Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Welcome to the Outback

From 36,000 feet, the land is a mud-paint of grooves and scars all running in the same if some giant's hand has scraped along on it's way to some faraway place. The earth changes from dusty beige to a crimson so surreal it seems to glow, then swirls into dark and sinister footprints. Then it settles to beige again.

This is the land of Aboriginal Dreamtime, a complex mythology of creative ancestors and rituals and connection with the land. And once you have seen this eerie land from above,the geometric paintings of dots and swirls in the galleries begin to make perfect sense.

Unfortunately, the three paintings I've seen here in Alice Springs that have stolen my heart are each priced at more than $10,000 -- U.S. Even staying in my current backpacker hostel isn't going to make those price affordable.

Those of you who know me in one of my other lives -- the gourmet dining life, or the workaholic life -- are shaking your heads and wondering why on God's green earth I would stay in a tiny cell in a prefabricated dwelling with the loo 'round the courtyard. Life is full of experiences; this is just one more of them. Other splurges await.

Besides, hanging out in a backpacker hostel seems like the thing to do here in Alice Springs, the commercial hub of the Outback.

The Alice has a reputation for being a rough and tumble frontier town, and once it probably was. Now it's more like a West Kendall housing complex buttressed by a cozy pedestrian mall lined with cafes and Aborigonal art galleries. You could, for instance, get a pedicure, then stop at an chic eatery next door for kangaroo carpaccio and a camel sirloin steak. Or you could wander down the corner and take a yoga or pilates class.

But stop in at the Royal Flying Doctors Service office, and you get a picture of how truly isolated life can be just minutes outside town. A guide there talks about the medical kit found on most cattle the family can call the Flying Doctors and get diagnosed by phone, then go to the kit and pull out the proper prescriptions. For many, the only regular medical care is a monthly clinic held by flying doctors.

Or check out the Thorny Devils at the Reptile Center, camouflage lizards with spiked bodies. Here, you learn, snake venom can be slowed by wrapping the affected limb with an Ace bandage. But you better call the Flying Doctors for help; you can still die in hours.

This is info I hope I won't need anytime soon. Tomorrow I head out on a three-day camel no posts for a few days. It's cold in the dessert at night I'm told; I've got my wooly beanie ready. The weather slows the snakes, thank goodness.


michelle marx said...

Hi, Jane,Jane, July 6,06
Does this mean, that you will not be at the Mango Festival this week end???
Just a joke.Great articel!
Nothing bur rain here.
Love, Michelle Marxs

Laura Boyd said...

You are amazing! How do you find out about the places in general to plan a trip there? Great writing!