20161210

This is Alice Springs? Sat, 12/10/16



Boy, howdy, what a nice send off from the City of Melbourne -- a squadron of hot air balloons ascending in the early morning overcast.  At 7:30am, our Road Scholar group left for the airport, and a 3-hour Qantas flight to Alice Springs.

Once in the air, the landscape below evolved from multi-colored quilt blocks near coastal Melbourne to an almost-nothing expanse of brownish, irregular-shaped blocks as we flew inland.  Long, squiggly or zig-zag lines, like we've seen on Aboriginal shield designs appeared, which is fitting in the Outback ... ancient peoples would know about these things.  Occasionally a straight dirt track arose and retreated into the distance. Strings of smooth, darker-colored hills stood out at intervals against the drab brown.  Further inland, I saw no roads, nor anything like a building's shiny roof, no sign of human habitation -- just an overall sepia emptiness. It's a vast desert we were flying over, with no visible mountain ranges, although from 30,000' up, it was plain the land below twern't pancake flat. 


The sky was hazy.  Time passed.  With my face pressed to the window, I began to see sandy stretches a-swirl with shades of gray, white, tan, and dusky brown, which reminded me of a mocha latte ... perhaps dry lakebeds?  More minutes passed and then I spied large, white salt beds (?) splotched with black ... made me think of inkblots or a Rorschach test -- weird! An hour or so out of Alice Springs, I noticed the ground had become myriad shades of red. As we approached Alice, dark wavy crevices or ditches, with curlicues, snaked away toward the horizon, like our arteries as they branch out from our heart.  


Earth pigments such as burnt umber, raw sienna, tan, maroon, make up this desert -- holy moly, it's the direct opposite of Milford Sound!  Suddenly below was a cluster of those shiny roofs I'd been looking for, with a long straight track, going somewhere.  As the plane began its descent, I thought I saw a river. Is that possible?


Knowing we were seeing only a small portion [from the air, no less] of such an immense desert, I wondered to myself, "Is this what I thought the Outback would look like?" I had no preconception.   I just knew it'd be hot


Yup,  this is Alice Springs. But, wait, it's green!  Aha, the same weather system that brought wet, windy, and cooler-than-normal temps in Melbourne, dropped two inches of rain on Alice, lowering humidity and ushering in slightly lower temps while we'd be here.  Lucky us!


Look at the blue eyes on this dude!
An Australian Raven, squawking up a storm at our hotel.

Today, we transferred to our hotel before going on to other venues!  After checking in, Jimmy and I went for a walk about the grounds; that raven was the first of many novel birds I heard and saw in the Outback.  Yep, we put away our jackets and broke out the shorts and T-shirts, but I don't think the temp reached 90℉.


After orientation and lunch, we hit the streets (by coach) for Alice Springs School of the Air.  Alice has an abundance of cool, decorative murals. 


Learning how the School of the Air works:  It's main focus is educating those children (primary and early secondary) in remote and outback Australia.  Often computers, printers, etc., are supplied, and the Internet has become a big tool for these kids.


I love this example of Australian Aboriginal Art -- works that show dots, cross hatching, maps of circles, spirals, lines and dashes -- the long-established pictorial language of Western Desert Aboriginal People.  Not only is this simple dot style beautiful, it has a more hidden meaning and deeper purpose -- to disguise the sacred stories told in the paintings. We understood the story told above.  Heck, we almost bought a piece like this, but our walls need less, not more!  If you Google "Aboriginal Art," you'll see some fantastic art works.  After "attending" Air School, our group returned to the hotel.


Linda trying on her sand fly face/neck net.
She may need it tomorrow!


Lots of Galah Cockatoos Out and About in Alice Springs!

From our hotel, Jimmy and I walked "to town," crossing a bridge over the bone-dry Todd River to see what we could see, so to speak.  Answer is, not much.  Alice reminded us of towns on Rte 66, parched and forgotten.  Nothing was open on a Saturday afternoon; we saw a lot of "For Lease, For Sale, Available" signs in front of empty stores.  A few hollow-eyed Aborigines sat on a corner, with their dot paintings for sale, repeating "no pictures" as we passed by.  We spotted them later as they ambled back to their encampment beneath the bridge.  Depressing.  (Aborigines don't want their images captured.)


One section of a long mural at the back of Alice Springs' grocery store.  I guess most people know that camels were brought into the Outback years ago for transport and heavy work, and when they were no longer needed, they were turned loose to fend for themselves. Nowadays about 75,000 wild camels roam the wilderness.


Tufted pigeon, looks like it could put your eye out.
We saw a bunch of these guys.


Our first evening in Alice was excellent!  Dinner from the grill at Olive Pink Cafe, with Aussie folk singer and songwriter, Barry Skipsey to entertain.  So much fun!  Barry was the perfect entertainer ... not only did he have us singing and clapping, he had wallabies listening and birds singing!


A small flock of wild Australian Ringneck Parrots joined in.


Hah -- he enlisted Brian and Alla to help out on this song skit, and they were such great sports.  When we'd finished dinner and the entertainment was over, an astronomy talk was presented away from the lights, but the moon itself was very bright.  Parked in chairs to look up at the Southern Hemisphere night sky, spotting a brilliant Venus was easy, as were other constellations, tho we soon learned it was the wrong time of year to see the Southern Cross.  Oh well, if that's our biggest disappointment on this trip, no worries, we'll heal just fine!

1 comment:

  1. I have been waiting impatiently for the Alice Springs stories. It just seems like such an iconic place in the world. Nothing really "there" of course, except the rock...but still. It is a desert, a red desert, and you know how I love those red deserts. I never imagined a raven with blue eyes!

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