Bush food, friendly people, wild Australian wildlife, and a beautiful setting – the little city of Alice Springs, right in the heart of Australia could tell a story or two; a story that local Bob Taylor tries to share with visitors, even if just a brief snapshot.
Taking us on a journey through Mbantua – that’s the Aboriginal name for Alice Springs – Bob taught us about Alice Spring’s history, the animals that are inhabitants of the area, taught us a little bit about Aboriginal culture and living, as well as teaching us all about his passions – AFL and food!
Part of the tour is a leisurely stroll around the Alice Spring’s Telegraph Station, the place that marks the first European settlement in Alice Springs in 1872 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide; Since it was built it has been used as both a telegraph station and a school for Aboriginal children.
The surrounding area was really beautiful to walk around, especially with the little rainfall that had occurred recently the whole area was green and there were plenty of people walking along the banks of the now dry River Todd. You wouldn’t expect it, even in the middle of Alice Springs, but a few wild kangaroos were munching on the grasses nearby which of course we had to stop and take photos of for the next ten-minutes!
Talking out into the middle of the river – it only runs a few months of the year during ‘wet season’ – Bob explained to us why there were deep holes everywhere. Animals would come to the river bed and begin to bury down into the sand to find watering holes. Sure enough, we could see the shape of a kangaroos tail in the sand and looking into the holes there were small pools of cool water – not sure I’d want to drink it though!
Back into Bob’s 4×4 – yes, this was a chauffeured dinner tour! – Bob began the drive out to the West MacDonnell Ranges where the dinner was going to take place. But our tour was not over yet as Bob had a few more points of interest to show us, including Flynn’s Grave, and the site of the ‘Twin Ghost Gums’, a painting made famous by local artist Albert Namatjira, and probably one of the best known Aboriginal artists.
Bob was continually surprising us with what he could find, all product of knowing the land – and running his tours of 8-years probably helps as well! He found bush passion fruits, and showed us where to find wodjedy grubs – under a wodjedy bush of course! – and taught us a couple of bush secrets – did you know that Indigenous lemon grass is a native bush medicine for upset stomaches? All in all it was a very exciting tour full of new-found knowledge about just how much the bush can provide if you know what you’re looking for.
Our final stop before dinner, just as the sun was setting was at Simpson’s Gap – one of the most prominent watering holes in the area and a site of significance to the Aboriginal population as it holds just one of their Dreamtime story. It’s hard to capture the impressive beauty of Simpson’s Gap on camera but I tried here and also on my iPhone.
At sunrise and sunset the place begins to come alive. As the tourists depart to head into Alice the animals come out. Birds come to drink at the watering holes and if your eyesight is good you can even see Black-Footed Rock-Wallabies (can you spot the wallaby in the bottom right picture?) Bob quickly found one and guided us to being able to see two of them perched amongst the rocks, ready for dinner time.
By the time we finished at Simpson’s Gap we were ready for dinner though, and Bob did not disappoint.
Pulling into a local campsite Bob quickly set up his homemade BBQ, ready to cook a bush tucker inspired feast. Having spent 26 years working around Australia and in Europe as a chef, so needless to say we were excited to see what was going to be on our plate that evening.
Instructed to go for a short walk up the hill – where this fabulous sunset was waiting for us, as well as view around the West MacDonnell Ranges where we could just see Simpson’s Gap as the sky lit up in another fabulous desert sunset – there really must be something in the air to make them all so beautiful!
Coming back to camp Bob was in full cooking mode with three or four pots on the boil at once, preparation of other essential ingredients, and he still had time to chat to us and explain to us each process or answer our questions about the outback.
Now, there are no photos of the food because the lighting was too dark by the time everything was ready but here’s a run down of exactly what we ate incase you’re curious.
Home baked bread, dips & salad.
Dukkah with infused oils.
Bush tomato and native herbs.
Traditional Outback Beef Stew.
Yam fritters and Stir Fry Veg.
Quondong, white chocolate, apricot & wattle seed steamed pudding topped with caramel & coconut sauce.
It was amazing, best of all the kangaroo fillet which was BBQ’d with a simple sauce!
Some drinks are available – water and a lemon drink – but if you want soft drink or alcohol then you do need to bring your own.
The tour with Bob Taylor and RT Tours Australia was a simple and easy way to see a bit of Alice Springs and learn about the culture and Aboriginal history of the area without the hassle. Tours are customisable to what you’ve seen already and what your interests are – plus, you get an amazing bush dinner at the end from a real Master Bush Chef!
RT Tours Australia
We took the Mbantua Dinner and Tour
Tours run from 4pm – 10pm during summer and 3pm – 9pm in winter.
Pick up & drop off from accommodation.
Cost: AU$150 p.p.
Phone: + 61 8 8952 0327