Thursday, February 5

Day 161-Alice Springs

My little foray in to the bush country of the Top End might have cost me dearly. I did well enough with the unrelenting heat, the intermittent rains, the evening time mosquitos, but what nearly did me in was some yahoo in a parking lot dinging the door of the rent a car. I noticed it a couple of days before return and interestingly it was not visible in the rain, only in bright sunlight. I had purchased full insurance yes, but I was still liable for up to 300 bucks and to repair even the smallest scratch would easily cost that. I toyed with the idea of not mentioning it, to see if the counter guy was doing his job, but in the end, I am my mother's son, and I felt compelled to 'fess up. My honesty paid off. He searched hard to find it, and when he did said "no worrys mate", kind of annoyed that I had wasted his time.

Inspired then to keep pushing my luck, I boarded the world famous Ghan railway, which would take me from Darwin 1500 kilometers into the Red Center, the very heart and soul of this country, the Outback. Along the way, stopping in Katherine for a rather lengthy 4 hour break, we were encouraged to take a 12 dollar bus ride into town to see the sights. What they failed to mention is the only sight there is to see in this scrubby town, which lies at the junction of the four directions, is a surfeit of wandering, shoeless, semi-enebriated Aboriginals. From all corners they collect here to receive government stipend and services, do some shopping, hang out with friends, and for some at least, get liquored up. It was so strange to walk the small town and encounter group after group, gathered under a tree, under the bridge, outside the Woolworths, or in front of the bus station.

They don't appear, at first glance, to be a highly spirited people. The don't seem to talk alot, or smile, or move with great conviction, at least in these disheartening circumstances. They, as a group, are overweight, with huge bellies and breasts, and stick-thin arms and legs. There facial features are remarkably heavy, thick brows over deep set eyes, broad round noses shelter their protruding lips. Even the young have a look of aged weariness about them. For my lack of knowledge of this people and culture, I can not say whether this is the face of the natural first inhabitant of this land, or if like much of the the Native population of our own country, they have been misshapen and injured by a diet of sugar, bad fats, and alcohol. If things go as planned for me, I will be meeting a few of them in their element, in the Outback, and hope to deepen my understanding of this fascinating and troubled people.

1 comment:

velvethammer27 said...


happy to see you are enjoying australia -- i loved it there. As you recall, Bart and I spent several weeks there to visit his mom in Adelaide. Is New Zealand next?

take care