Fwd: Visiting the Alice in a wombat shelter

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Fwd: Visiting the Alice in a wombat shelter
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 23:15:07 -0800 (PST)
Sid and Sharon Genaux <> wrote:
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 04:49:20 GMT

Hi everyone,
We are still in Alice Springs. We will be leaving here
tomorrow morning to see King's Canyon and then on to
Uluru (Ayers Rock). We have really enjoyed our stay
here. Someone asked us if Alice Springs is "touristy".

Well, it is but it is more than that. 

If you have read the book or seen the movie "A town
like Alice" you have an idea of what Alice Springs was
like. At the end of World War II, Alice's population
was around 400. Now there are 27,000 people in Alice
Springs and the major industry is tourism. The streets
are lined with restaurants, tourist shops, galleries,
and tour booking agencies. People you pass are as
likely to be speaking German or Japanese as "Strine".

There are didjeridoos on sale in drug stores and
aboriginal dot paintings in shoe stores. But somehow
all that doesn't obscure the appeal of the area. The
landscape of Central Australia is absolutely
spell-binding. You enter Alice Springs from the south
through the Heavitree Gap--a narrow defile between two
sections of red rock hills. The Todd River, the
line, and the Stuart Highway run beside each other
through the Gap into the main part of town. The red
hills embrace and shelter Alice Springs and you can't
ignore the natural beauty of the place. Gentle little
Rock Wallabies live in the hills and come down to feed
at sunset. Black Kites and Wedgetail Eagles wheel
above the town in a sky the faded blue of a well-worn
chambry shirt. The Alice is flanked by the East and
McDonnell Ranges. These "mountain" are not very high
but they are lovely. This area is called the Red
Centre and it is true that the dominant color is a
warm orange-red. The soil is this shade and it
predominates in the rocks, but to say that the land is
red is to understate its beauty. The hills are
sparsely vegetated but often their lower slopes are
covered with the pale gold of the spinifex growing in
ring-shaped tufts all over them. From a distance they
look soft and fluffy, but they are actually very
sharp. The plant contains silica which is concentrated
in the tips of each blade of grass; so if you walk
through spinifex with shorts on, your legs will be
sliced with shallow cuts. Higher on the hills, there
are scattered clumps of grass or shrubs and an
occasional tree clinging to the rocks.  The rocks
themselves are tinted yellow-gold, purple,
grey-blue, white, and shades of orange and red. They
have some quartzite in them so light sparkles off
Where the sun lights them, they glow red and orange,
but in shadow or dimmed by distance, they shade from
purple to blue. An aboriginal man named Albert
Naratjana learned to paint with watercolors when he
was 31 years old. He did not use the traditional
aboriginal style, but painted landscapes. He caught
the colors of the land in his palette and became
His paintings are awesome. 

Unfortunately, he died young but he taught 5 of his 8
children to paint and there are still many local
aborigines who paint in the style of Albert Naratjana.

Some of their work is lovely, but it cannot match his
genius. The galleries of Alice Springs are full of
aboriginal paintings. Some of them are landscapes,
some are traditional dot paintings, and some are an
exciting fusion of traditional and European styles
that are very
impressive. There is a group of potters from
Hermannsburg, a mission town west of Alice, who do
beautiful hand-built pottery which incorporates
aboriginal design and representaions of local
They do vases, statues, and ceramic tiles. Others work
in glass using traditional designs in a very
non-traditional media. You could spend days just
browsing in the galleries. We have visited sites in
both the East McDonnells and the West McDonnells. We
camped overnight at Ormiston Gorge near a permanent
waterhole. The scenery was spectacular and the
wildlife was terrific. We got closeup pictures of the
little rock wallabies and several kinds of birds.
Little beige spinifex pigeons with spikey topknots and
eyepatches ran through the campground. We took a
walking trail along the hills above the gorge and down
through the creekbed. It has been a good year with
lots of rain, so we had to wade through knee deep
water in one section of the creek. We started just
after sunrise
so we could be back before the heat of the day and it
was a lovely experience. So, yes, Alice Springs is
"touristy" but it is because there is good reason for
the tourists to come here. This is truly the heart of

We don't know when we will be able to get back on
e-mail. It would not be surprising if we don't get
online again until we get back south to Port Augusta,
so don't be surprised if you don't hear from us for a
couple weeks. On the other hand, we have been
how available e-mail has been. Maybe they have a
cybercafe at Uluru!

Hugs to all, bless you Ozzies you are the world's
Sid and Sharon

2001 a Western Port "Bird Odyssey"

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