Alice Springs and Uluru

Uluru I had had a wonderful experience in Brisbane, but Tom had been just a little bored with it.  He had liked seeing the koalas, but that was it.  Optimistically, I thought he would get a kick out of Uluru, and since it was dry season in the desert, I suspected I would have a little more luck viewing birds in that region than I had in Darwin last time. 

Uluru, closeup What I hadn't done was reserve a rental car in advance.  Big mistake.  There were no more rental cars when we got to the airport, and we obtained one only out of pure kindness (or profit motive, considering what they charged us!)

We found a similar circumstance in Alice Springs.  All of the hotels were booked solid, and we had to stay at a hostel.  Our room was private, but we shared a kitchen unit with another couple in the ajacent room.  I was fine with it though, especially when I found a flock of Zebra Finches on the utility wires outside our window!

The next morning, we started to drive to Uluru.  Now, I knew how far it was, in theory.  I had experienced the drives in the Northern Territory on my last trip to Australia.  Tom hadn't, though.  I was able to keep alert as I noticed flocks of Budgerigars and Mulga Parrots erupting from the scrub, and Whistling Kites and the occasional Wedge-tailed Eagle circling overhead.  Tom, on the other hand, was just extremely bored during the four-and-a-half hour drive.

Yellow-throated Miner When we finally arrived at Uluru, he didn't react quite as enthusiastically as I would have hoped.  It was extremely hot and dry, and the black flies were thick.  We decided to take a hike around the rock, which did scare up a few birds, including a Common Bronzewing pigeon, a Gray-headed Honeyeater in one of the few trees, and a Gray Falcon flying overhead.

Afterwards, we headed for the Olgas and had a hike around there.  We saw an Australian Raven, Little Wood Swallows, and a Spotted Bowerbird near the Canyon of the Winds.  At a very shallow watering hole, we even saw a Rock Wallaby stop by to have a drink.

Spinifex Pigeon We stayed at another campground that night, and in the morning I persuaded Tom to visit King's Canyon.  On the map that had come with our car, it looked like King's Canyon was on the way back to Alice Springs.  Yeah, right.  That road was not passable by an ordinary car, and was private anyway.  King's Canyon turned out to be a nine hour detour!

Ring-necked Parrot It may have been worth it, though.  In the midst of all this flat, barren nothingness, the canyon was a true oasis.  It was packed with trees, and the area was packed with birds, including small blue-and-red Mistletoebirds, Painted Finches, Gray Butcherbirds, Hooded Robins, and a Striped Grasswren.  Along the ridge trail, we encountered Spinifex Pigeons , walking among the spinifex.  At the signs of civilization, the Yellow-throated Miners picked up where their eastern counterparts, Noisy Miners, left off.

Rainbow Bee-eater On the final day, we decided to stop roughing it and stay in a motel.  That morning, I went out in search of birds of the immediate area.  I found a Ring-necked Parrot, as well as many Galahs and several kinds of honeyeaters.

Galah Later, we investigated the botanical gardens of Alice Springs.  It was very interesting, consisting mostly of central Australian outback vegetation.  They had a very small water garden, where I found another pair of Mistletoebirds, and later I found a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters there as well.  Periodically, their sprinklers would go off, attracting flocks of Zebra Finches to drink from the puddles.

We finally ended up at an old telegraph station, where we looked at the descendants of the camels that used to be the sole transportation in the region.  I noticed some Gray-crowned Babblers having a sip from a drinking foutain, and of course there were tons more Galahs.   Tom wasn't too excited about this place either.  Maybe I had raved about this country too much.  Considering the stories I had told him, he was bound to be disappointed!  I was having a great deal of fun, though.  The heat was a little much, but that was just a distraction.


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