After Mataranka, we head south again and the long distances start again. On the first day we clock up 700km, south through Tenant Creek and down the Stuart Highway, stopping at the Devils Marbles (interesting, though not amazing, before stopping for the night at Wycliffe Well. A roadhouse in basically the middle of nowhere wouldn't normally rate a mention but this is one of those weird, quirky places that you don't expect to find in Australia. It's supposedly the UFO capital of Australia (which I suspect might be pumped up a bit by the owners of the roadhouse and caravan park in order to drum up business) but it's the other idiosyncrasies about the place that get you- the large selection of imported beers, the Elvis statues, and the monkey shrine(!?).
As we head south, the country gradually gets more arid, and around the tropic of Capricorn the tropical North gives way to the central desert.The next day we knock off the remaining 350-odd km to Alice springs easily enough, stopping on the way at the impressive big man statues at Aileron.
Alice itself, for all it's reputation is a little underwhelming- it comes across as a fairly prosperous, modern town, but not one particularly overflowing with character, although the backdrop of the McDonnell ranges is impressive.
However there's some interesting stuff to check out, including the road transport haul of fame (basically a shrine to the mighty road train) and we're lucky enough to catch a dance event held by the local Aboriginal community and attended by people from communities up to 11 hours drive away, which is fantastic.