03/02/2009 - 03/03/2009 110 °F
Towards the end of the 5 hour drive back from Uluru, we saw signs for a camel farm. Camels had became an area of interest after we heard there were lots of wild camels in the area. Apparently when the railway was being built, camels were extensively used (camels do better than horses in the desert) and were let loose after the railway was completed. The expectation was that the camels would eventually die off since there were so few of them and the outback is a harsh environment. On the contrary, the camels have grown in number and are living throughout the red center. Giving in to the multiple pleas from the backseat, I pulled into the camel farm. Dawn and Jason immediately went inside to inquire about camel rides, and shortly thereafter reappeared holding ride tickets. We made our way to the camel stable (I guess you call it a stable?), and Greg, Dawn, and Jason took their mounts.
The camels did not want to move in this heat, much less come into the sun and have people climb on their backs. The leads for the camels were attached to pins in their nostrils, and the camel trainer would give it a sharp yank to get the camel to stand up, move, or lay down. Once the camels were in position, the three riders started climbing aboard. As soon as the camel felt someone climb on, it would let out a loud bellow, clearly expressing his displeasure at being made to work.
After the ride was complete, we wandered around the rest of the farm looking at llamas, stud camels, emus, and kangaroos. Jason was determined to get a good photo with a camel, so he repeatedly approached the camels (often offering a piece of straw) hoping that they would hold still long enough to get a decent picture. He tried the same thing with the emu, but after a quick snap from the emu, he walked towards the safer kangaroos.
After a quick beer at the road house, it was back on the road into Alice Springs. We wanted to get to a restaurant that looked out into the sunset so we could try and see the kangaroos bouncing as the sun went down. We didn't quite make it in time, so instead we went to an Australian steak house for a true Aussie steak. The boys all got the Drover Platter, which included a serving of steak, baramundi (white fish), crocodile, emu, camel, and kangaroo. Surprisingly enough, the camel was the next best to the steak (and the emu was very tough and not too tasty). Wrapping up dinner, we headed down the road to the most glorious site I had seen in Australia—a Bojangles!
It wasn't the fried chicken and biscuit deliciousness that I have come to miss so much, but it was an awesome pub (it was also the only pub in town). The radio station was broadcasting out of the bar (as it does every night), there was a herd of people, a python, and 2 liter beers. You couldn't ask for more.
The bar was also full of practical jokes. They put the handles for the bathroom doors on the side with the hinges, the faucets turned on the sink two over, and the hand driers were cross wired. They had change glued to the floor so that you couldn't pick it up. It was a bar that you were meant to have fun in, and we definitely had a great time. After staying late into the night, we went back to our hotel.
Our hotel also happened to be a casino. Instead of going directly to sleep, the boys snuck out to do a little gambling. Greg, Jason, and Will each took turns at the blackjack table. Greg was playing next to an Aboriginal that claimed to be able to command the cards while Jason made friends with an Alice Springs "farmer". Alice Springs has a large American population because of a huge satellite tracking center out in the desert. These intelligence workers often claim to be farmers when approached by locals and tourists. Our "farmer" was playing high stakes, so his farm must have been doing real well (he was also around 30 years old and from Texas). I ended up having the best night at breaking even, while also being the only person to not gamble.
The next day we drove back out of Alice Springs to walk through the desert park. This park had worked to recreate three different environments of the desert and the wildlife that lives there. They also provided free audio tours which provided a wealth of information and pointed out sights that were unique. The park was very natural, and hardly felt like it had been man made. While I was taking in the varying landscapes, the rest of the group got excited at encountering their first uncaged kangaroo.
There were several kangaroos trying to beat the heat by lying down in the shade. It was so hot outside that the kangaroos didn't even attempt to move as we approached, even letting us share the same shade as them. In the pictures below, notice how the kangaroos arms and legs look wet. Kangaroos often lick their forearms so the evaporation of moisture cools the blood flowing close to the skin. These roos had plenty of water available and they continuously apply a new coat of saliva to their forearms.
It was getting late, and we had to catch our next flight. We are off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!