Friday, 24 June 2011

From South Australia to Northern Territory

Before leaving Broken Hill I was advised most strongly by the lovely family history ladies that all fruit and vegetables would be confiscated at the manned Fruit Fly stop in South Australia. As I had a large bag of potatoes, another of onions plus the aforementioned pumpkin, I spent a few hours cooking up a pot of Potato, Pumpkin & Onion soup using some powdered stock (it turned out to be very good), also cooked some potatoes whole to use later in potato salad, and caramelised some onions and managed to squeeze the plastic container of these into our tiny freezer compartment. Our fruit had all been eaten so felt quite smug when approaching the stopping place in S.A. However it was the Queen's Birthday holiday Monday and so not manned! Any amount of fruit and vegetables could have gone through to South Australia - and only your own conscience to trouble you.

Had an overnight stop in Port Augusta and then a long drive north to Coober Pedy. We had stopped here for a few days several years ago, so the opal mining landscape and very arid surroundings did not surprise us. What did surprise us was being laid low by the continuing very bad colds we were both experiencing. We rested quite a lot, visited the local chemist for medication, and as a treat, had excellent pizza from John's Pizza Bar & Restaurant. A few drives around the mining town confirmed that little had changed in two years.

When we finally left we only drove several hundred kilometres to Marla for our overnight stop - before continuing the next day onto Alice Springs stopping at Eudunda Roadhouse for lunch. While giving Jessie a walk and drink, we got chatting to a man who came up to admire our dog. It turned out that he was a professional photographer (unfortunately can't remember his name), but he had taken a lot of outback photos and one of a ute and blue heeler dog had been published around the world and had earned him quite a bit of money. Our Jessie could have been the next big doggy model!

Next stop was a week's break at Alice Springs. I'm always pleased to be here in the very heart of Australia - it's our third visit. Even in the four years since our last visit we can see the town has grown quite a bit. Our neighbours in the caravan park here had their portable air cooler out for repairs - seems it had a resident mouse (there is currently a mouse plague in the outback!) eating all through the filters, etc. It had got in during one of their overnight stops. Another park neighbour had one cheeky little mouse running across their bed. Luckily we've escaped this experience. It's astonishing who you meet in the parks - in this one we have one of Peter's old workmates from Lysaghts/Bluescope (and his wife) who now live just around the corner from us in Hastings. We've enjoyed catching up on old times.

While here, we've had a good look around town, visited the local cemetery for Peter's volunteer work photographing the CWGC graves (29) and whilst there also viewed the very nice Albert Namatjira grave. Sadly the cemetery itself just by the old wartime runway, is not very well maintained. The major cemetery - Alice Springs Garden Cemetery on the other hand is just beautiful - probably the loveliest one I've seen ever.

I loved the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame which is set up quite beautifully in the old Alice Springs Gaol buildings - as well as honouring the earlier outback pioneer women, it also showcases Australian women's achievements through the years. I was especially pleased to see details of Miss Eva West of Traralgon (my home town) who was one of the first women to qualify as Accountants and who was Shire Secretary of Traralgon Shire during the war years. My parents always spoke well of her and Peter's father used to do carpentry repairs to her house and Peter remembers her quite well.

The Araleun Cultural Precinct has an outstanding set of buildings devoted to outback history, development, natural history, arts and crafts, etc. and currently they have an exhibition entitled The Track: 1000 Miles to War focusing on activities along the Stuart Highway during the World War Two period. Defence force units were stationed along the Highway form Alice Springs to Darwin, engaged in road and airfield building, establishing bases and infrastructure and preparing to defend northern Australia. Stories, photographs, and archival material of the period has been assembled into a fascinating exhibition. Dad was one of those soldiers in the 148th Transport Coy who drove the transports from Alice to Larrimah. Several years were spent serving this way - extremely hard work in an unforgiving, hot, dusty environment.

Yesterday we drove the 127 kilometres to Hermannsburg to visit the old Lutheran Aboriginal Mission. It had been set up in 1877 by German missionaries and it was to be a permanent self-sufficient community. The work involved must have been incredible in such an alien (to them) part of the world. By 1891 the first missionaries felt broken men and the mission was abandoned. Then it was re-started three years later and continued for 88 years. The local Arante people were taught many crafts/skills and also the German language! Their own Aranda language survived to this day - but German didn't. The outstanding artist Albert Namatjira came from this Mission and his lovely outback watercolour paintings are world famous.

We've also watched and photographed The Ghan train leave Alice Springs for its long journey down to Adelaide. Seeing this iconic train coming through Heavitree Gap (the southern entrance through the MacDonnell Ranges) was quite something,

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