We take a turn about the town, and saw some interesting sites, including this mural at the back of Coles Supermarket.
And then for our last stop we climbed atop Anzac Hill for a panoramic view of the Alice.
The MacDonnell Ranges are never far away and look as spectacular as ever. Pity that this visit is so short.
We could even see the Ghan from the top. Look closely, and you can see that it is ridiculously long.
One last view of the Territory State flag.
And its state flora, the Sturt Desert Rose.
Next, we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum. The Flying Doctors (RFDS for short), has been servicing the medical needs of remote Australia since 1928, and though we now live in a technological age, their services are more needed than ever.
The Alice Springs base began in 1939, and currently services an area of 1.25 square kilometres – that’s more than the size of South Africa or more than five times the size of the UK. It’s a large area, so they need a good, modern fleet of planes.
These planes host a medical team as well as vital medical equipment that enables patients to be treated and transported, no matter their condition.
The service is so essential to Aussies in these parts that there always seems to be a fundraiser for the RFDS in many outback towns I’ve visited. Coastal Aussies might only know of the service from TV, but perhaps it’s one that should be better supported by them, because you never know when you might need a flying doctor, particularly if you’re planning on travelling the Outback.
We really only got a glimpse of the Red Centre landscape, but I can’t help be enchanted by the white-trunked gum trees.
There were a few specimens at the Telegraph Station, and some were quite an age.
I loved the details of that smooth trunk, that isn’t as white as it seemed from afar.
The construction of the telegraph line was a mammoth undertaking, but crucial to Australia as a nation. It meant that communications to the wider world (particularly to the Mother Country), need not take months, but hours. The line was build through the middle of the country, from Adelaide to Darwin, where it met with an undersea cable to Indonesia (or the Dutch East Indies, as it was then called).
Camels were used to haul gear – and they needed handlers – hence Afghani, Pakistani and Indian cameleers came with the camels. It took a couple of goes to get the materials right – the earlier wooden poles were chewed to the ground by termites!
There were no satellites back then, so the signal needed to be relayed after a distance. A series of relay stations were established, and Alice Springs was one of them.
Afterwards, the line had to be maintained. So a whole army of men, called linesmen, were dispatched along the line to inspect and maintain it in shifts. What a job they had, especially in the desert summer heat.
Black and white relations in the Red Centre has a chequered history, like in much of Australia, but it wasn’t all bad. This stationmaster had a particular respect for indigenous people and culture and went on to write a book about it.
Jumping on to the bus, we were off around Alice Springs for our tour.
Our first stop was at the Old Telegraph Station – the reason that Alice Springs was founded in the first place.
The early explorers thought that this place had a permanent water source. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise that the area had just had a downpour, and that the springs were only temporary.
We saw some wildlife though – a rock wallaby in particular – so there must be some water somewhere out there, though not enough to sustain a settlement.
The next morning, we were up with the sun for breakfast.
As dawn rose, it was obvious that we weren’t in the Top End any more – everything was red!
We must be getting close to Alice Springs for sure, and on cue, the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges made their appearance.
Time to explore.
The next day I started my camp experience. I was picked up by Deb and Charlie, who ran Larpinta Creative Camps, and after a quick run-around to collect the other participants (there were only 5 of us), we headed down the Stuart Highway. It was 130km of bitumen highway, then 50km of all-weather unsealed road, then 50km of 4WD track.
We stopped for lunch in desert oak country, and the sand here was bright, bright red.
Desert oaks are interesting trees as the juvenile (the punked up version on the left) looks nothing like the mature (the big tree on the right). It’s lean in its youth as it needs all its energy to shoot roots far downwards into the water table.
There was the letting down of tyres, since the going was going to get tougher.
I was impressed that the vehicle was named after one of my favourite mega-fauna, the diprotodon.
After lunch the road became a track.
Soon the escarpments appeared. We were almost at Running Waters.
I’m back from my trip to Central Australia and I’ll be blogging all about it in the next few weeks. Upon landing, I immediately made my way to the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. It’s an annual winter event in Alice that’s dedicated to knitting, crochet, beanies, and other crafts. It’s the one event where you look out-of-place without a silly hat.
There were a range of workshops available, and many industrious people of all ages were about doing their thing.
There were thousands of beanies for sale, knitted by people from all corners of Australia (I bought a few), and the best were displayed in an exhibition at the art gallery.
It’s quite amazing what one can make out of wool. Pigs, people, kookaburras…
Even a frill-necked lizard. Now you wouldn’t like to meet that in a dark alley.