Alice Springs Day 2

We set off to be tourists in Alice Springs and our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre. This is located in the heart of the CBD. There is plenty of parking nearby. It is handy that all six of us can fit in Katie’s Prado so we can travel around together. If we were on our own we’d just go in the motorhome.

We spent a half an hour exploring the Information Centre and talking with the guides. We asked lots of questions about the West McDonnell Ranges to prepare for our trip out there. Things like where to camp, is there water available, are there dump points out there. Vital information to know BEFORE you go!

Armed with lots of brochures and maps we set off just up the street to visit the Megafauna Centre. The museum was still closed so we took advantage of the excellent coffee shop opposite and bought some morning tea.

We were the first in the doors when the museum opened at 10am. What an excellent museum. We recommend this one to all families especially if you have a budding scientist in your midst.

In the late 1950’s an Aboriginal station hand at Alcoota Station found the bone of an ancient animal on the ground. He knew it wasnt a cattle or kangaroo bone and was too large to be any animal he knew to be living in the area.So he passed it to the station manager who passed the bones on to an Alice Springs collector Mr R Gordy.

The find soon became know to two scientist at Alice springs, Keith Rochow and Alan Newsome who then travelled out to Alcoota to investigate. What they found was the largest most significant megafauna site anywhere in Australia. This was an exciting find in the world of palaeontology and the news spread around the world.. The long and painstaking collection and processing of fossils is still continuing today.

Megafauna evolved and thrived in Australia over 8 million years until they all became extinct approximately 42,000 years ago. The first people arrived in Australia some 65,000 years ago so they would probably have hunted megafauna.

The fossil displays are very good and the children enjoyed exploring the museum. Your can see the largest flightless bird to ever walk the earth. Dromornis stirtoni stood 3 metres tall and weighed up to 500kg.

Your can see a full skeleton of a huge crocodile that would have made our current salties look small.

They liked being measured up against the wall comparing themselves to the size of the megafauna. Another display they really liked was the microscope. Here they could practice being scientists and view a number of dishes under the microscope, zooming in and out to search for more details.

You can even view into the laboratory where the fossils are processed.

We spent an hour at the Megafauna Centre and I recommend it to families or anyone interested in our historic past. Entry to Megafauna Central is free.

Our next stop was the Anzac Hill Lookout. As Alice Springs is set right amongst the McDonell Ranges there had to be a lookout and we found it going north. Anzac Hill commemorates all those locals who have fought in all conflicts. The cenotaph is at the top of the hill. The view afforded from the hill provides a 360 degree view of the town. We could look across the CBD towards the gap where the Stuart Highway and the Ghan train line runs through. The caravan park we are staying in was on the other side of the gap. It was blowing a very cold wind at the lookout so we didnt spend too much time there.

We continued northwards to visit the Historic Telegraph Station. This fabulous piece of Australian history has been lovingly preserved for all to visit. The Telegraph Station is a reminder of an incredible time in our country’s history when we became connected to the rest of the world. The overland telegraph connected to a submarine cable that linked Port Darwin to Indonesia. From there it connected to the rest of the world. This changed our country forever. It no longer took 3-6 months for news to reach or arrive from Europe. It would now only take 5 hours.

The Alice Springs Telegraph Station (ASTS) was built in 1871. The central building was known as The Barracks. Each telegraph station along the way had a barracks. ASTS grew over time as more people were needed. Station masters brought their whole family to live at the station so a school room was needed. A Station Masters house was built, a kitchen, a Post Office, a Blacksmiths shop, barns and storerooms and storage rooms for the Stations large bank of batteries that powered the telegraph.

We arrived just in time to do a guided tour of the station and we learned a bit about station life and the importance of the overland telegraph to our developing country. The guide issued the children with a quiz that they needed to find the answers for during their visit. If they got all the answers correct they would get a prize at the end.

While all the construction and development was going on at the ASTS just a bit further south a new township was being established and growing. The town was named Stuart after the great Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart. Gold had been discovered 100 kilometres away at Artlunga in 1887 and the the township of Stuart was established in 1888.

It was at the ASTS we learnt how Alice Springs got its name. The Todd River passes by and there is a waterhole that rarely dries out right near the station. The Arrernte people know it as a sacred site and it has been used by their people for thousands of years for camping, ceremonies and trading. Explorer-surveyor William W Mills falsely believed it to be a spring and named it after Mrs Alice Todd, the wife of Sir Charles Todd, the Postmaster-General of South Australia. The river is named after him.

The arrival of the telephone spelt the end of the telegraph and the station finally closed in 1932. In 1933 Stuart town was renamed Alice Springs.

A sad part of the history of the ASTS is the Bungalow era. This was during the time where the governments of the day thought it was a good idea to remove Aboriginal children from their families and place them in institutions. The ASTS had a large corrugated iron building that slept 130 children. Many of those children now identify as the Stolen Generation although there are also many stories of happy childhoods growing up at the Bungalow in Alice Springs.

Hetty Perkins was the cook at the Bungalow in the 1930’s. She is the mother of Charles Perkins who was born there in 1936. Charles went on to become the first Chair of the Central Land Council in 1975.

The Bungalow building was removed in the 1960’s.

As we wandered around the site we noticed lots of workers setting up tables and chairs. Richard went and asked and discovered they were setting up for a dinner and evening for passengers on The Ghan. We spent a couple of hours exploring the historic buildings and the ‘Alice Springs”.

On the way out the children handed in their quiz sheets and they all got a Zooper Dooper as a reward. The quiz was a great way to get the children interested in the centre by looking for answers to the questions.

Back in town we decided to have lunch out. Uncles Tavern looked like a busy place and that’s always a good sign the food is good. We all enjoyed our pub grub lunch. It was a bit of a treat having lunch out.

Pub lunch at Uncles Tavern

On our way back to camp I asked if we could detour past the railway station so I could get photos of the famous Ghan which had arrive earlier that day and would stay in town until the passengers had enjoyed their dinner and evening at the ASTS. I love trains and was excited to get up so close to the famous red locomotives.

Back at camp we spent the rest of the afternoon reading, resting and the kids went swimming. They were enjoying staying at the Discovery Parks – Alice Springs. The pool had a waterslide that they seemed happy to go up and down for hours.

We had an early dinner at 6pm so Rich and I could take the children to the free show at the Entertainment Centre in the park. The Red Centre Show featured singer/songwriter/photographer Barry Skipsy. Katie had an evening to herself!

The show commenced at 7pm and went for an hour and a half. Barry (Skip) sang some of his own songs as well as some other iconic Aussie songs by other artists. While entertaining us with his songs he was accompanied by a large screen show of some of the beautiful photos he’s taken over the years of the Australian bush. It was a great show and he was very entertaining. The children certainly enjoyed the show. We all enjoyed the show so much that we bought two of his CD’s to play in the car.


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