Published: May 2nd 2012September 22nd 2011
I may never again live on the prairies I grew up on, but there are aspects of that life that I can seek out in other places to feel grounded. The pioneering spirit that has been passed down from my ancestors. Being surrounded by sky. Feeling connected to the very earth you stand on.
These things are here, in Alice Springs and in the Outback. It's not that I feel like I belong here (I know I don't), or that it is a welcoming, inviting land (it is a harsh climate, and a hard place to live). But I do feel grounded here.
The people that I've met in Alice have been wonderful, and I have not once regretted my decision to spend extra time here. If the smoke from the fires wasn't wreaking havoc with my body, I would stay longer. I came not only to see my friend, but because I wanted to be inspired by the geology of the place. If I could stay here until my thesis was finished, working outside with views of the MacDonnell Ranges, taking breaks for excursions into the Red Centre, I would.
Our drive back from King's
Canyon was smoky. At one point, the fires were only tens of metres away from the highway. I made a comment to the driver about it, and he said that at one point, he thought we might have to stop and wait for the fires to cross the highway before we could continue on. I think everyone in the truck was too sleepy to notice.
We stopped at a camel farm on the way back. I didn't pay to ride a camel across the yard, but I did photograph some lovely pink cockatoo's that were hanging around in the trees. Back in Alice, we were dropped off at our hotels/hostels for showers before meeting up again for dinner. I almost didn't recognize some of the group all dressed up and clean!
After dark, on the cab ride back to the hostel, we could really see how many fires there were burning around Alice. The next morning, I was walking to meet a friend and I saw something smouldering along the riverbank. I assumed it had burned the night before, but when we walked back an hour or two later, there were flames. Someone across the road was keeping
an eye on it, or we would have called the fire department ourselves.
I spent my last couple of days in Alice outside in the back garden of the hostel, working on my thesis, walking around town, and catching up with my friend Mick, who I hadn't seen since we were in Prague (Praha: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
) four years earlier. It was wonderful to catch up over our breakfasts in the botanic garden, and to walk around the gardens.
Sometimes when you travel to a place that you have high hopes and dreams about, you are disappointed. I have not been disappointed here. This morning, after breakfast, Mick took me to his favourite art shop, to look at paintings. I already have the one I picked up at Uluru, but there was no harm looking for another one. I took my time browsing, but didn't see anything that really caught my eye (not even anything out of my price range that I could only imprint on my mind). Just as I was saying maybe we should go, something caught my eye. I had almost missed it -- a canvas with the dots forming curving lines to represent the sand dunes. It
was perfect. Just the right size, the right colours, the right image (and even the right price). A perfect memento of this land and of the time catching up with a good friend.
There are more photos below