Many animals live in the Outback, but just like in other deserts, they have coping mechanisms to make it through the arid, devilishly hot conditions. Many of them live under ground and only come out at night, so seeing them is challenge. We went to Desert Park and toured with an aboriginal ranger who talked about the animals and his culture. Many of the nocturnal animals we saw in the red light lit room were spiders, lizards and snakes, animals I would just as soon not encounter anyway. In the aviary birds kept landing on the heads of people with white hair. Perfect nesting material. The raptor show was especially impressive. With the lure of an occasional snack, the ranger lured one speedy bird after another to zoom and swoop. With their skills, dinner is always nearby.
Then we went to town for lunch and a bit of souvenir shopping. and to buy head nets to keep the flies out of our eyes. Aboriginal art is beautiful and while you can buy it all over Australia, it just felt right to buy it here. Luckily, when we circumnavigated the country on our last visit, we bought many things we liked and we didn’t add much to my already overweight luggage which was marked with a “heavy” tag on our last flight when I added my coat, which I don’t expect to wear again until we are much closer to home. We ate lunch at a Fijian restaurant and impressed the owner with our knowledge of his country since we just were there.
Our next stop was at the Reptile Centre where we got up close and personal with some lizards and a python. Australia has 19 of the 20 most venomous snakes world-wide. Our presenter looked on the bright side and said that their snakes have much shorter fangs, which will not get into your bloodstream., but the venom does circulate in the lymph. If you wrap your wound with an Ace bandage which lessens circulation, you can live for hours which gives most people time to get to a medical facility that has the anti-venom. Knowing what kind of snake bit you is important so that they give the correct type of mediciation. The centre also had a crocodile, an apex predator. They are so huge and ferocious, they make American crocodiles look like puppies.
In this part of Australia, many children live over 35 miles from the nearest school on dirt roads. In 1951 the School of the Air was created to help these kids get educated. They service the "largest classroom in the world" - 521,000 square miles. The headquarters are here in Alice Springs and originally all the lessons were mailed to the students who completed them and mailed them back. Students could talk to their teachers on two-way radios, but the experience hardly duplicated what kids were doing back in the cities. Nevertheless SOTA students generally score higher on exams than students in regular schools. These days students are given all the computer equipment and satellite dishes they need to make their learning much more interactive. They get one-on-one time with their teachers and are also supervised by local tutors. Occasionally, they come to Alice Springs to meet each other and their teachers face to face. The fees we paid to visit SOTA today help subsidize this expensive, but necessary service.
Our hotel here is especially lovely and we wrestle with wanting to take the time to enjoy the pool and admire the vegetation and wanting to see everything here in Alice. We gave up on visiting the Doctors of the Air, which provide services to all the far flung folks living in the Outback. And now I am typing instead of swimming. Sigh….