"" Writer's Wanderings: Australia - Alice Springs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Australia - Alice Springs

Alice Springs is a small city in the middle of Australia’s desert center. But don’t look for skyscrapers. No, it is more like large town, kind of lazy in the hot afternoon sun but a vital area to the outlying cattle stations and Aborigine settlements. It has an airport and a train station where we connected with the Gahn Train to Adelaide.

Our extra day in Alice Springs due to the flooded road to Kings Canyon Resort that canceled our stay there gave us opportunity to fully explore this town. Our first stop after our walkabout through the pedestrian and indoor mall areas was the Royal Flying Doctor Service visitor center. This is the only connection some outlying areas have with medical service and emergency help.

The service was founded by Rev. John Flynn whose vision was to provide a Mantle of Safety for people who lived inland in the remote regions of Australia. His work began before World War I as an arm of the Presbyterian Church’s Australian Inland Mission. The Flying Doctor Service first known as the Aerial Medical Service became operational May 15, 1928.

From its first base at Cioncurry in western Queensland, it has grown to 21 bases with 51 aircraft serving a 7,150,000 square kilometer area. Many of the doctors hold clinics in the areas they serve using whatever facilities are available—sometimes a kitchen in a home—to care for patients that travel many kilometers to visit the “clinic.” It is an amazing and unique concept that has saved many lives and provided emergency care and peace of mind to those who brave the inland areas where they live.

Our next stop was the original telegraph station that was operational from 1895 to 1905. The temperatures were climbing but it was amazing how cool the insides of these buildings were with a breeze blowing through them. The telegraph station had quite a history and of course was a vital link to Adelaide and Darwin during those years. When its usefulness as a telegraph station was over, it was used for several years as a school compound for children of mixed races. Several of the stories portrayed on story boards were not pleasant as the children bore the brunt of the prejudice of the times.

Behind the blacksmith’s shop at the telegraph station was the original Alice Springs, a waterhole from which the station got its name. It really isn’t a spring. It’s a depression in the riverbed where water gets trapped in granite. William Whitfield Mills, a surveyor, discovered it and named it for Mrs. Alice Todd, the wife of the Superintendent of Telegraphs. Perhaps earning points with the boss?

We tried on two days to visit the Ghan Train museum since we were taking the Ghan Train from Alice Springs to Adelaide but unfortunately it was closed both days due manager being ill. Instead we opted to drive out into the west MacDonnell range of mountains. We were glad we did. It was beautiful countryside.

About 25 km from Alice Springs, there was a turnoff for Simpson’s Gap which was just that—a gap in the mountains with a river running through it. This river actually had some water in it where it was sheltered between the cliffs. It was said there were rock wallabies in the area but we didn’t see any. It was probably still too early in the day for them to be out and about.

My birthday dinner was at the Bluegrass Restaurant where we sat outdoors, swatted a fly or two and ate a meal that could have fed six people or the two of us for a week. I ordered pork fillet and got the whole tenderloin! The cabbage and bacon that came with it were good but I only had enough room to taste the mashed potatoes. Bob’s meal was just as large—a mixed grill that had enough meat for at least four meals and a heaping pile of French fries. We both felt guilty leaving so much behind but there was no way to consume it all and walk away. Guess we’re not as hardy as the Aussies in Alice Springs.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Sounds awesome! Hope your Birthday was awesome!
Blessings, andrea

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