We decided to liven up the journey back to Alice Springs by visiting all four iconic and, dare we say it historic, Roadhouses. The equivalent of 19th century English Coaching Inns, they provide much needed accommodation, meals, water and rest on long journeys across the Outback.
Curtin Springs has 1 million acres, Mt Ebeneezer is Aboriginally owned, on the corner with the Stuart Highway is Erldunda, and Stuarts Well is where we stayed the night.
80km north of Uluru, Curtin Springs was taken over by Peter Severin, his wife Dawn and their son Ashley in 1956. That year just six travellers passed by. They started it as a cattle ranch, with one million acres of land, but after nine years without rain, things were getting desperate. With Ayers Rock opened up in 1958, a steady stream of tourists were coming by, and Peter and his family changed from ranchers to tourist providers. Today, this Roadhouse offers guided tours of nearby Mt Connor and sells its own paper made from local grasses. And Peter is 90 and still going strong!
Another two hours drive towards Alice Springs, Mt Ebeneezer is owned by the local Aboriginal Community. It had zero “kerb appeal” looking tatty from the outside, but inside there was a wonderful Aboriginal Art Gallery with some unique paintings, hand carved boomerangs and Didgeridoos. On the walls are one page biographies about their mostly women painters
A further one hour up the Lasseter Highway is the Erldunda Roadhouse which made the mistake of allowing a large Shell Gas Station to be built right in front of it. Once inside, it had a large bar with a huge TV showing Aussie Rules Football, together with a number of resident Aussies who looked like they were surgically attached to their chairs and glasses of beer
About an hour’s drive short of Alice, Stuarts Well Roadhouse was built by Jim Cotterill, in the 1960s when he saw the chance of opening up King’s Canyon to tourists, by cutting the road through. We met his son, who still runs the place. Camping was free and we got a very nice bar meal and a mug of Bailey’s Irish Cream in the evening