in the hostel, decided to head out to the only bar in Alice, Bojangles. Bo’s, as it is affectionately called, may be the best bar in the world. It is far superior to all other bars I have ever been to and I’ll tell you why. For a start it has real saloon style swing doors. I insisted on walking through them many times because of the sheer novelty. I couldn’t decide whether the bouncers were employed to keep unwanted people out of the bar, or whether they were just employed to protect the doors.
Inside it’s a weird mix of backpackers and aborigines, and the bar itself is absolutely bizarre, with boots hanging from the ceiling and a tank with real live snakes in it. There’s even a coffin which says on it ‘How much to touch Ned’s Nuts?’. You open the door and inside is a knight wearing armour, with nuts coming out of his privates. Real nuts of course, the ones you eat. And I was hungry. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never tried Guinness before in my life. They didn’t have any on tap in Bo’s but I bought a can and I have to say I loved it. Ironic isn’t it that I travelled all the way around the world to try the Irish drink, when I live only across the pond back home. That drink definitely is a meal in a glass though. By now you’re thinking, “Wait. This bar is awesome. I want to go.” But no. It gets better. When I went to ask where the toilet was, the guy said to me, “Just make sure you wash your hands.” I wondered what he meant, thinking it must be disgusting in there. But you’ll never guess what happened next. When I went to turn the tap on to wash my hands, water came out of a tap in a different sink! I spent the next half hour trying to work out which tap turned on which sink. So that, my friends, is why Bo’s is the best bar I have ever been to.