Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Wild life and a genuine Aussie Outback BBQ - Ghan Adventure continued

Along with several other Ghan passengers I had chosen to spend the afternoon at the Alice Springs Desert Park, a wildlife park nestled at the base of the MacDonnell Ranges. There we were met by a Park Ranger and shown into a cinema for a brief introduction to the plants and wildlife of the park.  Australia has a rich and wildly varied animal and plant life and I found the film interesting but the best thing of all happened right at the end when the giant screen dropped down to reveal massive panoramic windows and a stunning view up to the MacDonnell Ranges bathed in golden sunlight and towering above us.  I have never seen anything like that before, definitely a "wow" moment.  
The scene behind the screen - this photo
 doesn't do it justice

A captivating talk from this Park Ranger

                    I was lucky enough to join a tour led by an Aboriginal park ranger and was completely spell bound by his tales of how Aborigines find water and track animals. It was truly fascinating . The park is an authentic desert landscape and contains more than 200 desert animals, including kangaroos, emus and dingoes, and 400 plants.  There are also a number of walk through aviaries and a nocturnal house where I saw, for the first time, the cute, scurrying, desert bilby and mala. It was an absorbing place to while away the afternoon. Late in the day the Ghan passengers were special guests at a bird show.  This was remarkable with birds perfectly trained to fly in and out of the arena on cue, swooping so low over our heads that we could feel the wind from their wings. And high above, wild eagles circled the MacDonnell Ranges.

The bird show

A dingo

The Outback Barbecue with tree stump seats

                                                                                                                                                            That evening we were guests at a "genuine" Aussie barbecue held in an old quarry, 20 minutes from Alice Springs, now converted into a barbeque venue. It was like stepping onto the set of McLeod's Daughters with all the Australiana scattered around - a traditional outback windmill, stacks of fire wood, an old wagon and implements, blazing camp fires,and pretty staff in checked shirts and acubra hats. Nevertheless, it still maintained a natural, not overly commercialised feel.  It was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed drinks and nibbles bathed in the rays of the setting sun.

 Left: A perfect outback BBQ setting

Right: Riding a camel

Below: Barbeque time!

                                                                                             There were two camels available to ride so of course, you know me, I had to have a ride. Good fun! Dinner was served in a huge corrugated iron barn with a sand floor - man sized steaks, baked potatoes and salads followed by apple crumble and cream while we were entertained by a  balladeer singing outback songs and by a very humorous presentation on how to make damper, or bush bread. Then it was time to head back outside to sit around the camp fires and be serenaded with well known Australian songs, including, of course, Waltzing Matilda. 
Most people joined in and the feeling was one of great friendship and camaraderie. All in all this was a magical night.  There was only one disappointment - a cloud cover which hid the stars, said to be sensational way out in the desert, but everything else was fantastic, so I'm not complaining!