An early rise meant we captured the beauty of the place in the morning light- stunning features and majestic rolling mountain ranges emerge through the haze. So far I’ve seen fire-tails, zebra finches, a wedge-tailed eagle, all kinds of kites and Gouldian Finches. Breakfast at Glen Helen Gorge was lovely and a small bushwalk to the main waterhole was fresh and sparkly. Surrounded by reeds, the great gorge remains a refuge for many waterbirds and pond life. Water plants, where there seemed to be leaf litter floating on the surface were full plants, their roots in fact extending down through the water to the sediment at the bottom, each facet of this gorge aided the calm waters, and even calmer visitors. But it’s getting too hot too early to stay.
I keep trying to stick an emotional personal to the landscape. Is it lonely? Tired? Resilient? I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t. it is in this nature that everything is nothing and nothing is everything. There is a sense of eternal timelessness, a certain completion. Little pin-points of rosie-lilacs and saffron tell me that there is no positive or negative to the landscape, there just is, just endless blue and endless ochre and nothing more and nothing less. It is not harsh or unforgiving, it just is, come rain, fire or drought, man or animal, the little puffs of wattle yellow will remain. The Ochre Pits make the rocks seem like they’re bleeding and to think of what the ochre was used for and meant to the Indigenous people, is something very deeply spiritual, not spectacular, just spiritually humbling.
No emotion, just trying to exist.
When looking at the panoramic view from the campervan, it seems like a photographic sepia, where colour has thankfully graced the top third- the darkened ash and charcoal of a burnt landscape sees twisted and blackened trees welcoming a brilliant green tuft or two on the very tops of the trees. The saturated blue sky provides a perfect wash of colour to the top of our framed canvas.
Our bodies are parched and fatigued from the muggy night, so we sleep as we travel between landmarks, occasionally waking to reposition ourselves with a swig of water only to fall back into a restless sleep.
If you stop moving, everything moves around you.
We lunched in Alice Springs; Bojangles’ Saloon- an eclectic, hard-yakka pub where I had a real steak sandwich. Here, there were saddles for bar stools, foreign currencies on peeling off the roof and old boots nailed to a cartwheel off the wall.
The local art gallery and cultural museum in the Alice mall is an experience more education that I initially believed. While the front was the general regime of overpriced Indigenous artworks, the back room was filled with replicas and glass cabinets of cultural artefacts with reasonably objective information.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic parish in Alice is a very old-timey one, with stained glass windows washing church-goers in an amber glow. The bella vista is accompanied by a depiction of an Indigenous Christ and all in all this is a welcoming parish, yet perhaps not a cosy one.
Glen Helen Gorge