Charles and Diana start Australia visit

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia -- Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana began a 6-week visit to Australia and New Zealand Sunday by sending their 9-month-old baby away to a farm and checking themselves into a motel.

In brilliant sunshine, the Prince and Princess of Wales were greeted by an official welcoming party and a cheering crowd of about 2,000 on their arrival in the outback town of Alice Springs from London aboard a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707.


The focus of attention at the welcoming ceremony was 9-month-old Prince William, the second in line to the British throne who was making his first overseas trip. It was also the first time the first and second in line to the throne had traveled on the same plane.

Princess Diana, in a green dress and looking relaxed despite the long flight, held the baby alongside his father for photographers at the airport.

For the Princess, on her first official overseas tour, it was her last contact with her son for eight days.

As the couple chatted with wellwishers at the airport, William's nanny, Barbara Barnes, returned him to the aircraft for the flight to Albury, about 1,600 miles south of Alice Springs.


While his parents undertake their grueling tour, the baby will be housed at Woomargama, a cattle and sheep ranch near Albury in New South Wales. The tour schedule allows the Royal couple to return to Woomargama at regular intervals.

Central Australia laid on a sunny 70-degree welcome for the visitors, a sharp contrast to the preceding days of torrential rain and flash floods that caused widespread disruption in the area.

In Alice Springs, a town of some 14,500 in Australia's Northern Territory, Charles and Diana were to have stayed at the new Casino hotel, but flooding made it inaccessible except by helicopter.

So British officials decided the small ridge-top motel 7 miles outside Alice Springs would have to do as a royal abode for the two-day visit to the area. One British radio commentator described such a motel stay as a royal first.

Within two hours of flying in, Charles and Diana gave a horde of journalists the slip to make an unscheduled tour of the flood-damaged town.

The two were driven out of their motel through a back gate, leaving out front a large crowd that included 150 journalists covering the visit.

Accompanied by a carload of security men, the royal couple spent more than an hour touring Alice Springs and later visited a local businessman's home, where the two were believed to have relaxed by a private pool on what had been designated a day of rest after the long flight.


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