Set off in the morning and set up in a caravan park for our stay. On Sunday we went to the Todd Mall markets and had a wander around - lots of touristy stuff. We did a mixture of town like activities interspersed with tourist destinations. Went to the movies and saw 10 Canoes, an Aboriginal story wonderfully told and filmed. So appropriate at the moment! Swapped house batteries under warranty and hope that the battery problems will improve.
We visited the old Telegraph Station for lunch and a tour. This area was originally settled because of the need for the Telegraph Station to connect Australia with England. There was nothing in the centre at that time and eventually it became the first tiny settlement of Alice Springs. The spring turned out to be a dud so they moved to the current site a few kms away. The guy giving the talk asked us where we all from and he found three Scots from Aberdeen in the crowd and quizzed them on who they knew as he to was also born in Aberdeen. While we were looking around Heather bumped into them again and asked them did they know Ellon to which they declared that was where they were from. They turned out to be friends of her uncle and aunty in Ellon (near Aberdeen) and their twin sons went to school with Heather’s cousin new husband, Gordon. Alison also worked with Dorothy for 17 years. It was bizarre as they had also gone to Jane and Gordon’s wedding that Heather’s brothers Colin and Neil attended last August. We arranged to have dinner and a chat with them that night. We had a lovely time and all marvelled at the co-incidence.
Wednesday was another town day looking at all sorts of Alice things. We finally caught up with John and Claire and three children after Heathers mum sent a message to say that they lived in Alice. John was the little boy who lived next door to the Duncans in Walgett and Heather has very strong clear memories of. It was fun to chat and try to jog John’s memory. The memory of John telling us about how his new riding boots would hurt if he kicked was strong. And there he was with his riding boots still on! There was also a memory of a few swear words that a 7 year old boy taught a12 yr old girl that she still says under her breath when things go wrong. All so innocent though. We went to the local pub for the State of Origin (say no more!). They had a duo playing country music, except everyone had turned around to watch the (muted) TV screen. However the musicians were a real hoot and they would comment on the state of play while they were singing. It was a lot of fun and we thought we would go again.
On Friday morning we went to the Alice Springs Desert Park. We had been reluctant to go as we thought it might be too touristy. Seems the more you pay the more 'touristy' a place is - but not this time, it was extremely good. The park is divided into three types of landscapes of central Australia and the flora and fauna of each region is very seamlessly presented. We loved the nocturnal display and saw remarkable creatures moving about naturally as at night, totally unaware that we were centimetres away. We also saw an exhibition of birds of prey. The Hobby Falcon’s speed was incredibly fast and could turn on a coin. All of this is set outdoors against the backdrop of the West McDonnell Ranges soaring above us.
On Saturday we went to the Ag Show that is a big draw around here. There was plenty to see with the usual line of cattle, bulls, cats and dogs. It was good to see lots of displays on local issues in the halls and we learnt more about the issues specific to this area. There were a lot of happy, friendly people around. The Aboriginal population was out in force enjoying them selves more openly than we have seen before. Met up with John, Claire and kids for coffee. The evening concluded with fireworks that made a fitting end to the day
Sunday was a long visit to the Cultural Centre which houses some excellent exhibitions of different Aboriginal art. Albert Namatjira was well represented as was the Papunya Movement which was backed up with an excellent video from the 70s. They also had a Central Australia Natural History Museum which explained the geology of the area extremely well. The Women’s Pioneer Museum was another interesting visit. It was started by a local woman to acknowledge pioneering women of Australia. She started it in response to her disappointment to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame that was so male dominated. We wandered downtown and spoke to some aborigines who were selling their paintings. They do not have much to say though! After a bit of discussion we bought two – one traditional and one modern.
On Monday we went to the East MacDonnell Ranges. While not as popular as the West MacDonnell Ranges, they are just as scenic in their own right. Called into Emily Gap that had very impressive Aboriginal art relating to caterpillars. Moved onto the interesting and visually impressive Corroboree Rock. Hiked along the ridge-top walk around yet another gorge, Trephina. It continues to surprise us that we find the countryside so different and beautiful. Lucky we do, as we have heard others say “not another rock”! (There is a search on now for a new slogan for N.T. Tourism and a favourite is “N.T. ROCKS” which we think is spot on!) Found Ross River Homestead and then set off for on a 4WD track to N’Dhala Gorge where there are many artefacts from the Aboriginal occupation, particularly at N’Dhala Gorge, which is reputed to have 6,000 rock carvings. We found about 10! Drove onto Arltunga, an old gold mining village which must have been incredibly isolated in a time before Alice was developed. Everything was carted in 600km from Oodnadatta by camel, horse and foot. It started in 1887 and in 1913 the battery closed. We hear there is some gold mining out there at present. Maybe the old guys missed the big one!
On Tuesday we had another look at some art galleries and in the evening went to dinner with John and Claire. They have previously worked with Aboriginal communities and had some interesting experiences. They both now Alice well and it was lovely to meet them. Spent the next day fixing the compressor and visiting a few more tourist spots around Alice. Finally bought a painting by a local artist that depicts a story of wandering around the waterholes that was affordable. Much of the art work is $500 to $20,000! Art is an industry but many are refreshing and desirable. On Thursday it RAINED!!! It was like a different Alice so we stayed the day to see if the river would run. No such luck! It did look very muddy though. It felt like a totally different place. This was the highlight of the week and front page news was the rain – only 8 mm, but the first time it has rained since April!