Monday, 5 July 2010

Rain Rain Go Away!

We had a couple of nice sunny days here in Alice Springs and took full advantage of them. After getting the laundry done (yay clean clothes!), we headed out to the Alice Springs Show.  For those who don't know what "The Show" is, particularly those not in Australia, picture an annual carnival with a country twist. These are held all over Australia (The Melbourne Show, The Geelong Show, The Sydney Show, etc.).

All the usual suspects were there - rides, the haunted house, games with prizes to be won, clowns, people on stilts, and lots of deep fried sugary carnival food.  There were also two exhibit halls - one with various educational and flea market type stalls and another that had the winners of such competitions as "best vegetable display", "best jam", "best cake", etc.  The winners of various photo competitions were displayed as well, and some of them were fantastic.

The local kids were all smiles and excitement and I was glad that they had nice weather and could enjoy a day that I'd imagine kids look forward to all year (despite the odd muddy puddle as seen below).

There was an arena for horse competitions, an area for dog agility/herding contests, and then something truly bizarre. As we headed toward the exit a large crowd came into view.  There were several men up on stage.  One banged on a drum punctuating the patter of  another as they persuaded people in the audience to step forward.

In the photo you can see the guy in the center (in the hat) talking to the crowd flanked by boxers (in robes) who work for him.  The other men are from the audience who volunteered to challenge the boxers to a fight as the crowd hooted and hollered, encouraging them.  It was the weirdest thing, and I didn't know if I should be horrified or entertained. We watched for a few minutes and left before any fighting started.

Back on the road, we took a drive to the West McDonnell Ranges again to see some of the sights we didn't get to before the rain.  After a brief interlude with loose horses on the highway,

which wasn't nearly as surprising as the time that we came up behind camels pulling a cart on the highway, we were on our way.

Our first stop was Standley Chasm, which we reached by following a walking track up a rocky riverbed.

 As we got closer there was a bit of climbing over rocks, and the path got steeper.  We met some people coming the other way who assured us that the climb was well worth it.  They were right.

The Aborigines know the chasm as Angkerle Atwatye, but their belief as to how it was created is kept secret. They fear that the story will become altered or diluted by overexposure if made public, and compromise the sanctity of the site.

The chasm's European name honours Ida Standley who was the first school teacher in Alice Springs (1914).  In 1925 the school for Aboriginal children was moved and she became it's matron.  She was the first non-Aboriginal woman to visit the chasm.

Next we visited Simpson's Gap, which is known for the rock wallabies who frequent the area.  They are hard to spot because they blend well with the surrounds.  It was a beautiful spot, in a lovely part of the national park and only 18 kilometers from Alice Springs.

When we got back to our campsite we caught the tail end of the didgeridoo show put on by the Park.  All in all it was a really fun day.

Yesterday we had a great day at The Alice Springs Desert Park.  It's a huge park and they have a great self guided audio tour which takes you through various desert habitats (sand country, woodlands and desert rivers).  As you tour you learn about human survival in desert climates as well as the plants and animals that live there.  Most people think that deserts are just sand, and little else.  It was surprising how much life is supported by such a harsh environment.

They had fantastic walk-through aviaries, and a huge nocturnal exhibit.  Here are some of the creatures we met along the way.  By the way, the first picture is of wild parrots.  They were not in an aviary or any type of enclosure, and can frequently be seen in this area.

The next two photos were taken in the nocturnal exhibit.  They were there along with goannas, possums, desert rats, bilbies and various other critters that go bump in the night.

It wouldn't be much fun to bump into this prickly fellow in the night!

The were various shows and presentations scheduled throughout the day.  There were two that we especially enjoyed.  The first was about the survival of Aboriginal people in the desert climate over thousands of years.  We saw and handled various Aboriginal tools, and implements used for gathering and storage of food.  We also saw some bush tucker and medicinal plants.

No amount of convincing could talk Mike into eating a witchity grub. :)

Unfortunately rain was once again imminent so upon return to our camper we pulled down the annex so we wouldn't have to wrestle with wet canvas when packing up.  Today was spent servicing the car, writing this long overdue blog entry, and doing our best to stay dry.

There's more rain forecast for the next day or two, so we'll be packing up in the rain tomorrow morning and heading up North.  I don't know what the internet availability will be until we get to the next major-ish town, but will update you on our soggy adventures when I'm able.  In the meantime, think dry thoughts.

Rain rain go away!

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