It took Einstein quite a while, one might think, to postulate his theory that time is relative. But then, he never set foot in Alice Springs. Had he done so, he would've known from start.
In Alice Springs, days don't pass. Instead, they either drag along lazily, like an overfed blue-tongued lizard, or buzz by like a fat drone through a golden wheatfield. Sometimes they surreptitiously morph and merge and pleasurably become another day, without anyone noticing. It is not unheard of the sun rising twice in the same day, or the stars lazily twinkling while lunch is served.
You hear all sorts of stories about Alice Springs. All sorts of stories of the bad sort, that is. Someone recently told me: "you'll hate Alice, but you'll love the hostel". He was half right. I did love the hostel (Annie's Place), and so does everyone else. But I didn't find much to hate about Alice.
The user's guide for Alice Springs is one sentence long and it goes like this:
"Drop your stuff, climb ANZAC Hill, get into a pub and don't get out until you leave town". Sounds like sound advice. Alice is, quite surprisingly, full of amazing people from all over the world, who prove to be great company for as many beers as the bar will serve. Alice is in the middle of Nowhere, and as such, it's just on the way to Anywhere. So everybody is, of course, just passing by. But some stay for a longer while, some weeks say, to make some money while they enjoy a gentle bobbing on the soft and soothing waves of Alice Springs time.
Most residents of Alice are apparently quite wealthy, but still, it's the travelers that make for good company, not the local yobbos. I might be biased, for I've met just a few of the locals, and even fewer of the locals. When you pronounce the italics, "locals" means aborigines, "abos" for short. They account for roughly a fifth of the population of Alice, but for over 60 percent of all people you see on the street. They certainly give the town a special feel and... ehm... "fragrance".
Maybe that's what those who dislike Alice dislike. I can't say I like it myself, but I find it adds some spice. In case the orange McDonnell Ranges in the near distance, the scorched red sand under your feet and the dry riverbed of the Todd are not reminders enough, that presence recalls that this is a border land, a frontier world, a small outpost of civilization forced into the timeless desert. It reminds you that the real, authentic, wild, untameable, ungraspable Outback is just out there, all around you, burning and buzzing, just a 15 minutes walk away in any direction, if minutes had any meaning here.
In what concerns me, I can say that all my time in Alice was pure joy and bliss. Maybe I was just lucky enough, got the best without the rest, and left just in time. But still, wherever I may go from now on, I know part of me will, in some way, always be in Alice Springs.