Busman's Holiday

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Alice's Secret Travellers Inn Alice Springs
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Monday, October 24, 2011

After the long trip to Uluru, yesterday (Saturday) was a day of rest, spent getting myself a new camera, chilling out in the town centre and lazing by the pool. So today, my last full day in Alice Springs, I felt that I should do something touristy.

Alice Springs is home to The School of The Air. It's listed as an attraction and it has intrigued me all week, so it seemed like a good opportunity to pay it a visit. Australia is huge country with the population concentrated in the state capitals. Away from these the population density drops dramatically and this is the case with the Northern Territory. Alice Springs has a population of 27,500, but it’s surrounded by cattle country. There are cattle stations bigger than small countries here, of course these stations (farms) have families and not all these families are willing to send their children to boarding schools. The solution is The School of The Air, a distance learning programme that caters for primary school children. The reason for the name is that it started as a radio 'classroom’ therefore the teachers were conducting their lessons over the airwaves. Today it’s all done over the internet. The area that is served is about twice the size of France and they only have 120 pupils. The closest student is 80km away, while the furthest is 1200km away!

Naturally as a teacher, this piqued my curiousity. The history of the school is very interesting, but I have to say that the ‘attraction’ of The School of The Air was very disappointing. The presentation of the subject was, quite frankly, dull (what does that say about the teachers then?). We were ushered into a room and shown a video about the mechanics of the school. There were some things in that room of interest, but we were not invited to look at them, instead we had to sit our butts down and listen to a lecture after the video that basically told us the same thing as the video in a particularly unengaging manner. Once the lecture was over, we were rushed out of the room without really having the chance to look at anything there and we were shown what they assumed to be the highlight of the place, which was the studio used to teach classes. Of course, being Sunday, there were no classes, so we looked at an empty studio from the outside. What’s the point of that? They seemed more interested in selling us merchandise than showing off the school. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but I would have thought that the ‘exhibition’ could have been a little more interactive – possibly allowing visitors to participate in a ‘lesson’, follow a class in a soundbooth or even online. Anything! What we were offered was basically highway robbery (AUD 7.50 entrance fee).

When I left I was not happy with the experience, but when the realisation that I had to walk back to town in the heat hit me I was well and truly miffed. The school is 3km from the town centre, it was HOT, approximately 35, and if I’d been thinking clearly I would have called a taxi, but I decided to walk – insanity! What made the walk almost worthwhile was seeing road trains driving up and down the Stuart Highway. A road train is a monster truck with about three trailers behind it. I even saw one which was a double decker, carrying untold amount of cattle. 

I have no idea how much weight I lost on that walk, but by the time I arrived in town I arrived in town, I looked as if I’d just climbed out of a swimming pool.Everyone I met commented on that fact, usually accompanied by laughter and the words, "it’s not hot yet. Wait until the summer!" At which point, I would say that fortunately I wouldn’t know as I was off to Darwin the next day. This was unfailingly met with hearty guffaws and the exact same words from everyone, “And you think this is hot??? Wait until you get to Darwin!”

It was also the day of the rugby world cup final and I went to a bar to watch it. The reason I chose this particular bar, Bojangle’s, was because they specialised in ‘bush tucker’ aka ‘road kill grill’. It was a mixed grill of Australian meat, which was made up of kangaroo pinchito, crocodile, camel, water buffalo (?) and venison sausage (?). I’m not sure how Australian the last 2 are, but they seem to go for it here. Everything was good, nothing particularly exceptional taste-wise, except for the crocodile, which didn’t seem to taste of anything. People say that crocodile tastes like chicken, but not to me.

Watching the rugby, I found out something strange about bar economics in Australia. Back in Melbourne, I had been introduced to the idea of a jug of beer, but I never really thought much about it. But in the bar, I soon realised that a schooner (somewhere between a pint and half pint) of beer cost 5.50, while a jug of the same beer cost 10 bucks, providing you with three schooners of beer. I couldn’t understand the logic, you were basically getting a free glass of beer at a cheaper price. I didn’t spend too long thinking about it and just bought my jug and went with the flow. There is one problem with the jug, if you’re drinking on your own, if you have to drink it pretty quickly to stop it going warm. Oops! Again, I wasn’t walking too steadily when it came time to go home.

That is the end of Alice Springs. I liked it a lot, but time to pack up and focus on the second part of my trip on the Ghan. Darwin, here I come!
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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àngels on

Glad you liked it so much ;-)

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