A day in the Outback, Sunday, 12/11/16
Here's a doozy of a day for you, a fascinating day in and around Alice Springs, filled with new sights, delights, and enlightenment. Why, just this morning our guide told us that no matter which way you go, north/south/east/west, the distance to any beach from Alice Springs is the same: 2,000 miles. "The Alice" is effectively the geographic center of Australia. Yowza, long way to the beach! Our RS group is staying at Chiefly Resort in Alice, with a lovely outdoor swimming pool, which I used this morning before breakfast. So I don't need the beach! The water was cooler than I expected, but I enjoyed my swim anyway. (I asked later and was told the pool temp was down because of the clouds/rain a few days back.)
On to our day -- first up was a guided tour of the above park, which we enjoyed immensely, seeing the desert wildlife, birds and the nocturnal house with those hard-to-find critters, and lots of crawly guys. Clear blue sky, warm, altogether a stellar morning!
Looks like our guide is showing some of the group spinifex grass, a spiky (sharp!) tussock grass that dominates much of the red sand desert and rocky ranges of Central Australia. I think it likes lousy (or sandy) soil. And Alice is in Central Australia.
This Rhea was outside its enclosure ... studying a rhea on the other side, both right up next to the fence. While we stood looking, it suddenly erupted and "attacked" the other rhea, and they both jumped in the air about eight feet, with the fence between them. I think I jumped about three feet myself! We wondered, friends or foe? You want in or out? Happy or sad? Both took off running along the fence, one in, one out, away from us. Who knows?
Jimmy and his friend, Bob.
Australian Bustard (bush turkey). Big dude.
I know they're a "dirty" tree, inasmuch as they're always shedding bark or something, but I like the look of Eucalyptus trees, especially here in this desert habitat. How about this -- 70% of the Australian mainland is classified as semi-arid, arid or desert; making it the driest inhabited continent on earth, but only 3% of the Australian population lives in the desert. 70% -- that's a lot of dry land, and only 3% populated, quite an equation.
Perentie (behind log): largest monitor lizard or goanna native to Australia.
Strange creature, and large.
I hope you can read the poem.
If you enlarge the pic, hit your computer's back arrow to get back where you were!
Numbat: aka banded anteater, marsupial anteater, or walpurti, a marsupial found in Western Australia, about the size of a raccoon. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites (yay). Gotta love its name! All these guys, above and below, were cool to see.
Top left: Earless Dragon; right: Thorny Dragon
Bottom: Mulga Snake (one of the longest venomous snakes in the world)
Aw, I loved these two (nocturnal) Tawny Frogmouths, sitting in a darkened enclosure.
I have lots more pictures, of course, birds and flowers and such, but it was time to move on. Let me know if you want to see more! 😄
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After morning tea and lunch at Desert Park, our group hopped back on our coach, heading north about ten miles into the Western MacDonnell Range, passing by Rev John Flynn's grave. I didn't know a thing about it, either, but later today I would. Meanwhile, we'd spend about an hour at scenic Simpsons Gap in West MacDonnell Range National Park, which runs east/west of Alice. We all were happily surprised at the prospect.
OK, no water, no problem. Very pretty, tho.
Oh. My bad. There is water. Yucky, but still, it's water.
Wow, a permanent waterhole, and a simply stunning gorge carved out by Roe Creek, where water flows out through a small gap in the range. This is also a sacred site to the Aboriginal people; it was the mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors. Several dreaming trails and stories cross at this important spiritual site.
We were here.
Never mind the color of the H₂0, check out the gorgeous red cliffs. We poked into and examined everything, but Jimmy and I wished we'd had time for a hike around one of several trails, like for an entire day. Next time. A sign said that a colony of Black-footed rock-wallabies lives in the rocks with a good likelihood of being seen. I looked thru my binocs and, by gum, found one up on the rocks. I turned around to alert the guys behind me and when I turned back, all those rocks looked alike! Never did find it again. Oh well.
Long-nosed Water Dragon -- agile tree-climbing dragon with extremely long tail.
Maybe it should be called long-tailed water dragon?
Such a beautiful tree.
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Back to Rev Flynn -- he was responsible for designing Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service, and this afternoon we visited the RFDS museum in Alice Springs. RFDS is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to serving the Outback's medical needs. We watched a movie about how the service manages to this provide health care, and we visited the interpretative center, and the gift shop, (naturally). The nice thing about this gift shop is 100% of profits go straight into replenishment of aircraft and medical equipment.
This is your Captain speaking!
I don't believe I've seen the movie, and I can't remember if I read the book long ago, tho I've read most everything Nevil Shute wrote.
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After returning to our hotel, we milled around, and sat around and chatted with our friends, till it was time for dinner. Tonight our RS group was in for another special treat at Kungkas Cafe (Aboriginal Owned, Quality Bush Food). Our hostess, who is part Aboriginal herself, taught us a little about using traditional bush foods in modern cuisine. We sampled things (no grasshoppers or anything like that) such as Warrigal Spinach, Old Mans Saltbush, and various seeds and bush spices. Everything tasted delicious, and the evening was a hit.
One of the tables set up for sampling. Notice the dot painting tablecloth.
Australian Magpie-larks are so bold. This one insisted on flying into the dining room!
And on that note, I'll bid you goodnight!