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Friday, April 28, 2017

The Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs

Our next destination on our stopover in Alice Springs was the Old Telegraph Station. This place has a lot of history.

This complex, 4 km north of the Alice Spring town centre was declared a heritage site in 2004. This was just one of 12 repeater stations along what was known as the Overland Telegraph Line, which when completed in 1872, stretched from near Adelaide to Palmerston as Darwin was known then. This line was connected to an undersea communications cable which ran from Europe to Java, to the north of Australia. ( Java is actually closer to Darwin than Sydney, so that northern town was an obvious choice) When the line was completed and linked to the undersea cable , instead of messages taking 40 days to travel from London to Australia, they now only took 24 hours. Eventually other  Australian colonies were linked by telegraph line.
So this station at Alice was the first white settlement in this part of central Australia. It closed in 1932 when a new Post office was built and the precinct was later used as a residence and educational institution for part Aboriginal children until 1942, when it was taken over by the army during WW2. After the war it was returned to the Aboriginal Affairs department until 1963 when it became a historical reserve.
What lovely old stone buildings...

On our tour we had Georgia as our guide...she had only been a guide for 3 weeks...but she was good! 

She has the same fascination with John McDouall Stuart's achievements in exploration of this part of Australia that I have had from my school days. And everyone in the group listened attentively as we had a very informative talk from Georgia...then it was time to explore further. 
This is an example of the posts that were originally used for the telegraph posts carrying the wire...unfortunately the termites kept destroying the posts .
So then the wooden posts were replaced by metal poles like this one outside the old post office

An example of the yards where animals such as horses were kept in those early days...

There were exhibits to look at...the 'tyres' on the homemade handcart were made with pieces of cork! Ingenious way of making do with what was to hand.
Georgia explained that this tree was already growing here when the station was built 1871-72
The town of Alice Springs is on the Todd River...but all is not how that sounds. The Todd River rarely has any water's just a sandy river bed. It is described as an 'ephemeral river' on this website here.

And in typical Aussie larrikin spirit, Alice Springs has the annual Henley on Todd Regatta (since 1961) in which people race bottomless vessels by carrying/running them on the course on the dry river bed! Apparently the organisers take out insurance in case the river does flow when the regatta is due.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alice Springs; Part 2

In my previous post I described how we were bussed from the Alice Springs railway station to an area in town know as the Tourist Triangle. It has this name as there are 3 tourist attractions in close proximity. DH and I started with the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame, ( but couldn't spend too much time there due to time constraints) and then we walked along the street to the Royal Flying Doctor Museum.

Australia's population is mainly concentrated in coastal areas but there is a huge area of the country which is rather remote from services and these communities are often located in rather harsh environments. The Reverend John Flynn was instrumental in the setting up of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) in 1912, which was dedicated into assisting the people of the Outback to access medical services by establishing bush hospitals. But people in the more remote areas were still too far away to access these hospitals. So in 1928 John Flynn  organised a year's trial of the AIM Aerial Medical Service, which was a great success and continues to this day. I think John Flynn must have been an amazing man! The link will take you to a webpage about the history of this service.
If you are wondering how people were able to contact the RFDS, the people of the Outback benefited greatly by the invention of the  'pedal radio'...not only accessing medical help, but also schooling and just human contact.

You can read about this invention here...
So this brief history lesson is over now, so I will share some photos from the museum dedicated to the RFDS.
 There were displays showing models of planes used over the years...originally '├žontractors' were used to fly doctors and nurses but gradually the service purchased their own planes.
Some interior shots of a Flying Doctor plane...Intensive Care facilities are provided including equipment for transferring critically ill newborns to a city hospital.  
Beside the rather modern museum building was this gorgeous old art deco style Alice Springs Control Centre.

DH and I only had 20 minutes in this museum before we were due to board the bus for our next destination. Not nearly long enough to read all the information boards on the exhibits. We did manage to sit and watch a very informative movie about the history of the service though.
The third attraction at this Tourist Triangle was the Reptile Centre but we had to miss that. Our next stop was the Old Telegraph Station...and I loved it too! More in the next post.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Alice Springs Part 1...

After Marla, the Ghan headed for Alice Springs. We arrived early afternoon. We took a few photos as the train travelled from the outskirts of the town towards the station.

At the station, the tour buses were all ready and waiting. There were a number of choices for tours and we had chosen the Alice Springs Explorer.

The bus first dropped us in the 'Tourist Triangle' part of town where there were 3 attractions.
This rather imposing statue caught our is a statue of John McDouall Stuart, a famous explorer of this region. Stuart was the first explorer to travel through the centre of Australia from south to north...mostly desert country too, so it was quite an achievement. All the men in his expeditions survived too.  
Just a little extra trivia here...Adelaide businessmen, John and James Chambers helped fund McDouall Stuart's expeditions. James Chambers was a direct ancestor of my mother in law from my first marriage; great grandparent I think. Stuart 'repaid' Chambers by named land features after Chambers' family members, for example, Katherine, William River ( after a son), Chambers Hill and Chambers Creek to name a few.

DH and I decided to check out the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame first.

It was housed in an old prison which had closed in 1996. This museum was the brainchild of Molly Clark who had been inspired by a visit to the Longreach Stockman's Hall of Fame.
Molly Clark

Molly felt that there should be a museum that showcased women's contributions to Australia. (Way to go, Molly!) With Molly as the driving force, the museum opened in 1994 in the old Courthouse in the town; then moved to its present home in 2007.

Oh how I loved this museum...sadly we didn't have much time, but DH and I gave it our best shot to see as much as possible.

Great displays!

I loved this cot, which was enclosed in by insect screen mesh...and it had a beautiful cot quilt made with 'cathedral window' blocks.

Boards showcasing women who were leaders/pioneers in their field.

A spectacular signature quilt!

A beautiful tapestry honouring aviatrixes...
Realising we were running out of time, DH and I very reluctantly left this museum and headed to the next museum...but that's another post!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Travelling along on the Ghan...

As we travelled north, the scenery began to change. It seemed like every hour brought some change. The following photos show some of those different vistas as we travelled along in South Australia.

It was also fun when this long train went around a large curve in the line.

This did look like salt but it could be just white sand of course.

On the Monday morning the train pulled into a siding at Marla at 3 am...which is well into the desert country of South Australia. We had set our iPad alarm to 5 am so we could do the off train experience of seeing the sunrise at Marla. DH and I dressed warmly as it was expected to be a bit chilly when the time came (5.30am) to leave the train. And what a 'wonderland' greeted us. 

Train staff had been up and at work for quite a while obviously, as lanterns were set up to light the way to the picnic tables. There were a couple of camp fires and tables set up with coffee, tea and juice.
I was so impressed that the mugs were china, not paper or plastic!

And staff moved around with platters of food...fruit, scrolls, bacon and egg sliders/muffins...all absolutely delicious!

And how wonderful to see the sun come up...and then to see the beauty of the red desert. I'll let the photos 'speak'...

Before we got back on the train, DH used my phone to make a little video to show the length (1.2 km) of the train...I've fiddled around a bit to find a way to share the video in this post. Eventually, somehow, I have created a link to my Instagram account where I had already posted the video. The link is via the highlighted 'Marla' at the very end of the post.