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Friday, February 28: Day 312 – Red Center

On the train Rob and I have a twinette which is basically a room that has a sofa by day and converts to bunk beds by night. Rob gets up more in the night than I do so I am on the top bunk.

There is a 3′ x 3′ air vent on the ceiling which blows directly on me. I have this weird allergy to cold so this causes me some distress. I take Zyrtec to prevent getting hives but, after that, if I get cold or my feet get cold, I start to cough or start to have a classic allergic response.

I put on my winter coat and hat. However, I did not sleep well which was a surprise. I thought that the gentle rocking of a train would put me right to sleep. However, it was like someone jostling you all night long.

We woke up and went to breakfast. Rob went into the bathroom right before we left and the train stopped with a jolt. I hear Rob exclaim, “Whoa.”

People in Australia abbreviate everything such as Macca for MacDonalds. One man asked Rob how long he would be in Oz. It took a moment to discern this inquiry.

Alice Springs is at the heart of Australia. Arrernte people are the First Australians who occupied this land and lay claim to it today.

This town was once was called Stuart. The north-south road is called Stuart Highway. Alice Springs became the hub of activities in the center of Australia as the telegraph line had a station here.

A pastoralist named Kidman rode a one-eyed horse named Cyclops. (We used to have a one-eyed dog named Spot. We thought about changing her name to Wink but figured Blind Spot would suffice.) He sold goods to miners, acquired land, and became a successful cattleman.

One man told me that they have a Todd River Run which has the participants running through the dry river bed while holding a boat.

We went to the Alice Springs Desert Park. Our guide explained how animals have adapted to their harsh environment.

We learned some more facts about barn owls. What was a barn owl called before people were building barns?

  • Can’t move eyes in skull so he must turn his head.
  • Long tubular eyes.
  • Shrieks instead of hoots. It sounds very scary when you get a lot of them echoing in a canyon. He is sometimes called a screech owl.
  • Eco-friendly with a cheap way to control rodents
  • DON’T PUT OUT POISON. Owls suffer from secondary poison as they love to catch slow-moving mice.
  • No teeth as it would make them too heavy
  • Swallow their prey whole
  • Hacks up a pellet which makes it easy to study small mammals that live in the area.
  • They eat 30 mice per night.
  • Hearing is their main sense.
  • One ear is higher than the other.

Cats are terrible for the environment.

Spinoflex grass covers 40% of Australia. Boys used to play a painful version of tag with the painful pointy leaves.

We saw the millet plant which had many small seeds. It takes a lot of hard work to remove those seeds. Remember that when you eat this grain often included in multigrain bread.

The river red gums are massive trees often called the widow maker. During a drought or dry spell, the tree will drop a limb unexpectedly. Don’t camp under this tree or have one near the house or where children are playing.

Here is a baby thorny devil that is five days old and is pictured with its mom and dad. This thorny devil baby is hatched from an egg which surely comes as a relief to the mother. Ouch! They eat 1,000 ants every day.

Here is a piedish beetle. They look like flat discs and eat fungi and other decaying matter.

We saw many nocturnal animals such bilbi, gecko, and a phasacale. There are so many interesting animals who have adapted to this sandy dry climate.

Phasacale are good jumpers and we saw him jump from tree to tree. The dunnart is a cute little mouse but is ferocious. He can rip through a leather glove. He has the temperament of a Chihuahua.

The female marsupial mala makes the nest and invites the male into the nest to mate. Then she kicks him out. She mates more during the wet season and not at all in the dry season. She has been known to carry four young in her pouch. It gets so heavy that it drags on the ground and soon her feet would not even touch the ground.

We saw a large lizard called a tinker. If he can fit it in his mouth, he will eat it. He is not a picky eater.

The desert death adder ambushes its prey. From a hiding spot, it wriggles its grub-like tail-tip, ready to strike any animal mistaking the tail-tip for food. This ambush tactic is a good example of conserving energy – it’s like having your dinner home delivered!

Greg, our guide, has worked here seven years and has only seen the snake move twice.

It is illegal to feed a live animal to another live animal in Australia. However, if you have no backbone like an insect or worm, you have no rights!

Do you see the fire-tailed skink in this photo? He never blinks and his tail is disposable.

Now it’s back onto the train.

I commented to Rob that this train ride has felt like a weekend at a girl scout camp. He had a good laugh!!

  • Wear same clothes for days
  • Baths/showers are awkward and optional.
  • Go on a daily planned hike (excursion)
  • Live in a small tent (train cabin)
  • Inconvenient latrine with nowhere to put your stuff.

We have started to reach the southern end of Australia. Port Augusta is one of the only places where the outback reaches the sea.

Here are some popular songs that one might sing in Australia! Ha

  • I can see for kilometers and kilometers
  • 500 kilometers, 500 kilometers, 500 kilometers, 500 kilometers. Lord, I’m 500 kilometers away from home.

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