Saturday, April 17, 2010

Red Centre, day three

As I write this, I’m in the bus on the way back to Alice Springs and its none too soon. This will probably be the last guided group tour I will every do. Nearly everything bad I’ve heard about group tours is true. You get herded around like sheep and there is little room for individual choice. The bus stops, you get out at places where dozens of other buses have stopped, and join the hundreds of other tourists taking photos of the same things. If an interesting lizard or other animal is spotted, the poor creature has multiple digital cameras thrusted into its face. Then it’s back aboard the bus to endure inanely laughing and shrieking young adults (is everyone on drugs except me?) and the driver’s atrocious musical tastes. On this last, particularly grueling, afternoon, I even had to resort to swigging a few mouthfuls left in my previous night’s bottle of wine to get through it.

The tour leader who on the first day seemed so jolly and enthusiastic is by the third day irritating and overbearing. (We’ve got up at 5am each day, so that may be a factor.) For a start, on two occasions he’s called New Zealanders ‘sheep-shaggers’ before he realised I was a kiwi. He is also apparently from another century because he believes that at dinner-time, men should gather round the barbeque and drink beer while women make salads and sip wine. And women apparently do the washing up. His only acknowledgement of modernity is his concern for the environment, but in this he is an environmental fascist. He yells at people if they stray off the beaten track and step on some scraggly plants. He even admonished us not to swim in a water hole because our deodorant and sunscreen would pollute the water. Last night around the campfire there was a slight mutiny when he told off the German-speakers from speaking German, saying that it was impolite to leave others out of the conversation and that they should speak English. I can see his point but he did make it rather rudely. At one point he made the argument, like Basil Fawlty, that ‘we won the war,’ the relevance of which I wasn’t clear on. The German speakers were not impressed and made their feelings known both then and the next day.

Oh, we did stop at King’s Canyon, walked for three hours, and saw some fantastic scenery.

Endurance Rating for the three-day tour overall: 7


  1. That is what the blue pills are for. You did remember to bring the blue pills? They are the ones that make everything sooth and a little funny. Even group tours. Group tours? Really what were you thinking?
    Be well

  2. Don't rule them out wholesale - you can find good ones if you look carefully. The problem often lies with tours that are led by a single driver/tour-leader. The gene pool of people with coach-driving qualifications doesn't exactly produce promising material for decent guides. The tours I went on in the 90s divided the tasks between a specialised tour leader, who was generally pretty decent, and a local driver who didn't play a role in running things. Worked a lot better.