Birds, Sun and Stars

Kestrel in Alice Springs.
Kestrel in Alice Springs.

We started the day with yet more programming work and I actually had to drag the kids away and out into the real world.

The Alice Springs Desert Park gave us a wonderful insight into the local habitats and the Aboriginal way of life. The Park is a cross between a zoo, a cultural centre and, well, a park. It’s an easy stroll around well-maintained paths interspaced with a series of fascinating talks. We learnt a lot about local bird-life, about the geology of the region, about termites and about bush tucker and remedies. All-in-all it was one of the more informative few hours we’ve spent.

After lunch back on Todd Mall, we went back to our apartment to regroup and then headed out to the Desert Knowledge Solar Centre. When you live in the middle of a desert, solar power is something you have an abundance of.¬†The Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre “is a demonstration facility for commercialised solar technologies operating in the arid solar conditions of Alice Springs, Central Australia.” Sadly it’s a rather disappointing visit. There wasn’t as much information as a visitor could wish for and a lot of the solar panels were not working or were overgrown or dirty – it all looked rather unloved. In fact once we’d got the basic idea, the thing we found most entertaining was spotting the many birds that have made nests in the control panels for the arrays.

Overlooking Alice Springs from ANZAC Hill.
Overlooking Alice Springs from ANZAC Hill.

The surprising thing about Alice Springs is that it is much greener than we expected. That became apparent when we climbed up ANZAC Hill to take a look at the view. Now Alice Springs is basically flat and ANZAC Hill is a little bump; but it doesn’t take much to get above the Alice, and when you are up there you see a lot of trees with bits of building peaking between them.

This evening we went out to the Earth Sanctuary to look at stars. The Sanctuary is run by a lovely couple who are paramedics in their day job and developed a love of astronomy after spending their first ten years in Alice Springs sleeping in swags and watching the stars (apparently you can fit an electric blanket into a swag). Tom and Dan are wonderfully enthusiastic both about astronomy and the Northern Territory. We saw Jupiter and Saturn through a serious telescope, learnt lots about Aboriginal legends of the sky, saw the Milky Way, were shown three ways of finding South, gasped at¬†shooting stars, had an impromptu concert on didgeridoos from the ‘PVC tree’, and generally had an excellent time.

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