Papua New Guniea and Australia travel blog

The View from the Hotel

Todd River

Aboriginal meeting

Fuel Truck Train

"School of the Air"

Alice about to eat a kolala bear!

Gray and Pink Galah Cockatoo

Tom and a wagon

Alice and Alice Spring (in the background)

Camel Train

Royal Flying Doctor Service

Alice and a friend

Crocodile versus skimmer

Even in the outback...

Up at a fairly reasonable hour and to breakfast at the hotel. Nice spread with lots of fruit and a wide selection of other stuff. Then back to the room and final packing, then drag our stuff over to the lobby at about 8:45. Bus at 9:05 picked us up, and about 25 other people, and drove us to the Ayers Rock airport.

The flight only took about an hour and we landed at Alice Springs. We seemed to be the only people staying in town. As we approached the luggage claim there was a nice lady with our name on a sign. Most prompt welcome we’ve had so far!

She was very nice and chatty and drove us into town. A small place – about 27,000 total, and in the middle of nowhere. Drove by the Lasseters Hotel and Casino and a quick run through town to show us the restaurant and shopping areas, then to the hotel.

Our room was quite a hike from the front desk, but a nice view of the desert. We didn’t have much time to settle in as the tour we were scheduled for was only a little while away. But the hotel does have free wifi in every room! Quite the treat after a bunch of not so great connections.

The tour guide arrived in a small bus and we picked up a couple other people then did the town. Our first sight was the Todd River – quite dry and a rive about seven days out of the year – when it is a river there is quite the festive atmosphere (but dangerous too). When it’s dry it’s where the aboriginals camp/meet when they’re in town getting supplies. The city (the council) has set aside a couple areas for them to camp.

Since Alice Springs is about 1500 km from pretty much anywhere there is quite a problem in getting in normal supplies. We were passed by one truck train (a 68 wheeler!) and the driver took us to look at a fuel train – a truck can pulling three fully loaded gasoline tanks – they come into town about three times a week.

We then made a stop at the “Alice Springs School of the Air.” In 1951 they started offering classes to kids in the real outback – nearest town over 50 miles away. Started with a radio and mail service but have since moved to the internet. The whole school only has about 145 students spread all over the Northern Territory. They still mail worksheets and every student has a tutor – either a parent or someone hired by the parents to go over the material. Of course fund raising was involved (it costs about $10,000 per student – they install a satellite dish at the home for the duration of the students attendance). Alice bought (well, she had me buy) a book for their library…

We then headed over to the original telegraph station at the original Alice Springs. It’s now a park and a museum with displays of much of the original equipment and buildings. The main “barracks” was built in the 1870s with gun loops to fight of possible aborigine attacks (there were none). It was eventually turned into a school for “half breeds” – white father and black mother. Also a telegraph station (with a guest book – we were the first USA entry for about 200 names), black smithy, water tank, post office, plus a residence or two. There were also quite a few strange birds flying about – like the gray and pink parrots (Galah Cockatoos) we saw several flocks of.

We also got to look at the original “Alice Spring.” Oddly, it was named for the governor’s wife at the time who never visited the area, and it was a water hole not a spring… So the town is named after a woman who was never there and a spring that never was… In any event, all transport to the town was by camel train until the late 1920s when a narrow gauge rail road was built – well after the 1870s when the first telegraph was completed. Once that was in the camels were useless – so now there are about two million in the Northern Territory – and about 250,000 people.

After the park we made our way to the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum. Like the school of the air, the remote parts of Australia don’t have a lot of services available – so the RFDR flies patients to hospital and back. Even our driver had his son, born prematurely, taken to hospital by them. Each remote ranch or mine has a special medical kit with all the drugs numbered. If a problem people call and the doctor tells them the number of the drug to take. Now they also do a lot of health education work as well.

Then off to the local Reptile House – a small building that houses quite a few of the local reptiles. Interestingly enough, their lizards don’t lose their tails when attacked, but one has developed a roll of fat behind the head that serves the same purpose – the lizard hides its head when attached and the lump looks like a head – so the bird grabs it, it breaks off, and the lizard scurries away.

Also a collection of both poisonous and non poison snakes – While they are some of the most poisonous snakes in the world they have tiny little fangs and can’t really bite – they scratch. There are also pythons and some interestingly adapted water turtles – mostly in the north of the island.

Then to the salt water crocodile tank. The guy has permission to keep it as it was causing issues in Darwin, so it was the zoo or the handbag. In his attempt to show us the neat trick of the crocodile closing its throat when it bites underwater, a battle between the crocodile and a skimmer resulted in the loss of yet another brave skimmer…

Finally we went to ANZAC hill – a war memorial that overlooks the whole city. It was quite breezy and chilly on top – Alice’s teeth were chattering so we didn’t stay long. Nice view – and another nice sunset! The temperature is supposed to fall to about 36 tonight.

Back to the hotel and dinner. We stopped back at the room then walked through the casino (Alice desperately wanted to play the slots… no) to the Juicy Rump Restaurant for dinner. I ordered a Caesar Salad with chicken and it came with more bacon than chicken. I guess a different recipe for it in Australia. Alice had Chicken Pasta and it had a pile of bacon in it as well. We thought about getting ice cream but were worried that it might have bacon too.

Back to the room and Alice is living on her ipod. We leave the hotel at 10:45 AM tomorrow for the trip to Sydney.

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