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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 . .
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.