The Ghan – Second Stop, Alice Springs

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The Alice Springs Desert Park, situated on 1,300 hectares, at the base of the MacDonnell Ranges is where we spent the day with our guide for an exclusive walking tour.

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I couldn’t recommend this outing more highly, and if you ever visit Alice Springs, it is a must-see. But allow plenty of time. You could easily spend most of the day here and you will be truly inspired. There is so much more to deserts than you think, and this educational facility explores everything the desert region of Australia has to offer – the birds, animals, medicinal plants and the people, and the relationships between them.

Our day started with a very interesting presentation by an indigenous guide about the aborigines and their way of life, including their weapons such as boomerangs etc. We made our way past several aviaries of birds for the free flight bird show, after which we got up close and personal with some of the birds and the trainer.

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Then we strolled past dingos and emus and made our way to the Nocturnal House to see various animals moving around and foraging, such as the iconic bilby, numbat and snakes. Our guide was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions.  I was pleased to find out that all the animals here are either rescued or being used in breeding programs because they are in danger of extinction.

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After lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the rest of the park, which is divided into three separate areas – Desert Rivers, where you can walk through dry river beds and areas which were past swamps and waterholes, discover outback flora and fauna which included a demonstration showing how the aborigines search for food and medicine.

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Next was the Sand Country which re-created the sandy desert and lastly the Woodland which was where we saw kangaroos out in the open.  I liked that the guide would not let us get too close but to stop and observe them from a distance. They seemed very relaxed and after some photo taking, we were formed into a single line and quietly moved on.

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Once back at the train we just had time to freshen up before being whisked off in buses for dinner at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The beautiful stone buildings have all been restored and offer a glimpse of how it must have looked when families lived there in the late 1800’s. They were all lit up and each had a plaque explaining how the building was used back in the day.

We arrived at sunset and were greeted by staff bearing glasses of champagne as we made our way to the open central area which was set up with tables with white tablecloths. On the back of each chair was a lovely  poncho bearing the Ghan symbol as a memento of our visit.

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We had a delicious meal under the stars with a live band playing in the background. Before dessert was served, we were given a star gazing presentation which was one of the highlights of our trip. A truly memorable day.

 

The Ghan – First Stop, Katherine

 

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Katherine Station.  It’s a long walk to the end of the train.  We were situated about half-way down.

Katherine is situated on the Katherine River in the Northern Territory, Australia, 320 kilometres south-east of Darwin. The town is a tourism gateway to nearby Nitmiluk National Park, particularly Katherine Gorge and its many ancient rock paintings, which was where we were heading.

 

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There are millions of termite mounds all over Australia, all shapes and sizes.

Our bus took us to the Katherine River, where we cruised between sheer sandstone cliffs down the First and Second Gorges, while our guide told us stories about the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people.  The Park covers 292,000 hectares and comprises 13 sandstone gorges carved over 23 million years.

 

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On our way to the boat ramp

 

There is all sorts of wildlife from bats to crocs;  our guide was very knowledgeable and we learnt a lot about the area.  At the second gorge, we walked a short distance to see the ancient rock art which is believed to date back about 40,000 years.

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We didn’t see any, but the river is inhabited by harmless freshwater crocodiles.  Sometimes the river rises after heavy rain, and saltwater crocodiles move upstream.  These are the ones you don’t want to mess with.

 

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Here is one of the baited traps which park rangers check daily for saltwater crocodiles.  They are relocated to another part of the river.

We had heard a lot about the beautiful scenery at Katherine Gorge and we weren’t disappointed.  We had an excellent guide who kept us entertained with many stories of the aboriginal people, legends and traditions.

A very enjoyable day.