Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Desert Calls

We have finally arrived in a town called Alice—the mystical heart of Australia
And ventured to the edge of the West MacDonnell Ranges to camp at Honeymoon Gap
There is something about this ancient desert landscape that speaks to my soul
A spirituality that I cannot explain because it must be felt
It keeps calling me back
Just like Africa
And it begs me to stay.

We are camped on the property of locals who’ve migrated here from our hometown of Hornsby
We mingle with travellers from all over Australia drawn by their own connection to this land
We wake up to brilliant sunrises and to ring necked parakeets & bowerbirds scratching for food
Transfixed, we watch from our movable home
Indulging in pancakes dusted with sugar and cinnamon, raspberries and honey

The busy days working out of the Alice Springs library have given way to lazy evenings
The flickering flames of our fellow travellers’ campfires having beckoned us over
We’ve exchanged yarns from the road less travelled and traded stories about our lives
We’ve talked about the challenges of living on the road and the joy of escaping the routine of our corporate lives
We’ve lined the streets with the locals in Alice to watch the lantern parade snake it’s way to the festival club
We’ve been entertained by the sounds of the desert that has heralded the start of the desert festival
And woken up to discover it is the weekend
While we dance to the beat of a different rhythm now and our days are no longer dictated by a calendar—it has been a good enough reason to venture further west

The stunningly beautiful West MacDonnell Ranges, a landscape carved out of millions of years of erosion has drawn us in.

The cool early mornings in the ranges convert to sun drenched days
The cloudless blue skies a perfect backdrop to highlight the hues of these hills
The brilliant reds, oranges, & yellows—interrupted only by the whites, greens and browns of the foliage
Ghost gums, mallee scrub and spinifex tussocks
Perfectly evolved over millions of years to survive and sustain this desert landscape
Seeds that lie dormant for years till fire or rain breathe life in them again
Such an amazing spectacle to behold

We walk through dry riverbeds that earlier this year had flooded this landscape
We marvel at the early wild flowers—a welcome splash of colour in the desert backdrop
We explore the red ochre pits rising sharply from the sandy creek
And imagine the aboriginal men digging for the red or yellow powder that was ground to a paste
The songs of the Arrernte are not lost but they are subdued

We spot a rock wallaby hidden in the rocks, before the call of a crow breaks the mesmerising silence
The warmth of the noonday sun deceives us into jumping into the Ellery Creek waterhole
The glass like water sparkling in the sunshine is tempting—but ouch
It is icy cold to our skin now warmed by the treks through these gorges

We sit under the shade of the gum trees and cook lunch
We laze around till the heat of the afternoon passes
Then, trek some more—to the top of Serpentine Gorge to look down on this incredible landscape

As the sun sets, the West MacDonnell’s is at its brilliant best
We watch the black cockatoos fly in to rest
The moon is rising above the ranges

One more photograph that needs to be captured before we turn in for the night.

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