Trains, buses and planes, Part 2

Group tours are not my usual choice when I’m travelling. I do like to take the solo route. But my recent visit to Uluru showed me that the group choice can be a good experience.
I travelled from Alice Springs to Ayres Rock Resort on the daily bus run by AAT-Kings.

I’d had an awful night at the Mercure Hotel where another guest had access to my room because the electronic lock failed. It was several hours before the lock was fixed. This unnerving experience was topped off by the table I’d booked for dinner not being allocated and when I was plonked next to a large group of tour guides getting training, I declined to stay.

But, back to the positive. The AAT-Kings bus driver from AS gave informed, interesting and appropriate commentary. Best of all he actually talked about the vegetation. Impressive.

I booked in at the Desert Gardens Hotels. Such good service, explanation of what was on offer by the trainee. The resort aims to have 40% indigenous employment soon and are working solidly towards that aim. The whole complex with accommodation from high-end to camping is cleverly set out and maintained. It has a town centre, supermarket, bank, and all the services you could need.

Encouraged by the trip to the resort, I booked a Valley of the Winds walking tour to Kata Tjuta with AAT-Kings. Jackpot.

Guide Geoff was terrific. Very clear on instructions, very knowledgeable but didn’t go on for too long about anything; kept us away from other groups so we didn’t feel crowded and could enjoy the majesty of the surrounds in peace and quiet. I was utterly fascinated by the diversity and abundance of the flowers. Geoff had the local field guide and a bit of knowledge of his own, and he encouraged me to take my time for photos. Alas no macro lens but plenty to see – probably more than 100 species in 4 days.


The next day, I took the resort bus to Uluru for dawn and a solitary walk around the base. Oh dear. Yes, the group of 10 were horrible people but the bus driver lost the plot. Get me out of here. And there’s no way to walk around the base alone. And Segways are for hire. Seriously? I now know they are remarkably noisy machines – and far too wide for parts of the path. Nonetheless a wonderful experience and plenty of places to be alone with the rock.

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Back to AAT-Kings for the return to Alice via Kings Canyon rim walk. We lucked out again with Geoff. I had no idea – spectacular scenery all round, cycads in the canyon floor, geology that seems to be mini-Bungle Bungle (but Geoff said is quite different) and cliffs that look like they are sliced crème caramel.


Back in Alice, the Mercure offered me, for my previous inconvenience, $6 off an overpriced breakfast. Wow, why don’t you try to insult me?
But not to finish a fabulous red centre experience on a sour note, I had just enough time before I hopped on my plane to Brisbane to take a quick scan of Desert Mob 2017 at the Araluen Regional Art Gallery. Not nearly enough time to do this excellent exhibition justice.

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Desert Mob 2017 at Araluen Regional Gallery Alice Springs

 

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Trains, buses and planes, part 1

The almost one-kilometre-long Ghan, travelling twice a week in each direction from Adelaide to Darwin, might incline you to think that train travel has returned to its rightful place as preferred mode of travel. It’s comforting to know that so many people want to take the train through the desert but in truth, the comfort element is a big part of the attraction.

I like to travel by rail as much as I can, and actually see the country I’m travelling though even if it’s flashing by. And I have the most appropriate back up of Don Watson’s The Bush, though not much gets read on the train during daylight.

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Before darkness descends we cross Goyder’s Line and enter saltbush-bluebush-Western Myall country. Happy memories of Rangelands Ecology on Middleback Station in January.

Next thing I know is sunrise at Marla Siding. Everybody off the train for breakfast. So many people taking photos of sunrise as if it didn’t happen every day – perhaps not in the desert and unimpeded by anything except other people taking photos.

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Now we are in mulga country, an occasional white-trunked gum, quite a few shrubs I can’t identify and, was that a Callitris?

Then we get to my favourite tree, the desert oak Allocasuarina decaisneana and I can revel in it for days through to Uluru.

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We are well into the NT before I see the first lumps of the ubiquitous grass of the Australian centre, Triodia irritans. I remember driving over hundreds of miles of the stuff in the APY lands in 1979. It looks invitingly lemony soft with spiky vertical hair but it is (I know) impossibly ‘irritans’.

In places the country is so flogged there’s barely a green/grey leaf; in some areas the small size of the veg looks like it’s returning after being given a severe thrashing.

The land is almost never flat. Relief might be a rocky outcrop, a gentle rise of a sand dune, a distant hill. It is always changing. I sip my beer, look out the window. I am in heaven.

 

Island to Inland in Adelaide

At last. Island to Inland: contemporary art from Kangaroo Island is open at Flinders University City Gallery in Adelaide from Saturday 1 July.

The Kangaroo Island inspired exhibition, more than two years in the making, has the theme of the isolation and inspiration of island life.

In it, the exhibition’s artists – Kenita Williamson, Maggie Welz, Caroline Taylor, Deborah Sleeman, Janine Mackintosh, Indiana James, Scott Hartshorne, Audrey Harnett, Quentin Chester and Ria Byass – reveal works of the finest order, which such time makes possible.

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Also making the works the best they could were the two professional curators, Eleanor Scicchitano, Visual Arts Coordinator, Country Arts SA and Celia Dottore, Exhibitions Manager, Flinders University Art Museum and City Gallery. They suggested and prodded, listened and watched, and admired and supported.

The exhibition is built on our arts-infused community which has many more fine artists, both professional and amateur, in a population of only 4500. No doubt this exhibition will bring even more attention to Kangaroo Island’s treasure trove of art.

It is a rare community that values and supports community art and fine art practitioners the way Kangaroo Island does.

And it’s not just the community, it’s the inspirational surroundings, and the time and space to explore, to meditate and to enjoy nature’s gifts. This exhibition reflects all that and more. It does our island proud.

Island to Inland opens on Saturday 1 July and runs until 3 September at the Flinders University City Gallery in the State Library of South Australia building, North Terrace, Adelaide. Gallery hours: Tuesday–Friday 11am–4pm, Saturday–Sunday 12 noon–4pm.

From January 2018 the exhibition travels to 13 regional galleries around South Australia over 18 months.

Reviving Pig Islet

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Quentin Chester captures Pelican Lagoon

Pelican Lagoon is one of Kangaroo Island’s many treasures. It’s a Marine Park Sanctuary Zone that has its inlet from the ocean at American River.

On a windless sunny day, the mirror-like surface of the shallow lagoon, dotted with islets, is enough to make me gasp, even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times before.

Friends of Dudley Peninsula Parks and Eco-Action have a joint project to rid Pig Islet of African boxthorn and replant with the species that would have been there before westerners arrived (as far as we know, it’s not absolutely clear). If this smallest of the islets is revived, we’ll move on to some of the others. Yes, it’s a long term plan.

One of the Friends, Andy Collis, came up with this project and has soldiered on despite some misinformed opposition. We Friends are very happy to help him and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has given us permission to do the work.

 

 

Boxthorns are nasty brutes but they can be managed: cut the stems as close to the ground as possible, dab the cut straight away with strong glyphosate and they’ll give up the ghost. Sounds simple but getting through the thorns to the stems is the tricky bit. And we all have the scratches to prove it.

On one of the four working bees so far we had a chain saw to help, and that was a morale boost. We’ve had 21 people helping in one or more working bees, and also helping Andy with extra trips for camera trapping and watering.

Getting to the islets is also a challenge. Each time a little flotilla of kayaks and canoes sets out and makes it across the water in radically different times (some of us need to get a sense of direction).

                                 Wwoofer Merel Nyhuis got the short end of the jobs stick.

This week, on the last of the working bees for 2017, we planted the shrubs, grasses and groundcovers Veronica grew up at the Natural Resources Kangaroo Island Plant Nursery (an island gem). The Friends groups has other projects to get on with for the rest of the year. Then we’ll be paddling back next year.

All photos by Quentin Chester.

 

Dear Mr Turnbull

Until now, I have held out a tiny, tiny hope that one day you would wake up, take a good look at yourself in the mirror, feel shame and decide to be a leader of people.

I clung on to that tiny, ever diminishing hope through climate inaction, through refugee abuse and incarceration on Manus and Nauru, through mouthing platitudes and doing nothing on same sex marriage, through parliamentary stuff-ups, through tax benefits for the rich, through slapping the banks with damp rag despite their rampaging greed demanding an inquiry, through depriving the least able in our community of even more of their pitiful ration of change, through allowing destruction of our precious biodiversity to continue, through support of ridiculous earth-destroying coal mines, through an endless list of fearful inaction.

Today that last tiny hope has gone.

That you cannot even find a handful of stern words, let alone an actual rebuke, for a narcissistic, bullying, racist child of an excuse for a president of the US, just puts you in the same category as him.

If you can’t find the humanity to be ashamed, then have mine. I am ashamed of you.

Yours sincerely

Kathie Stove