First Three Weeks in Alice

Tomorrow is Saturday 9th May. That makes it 3 weeks since we arrived in Alice Springs.

1 alice sign

Every day has been filled with interesting things to see and do. In fact if anyone thinks life in a small desert town is boring they should come to Alice Springs. Tomorrow we have 10 different events/ visits we would like to do, including a James Morrison concert, a Multicultural Festival in the park, 2 art exhibition openings, Tai Chi at Araluen, visiting new friends who have offered us their house on the Todd River in January and a birthday dinner with “old” friends. Let’s elaborate a little on the happenings in the last 3 weeks. Within an hour of dumping our belongings at the hotel we were both engrossed in choosing art from Papunya Tula Gallery.

1b tula paintings 2 1a tula paintings

From there we managed a quick visit to Yubu Napa Gallery owned by our friends Ric and Karl, then it was back to the hotel to change in time to have dinner at our favourite restaurant in town to celebrate Daf’s birthday. This was just the first afternoon! Sunday, Daf went to Qigong in the park and then we met our house-sit owner and were given a tour of our interesting abode for 6 weeks. Helen is skilled in mosaics and has a fascinating back garden. We are still finding something new every day.

2 lanterns 2 lady in toilet 2 izzy and loungeroom 2 goanna and dogs 2 crocdile and fish 2 BIRDS

On Monday night we visited an art quilting group in the home of a new friend (you make new friends very quickly is this friendly town), then on Tuesday we moved into the house and started to get to know the three dogs, three ponds of fish and the pink galahs that come for a feed every evening. On Wednesday our son Andrew arrived to house sit while we were at the Big Sing. We’ve shared our time at the Big Sing in a previous blog. Andrew stayed in Alice for a few days after we returned from the Big Sing and the time was happily filled with daily adventures such as ballooning at dawn and visits to Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge, Ochre Pits, Ellery Water Hole, Simpsons Gap, Hermansberg and Palm Valley. We loved seeing Andrew falling in love with the Centre. It’s more special when the experience is shared with a loved one who really appreciates it.

balloon 1 balloon 2

balloon 4
Long shadows from small shrubs in dawn light
We helped to put the balloon basked (with balloon attached) onto the trailer. Then they deflate the balloon, we roll it up and it goes onto the trailer too.
We helped to put the balloon basked (with balloon attached) onto the trailer. Then they deflate the balloon, we roll it up and it goes onto the trailer too.

balloon 3

Palm Valley Amphitheatre
palm 2
Cycad Valley
palm 4
On the rim of Palm Valley
palm 5
Spinifex (porcupine bush – sit on it and you’ll know how it got that name) on the rim of Palm Valley. The tops of the palm trees are peeking up from the valley below
west mac 1
West Macdonnell ranges

west mac 1b

Glen Helen Gorge
Glen Helen Gorge
west mac 3
Ormiston Gorge
west mac 4
Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston gorge - taken by Andrew on his loop walk
Ormiston gorge – taken by Andrew on his loop walk
Ellery Creek Big Hole
Ellery Creek Big Hole
ochre 2
Ochre Pits

The Aboriginal men came to the ochre pits collect ochre for rock art and body paint and sand painting. The cliffs are red, white and yellow.  Women could use the ochre collected by the men but were not permitted to collect it themselves. It is a sacred site and resonates with the spirits of the elders.

Ochre Pits (visitors are not permitted to touch the ochre – these samples were left on display)
West Macdonnell Ranges looking east
West Macdonnell Ranges looking east
Heading back to town from Simpson's Gap
Heading back to town from Simpson’s Gap

We also drove to Santa Teresa for the day and visited a wonderful Art Centre (Keringke) where Jude managed to buy a few pieces of art – surprise, surprise!

Keringke Arts
Keringke Arts

While Andrew and Daf climbed a hill to view the view, Jude wandered around and ‘found’ the Purple Bus. The driver saw her trying to get a photo so kindly stopped so she could photograph the bus and chat with him.

purple truck

The Purple Bus/House is a non Government Organisation that travels to remote communities to provide dialysis to Aboriginal people. Doing this means they can stay on country and not have to live in Alice. It’s a fabulous organisation and there will be more about the Purple House further on. Just as Andrew was leaving, Jude’s cousin Robbie arrived for a brief visit for work and to hang with us. We all went on a tour by a park ranger of Simpson’s Gap where we learnt about the habitat (including bush coconuts). Unhappy to learn that the yellow grasses that cover most of the open spaces in the centre are weeds. They were planted around Alice Springs airport to prevent the red dust from damaging the planes. They spread and spread. They are popular with cattle stations because they grow quickly, prevent erosion around the dams and feed the cattle, but they are a curse because they are overtaking the native grasses. In the next photo taken inside Simpsons Gap National Park, all the background grasses are the weed (Buffel grass) and only the darker foreground grass is native (Kangaroo grass).

robbie 1
Buffel grass (yellow) and native Kangaroo grass (rust coloured in foreground)
robbie 2
Jude and Robbie at the clay pans just outside of Alice

Also visited the clay pans just outside of Alice, and had lunch at the wonderful Vietnamese restaurant – surrounded by a market garden about 15km from town. And of course, the inevitable brunch at Olive Pink Botanic gardens before heading to the airport. You’ll hear a lot about Olive Pink brunches before our trip is over. One of our favourite places, especially now that it has a labyrinth.

Cafe at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens
Cafe at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens

In the few days since then Daf has started quilting, played bridge at the local club and visited another quilting group; Jude has bought a pushbike; we’ve visited lots of art galleries (bought lots more art of course), agreed to help re-set up an Aboriginal art gallery that has recently moved (more of that later when we have some photos and have actually done some work) and attended the Bangtail Muster the big annual parade through Todd Mall on May Day (which is a public holiday in NT). The parade was great fun.


We also had a wee disaster – Daf’s computer died. At first we thought it was just sick, but when we finally found someone in Alice who knows about Macs they gave us the sad news. Daf had sat up just a couple of nights before and copied all our photos onto a usb stick, but she was too tired to do the files as well. So all the book writing she’s done during the trip (and there has been a fair bit) has gone. Oh well. It will just have to be rewritten. A new computer is on order – lucky that we have another one with us to keep her going until it comes.

In the meantime, Jude has been doing her morning walk around the interesting streets near where we live. Yesterday she saw a house painted purple. Could it be? She chatted to the guy out the front and he confirmed that it was indeed THE Purple House. There’s a great video about it on their website:

The Purple House is not only a dialysis centre, it’s also a community centre. People come to see a doctor, exercise physiologist, podiatrist, dietician, social worker, Centrelink officer, etc. It’s a warm, friendly, inviting place. And they welcome volunteers! Today Jude made about 20 cups of tea and lots of toasties, and we shared the damper that was made on the fire (to go with the kangaroo tails – but we gave those a miss – some delicacies are an acquired taste). Daf can’t cope with needles, but the office is the other end of the building to the dialysis room, so she can sit there and do a little data entry. Daf remembers her friend Dave who had dialysis 3 times a week for years before his death. He would have loved to have been at the Purple House instead of a hospital. We’ll be spending a lot of time there. It has a spirit that nurtures us. We’ve both been grinning ever since we were there.

The Purple House is having a new fund raiser- a new book by an outstanding artist, Patrick Tjungurrayi. We have one of his paintings at home (Heath and Lauren, it’s the one on the left of the door as you go from the study into the kitchen). There’s a book launch in a couple of weeks at Papunya Tula gallery. It clashes with a bridge tournament (wonder which Daf will go to?).

We are so pleased to have found the Purple House and have decided to make it the priority recipient of donations from Mulapa. Their bush medicines (as shown in the video) are fabulous. Jude will be stocking them on her market stall. If you usually get a xmas present from us – you know what you’ll be getting this year! We’ll also try to organise a fundraising art show in Sydney later in the year.

One last snippet. Suburu has seen our blog and put a short story about our trip in their emagazine. If you want to see the story, enter this into google: XV Takes Trip Across Australia | Subaru Active Is this our 15 minutes of fame?

Our Nepalese friends, Brittany and her family, are in our thoughts. It must be so hard to be in Sydney when your friends at home are dealing with such devastation.

Best wishes to Lesley and Syl on their amazing undertaking of organising the first endometriosis conference in Sydney on 16th May. ( To borrow a saying from Aboriginal culture – you two are deadly! An idea for recycling your worn out jeans – in the courtyard of a great cafe.

That’s all folks. Need to sleep now to be able to get through tomorrow’s 10 event agenda. Such an invigorating life!


3 thoughts on “First Three Weeks in Alice

  1. It is great to hear that you are both well and are embracing the community. Your days sound action packed. Daf Noels email is as follows:
    Keep well love and best wishes Mark and Jane Hussey


  2. So great reading about your adventures. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Life goes on as usual in Sydney – so you are not missing much. All is good in Pretoria Street!
    Lots of love the Husseys xx


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