Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 15 — Wednesday, 10th August, 2011 — Rest Day in Alice Springs, NT

 

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Boy! Do we need a rest day!

After the long day yesterday (6:00am to midnight) neither of us was enthusiastic about much activity today. We rose late-ish and spent the morning sorting through our things — cleaning out the esky*, giving the crockery, cutlery, mugs and saucepans a thorough wash and dry, reviewing the age of various items in the car refrigerator. It all has to be done and, when you are travelling every day, it tends to be done too quickly and not as thoroughly as it should.

Late in the morning, having decided what fresh supplies we needed, we drove into the centre of Alice Springs to stock up. Then we found a café in the Todd Mall and had lunch.

But the day was not a complete write-off. A lot less photos today, but we still have a story to tell . . .

* An esky is an Australian invention known to UK readers (I think) as a cooler box.

 

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Having lunched, Matt and I drove to the northern edge of the city to visit the original Alice Spring Telegraph Station which was the reason for the city’s being built here in the first place.

When Charles Todd was pushing through the Centre in his effort to establish a telegraph link with Darwin — and therefore with the rest of the world — he built a telegraph station here, beside the river that now bears his name, at a spot where water came to the surface of the usually dry river bed — a spring that was given the name of his wife, the Alice Spring. I’m not sure when the singular Spring became the current plural Alice Springs. See more on the Alice Spring below.

These buildings are the original buildings of the tiny township that grew up around Todd’s telegraph station. Left to right they are th dormitory, the kitchen and the homestead.

 

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This was the original homestead building (it is on the right in the previous photo). The information signs tell us that, when it was built, it was considered “the grandest home in the outback” but, as Matt pointed out to me, at that time it was just about the ONLY home in the outback!

The little knot of buildings has not always been the telegraph station community. When the telegraph office was moved into what is now the city of Alice Spings, these buildings became a home for indigenous children. There have been other uses for the buildings as well down through the last 150 years but now they form a museum, restored as far as possible to the condition they would have been in when initially built. A number of buildings, including a large corrugated iron building used as a dormitory for the children’s home, have disappeared over the years.

 

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This was the original telegraph office. It can be seen to the right of, and behind, the homestead building in the previous photo. (Yes, that is Matt about to walk behind it in this photo.)

Even after the present town (now city) of Alice Springs began to develop, this was still the Post Office for the town.

 

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Inside the telegraph office there is an impressive (and well explained) array of telegraphic equipment. Visitors even get the opportunity to try and use a morse key themselves.

I learned morse code when I was in the Scouts as a lad, but I learned on a key that was a buzzer where it was easy to tell a dot from a dash. This equipment (which I know the Australian Post Office used until telegrams were fazed out . . . what, thirty years ago? No, I just looked it up and discovered that telegrams were only discontinued by Australia Post on 7th March, 2011 — I am amazed!) just emits a series of clicks and I find that impossible to read. (At first I wrote ‘very hard’ but ‘impossible’ is the right word for me!)

Yes, I know: that last paragraph has been edited many times and should be rewritten! Maybe later.

 

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There are several other buildings that I have not shown — a dormitory block (including a school room), stables, a blacksmith’s shop etc.

In the yard behind one of the buildings, I spotted a couple of small kangaroos. Two or three tourists were watching them and I assumed they (the kangaroos, not the tourists!) must have been pets. But then, before I could pull my camera out of its bag, they hopped through a gateway and took to the bush!

Later I spotted this one under a tree and its companion lying in the shade of another tree. My guess is that they are only about a year old as they are quite small — less than a metre tall*. These red kangaroos can grow to over two metres tall*.

* A metre is about 39 inches.

 

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This is the Todd River. Rivers in the outback tend to run upside down, meaning that the river bed is bone dry — just sand and gravel — but there is still plenty of water beneath the surface, probably no more than a couple of metres* down.

Occasionally the water springs to the surface, as it does at this point in the Todd River. This is the spring that was named after Alice Todd —the original Alice Spring. I know there does not appear to be much water but, as the early settlers discovered (and as the Aboriginal people have always known), as soon as you take water out, it is replaced from underground.

* A couple of metres — say about 6 or 7 feet.

 

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As we stood looking at the Alice Spring, Matt had his hand resting on a fence post. Suddenly he jumped back with a cry for this tiny little skink had come out of a crack in the post and run across his hand. This one is no more than 35 mm* long.

Skinks (actually, more likely a Trachylepis as they are not a true skink) are common all over Australia and are completely harmless to humans (though not to little insects) but I can understand Matt’s reaction when you are not expecting a creature to run across your skin.

* 35 mm is about 2½ inches.

 

So that was our rest day in Alice Springs. Tomorrow we leave the Northern Territory and enter our fourth State (or Territory), South Australia. The first two hours of our journey will be on the land we travelled twice yesterday in our trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but this time we will be driving (or at least Matt will be). Even after those two hours, we will still have about another hour to go before we reach the South Australian border.

 

 

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