Saturday, May 23, 2015

Alice Springs and surrounding areas 13-19 May Part 2

Black Faced Rock Wallabies
Phil’s local knowledge allowed us the privilege of seeing these elusive creatures come down from the rocks of Heavitree Gap near dusk for their daily feeding. The group is very used to people so we were able to watch them from quite close range. As feed is sparse some have adapted to climbing small shrubs to feed from the green tips of bushes. At least one of the group also had a joey, and another one attacked an empty popper lying around to obtain any remaining juice.

One wallaby eating a poper

Another wallaby climbing a tree

The Ghan
The new Ghan train is now extended to Darwin, since 2004, and it comes through Alice Springs twice a week, and is restricted to 30kph through Heavitree Gap, so it has become a popular spot for trainspotters – the dedicated and the tourist alike, so off we went on Wednesday afternoon to await its arrival. The driver blew his air horn several times as he passed. It’s quite a long train and a lot of carriages seemed to be empty.
The Ghan coming through Heavitree Gap

The Ghan with its distinctive logo

It stretches into the distance

The Ghan Museum
The old Ghan train ran on a different route to the current one. It commenced operation in 1874 and ceased operation in 1980. The reason for its failure, ironically since it passes through a lot of desert and semi desert country, was flooding and washaways. One trip took 3 months! The Ghan Museum has been able to preserve a section of track and a few carriages, as well as a lot of memorabilia. The train was quite well appointed: the carriage with the bar even had stained glass windows, one with Sturt’s desert pea.
The Ghan model train at the museum

The Old Ghan

Alice Springs Desert Park
We had visited the Desert Park previously, but a pleasantly warm May day was far preferable to a hot September one. There is a big focus on the vegetation, and the animals that thrive in particular habitats. While we were able to see all the native animals you might expect we also listened to presentations on dingoes and the red kangaroo. The dingoes were all energy and action while the kangaroos lazed the day away. The most action we saw from them was when one got up to dig a deeper hole to lounge in, and then flopped into it.
The nocturnal house had the biggest range of animals, many of which used excellent camouflage techniques. The king brown (actually a member of the black snake family) was very impressive, but I liked the thorny devils. There are also endangered animals such as the bilby and the mala in an active breeding program in the park.
The highlight of the visit was the bird show, with several birds swooping above our heads and in and around the arena. The barn owl was white and flies silently, there was also a spectacled owl, a whistling kite and others. Photographing birds in flight is a skill I definitely do not have.
The dingo demonstration

Top dog

The red kangaroo adjusts its hole for additional comfort

One of the owls in the bird show

Vietnamese Restaurant
Alice Springs has an excellent Vietnamese restaurant located out of town near the airport. The family who own it grow their own specific produce locally and the food was delicious. We had an excellent meal with Phil and Deb who was in town briefly from Areyonga.

Didgeridoo Show
Alice Springs is home to a didgeridoo player, Andrew Langford who has been able to incorporate his knowledge of local aboriginal traditions into his Sounds of Starlight presentation. His playing of various didgeridoos seemed effortless, but I’m afraid my ear is not well tuned to the nuances of the different pieces he played. They had a certain sameness after a while.

Alice as a place to live and work.
The city seems to have most things you could want and has fairly good shopping. Despite having almost everything we need for camping we were still able to spend time at Desert Dwellers, the camping store, we visited the quirky second hand shop, the tip shop and the upholsterer to repair our stone stomper guard. The laundrette was also well used, but at $6 a load we made sure the machine was full.
The second hand shop

The sculpture outside the Tip Shop, officially named the Re-discovery Centre

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