Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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http://theblackstump.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/.

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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Alice Springs


Date:
13-18/04/2017
Location:
Alice Springs (Northern Territory)
Distance Travelled:
403 km
Temperature:
Min:
6.0

Max:
34.0
tyres popped:
1

After the somewhat inauspicious manner with which we arrived in Alice, it was fantastic to finally settle ourselves in at one place for the best part of a week. In particular, it was a welcome relief to wake up in the morning and not have to pack up our little trailer and move on to a new destination. As much fun as it had been exploring the roadways that have been chiselled through the centre of this vast country – it was an unparalleled delight to be able take our time unpacking the van, cleaning the car (especially the back seats where two little grubby boys had been residing) and letting the kids have the freedom to go off exploring this very child friendly environment.

Being Easter, the caravan park was buzzing with families – but, thankfully, we weren’t all squashed in like sardines. Rather, this was a spacious campsite – in fact the site we had been allocated was so big that I had to check to make sure we hadn’t been directed to park on two campsites!

All cleaned out and packed up neatly (oh, how I miss this simple things in life… like a vacuum cleaner!)

Over the next few days, the boys got on with doing what young lads do best – that is, making friends and running amuck. And we were glad for them to do it! Nat and I both remember our best childhood holidays being those that when we able to wake up in the morning and head off on adventures with our new found friends, come back for lunch or a quick trip to a point of interest with our folks, then back off adventuring again – until we were called in for tea. Ahhh, the bliss of youth; long may it last!

As Easter was firmly upon us, there were no end of adventures to be had; or new friends to made along the way. To be honest, it seemed that over that long weekend, Alice Springs turned into a  young person’s Shangri-La of hedonistic pleasures.  Save for a few day trips here and there, the boys dove head-long in being kids. Not a bad way to spend a week, I reckon!

…There was even some time to get stuck in to little homework (even if it was only for an hour or two)

 Homework time!

To top off our campsite experience, we spent the morning of Easter Sunday relaxing over a coffee with some good people (whom we had recently become indebted to for getting us out of a tight squeeze; but more on that later…) and munching down on a pancake breakfast put on by the Big4 caravan park. Ok, it may be a gimmick to entice people to stay – but, while there’s no such thing as a free lunch, no one ever said anything about no free breakfasts! Sure, I realise I may have just been duped into providing a shameless, albeit wholly inadvertent, plug for the Big4 Caravan park in posting this, but – damn it – they fed me (and my family), and I’m grateful for this small mercy! There was even an Easter egg hunt (complete with a few dubious looking characters dressed in Bunny costumes – the likes of which even Daniel saw through in a matter of moments – but, despite this, he did play along in the hopes of getting as many chocolatey treats that his sticky little hands could hold.

Pancakes!

So, yes, the week was passed expertly by our boys. Daniel played and talked and made an exquisite, yet brief, friendship with a young lady called Libby – with whom he would sit for hours on the swings and discuss the world, life and what truly makes the best sand-based cake. It turns out that flowers and bric-a-brac featured heavily in such a prized masterpiece. On the morning the Libby left Alice Springs, Daniel frantically wrote her a postcard (including our email address that had been added in his dad’s best handwriting), and dashed up her car and handed it to her before they drove away. Unfortunately, he’s still waiting for a reply. I can’t help thinking that perhaps dad’s best handwriting perhaps wasn’t bestest enough… Libby’s parents, we had learned over the week (in between exaggerated bites of sand-castle cake; the likes of which would have brought the most theatre-hardened veteran to their feet, screaming ‘Encore, Maestro, Encore!’) had sold their house and had been travelling around Australia for the past two years. So, perhaps it wasn’t the handwriting. Maybe with the change of caravan park, Libby had just simply moved on to the next port of call and reluctantly found a new Daniel to play with. Whatever the truth, our little chap still asks every few days for us to check our emails and see if any message has turned up yet. We wait in hope.


Daniel and Libby doing what kids do best!

Ben, on the other hand, has always been the kind of guy that doesn’t put his eggs in just one basket. Over our six days in Alice Springs, I think he made a dozen or so new friends. All comers were accepted. No matter their age, race, gender, or creed. If you’re up for a random act of fun, then he’ll be there. And so, by the end of our time in this little desert oasis, Ben couldn’t walk more than five meters without someone calling out to him and saying g’day. “Who was that?” Nat or I would ask. Which would be met with either a name or (most often) “dunno”.

Amid the swimming pools, play grounds, jumping pillows, tv room, and sand pits, the boys most favouritest thing was the peddle powered go carts. It’s amazing how a few wheels can give kids the freedom to zoom from one end of the park to other faster than their parents could chase them. All in all, both boys had a great time.


 
Go speed racers, go!

…we even managed to drag them away to soak in a few of the sights in and around Alice Springs to boot!

Over the week we were based in Alice, we visited the Royal Flying Doctors headquarters (RFDSA; a must see, if you have a nurse in your midst!) and the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station (the sight of which is only a stone’s throw from the actual spring named after the eponymous Alice – although, <spoiler alert> it turned out to be less of a spring and more of a waterhole at the bottom of a hillside…. But such trivial details, in my view, should never get in the way of giving a town a good name.

At the base of this hill side was once found a pool of water, which was thought to be a spring... turns out, they were wrong.

The RFDSA was a nice (air conditioned) way to spend an afternoon. The story of how the flying doctors came to be was quite miraculous and a testament to Reverend John Flynn, who spent his life bringing the service to fruition.

Royal Flying Doctors Service

It was a far cry from the TV show that I remember my mum watching on Channel Two when I was a kid (I’m not sure what was on Channel One a the time – but surely there was nothing as griping as swarthy young doctors, comely nurses and daring pilots, swooping in to save the lives of the people of the outback, I bet!). Perhaps the TV show may have taken a little dramatic licence here and there – but from my time in the museum, I have no doubt that the RFDSA is a magnificent network of dedicated medical teams which save many lives each year. I only hope that I am able to continue appreciating them from afar, without the need to call on their service over the remainder of this four month walk-about. Still, it’s awesome to know that they are there if we need them!

“Stand back dad, I got this!”

Our afternoon at the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station was another stop not to be missed. As seemingly dry as this may sound, both boys got right into reading, listening and learning about how messages used to be sent from Adelaide to the UK in less than four hours. In this age of instant communication, there was a visible shudder from the boys when we explained that messages used to take weeks, if not months, to reach the other side of the world before the invention of the telegraph… let alone to get a reply.

Telecommunications! Ah, now this was something the boys could really sink their teeth into. Perhaps they were just missing YouTube, or maybe they could imagine a world without skype or FoxTel (that’s ‘Sky TV’ for those folks reading in NZ); but whatever the reason, they seemed to grasp the enormity of the 3000 km stretch of fencing wire strung up from Adelaide to Darwin well over a hundred years ago.

The site of the Alice Springs' Telegraph service and Post Office

We were also lucky to have arrived upon a day on which the Morsecodians were also in town. This stalwart band of timeworn gentlemen turned up every year on this weekend to send telegrams between Alice Springs and a few universities across Australia. Greeting us at the entrance to the main telegram building was one such gentleman who, in a kindly and enthusiastic manner, invited us to write our first names on a piece of paper to be sent via Morse Code. Unfortunately, due to the recent cyclone in Queensland, the line between Alice  Springs and the rest of Australia had been struck down. So, by way of replacement, the earnest Morsecodian tapped out each name in a series of clicks and clunks, and his partner – who dutifully received the message a meter or two away – announced our names to the occupants of the small room. The name was then transcribed it on a certificate and handed it proudly to each name's owner as a souvenir of the experience.

This piece of arcane magic captivated the boys for ages. How could this frantic tapping result in their name being called out by another person several steps away. Surely this wasn’t telepathy… ‘go on,’ they cried ‘do it again!’. And so, the dear Morsecodians did. Name after name was coded and decoded by the world’s original human powered modem. Dots and dashes zipping through the air in a cacophony of clicking bits of information. While two young boys (and their folks) gawped on in awe. AWESOME! Like a small tribe lost from time in the amazon, speaking a language that is rapidly dying out, we knew we were hearing something that few people could do these days (at least at these speeds). Keeping alive what was once the life blood of the Empire, in a small room in the desert, once a year. [...-   .    .-.    -.--      -.-.    ---    ---    .-..!!]


Morse Code – the magic of an age gone by.

The remainder of our time in Alice was spent exploring the various gorges, canyons and water holes along the length of the massive mountainous range that stretched for many hundreds of kilometres from this small hub-town. Our favourites were definitely Ormiston Gorge, Standley Chasm and Simpsons Gap.

Spectacular beauty awaits at every turn!

Each new water hole became the kids’ favourite. Although the water was slightly murky after the recent rains, it was cool and refreshing in the hot desert sun. Lilos were inflated and rocks were jumped off. A smashing time was had by all!



Gorgeous!

Even the water monitors didn’t seem to mind us encroaching on their territory in the hot afternoon sun. There was more than enough watery goodness to go around – besides, the encroaching tourists would be gone soon enough, and the massive lizards to get back to their basking and fossicking for food in peace.


Water Monitor at Ormiston Gorge

There was, however, one experience in Alice Springs that we shall put down to a learning experience for us all. No doubt having had this experience early in our trip will set us up well for further adventures off the beaten track down the line…

…but it occurs to me that this post is probably long enough already. So, I’ll leave that tale for another day. The more eagle eyed of you will perhaps have picked up a hint of what happened in the opening stats for this post. If not, I’ll see you next time and tell you all about it.

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg

P.S., Man, this is eerie… As I sit here typing this, a cacophony of dingos are howling outside (I hope) of the camp ground. I’ve never been to America's wild west, but I  imagine this is very similar to the chilling sound that wolves make… as they close in on their hapless prey. Not for the first time I am glad to be in our little trailer, some small way off the ground, and surrounded by at least the pretence of four walls. Sure, it would be easy to get through the canvas if someone or something was determined enough… But, I’m just glad dingos don’t have opposable thumbs and haven't been shown to pick locks, undo bolts or unstick the Velcro flaps. Ahhh, now that’s a thought…




… guess who’s just scared himself and probably won’t sleep tonight!?!

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