Another week has quickly slipped by since I last wrote a blog. Time seems to mean very little out here though which is just wonderful. Each morning I have to concentrate very hard to work out what day of the week it is.
We have now been in Alice Springs for 6 nights and tomorrow we will set off out into the West McDonnell Ranges. But I am jumping ahead too quickly.
Our last day at Uluru was as hectic as the previous two, with the exception that we did not rise at the crack of dawn, but had a more leisurely start to our day. So much so that we were almost late for the 10am start of the ranger led Marla Walk. However we made it and it was absolutely wonderful. The walk lasted for over two hours and we were privileged to be led to caves and waterholes that had been home and sacred places for the Aboriginal Desert Peoples for so many years. We were introduced to the Marla creation stories, had their sacred and other rituals and ceremonies explained and watched with intrigue as our ranger drew in the red dirt to explain the
stories he was recounting.
But eventually it was time to leave and we withdrew a distance of 33 kms outside the national park to a camp site in the red sand dunes for a relaxing and refreshing evening of silence, stars and brilliant moonlight. Early the next morning I wandered the arid red dirt tracks up into the sand dunes and was greeted with one more look at Uluru from a distance, surrounded by smoke haze from controlled burns going on in the park across stunning rich plains dancing with sunlight and golden grasses.
Eventually we made our way out onto the Lasseter Highway and headed back east to the intersection with the Stuart Highway at Erldunda. Another roadside campsite awaited us just 30 kms down the road and again I wandered quietly and with amazement as the sun set and evening fell.
It was just a short hop the next day into Alice Springs, passing through Stuart Well which really was an oasis with its refreshing dam filled with water from the well which is naturally spring fed.
Alice Springs is a huge regional center and township. Not really much to say about such a
place. The Todd River is wide and dry. These days it would appear that it is not a popular place for the aboriginal folk to congregate. For a town surrounded by so much land, it is quite frustrating to try and negotiate parking areas within the city center which are incredibly poky and small. Alice has all the usual retail outlets and in that regard is little different to any other Australian town. The railway line passes through the center of town, but I have not yet encountered the Ghan or any other train on the track.
What are plentiful are the art and craft galleries and of these I have seen just a few. Enough to be amazed at the range and colour of the indigenous art that is available. I spent my first morning exploring the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens and was fortunate to catch a couple of the last day’s sessions of the Writer’s Festival which was on there that weekend. Other delights I have experienced here are the Pioneer Woman’s Hall of Fame set in the old goal. The Araluen Cultural Centre with some stunning galleries and the most amazing geological museum, and the Tjani
Desert Weavers gallery – baskets and animal sculptures woven from grasses and natural materials by the women of the desert tribes.
But the highlight would absolutely have to be my visit to the Desert Park – a wonderful, amazing wildlife park set in the foothills of the MacDonnell Ranges just on the edge of town. I am not normally enthusiastic about zoos or wildlife parks that keep animals and birds caged or in limited spaces just so that we humans can see them up close. But this place truly is done well, and the whole environment is spacious and natural. Different parts of the park recreate different environmental zones, and within each zone there are huge and generously spacious aviaries full of birds where you can actually walk right inside and see these fragile and beautiful creatures without any barriers between you and them.
My first ranger presentation in the park was at the Dingo enclosure where I got to see “true, pure” dingoes, not the kind that we encountered at Kings Canyon which I now understand were dingoes crossed with domestic dogs. The pure dingo is a delight to behold, a light beige colour with white feet,
and white on its chest and face. I learnt much about the dingo and its evolution and place in the Australian bush that I had not known before.
Then it was onto the amphitheater for the Free Flying Bird exhibit. Oh my goodness, this time just flew by, and oh how wonderful to see these raptors, owls and other magnificent birds flying so close in front and overhead, and obviously enjoying themselves as they worked as one with the ranger who was in charge of them.
Then it was onto the remainder of the park, in and out of aviaries where I saw birds that it is highly unlikely I would ever be fortunate enough to encounter in the wild. Either because they are too shy or elusive, or that I would not be lucky enough to pass through or have access to their habitat, or be there at the right time of day. The conditions in which they are housed are so wonderful that I almost felt more sorry for the birds on the outside of these huge spacious aviaries because they could not get into the food and water so freely available to those inside.
Crested Pigeon mating dance
In sand dunes outside Uluru
Needless to say, most of the photos you are going to see in this blog are of birds. They are my photographic passion anyway, and this week I have been having a feast. And the built environment of Alice Springs really has very little to offer photographically. I have controlled myself a little and not included every bird that I have taken photos of. But I have sought to include the more colourful or handsome species … And to be honest, I have so many photos that I really have not had time as yet to go through and process them all.
So that is it for this blog … tomorrow we are heading west and will spend some time first at an aboriginal community campground at Wallace Rockhole, about 100 kms down the track. There we hope to do some tours and see some rock art … all to be explained and guided by members of the community there.
We will be back in Alice again in about 10 days’ time I reckon. No doubt with lots more photos to share and stories to tell.
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