Thursday 01 September 2022.
Highlights: The amazing Royal Flying Doctors Service, Learning at the Reptile Centre, Alice Springs School of the Air, ANZAC Hill, Dinner at the Alice Springs Race Track
We awake to the news that Alice Springs was experiencing unseasonable wet weather. They can in some years only have 1 or no dry season rainy days. A lot of today’s excursions were cancelled and the night under the stars dinner was moved to Alice Springs Race Track. The excursion we selected was still on so other than the 13c temperature our day only had a minimal impact.
We had selected the Alice Explorer & Outback BBQ dinner option. We departed the train for our full day experience, Kara was as rugged up as possible given our limited clothes selection for the train journey (our main bags aren’t accessible after the journey commences). I should mention that every coach driver and every tour leader injects a lot of humour into their commentary this has happened since Darwin and continued today.
First stop was learning about the essential Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) where we learned about how this critical. We learnt about the founder Reverend John Flynn, who is on the Australian $20 note, and the innovations the RFDS created to allow for such a service in particular long distance communication.
Our second stop was the Alice Springs Reptile Centre. Before the group presentation Kara and me explored the venue including the outside areas, which due to rain most people missed, and got to see a saltwater crocodile up close though a window. The crocodile was at the bottom of a pool, they regularly stay at the bottom for 15 minutes and only just come up for a fresh breathe before going down for another 15 minutes. It’s scary how you could watch any area for 10 minutes to check for saltwater crocodile and still have no idea it is waiting there for food to swim by!
Lunch was at the Desert Park. We got to talk to some Ghan passengers who had selected the Desert Park option but quite a few stayed indoors rather than go exploring the park which I understood given the weather.
After lunch we headed to the Alice Springs School of the Air (ASSOA). The ASSOA was established in 1951 and covers an area of 1,300,000 square kilometre which is 10 times the size of England! The service averages about 120 students and can cover pre-school to around Year 9. At that point students either need to go to boarding school or do correspondence school from Darwin.
The student much have a Home Tutor, usually parent but can be a volunteer or an employed tutor, who has to supervise the student for a minimum of 4 hours a day and check there work. The service now mostly uses satellite internet instead of radio and all equipment is provided to the students. We meet a former student, lawyer and now author Tanya Heaslip who had some very funny stories to tell.
A very interesting way to learn that allows for children to stay on remote properties until they are about 15 years old.
Next up was a trip up ANZAC Hill were we saw the Australian, Aboriginal and Northern Territory flags. the Hill provided a lot outlook spot for Alice Springs Town.
We had an option of exploring and shopping in the town but opted to return to the train given the poor weather and the need to freshen up. A few drinks in the Outback Explorer lounge were also welcome 🙂
For dinner we were off to the Alice Springs Race Track which was a replacement from diner under the stars due to the poor weather. The Ghan put on a strong replacement event. Nice food and lots to drink. A few passengers had a lot of alcohol, some following up their pre-dinner drinks from the train. there was music and dancing and some intoxicated passengers including one lady who couldn’t stop laughing for the 10 minute trip back to the train. I was amazed some managed to get back to their cabins but everyone had fun in their own way 🙂