Life in Alice Springs

No parking problems in Alice. We like to park beside the Todd, one block from the mall.
No parking problems in Alice. We like to park beside the Todd River (yes, that dry sand is a river), one block from the mall.

It’s over 11 weeks since we set out from Sydney. Feels like 11 months. We love Alice and we love getting involved in all the wonderful things there are to do in Alice. Fantasies of “retiring” here one day are a daily pastime. Maybe 6 months here and 6 months in Sydney? But that’s a few years away, so just enjoying every minute for now.

Too much has happened to cover in one blog. So just some snippets of our highlights. Interestingly, our favourites are “work”. We have three places that we love to hang out. Firstly, the Purple House. We mentioned it in our last blog. It’s the headquarters for the Western Desert Dialysis Corporation  (it’s worth watchin the inspiring 10 minute video about it on YouTube – The Purple House by Australian Unity). It’s more than a dialysis centre, it’s a vibrant community health centre. Jude spends 2 or 3 hours there on most mornings when we’re in town. Tea and toasties, helping to bottle and label the bush medicine, and having great chats with all the amazing people who come in each day. She’s really happy when she meets one of the artists whose art she has sold (they are the mob who paint for Papunya Tula). Daf does a little data entry and loves helping out with the bush medicine too. The warmth and energy of Purple House is so nurturing. We sometimes wonder if we should pay for the privilege of being allowed to be there.

JUDE BUSH MEDICINE 2

DAF BUSH MEDICINE
Note the fire pit and chickens in the garden of Purple House
Jude and Chrystal. Chrystal is an 18 yr old Aboriginal Jazz singer who not only makes bush medicine but has also won a scholarship to a music school in NY! Jude heard her performing last week - she sounds like a young Ella Fitzgerald
Jude and Chrystal. Chrystal is an 18 yr old Aboriginal Jazz singer who not only makes great bush medicine but has also won a scholarship to a music school in NY. Jude heard her performing last week – she sounds like a young Ella Fitzgerald

It’s very cold in Alice from sunset to sunrise (then can get very warm in the day), so the people who come into Purple House are always pleased if there are blankets and rugs available. Daf’s generous sister Joyce has decided to start knitting lots of knee rugs for them. They’re going to love them.

Our second hangout is NgurraTjuta, the Aboriginal owned art centre where the Hermansberg/Namatjira mob paint. Gorgeous watercolours. You probably remember having a print of one in your home or in your schoolroom. The artists are the grandchildren of Albert Namatjira and his mates. NgurraTjuta was in Wilkinson St when we first visited them about 6 years ago. We loved the hectagonal gallery at the back. They moved to various other locations, but it didn’t work out, so the very week we arrived in town they moved back to Wilkinson St. The manager and her assistant faced a huge job of re-setting up the gallery and studio. We were lucky enough to be trusted to do the gallery. When our friend Olivier (alias Mo Resin, the resin jewellery artist) arrived in Alice we picked him up at the airport and took him straight to the gallery. He remounted the hanging system. Over the next two weeks we cleaned up, wired lots of framed paintings and rehung the gallery. When Olivier returned from Yuendemu we took him back to finish off the last few pieces that we weren’t tall enough to manage. It was all great fun and we’re delighted that we could do this for a special group of artists. Of course, we bought one of the paintings to celebrate! Mulapa also bought lots of small pieces for the stall.

Daf, Olivier and Jude
Daf, Olivier and Jude
Panorama shot of the finished gallery
Panorama shot of the finished gallery
Olivier giving his approval to our purchase of this strong painting by Mervyn Rubinta
Olivier giving his approval to our purchase of this strong painting by Mervyn Rubuntja

Our third special place is Yubu Napa.It’s a lovely new art gallery near the mall owned by our mates Karl and Ric. They share our vision of providing the opportunity for sustainable income for town based artists. The artists work in their gallery, so the public can get to see them. You can tell by the quality of the art that the artists respect them.

Ric at Yubu Napa
Ric at Yubu Napa
Nellie Marks painting at Yubu Napa
Nellie Nakamara Marks painting at Yubu Napa

We did a stretching workshop at Central Craft with them, so we can do more stretching of Mulapa’s art. You’ll notice in the photo that Daf is a little shorter than Karl.

Daf and Karl at stretching workship
Daf and Karl at stretching workship

Ric’s long lost cousin Dave and his partner Holly turned up unexpectedly. They have ridden their bikes here from Cornwall. Yes, Cornwall in England. They rode through Europe, China, Vietnam to Singapore then flew to Darwin. They had just done the 1500 km from Darwin to Alice when we met them. And we thought we were on a great adventure driving from Sydney to Alice with all facilities! They’ve headed south; their last Facebook entry was from Mount Gambier. Heading through Melbourne, Sydney and finishing in Newcastle next month. They are a great inspiration – but we still plan on driving from Alice to Darwin in August – we can’t ride that far up hill!

Holly and Dave about to set  off to Sydney from Alice Springs. Kerry is in the background.
Holly and Dave about to set off to Sydney from Yubu Napa in Alice Springs. Artist Kerry McCarthy is in the background.

Our friend Nel came to visit and we had a fabulous trip to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. There was a mice plague (thousands of them) the first time Daf went to Uluru in the 70s with Kevin, and a minor problem when we went with Jeanette and Marilyn a few years ago. It also rained last time. This time it was perfect weather and no mice (although there’s still a mousey smell at Mt Ebenezer roadhouse). We loved every minute of the trip. We even stretched ourselves to walking all the way around the base of Uluru (about 10km). Enjoyed camels on the road to Kings Canyon and took a helicopter over the canyon instead of doing the hot rim walk.

Mt Connor, about 100 km before Uluru. Visitors often confuse it with Uluru when they first see it. Surprising that it's not also a major tourist destination. It's on private land. Can only be visited with an all day tour from Uluru - maybe next time?
Mt Connor, about 100 km before Uluru. Visitors often confuse it with Uluru when they first see it. Surprising that it’s not also a major tourist destination. It’s on private land. Can only be visited with an all day tour from Uluru – maybe next time?
Uluru as we drive past
Uluru as we drive past
Uluru doing it's magical colour changes at sunset
Uluru doing it’s magical colour changes at sunset
KATA TJUPA ULURU DAWN
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru at dawn
A glimpse of Uluru from the balcony of our unit
A glimpse of Uluru from the balcony of our unit
Jude and Nel enjoying our last sunset at Uluru
Jude and Nel enjoying our last sunset at Uluru
The sand at Uluru
The sand at Uluru
Jude at Kata Tjuta
Jude at Kata Tjuta
Jude and Nel walking out of Kata Tjuta
Jude and Nel walking out of Kata Tjuta
Camels on the road out of Ulurua
Wild camels on the road out of Uluru
They were big camels. Good that they decided to race away.
They were big camels. Good that they decided to race away.
The rim walk at Kings Canyon  is 4 hours in full sun. Too much for us. We did it by helicopter instead.
The rim walk at Kings Canyon is 4 hours in full sun. Too much for us. We did it by helicopter instead.
The domes around the rim of Kings Canyon
The domes around the rim of Kings Canyon
The steep start of the walk up to the rim of Kings Canyon
The steep start of the walk up to the rim of Kings Canyon
KINGS DINGO
From a distance the Gill Range (in which Kings Canyon lies) is seen as a dingo (head to the left) with dingo pups feeding along it’s body. There were many dingos around the resort and their howls were amazingly loud, especially at night.
Rock wall in Kings Creek Walk (down through the canyon)
Rock wall in Kings Creek Walk (down through the canyon)
Kings Creek Walk
Kings Creek Walk
The rock canyon wall from Kings Creek walk
The rock canyon wall from Kings Creek walk

There were lots of mice in the house we were house sitting when we first arrived 10 weeks ago and we’ve seen one in the unit we’ve now leased, but mice are not much of a problem on this trip. We love the blossoms that drop in our street and there’s a great hill behind the unit. Em couldn’t resist walking up it.

Blossoms that fell from the trees in our street
Blossoms that fell from the trees in our street
The hill behind our unit
The hill behind our unit

Last weekend was Beanie Festival. 6500 beanies for sale. We managed to keep our purchases down to about 10. And lots of interesting workshops. Daf did silk painting and wool dyeing and basket weaving and needle felted beanie making. Surprisingly, Jude decided to get into it too and made the most amazing beanie.

Daf's "eye" beanie
Daf’s “eye” beanie
Jude and Daf choosing beanies for Gay Pride (Alice's mardi gras)
Jude and Daf choosing beanies for Gay Pride (Alice’s mardi gras)
Jude practising for a career in modelling
Jude practising for a career in modelling
Jude felted this beanie. She says the tongue is because she had to concentrate hard
Jude felted this beanie. She says the tongue is because she had to concentrate hard

Em was here during the Beanie Festival (she finished an assessment at uni and decided that night that a trip to Alice was just the thing to unwind – arrived the very next day). She found a colourful beanie featuring a honey ant. She didn’t get to eat one, but we found some at Todd Mall Markets a few weeks ago – you eat the body of the ant – it’s full of yummy rich, honey nectar.

Em's honey ant beanie
Em’s honey ant beanie
Honey ant - the orange bulge is all the honey in it's body. Eating the head is optional.
Honey ant – the orange bulge is all the honey in it’s body. Eating the head is optional.
Daf's first honey ant. She didn't eat the head
Daf’s first honey ant. She didn’t eat the head

Purple House had a stall at the Beanie Festival. Jude was in her element being back on a market stall. They cooked damper and kangaroo tail. Em tried some – not her favourite treat!

Jude at the Purple House stall, selling bush medicines at Beanie Festival
Jude at the Purple House stall, selling bush medicines at Beanie Festival
Damper and kangaroo tail on the fire pit
Damper and kangaroo tail on the fire pit
Em contemplating the kangaroo tail
Em contemplating the kangaroo tail

We’ve also visited lots more gorges. Back to Ochre pits and Ormiston gorge with Olivier, to Simpson’s gap with Nel, and to Standley Chasm and Emily Gap with Emily.

Ormiston gorge
Ormiston gorge
Mo in Ormiston gorge
Olivier in Ormiston gorge
Olivier's flies
Olivier’s flies
A must have fashion accessory in the Centre is a fly net
A must have fashion accessory in the Centre is a fly net
Em's photo of a tree at Standley Chasm. She spent most of her time here gazing in wonder at the trees, especially those in the dry Todd River
Em’s magnificent photo of a tree at Standley Chasm. She spent most of her time here gazing in wonder at the trees, especially those in the dry Todd River
Em walking into Standley Chasm
Em walking into Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm
Clouds highlighting the beauty of the West Macdonnell Ranges on the drive back from Standley Chasm
Clouds highlighting the beauty of the West Macdonnell Ranges on the drive back from Standley Chasm
Simpson's gap
Simpson’s gap

EMILY GAPX

Rock art in Emily Gap
Rock art in Emily Gap
Emily Gap
Emily Gap
Daf loves taking photos of faces in rocks. How many faces can you see in this photo?
Daf loves taking photos of faces in rocks. How many faces can you see in this one?

Em even got to see water flooding the courseway on the Todd River. It is usually dry. They say you have to see it running 3 times before you’re a local. That’s 1 . .

Water on the courseway at Todd River. It dried up on about two hours
Water on the courseway at Todd River. It dried up on about two hours

The rain changed the claypans. We’ll repeat the photo we took a few weeks ago to contrast with the ones we took this week.

The clay pans last month before the rain
Jude and Robbie at the clay pans last month before the rain
Clay Pans after rain
Clay Pans after rain
Clay Pans after rain
Clay Pans after rain
Claypans after rains
Claypans after rains

Jude has driven out twice to the Aboriginal art centre, Warlukurlangu, at Yuendemu about 300 km northwest of Alice. Once with Olivier (who is working with Aboriginal artists to show their art in his beautiful jewellery) and once with Nel. Just an overnight trip on these occasions. We are heading out to Papunya and Yuendemu for a week or so at the end of July.

Cecilia and Gloria (managers of Warlukalangu). Jude is wearing her priming apron
Cecilia and Gloria (managers of Warlukurlangu). Jude is wearing her priming apron. Cecilia and Gloria are both from Chile.

Tyler’s 5th birthday was on June 15. Jude flew back to Sydney to surprise him. Mia was also delighted to see her. Missing them and other family and friends is the only down-side of this magical trip.

Jude and Mia
Jude and Mia. Mia doesn’t seem to want to let go of her Oma
Tyler and Mia. She's 18 months old. Who do you think is the boss?
Tyler and Mia. She’s 18 months old. Who do you think is the boss?
Tyler 5th birthday cake at Uncle Rob's home
Tyler birthday dinner at Uncle Rob’s home. When you’re 5 you can blow out your own candles

The rest of our time has been spent visiting art galleries on the mall (avoiding the ones owned by carpet baggers), checking out all the cafes for the best coffee, meeting up with new friends, attending art exhibitions, looking at real estate, enjoying the company of many visitors (as well as Andrew, Robbie, Olivier, Nel and Emily we’ve had quick visits from Julie and Lynette who came to walk some of the Larapinta Trail and then a week later Julia, David and Kat who came to walk some different sections of it), sleeping in, reading, and generally having fun. Oh, and Daf also spends some time quliting, playing bridge and writing her book (she’s loving it).

Desert Park doesn't have the best coffee in Alice, but it sure has the best view for drinking coffee
Desert Park doesn’t have the best coffee in Alice, but it sure has the best view for drinking coffee
A tree in Desert Park
A tree in Desert Park. We went to a great talk in the park by an Aboriginal woman on bush food and bush medicine. Loved the bush tomatoes.

So now you know why we haven’t blogged for a while. We do seem to be rather busy. Thanks for the emails and phone calls. Great to keep in touch with you all.

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3 thoughts on “Life in Alice Springs

  1. Wonderful to read your blog and hear all of the goings-on…….. especially good as we had visited so recently and had some experience of the places you were talking about.
    You two are an inspiration on how to age well……… thanks for telling your news……..i loved the photos as well.
    Take care, julie

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  2. The Clay pans and Kings Canyon look amazing. It seems even after two trips to Alice there are still many great places I havent seen yet. And you saw water in the Todd! You guys look like you are having a fantastic time. But I cant believe your not tempted to trade the car in for some bicycles?!

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