Living Next Door to Alice (Day 178)
Alice Springs, the heart of Australia, situated halfway between Darwin in the north and Adelaide in the south, both 1,500 km away. In a way living next door to Alice Springs really is the heart of Australia.
Alice Springs and its surrounding area has amazing natural beauty, interesting geological aspects, a spiritual place with a number of spiritual retreats, incredible history of the land, indigenous people and the growth of the European settlers, stunning artwork which is sent all over the world and a great place for sport! And there I was thinking this place was just a small hobo town with flat red desert surrounding it – how wrong could I be. I don’t want to paint too much of a rosy picture. It does have significant problems; poverty, an increase in crime due to alcohol abuse and sadly, a strong racial divide. After lunch (the morning was mainly taken up writing 3 days of blogs) we went into Iranti Art Gallery to see the local Aboriginal artwork. We often associate their art with lots of dots that must take the patience of a saint to do; especially some of them which are exquisitely neat and geometrically even. However, there are other styles. Some look like impressionist work, not that the artist would have ever heard of Monet, or naturalistic x-ray art of animals demonstrating the artists' connection with the faunae. There were a number of pieces based on dreaming stories of Bush Medicine leaves, large canvases covered in small leaves that have a rhythm and flow about them creating curves and swirls in earthy rich colours. We got chatting with the owner, Venita who has owned the Gallery for a year, moving here from Sydney with her newly-wed husband. He is a chemist in a very well-known pharmaceutical company and has managed to negotiate working remotely – and they certainly are remote living here! We had such a lovely chat, Venita was intrigued by us being Grown Up Travellers, so we chatted how it is possible, we can all make things possible if we want to. The thing that stops us is listening to unhelpful thoughts, Tim and I are just a couple of ordinary people, so if we can do it, then most people can if they want to. We got on to talk about her lovely art gallery and her relationship with the Aboriginal people. As a young child, she used to live in Cooper Pedy, a mining town, and would often be looked after by a local Aboriginal lady. She explained that Aboriginals have a very different way of experiencing life in the western world. They don’t do a linear timeline, there is no past, present, future, there is just now. Even their ancestral stories are in the present. Looking at the paintings, which often represent a person’s inner consciousness, I noticed that they are very much big picture, an overview, and Venita confirmed that Aborigines see the world from above. It is rare to see horizons in their artwork, only some of the younger contemporary artists are starting to add the sky to their paintings. I find that fascinating, a totally different way of observing the landscape. During our time at the Art Gallery, I was also conversing with Sue, who we met on the tour. She and her husband John had managed to get a 4 berth relocation campervan from Alice Springs up to Darwin, perfect for their travel itinerary. They offered to take us to Simpsons Gap and would pick us up. A little while later, this big Campervan turns up with Sue and John waving. We hopped in and drove up to Anzac hill, the most visited landmark in Alice Springs. The Memorial was unveiled on Anzac Day in 1934 to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in WW1 and now includes memorials for subsequent wars. The elevation gave us a 360-degree panoramic view of Alice Springs and the beautiful MacDonnell ranges with their parallel ridges running to the east and west. One part of the range looks like a huge dragon lying down with the ragged backbone protruding along the top. We finally arrived at Simpsons Gap, a stunning gorge that is cut out of the West MacDonnell Ranges by Roe Creek. The rock formation is incredible, mainly metamorphic red quartzite, with huge straight upright blocks squashed tight together that we hope don’t decide to slide down as we walk past. We needed our tour guide Ken from @therocktour to inform us that this area is known as Rungutjirpa to the Arrernte people, and was the mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors. Walking along the gorge, with its dry sandy bed, there was a sign that read “No swimming” which amused us. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that we came to the waterhole where Sue proceeded to jump across the stepping stones, nearly falling in. Along the gorge were some beautiful huge gum trees with their white barks standing out from the deep red of the rock. We were keeping a lookout for the small black-footed rock wallabies, sadly no sightings, however, this is another magical place that we were lucky enough to see. The sun was getting low fast, so an early dinner as Sue and John had another early start in the morning and we had things to do. The Lonely Planet’s guide recommended the Hanuman Restaurant. When we turned up, we realised it was at the Hilton Hotel. Us #GrownUpTravellers don’t tend to eat in places like this, we like to budget our money, the prices didn’t look too onerous though. It turned out that they were fully booked (It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow here), however they could offer us a takeaway. We put our order in and went to the bar for a drink. It was happy hour – yay! After a while, Sue went to collect our food, upon her return she asked the bar if they would mind us eating it there. They were fine, so she popped back to the restaurant to ask for 4 plates. That’s what I love about Sue. She has a “can do” attitude, no blocks or barriers in her head, she goes for it in the most wonderful charming manner with a twinkle in her eye. Fabulous. We talked about a whole multitude of subjects including the many troubles in this world, how people expect others to live the way that they do, not appreciating the difference in culture. A huge issue here and in Sue’s homeland South Africa. The meal was delicious and our conversation was enriching. What more can we ask for – the perfect evening.