Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Messages From Myanmar #17

Messages From Myanmar #17
Australian Vacation Special - Part 2 of 6
08 September 2016

Photo Update Alert:

Day 4 - Thurs., 08/18 - Alice Springs

After a somewhat restless night (it takes a while to get use to sleeping on a train), we arrived in Alice Springs, a city that has always seemed impossibly romantic to me. Sitting in the middle of the continent, in the outback, on the frontier… we had a fine day there touring the local attractions:

School of the Air - Established in 1951 and covering an area of 1.3 million sq km (808,000 sq mi), this is the first of a series of correspondence schools serving the primary and early secondary educational needs for children living in the outback. Classes were traditionally taught by radio, but are moving to the Internet.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Alice Springs Tourist Facility - The RFDS has been providing medical care to remote corners of Australia since 1928. It is funded by public and private donations, and an amazing gift shoppe.

Alice Springs Reptile Centre - 100+ reptiles: Lizards, snakes (including the most poisonous on the planet), and an actual saltwater crocodile named “Terry.” What’s not to like?

National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame - Founded in 1993 and located in the former HM Gaol and Labour Prison. It doesn’t get said enough: Women. Are. Awesome.

Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve - Established in 1871 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide, this is the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. We had a wonderful “Outback Pioneer Dinner” (the best steak since Buenos Aires) and watched the full moon and the Southern Cross rise at the same time. Perfection.

Day 5 - Fri., 08/19 - Coober Pedy

After a more restful night on The Ghan (I took the upper berth, which suited me surprisingly well.), we awoke to the setting full moon and a day visiting Coober Pedy, a place almost impossible to describe. It is the “Opal Capital of the World” and has (reputedly) 4 million holes in the opal fields to prove it. The population is roughly 3,500, consists of over 45 nationalities, and many of them live in below-ground residences called “dugouts” in order to escape the scorching summer heat.

We took a tour of a mine, ate lunch, hit the gift shoppe, and visited a church… all underground. But the highlight for me was the 70 km round trip to The Breakaways, yet another geologic marvel. The Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara people regard this as a holy place and I’m inclined to agree. It’s extraordinarily picturesque and has been used as a backdrop for many movies. (Think “Mad Max.”) I must also note the dog fence; 2 m high, stretching for 5,300 km (3,293 mi), designed to keep the sheep to the south and the dingos to the north. The outback is an overwhelming place.

Day 6 - Sat., 08/20 - Adelaide

Our third and final night on The Ghan was pretty peaceful (we’d gotten use to the “clikety-clack”) and we awoke to a landscape transitioning from red to green as we made our way to Adelaide. Anne had arranged for us to stay overnight with an old friend from her Peace Corps days and, indeed, he was waiting for us at the station. After the not-entirely unpredictable cluster of baggage claim, we bid a fond farewell to The Ghan. This was our first great train journey and we consider ourselves very lucky to have had such an opportunity.

Our friend took us on a driving tour of Adelaide, a really beautiful small city, and then we made for the hills and Mount Lofty (no, really) to see the panoramic view. Which, sadly, was fogged out. So, we went to his place, did some laundry, took him and his wife out for Indian food, and watched some “footy” (Australian football) on the tube. A pretty entertaining sport, I must admit.

[Medical Update - On our way, we stopped by a pharmacy where I made two important purchases: (1) An elastic ankle brace (Yes!) and (2) a package of Glucojel Jelly Beans, made with 30% glucose syrup. Pharmaceutical-grade jelly beans? What a great country.]

To be continued...


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