Kangaroos in the bush
Alice Springs most significant historical landmark is the historic telegraph station three kilometers north of town where the repeater station was set up by Charles Todd, postmaster of South Australia in 1872. This was one of the most historical events in Australian history, establishing telegraph lines from the Australia’s Top End (at Darwin on the Indian Ocean) to Adelaide, 2400 kilometers to the south.
Today the Telegraph Station is one of Alice’s major tourist destinations. It is several buildings on a slope over the dry bed of the Todd River in a barren landscape of red boulders and soil, scrub brush, gum and acacia trees, a perfect environment for red kangaroos to come after the heat of the day has passed and graze along the dry river bed.
The area resembles a remote outpost in America‘s Old West, somewhere in Utah or Wyoming where the terrain is the endless dust, scrub brush, heat, and barrenness. We felt somewhat at home, since we grew up in the mid-West, a couple states north of Utah and Wyoming.
It is remote locations like Utah, Wyoming, and the Outback that adventurous pioneers cross to link to civilization and eventual settlement.
Dry Todd River bed
We walked from the grounds onto the dry, sandy bed of the Todd River which winds from the MacDonnell Range through Alice Springs and eventually the Simpson desert. Kangaroos were hopping across the river bed, digging for water, and climbing in boulders on the other side. We approached a few who kept an eye on us, letting us get only so close, then they would hop away into the boulders or the scrub brush.
One young kangaroo was busy digging a pit in the dry river bed for water. After he hopped away, we walked over to see that he had dug down about a meter, piling up the sand along the side.
Later that evening after we had moved down the river bed, he returned, watching us before he went down into the pit to resume digging.
Hiding in plain sight
Kangaroos blend into the environment so well you have to watch for movement. Their camouflage is their greyish red coats which are natural colors in the Outback. Kangaroos have no natural predators except hunters who try to track them down in the bush. That’s why there are many million of them. They survive in the bleakest, hottest areas, resting in the shade during the heat of the day, coming out at dusk to graze and move through the red desert.
In fading daylight at the telegraph station, it was sometimes hard to see them.
Bedding down in the bush
We saw three or four younger kangaroos resting in the bush. They watched us, then rose when we came closer and hopped away to the cover of a rocky bluff.
We saw the largest kangaroo walking back toward the station, an old male hiding in the brush. He watched us, then hopped into boulders on a hill and disappeared.
It was thrilling to see so many kangaroos around the telegraph station. Almost everywhere we looked we saw them hopping, hiding in the bush, grazing, or digging in the river bed.
At dark, we left the telegraph station, driving slowly to avoid hitting one who might venture on the road. Many kangaroos are killed on the roads every evening, blinded by headlights.
Our evening at the telegraph station was our third encounter with kangaroos, the largest marsupials in the world. They’re magnificent creatures, beautiful, rugged, and unique in the animal kingdom.
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