That's the Smaller Son there, under the shower cap. We got up at four in the goddam morning to make our flight, so by the time we hit the hotel in Alice, we were pretty well shagged out. Didn't help that it was 4C and pissing down in Taz, but brilliant sunshine and 28C in Alice. (You Yanks can do your own conversions on the temperatures. I'm too busy to mess with outdated systems of measurement.) The Smaller Son mooched around the room for a while, but once he discovered the shower cap, everything was just fine. He sat down and took in some cable TV cartoons, secure in the knowledge that his hair wasn't going to get wet, nosirree.
Natalie had three days of medical kerfuffle to attend, which left the kids and I to our own devices. The hotel was about a kilometre and a half from the centre of Alice, so we opted to go walkabout. That's the famous Todd River the kids are standing in, right there. Looking pretty much as it always does. You get a lot of dry riverbeds in Oz, but most of 'em -- well, you'll see that the trees are gnarled and bent from seasonal flooding.
Plenty of birds out in the desert. Those are galahs. They watched us from the treetop as we shuffled through the dust into the township proper.
The photo above is -- honest truth here! -- the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in Alice Springs. Yep: carefully tended desert flora. You know how you can tell where the Botanic Gardens stop and the desert starts? Well, there's this fence... and that's it.
Sturt's Desert Pea: there were a lot of lovely flowers around the place too. The desert around Alice isn't your hardcore sand-dunes and stony plains kind of thing. It misses out on being a veldt due to the lack of grass coverage, but there's a generous supply of shrubbery, and quite a lot of life. Mind you, I wouldn't want to be caught a mile or two outside town without a few litres of water on me.
A local acquaintance of Natalie's took the kids and I to the "Old-Timer's Fete". That's kind of a big social occasion in Alice, it transpires. You wouldn't know it, as an outsider - it's a typical fete, with cake stalls and sausage sizzles, the inevitable bouncy castle, junk stalls, and the odd ride... the kids were excited by the whirly teacup ride, so I threw 'em in. Why not?
Those hats... there was a market in the Todd St Mall on the Sunday. A little Vietnamese bloke was selling all sorts of odds and sods, including the iconic basket hats. Now, since the boys are huge samurai flick afficionadoes, there was no possible way I could avoid buying them basket-hats so they could play at being ninja. And they did, oh yes. A lot.
We went to the Desert Park once Natalie was done with her medical stuff and we'd managed to rent a car. The Desert Park is maybe 10k outside town, and it's extremely well set up. Very educational, even for me - I learned a lot about the Australian desert ecosystems, and the critters living in them. That's a barn owl, by the way. It's part of the rather well managed "Birds of Prey" show. If you get out to Alice at all, you shouldn't miss this place. One hesitates to call it "cool", because it was actually hot as all fuck, but it's really good.
We took a walk out to Standley Chasm in the Western McDonnell ranges. Fantastic walk through a dry riverbed into the ancient, red-rock bones of the land. The place is still owned by the traditional dwellers, and it's well maintained. Beautiful walk, too. I like the way the sunlight filters down on the Mau-Mau in this shot.
Farther up the creek bed, Smaller Son hid from the heat under a big rock. The kids loved this walk, bounding from rock to rock, climbing like monkeys and goats, racing ahead, finding new things to show us... and once again, all the other walkers and visitors were vociferously charmed by the microninjas and their hats.
Standley Chasm itself - a gap, cut by water, in the McDonnell Range. One small ninja contemplates the grandeur of nature...
And there was a reptile centre in Alice, too. It seemed like a good idea. They were really friendly, and there's a bit of a show-and-tell time, so the kids got the chance to get hands-on with some of the less dangerous of Australia's reptiles. That's a blue-tongued lizard right there.
...and that would be Jaffa, the Central Tree Dragon. I've never seen one that shade of yellow before.
That's an Olive Python drapped around Elder Son's neck. Beautiful snake. I'm glad to say the kids were quite comfortable with her, once they got over a little bit of early worry.
The Mau-Mau had a chance to get up-close and personal with the little olive python too. My hands are in the picture, yes - but not because I feared for the Mau-Mau. The snake was beautifully accustomed to human handling, and well fed. No... I was worried that in her excitement, the Mau-Mau might inadvertently hurt the poor snake.