Monday, March 23, 2015

The Red Centre

Tomorrow I leave Australia (for now)! I spent the last few weeks in the continent's red center in Alice Springs and some of the surrounding national parks. Because I'm a procrastinator and still need to finish packing for the next leg of the journey (Tuvalu!), this post may be less thorough than it oughta be. Hopefully, we can recount these stories another time in person under some equally von blue days and starry nights.

sunset from Anzac Hill in Alice Springs
Alice was a pleasant town. It shuts down early in the evening, but that suited me just fine. My hostel, the Alice Lodge Backpacker's, was a friendly, comfortable place. I spent a day at the Reptile Centre, where the excellent staff taught me all about geckos, bearded dragons, and pythons, among others. I even got to hold a two-meter olive python called Jack! It feels weird to be indoors when in Alice, because the desert scenery around it is so encompassing. The sunset view from Anzac Hill is a must, especially if you are feeling sad about being so far from home and the faithful communal voices of the open-air Catholic mass make you seem more of a loner.

Ellery Creek Big Hole, after a lovely swim
How to cure the worst homesickness I've ever felt? Confide in the desert. (Also have a few good cries.) Melbourne-friend-cartoonist-poet Brent flew up to meet me for a road-trip to Uluru. We first headed west, out along the MacDonnell Ranges, camping at Ellery Creek Big Hole. We didn't investigate the Big Hole until the morning, assuming it was maybe a crater or sinkhole or other small depression in the dry but surprisingly biodiverse landscape. Fools, we are! It was an oasis of the highest caliber. I didn't expect for a second that this trip would indulge my Piscean character, and the long morning swim in that frigid canyon pool was the first of many sacred encounters in the land of primary colors.

It's a looong drive to Uluru. We camped for free at Curtin Springs--a million acre cattle station also famous for making homemade paper. Neat. I made the mistake of tethering Sugar Mama (my tent) to some trees because the ground was too hard to hammer my stakes. The ants who lived in these trees didn't like this! I worry I will have to live ten million ant lives in order to pay my karmic debts for all those I smooshed packing up that morning.

Long drives in the Outback are good for deep conversation, sing-along music, and admiring the landscape. I still can't get over how actually really Red it is. The color comes from iron in the soil, rocks, dust oxidizing over the last many million years. But it isn't really rust colored. It's RED. Not--cherry red, or fire-engine red, or whatever other types of red there are. This is original red. Bah--the poet in me can't get a grip.

sunrise at Uluru
How to describe Uluru when you see it? The pictures don't do it justice. It is sacred. It holds stories I'm not privy to. I saw it and just looking made me feel like I was learning a secret. We did some hikes around the base, learning from rangers and guides about some of the elements of the Dreamtime and the ancestral Mala beings who made the country, lived on country, are the country, tell the stories of country. Do come here. Don't climb the rock.

Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds trail
I enjoyed hiking at Kata Tjuta more than at Uluru. Kata Tjuta (the Olga Mountains) are 36 domes, made of conglomerate sandstone rather than the arkose sandstone of Uluru. To those of you back in Deerfield-- Mt. Sugarloaf is also made of arkose! Whaaat! Our little lump a sugar has some crazy cousins over here. The traditional owners of Kata Tjuta do not share any stories of this sacred men's place as a means to protect the land and the stories. I was slow to understand this, but I think it is an effective means of conservation.

King's Canyon from afar
On the return to Alice Springs, Brent and I visited King's Canyon in Watarrka National Park. The weather was heating back up to 43 degrees Celsius (about 109 F), but we explored the shady sanctuary of King's Creek. It was a good place for writing.
The 'mighty' Todd River, Alice Springs (usually dry)

As we made the long haul back to the town (about a 5-6 hour drive from King's Canyon), the first clouds I'd seen since arriving in Alice rolled up from the south. The sunset that night was no longer the simple gradient of navy to tangerine; splashes of gold and purple and silver joined in around the clouds. They say if you see the Mighty Todd River flow three times, you'll never leave Alice Springs. I liked this place, but I wasn't ready to stay, and I flew out before the clouds could gather thick enough to bring rain to that parched riverbed.

The storms caught up to me here in Brisbane. Hopefully they'll take it easy when I get to Tuvalu. That place has seen enough storm for a while.

I will have extremely limited internet access in the next two months. Send your good vibes out to sea. I'll collect them twice daily on the tide.

Love always,

OH MAN THE FLIES (this is an unintentional Australian salute picture)

Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds trail

feathery flowers

waterhole at the base of Uluru, along Mala trail

me and Jack, the olive python at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your posts and catching up on what you have been doing. Cool fact about Mt. Sugarloaf! Great pics too!


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