Alice Springs

 

Some of you may not be aware that David’s undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Geography, from Keene State University in Keene, New Hampshire.  Yes, he did attend a college, and live in a town, with the same name (different spelling) as his own.  But that isn’t the point. The point is, that he has retained more of his undergrad knowledge from 1977 than anyone I know.  Especially for someone who did not go on to work in that field.

A little nugget that he carried around in his brain is that Alice Springs, in the geographic center of Australia, should be visited, if for no other reason, then for it’s geographic-centerness.  Totally sounds like a reason to drive 2,300 kms/1,500 miles to check it out in person, right?

And so, we did.  On the fourth day of the Trip To Alice Springs, we actually arrived! And what a sight to behold! It has lived up to the hype, I tell you!

Kit (our oldest child, who is almost finished with his doctorate in Biology. Yes, we are so proud!) told us that Alice Springs has a Reptile Center (link: www.reptilecentre.com.au), so naturally we MUST visit!  After a 4 day road trip, I know YOU would go straight to the see the snakes, frogs, and reptiles of the Red Center.

Alice Springs Reptile Center
Alice Springs Reptile Center

The Reptile Center displays over 100 reptiles of 60 different species. Open daily from 9:30 am – 5 pm, with demonstrations conducted at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3:30 pm, we arrived just in time for the 1 pm session led by a young lady named Grace, who presented several of the Center’s inhabitants.

First off was Ruby the Goanna; she roams the center freely, and is very used to people, we are told. Next, we had a bearded dragon, and blue tongued skink, then a python.  The last half of the presentation was an instruction on the proper actions to take if one is bit by a snake while in the Australian bush. This was complete with a demonstration on how to wrap one’s limb in a bandage to constrict blood flow and thus to slow the advancement of venom in one’s system.  It was all presented well and reminded us that we were now in the wilds of Australia, home to a ridiculous number of poisonous reptiles. It also made me pretty nervous about the next few days, when we intend to do some considerable hiking. On the positive side, the first aid instruction will be fresh in our minds.

Now that show and tell was over, we were given the opportunity to hold some of the reptiles.  The skink was passed around the room, as was the bearded dragon.

I decided to be brave, especially since I was such a wimp all those years that our late son Kevin had reptiles (A monitor lizard, numerous bearded dragons, frogs, swifts – you get the idea).

Here I am holding the bearded dragon:

Me and the Dragon
Me and the Dragon

Please don’t ask why I have two pairs of glasses – they are for my pair of eyes, of course!

And here is David:

David and the Dragon
David and the Dragon

I decided to really go for it, so I stood in line to hold the celebrity of the bunch.  David was on standby with the camera, because if I was going to do this, I wanted a picture to commemorate the event.  I finally get to the front, handed my prize, turn around for the shot – and there stands David, with a skink in his hands instead of his camera ready! I had to wait for him to hand off that little guy, and was losing my nerve pretty fast.  So, here you have it:

The Python Is More Comfortable Than I Am
The Python Is More Comfortable Than I Am

So many chins…

That was enough hands-on time for us, so we started about the rest of the center to see the displays.  Ruby the Goanna walked up to David, and started using her tongue to smell his foot. We don’t know why she was doing this, but it was interesting to see this huge reptile and it’s super long tongue.  The next thing we knew, she bit him! Yup, we were surprised and concerned. David quickly moved away, and Ruby turned to me. I took this picture of her at my feet so you can get an idea of her size:

Ruby After The Bite
Ruby After The Bite

David started bleeding from the bite pretty badly, so we sought out Grace the Presenter for some first aid.  After she immediately put Ruby away, she explained that the goanna’s bite actually contains a chemical that inhibits the blood from coagulating. This is why David was bleeding so much.  David cleaned the wound and put some bandages on it, and we went through the exhibits.  It startled him more than it hurt.

This is what it looked like the next day:

The Day After
The Day After

My favorite reptile in the center was the Thorny Devil.  I chose this as the “Feature Photo” for this post. Just look at this beautiful creature!

We spent a couple of hours in the Reptile Center, and David took loads of pictures to share with Kit when we see him in Tulsa later this year.

After a trip to the grocery store, we drove to the Caravan Park that we had intended to stay in, and just drove right on by.  This place had people loitering around the entrance, and was really dirty and run down.  We just did not feel comfortable staying there.

Souvenir shopping was next on our agenda – I really wanted a shirt that said “Alice Springs” to go along with my collection (which includes 44 North Coffee and El El Frijoles in Maine, University of Tulsa and San Diego State University, and of course, Amazon).  But, this being Easter weekend, the majority of shops were closed.

We stayed the night at the Temple Bar Caravan Park about 10 km outside of town.  I needed to do some laundry, but their washer was rusty, so I chose to wait until the next day and go back into town.  There were many permanent residents in this park, mostly in small cube houses that looked more like tool sheds than homes. For $22 AUD, we had a grassy, unpowered site with water.  Oh, and the view! See for yourself – here are our neighbors:

Our Little Slice of Heaven
Our Little Slice of Heaven

The next day, back into town we drove to do laundry before heading to our next destination. While we weren’t too sure what to expect from this remote location, I would say that we were surprised by the poverty and general unsafe feel of the place.  It may have been because all of the stores were closed, so we couldn’t see hustle and bustle of the town; it felt like a ghost town. The landscape and red rock was lovely, but we were definitely ready to head out quickly, and we did.

As David’s foot started to heal, we headed to some serious hiking among some of the most beautiful and unique landscape we have ever seen. That will be our next story.

It’s always a G’day Down Under,

Nancy