Out from Alice

I stare into the flames and remember the holiday.

The colour was the first thing that struck me. Flying into Alice the straight orange roads leading away into the desert, the low red roofs of the town surrounded by sudden rocky orange hills close on the outskirts.

My friend s Alice house rendered the same colour as the small irregular rocky levels and paths leading up to the native title land on the hill behind. My sons immediately finding a huge dried locust body. A few days later, exploring an ancient crater site, finding a living sand-textured, orange, cricket, born of its surroundings.

Then the still emptiness. An occasional Hereford cow wandering across the track, a few kites and eagles circling overhead but we no other animals on our drive through a quiet landscape. What a silent country this must have been before the arrival of white people, the oldest but least populated, as far as we can tell, of inhabited lands for so many millennia. Small round or elongated green and yellow pademelons growing along the roadside.

Leaving my family relaxing in the bath-hot water at Dalhousie Springs, waiting to be nibbled by its tiny fish. Strolling through low mounds of tough cotton bush to stand and listen to the burbling from within the tall, tight green worlds surrounding the many smaller springs. Thinking of the lonely white wife who once lived at the now deserted Dalhousie Homestead.

On both sides our view ending in uptilted lines of flat-topped orange rock hills as if the landscape itself was a giant, deserted crater. Every now and then stopping and getting out to open and close a gate in
the middle of nowhere, with no stock animals in sight.

And the ancientness. Scrambling up rock blocks that seem desiccated with age, appearing more like rusty iron than stone, to look down on valleys hidden since Gondwana Land. Fossicking on the flatter-than-flat Gibber Plains, a sand less desert covered in small, twisted, metal-like stones, worn shiny with ages of scouring, and marvelling at the close horizons showing nothing beyond.

Now here we sit. In the centre of the ancient, orange, emptiness. Around a fire of plentiful, flood-torn wood, in the now dry bed of the River Finke, perhaps the oldest river in the world. We sit alone around the flames, seven people in the dark, perhaps hundreds of miles from other humans, and enjoy charades played by my friends young son who makes us laugh with his many sword thrusts , each apparently a different and very specific moment from a particular Ninja Turtle movie.

R Brak

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