I’ve got something of an extended day in Alice Springs, mostly because I allowed time for yesterday’s hot air ballooning trip to be postponed for a day with better weather.
It pays to be a pessimist.
I did the same in New Zealand for walking the Tongariro Crossing which was just as well as bad weather did prevent hikers heading up the trail for a couple of days while I was there.
Alternatively, you can be proved wrong which is always nice and yesterday’s flight went off without a hitch.
This has allowed some chill out time in Alice Springs – sitting by the pool – and also catching up on some paperwork as I’ve been booking transport and rearranging some plans for the next few months of my trip after I leave Australia.
So today had a leisurely start, with breakfast at The Bean Tree Cafe in the grounds of the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and a wander for some early morning kangaroo spotting.
It has been a hotter day than previously and already a little too warm for the kangaroos so I saw only a couple, bedding down in the coolest spots to keep out of the sun.
From here, I slowly strolled around to the Araluen Cultural Precinct, around a mile outside of the town centre.
There are several museums here including the Arts Centre and the Central Australian Aviation Museum – entry to both costs a total of 8AUD.
I’m not entirely convinced that it was worth the trip though the watercolours by Albert Namatjira (1902-59) were beautiful.
He was one of Australia’s most notable artists and his watercolour paintings of Central Australia are stunning. I’ve seen his work in most of the galleries that I have visited and I was pleased to see these paintings in his home area.
The colours capture the colours of the Outback that I’ve seen while travelling here.
A couple of hangers are filled with a collection of planes having to be washed to remove the dust from recent dust storms. A mammoth job.
Sand speaking of mammoths, I was keen to track down Megafauna Central.
It’s probably the only free museum in Alice Springs and while the Museum of Central Australia (also at the Araluen Precinct) has a very good exhibit on geology and space – meteor craters etc – Megafauna Central has fossils.
It’s a small but engaging Museum challenging visitors with the mystery of the Alcoota fossil beds.
Alcoota Station is located around 140 milese north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Fossils were first uncovered in the late 1950s when Eterilkaka an Aboriginal farmhand spotted a bone that wasn’t cattle, kangaroo or emu.
The grass-covered plains form a thin veneer over an enormous bed of fossil bones that are around eight million years old.
The bones are so abundant and tightly packed at Alcoota that it is sometimes difficult to excavate one bone without breaking the one below it.
Thousands of fossilised bones and teeth of many different animals have been found at Alcoota. The animals include one of the largest birds that ever lived, the gigantic thunder bird Dromornis stirtoni and the rhinoceros sized marsupial Diprotodon.
Meanwhile, giant crocodiles stalked the land… possibly giving Harry at the Reptile Centre a run for his money – I wonder if I could introduce them.
Let’s see him eyeball this specimen.
Megafauna Central is a working archeology institute and visitors can have a look in the laboratory to see the archeologists working on the latest finds… though they were all on their lunch break when I arrived.
Yes, I am a dinosaur, monster reptile, giant animals, old bones geek but this is a very well put together exhibition. And it’s free.
Well, that’s all for now… I’m off camel riding. Oh, I’m not only sitting by the pool while I’m here.
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