Tennant Creek to Alice Springs
21.07.2014 - 22.07.2014 22 °C
We left Tennant Creek bright and early and about 90k south we came to the Devil's Marbles, another of those well-known outback sights we're seeing for the first time. The big boulders did look pretty spectacular in the sunny morning light and we got carried away taking photos. The campground here gave spectacular views and banned generators so would be peaceful - we noted for future reference.
I was expecting the road to Alice to be more deserty than it is. The vegetation continued scrubby and the terrain flattish, the Stuart Highway unfenced with cattle grids and signs warning of wandering cattle. Not everyone had taken notice and there were more dead cattle than wildlife by the road, in one place four together. By mid-afternoon we could see the MacDonnell Ranges ahead, and the drive into Alice Springs took us close to rocky multicoloured ridges,
Jane the GPS took us by a strangely circuitous route through the town to our accommodation at the Quest Apartments - ranked no.1 in Tripadvisor.com. The apartments were very comfortable, and even provided ground coffee and plunger! The only downside was the shade bars across the windows which partly blocked our view of the Todd River - which was dry as usual. Following Tripadvisor again, we had dinner across the river at Hanuman Restaurant in the Hilton. The advice was good. We loved having good Thai again - in fact we'd rank it higher than any of the Thai in Coolo!
Katy had told us to stay 2 days in Alice. We had given it 2 nights, but she was right, it really needed another day. In the morning we went to the Alice Springs Overland Telegraph Station with exhibits of the ingenious devices they used to survive and travel out there in the nineteenth century, and stories of aboriginal and early european occupants. Until 1933 the town itself was known as Stuart, I confess I was more fascinated to find a whole squabbling family of Grey-crowned Babblers, not to mention Ringneck Parrots careering around. Next we drove the 2.5k south to the Alice Springs Desert Park. This is a really well thought out and well presented wildlife park with the spectacular backdrop of the MacDonnell Ranges. We hiked for a couple of kilometers in the growing heat of the day through the Desert Rivers, Sand Country and Woodland environments, occasionally coming to exhibits of various birds, mammals and lizards. While I'd have preferred to see them in the wild, we saw White-winged Fairy Wrens, Banded Lapwings and many others, the best fun being the well-named Chiming Wedgebill. This little guy had discovered the point in his enclosure with the best acoustics, and sat there emitting peals which rang so loudly that you could hear them all around the Sand Country habitat. The Nocturnal House was brilliant. Once our eyes had become accustomed to the semi-dark, we could see Bilbys, Bettongs, Mala, Phascogales and Quolls scuttling around, and many snakes, lizards and even bats, all in their separate enclosures. I also saw Variegated Fairy Wren and Western Bowerbirds unenclosed.
We had a look around town in the afternoon and were sad that we wouldn't have time to drive or hike out in the MacDonnell Ranges. Maybe next time. We couldn't resist dinner at the Hanuman Restaurant again.