Menory Lane - The Wide Brown Land 8

The Pimple's Heart - (newly arrived?  You'll get more out of this if you go back to the beginning… honestly, you'll enjoy the ride!

Alice is, depending on vehicular conditions and driver capability, a three, four or five hour drive from Yulara.  It is worth noting here that at that time the Northern Territory did not have any speed restrictions on roads outside of metropolitan areas. 

The township which sits pretty much bang in the centre of the Big Desert Island is a rather spread-out, languishing affair, trying very hard to be a bit more.  The fantastic novel by Nevil Shute had been read by Aitch's mother and my friend was under instruction to take full notes of her experience here.  This is about the time that Aitch woke up.

Until that point, I had not read (possibly not even heard of) the book or the author.  I remedied that not long after.  For the literary ones among you - it is a MUST. Though, to be accurate, very little of the tale takes place in The Alice itself, the truth is, the Red Centre has not changed that much since the writing of it.  There are a lot of folks who sought to make the 'tree change' instead of the 'sea change' that became all the rage some 10-15 years ago… and some attempted the 'desert change'.   I personally know two.  They lasted less than two years in the conditions there.  It takes a strong, self-contained person (or one who has surrendered to the limitations of barbecue, beer and burn), to last the run.  As both these acquaintances were school teachers of the artistic bent, I suspect they lacked one or both of these.   But I digress.

Sceptical Tourist Fishy's (STF) first exposure to this world famous place had her wondering what all the fuss was about.  The centre of town, in the centre of the week, in the busiest time of year (approaching Christmas) was, it cannot be said otherwise, dead.

It Was Dead Centre.

There were shops a-plenty mark you.  Many of the tacky tourist type.  Some 'cafes'.  The main street had not long been overhauled and made into a pedestrian mall.  All the rage in the 1980s.  Despite the fact that the place depended very much on it's survival from the tourist trade, there seemed almost to be a skulking, a hiding-away from the recent arrivals off the bus.

It was peculiar.

There was one rather good display place, with lots of dioramas of the history of the local indigenous peoples.  There were quite a few galleries selling the arts of the local peoples.  This was at a time when there was a great deal of debate about the ethics of 'third party' selling and just who was getting the big dollars anyway.  There was evidence of the drinking culture which had beset the local indigents...

In short, for the first time, we were being exposed to the socio-political side of OZ.  We didn't dwell on it.  Not then anyway.  We were on an adventure. 

Alice Springs.jpg
from Wikipedia - The 'Springs'
So, where was the "Springs" part of the Alice then?  A good long drive out of town as it happens. In a rather pretty, hilly area.  It's not a 'spring' at all really, but a permanent water hole which remains when the Todd River dries up.  Which is, again, almost permanently.  The picnic spot and the few trees make this a wonderful place to visit.  It is close by here that the Telegraph Station was set up.  This is the only reason there was a township at all.  The need for cross-continent communications.  That part of the desert was as good as any other apparently.  It is also, pretty much half way between Adelaide and Darwin.  Of course it was inhabited by the Arrerente Peoples for centuries before and the place is rich with legend and spiritual fable.

The other great and famous icon is the Royal Flying Doctor Service - the active station is also a museum (of sorts).

STF has been back to Alice since then (1999).  A wee bit more going on after 15 years.  Will write about that another time.  In 1984, we could see the attraction of getting out of Alice Springs.

According to Aitch, we did another trip up into the MacDonnell ranges - I recall it not, unless it
image copyrighted to Ms HMR - STF honours the fallen
included this trip to Anzac Hill…  But we did look through a lot of literature about things to do on the East Coast, which is where we were headed after this visit.  We began to look forward to it.  Thus it was with some level of eagerness that we again boarded an Ansett 'road'plane'.  There was a delay however.  Due to breakdown of the airconditioning on said vehicle.  Sigh.  There was clear need of major maintenance on the fleet!  Tail-pipes, reverse gears, steering locks, cooling... This bus was also definitely one of the older or more used.  Threadbare comes to mind.  Anway, finally we were off -  North-wards in the first instance.

We were headed up to Tennant Creek (scene of a gold rush in 1932) before 'turning right' to enter the very different state of Queensland.  As we moved into the night, an enormous storm loomed.  Before arriving at Tennant Creek, we were to pass the remnants of an ancient mountain range - all that's left is The Devil's Marbles.  We had been told that as it was dark, we would likely not be able to make anything out of this intriguing geologic structure.  However, Lord had other plans.  The storm broke with the most incredible thunder and lightening STF (and by association, Aitch) had ever endured.  When did it do this?  Right at the moment we were passing through the Marbles!


The lightening was such that it created a daylight flash lasting full seconds and, thus, we got to see The Devil's Marbles in the most dramatic way possible.  I wouldn't have had it any other way!  The scene is etched on my memory.  Which will have to do, for photography was out of the question.  Aitch had these cut outs to share with us.

The storm presented problems though.  The road all but disappeared under water at one point and there was a heart-stopping time during which our coach captain was warning that we may have to return to Alice. He didn't want to do that any more than we did, so experience and determination and a bit of that legendary Aussie bravado got us through.  It had been noted by STF that this driver had not shared his name with us.  With each successive bus, we found that the laconic larrikin nature of the staff became more withdrawn and, possible, surly.  It could have been that exposure to endless numbers of idiotic tourist types had jaded their enthusiasm.

Or maybe they were, after all, just surly.

Our meal and R&R stop on this leg was the Queensland mining town of Mt Isa.  Where there is not a mountain in sight.  Plenty of pollution though.  Lead, silver, copper and zinc are the main targets.  The Isa is a place of specific business.  It had little appeal.

Thus we continued round to our next drop-off point at Airlie Beach and then to Proserpine. It is from there we took our little side trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

A revisit to Daydream Island on Sunday!  Regular stop for contemplation tomorrow.



6 comments:

  1. You know, of course, I'm madly jealous, having been fouled in my attempt to drag my mother's youngest to Alice. I'm sure I've mentioned he's an artist, and there would have been much to appeal to him. He also spent most of his young years in Mexico, so he wouldn't have been shocked or dismayed by whatever lack of civilization we may have encountered.
    Sigh.
    I think I'm now too old for Ayers Rock, and Alice, and all. But in the early 80s...
    Sigh again.
    K

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  2. Hari Om
    am delighted you are getting so much fun out of reading these posts, Kay! To be honest, had not anticipated that I would get such joy out of revisiting the memories - it was certainly the point in life when STF found she had a true sense of the ridiculous!!! *>

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  3. Still here. True sense of the ridiculous? Now then, when?

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  4. Hari OM
    ...1984... possible prior to that, but definitely during. I mean c'mon, who travels in the year the world is supposed to be over-run by bolshie animals? <:~0

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  5. It was the last month of the year, so the take over should have happened by then so we were safe. hehehe

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  6. Hari OM
    Glad to see you're on the ball Yer Ladybizz! xx

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