Monday 29 February 2016 - The Ghan - Alice Springs

February 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Managed to miss getting off the train at Marla due to confusion about the time. We thought it was 6:30 new time when it was actually 6:30: old time. So we missed the bacon sandwiches etc. D did get a photo of the sunrise through the windows but by then the train was about to depart and you could no longer get down off the train.

dkc-1074-047dkc-1074-047 Sunrise at Marla, South Australia from the Ghan

Went to breakfast (Greek yogurt panna cotta, smoked salmon & corn bread, English breakfast) and chatted to a nice Australian lady who did the first Ghan trip in 2004.

Back to the compartment a (where the bunks had been put away) and watched the world go by. Saw lots of cattle but no other wild life.

dkc-1074-066dkc-1074-066 Fairly typical scenery in central Australia

Crossed the Finke River (meaning Serpent's Tongue in aboriginal language). It is dry but needs very little rain to flow. It is unique in having permanent water holes as there is underground water.  These holes are home to a small fish only found in the Fink River.

Went to the Observation Lounge for a final couple of glasses of sparkling pinot noir / chardonnay - could get to like this. Disembarked at 1:45, on schedule.

On this 25 hour journey, we have covered 1555 km and passed through deserts, passed wheat fields, cattle & sheep stations, mountain ranges, salt lakes and the Simpson Desert.  We all saw kangaroos and emus. Didn’t see any of the wild camels though!

dkc-1074-095dkc-1074-095 Arrival in Alice Springs

After collecting our luggage from the train & seeing it onto the coach and we went on a tour of Alice Springs.

Alice Springs School of the Air : really interesting to hear about this. We knew it existed but not the scale of the operation. Alice Springs School has 120 pupils from 4 to 15. After that they either have to do a correspondence course or go to boarding school. The state provides a computer per child and a satellite dish, printer, scanner etc. per family to set up a home school room. A home tutor has to be nominated (in 80% of families this is the mother, but can be the father or a paid tutor). Students should do 7hrs a day, mostly on their own; online lessons are timetabled, the number of hours varying with age.

It is difficult to appreciate the scale of the country.  Some of the students have a 2 hour drive to the front entrance of their property. They are very isolated and see no one else except their families and estate workers. So three times a year all the families come to Alice Springs for a week of "normal " school and interaction with other children including sport, drama etc. We happened to be here at the start of one of those weeks and saw a lesson going on. Aboriginal children can join too but a certain level of English is required, so they often go to a community school first.

The Internet has made things easier but there is still a huge amount of planning and co-ordinating to be done to make this work.

Royal Flying Doctor Service: Again very impressive -covers the country including Tasmania and they have 63 planes each worth several million and kitted out as intensive care units. A real time map updated every 19 seconds shows the position of each one of the planes.

The Telegraph Station: (now a museum). Thought this would be boring but it was very interesting as well - this too brought home the vastness of Australia.  Setting up the telegraph and the railway wad a mammoth undertaking when everything had to be transported such a long way.  They imported thousands of telegraph poles from England only to have them eaten by termites! So they switched to metal. It transformed communication: a letter and reply took 4 months to go to England and back and now took 8 hours. Difficult to imagine what sort of difference that must have made.

Saw some Wallabies on the approach.

dkc-1074-112-LRdkc-1074-112-LR Wallabies lazing in the shade

dkc-1074-125dkc-1074-125 Alice Springs main street with East and West McDonnell Ranges in the distance

Drove through the town to our hotel crossing over the dry River Todd, again apparently it doesn't the much rain to get it flowing as the water table is not too far below.  Lots of Aboriginals sitting on the grass and we were told not to take their photos or walk in the dry river bed as they consider it their place (and often sleep there) & can get aggressive.

The hotel is good and we had a very nice meal in the hotel restaurant. Soft Shell Crab Tempura, barramundi (fish) & duck with a glass of Pepperjack Shiraz.

Bought out net veils for trips over the next few days (especially Uluru) as the flies are supposed to pretty grim!


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