1st August to 28th August
In our last couple of weeks in Alice Springs we were lucky enough to be there for the annual Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta, held in the dry river bed of the infamous Todd River. The first inaugural regatta was held back in December 1962 and has only ever been cancelled once back in 1993 due to the Todd River actually flooding and having water in it!!!!! These days it partners with The Fred Hollows Foundation to raise over $100,000 towards the eradication of Trachoma by 2020.
The day begins with a parade down Todd Mall with many colourful floats and cars and, from what we gathered at the parade, there are 3 main boats involved, the Vikings, the Pirates and the Navy. The 3 big boats are powered by what we thought and assumed were tractor/ cars under the boat design. The parade was very loud and colourful with lots of toing and froing of heckling from each of the main boats.
After the parade we all followed the procession down to the area in the river which is set up as different areas to host all the different events. We didn’t realise that members of the public can enter all the races, making it very entertaining and fun for spectators and the poor unassuming contestants. There were many events, including boat races in pairs and teams, the big round guinea pig wheels (that had the potential for many injuries), as well as some life saving events involving trolleys pulled along on tracks, a nippers running race and finally there was a lolly grabbing race for all the kiddies, which was a huge success!!!!
We had noticed all day that there were people dressed up as either a viking, pirate or a seaman from the Navy. They had been heckling each other all day and trying to get each other with water pistols etc, and trying to get the crowd to cheer for their team. From my investigations on the day, we assumed that each of these ‘teams’ were part of each of the 3 Rotary clubs in Alice Springs that organise and run the whole regatta. I also noticed there was a strong contingent of defence members and their families, both Australian and US, which after my further investigation, I found out that they were all mostly stationed at Pine Gap, a jointly run Australian and US global surveillance facility about 18km south of Alice Springs, or so they say…………
Anyway, back to the regatta, the final event of the day was something we had never dreamed of, it can only be described as an all in brawl staged atop the 3 big car powered boats that we originally saw in the street parade. After a slight hiccup with the Vikings running out of petrol during their introductory lap, we had a very entertaining 20 minutes of the boats going around and around throwing flour, water and paper bombs at each other, complete with bombs being loaded and shot out of very loud cannons and spraying the crowd with flour and coloured glittery paper debris. We were all in hysterics for the whole duration, we believe that in all the confusion at the end the Commodore declared the Vikings as the winners, how and why we are not sure, but it was a great battle!!!!!! I shall let the photos and short video do the rest of the talking for me.
We were also lucky enough to be stopped at the railway crossing as the Ghan trundled on by, so being the typical tourists that we were, out we got to take some photos and the kids waved to the many rich people drinking their chardonnays, thankfully a few of them waved back to our little brown urchin kids running alongside the train.
During our last week in Alice, we decided to finally head out to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley, which are both located about 130kms west of Alice Springs. We headed out early for our drive, arriving in Hermannsburg by about mid morning and considering the huge sign announcing the town on the road in, the actual town was pretty much non existent, however we did notice a small sign with an arrow and ‘historical site’ written on it so we figured we’d follow that. Thankfully it led us to the main attraction of the town, the old historical precinct of Hermannsburg, which was the site of the first Aboriginal mission in the Northern Territory established by the Lutheran Church way back in 1877. The Mission operated until 1979, and in 1982 the control of the land was given back to its traditional Aranda owners, with the restoration of the historical buildings beginning in 1987. We had a wander through the old township, especially enjoying taking a seat at the school desk in the school building and reading what was written on the blackboard, the Arrernte word for numbers one, two and three, however ‘all that is beyond 3 is called a mob!!’ The girls liked the way they thought!!
So after that me and my mob continued on to the other buildings, a few of them were actually private residences and you obviously weren’t allowed in them. One of the old homes had been converted into the Kata-Anga tea rooms where we ordered coffee and some ice creams for the girls and sat outside enjoying the sun. We then moved onto the museum, where we were lucky enough to learn about and see some original paintings by Albert Namitjira. Was quite a sad story considering he was so talented and was ‘awarded’ citizenship of Australia, but then he went to jail for buying alcohol for a member of his family (back then it was against the law to buy alcohol for Aboriginals), then shortly after he was released from prison he passed away. Zoe had earlier this year done some schoolwork about Albert Namitjira, so it was good that she could then relate it to where we were, unfortunately she had not learned the about the sad part of his story. Going by the other paintings in the museum he wasn’t the only talented artist in his family. Before we left we had a wander through the shop, looking at all the Aboriginal dot style paintings, some of them were absolutely stunning, with the matching price tag, but my goodness the colors were amazing. Once again I didn’t buy a painting, one day the right painting (and price tag) will catch my eye, however I did purchase some music sticks for my nephew that were painted by Albert Namitjira great granddaughter, the illegitimate one…..I found that piece of information amusing.
After our visit to the Hermannsburg historical site we left town via the back road, heading past the best looking Community Centre and Primary School buildings and grounds we had seen for quite some time, they weren’t completely finished but obviously the governments BER school project initiative was underway out here, compared to the rest of the town it was amazing. Just past the school we turned left and drove around to the Hermannsburg Solar Station, where there were about 8 massive solar dishes that followed the sun throughout the day, supplying the town with half their power supply. It was pretty amazing to see such a huge setup out here in the middle of nowhere and we also found a geocache here as well.
Next stop was Finke Gorge National Park, home of the infamous Palm Valley, which inturn is home to the more infamous rare species of Red Cabbage Palm, the only palm within Central Australia, with it being 1000km’s from its closest relative. After an easy 10km dirt road we stopped along the valley at the Kalarranga Lookout, near the campground, and went for a walk around some pretty spectacular rock formations and found another geocache.
From there on the drive got a bit more rough with lots of boulder hopping and rock crawling, which meant I spent most of my time outside taking photos of the car doing its thing. Finally we arrived at Palm Valley, and pulled up next to about another half a dozen cars. We made our way along the walk, deciding to go in the direction of the stairs first, which took us above the valley, giving us a great view of the palms below. After a while we headed back down into the valley and hiked back along the river towards the information hut and the cars. Unfortunately there was not a lot of water, only small patches of stagnant puddles, but the palms did look amazing and we got some great photos. On the way back we drove into the campground to see what it was like, it was quite good, with gas BBQ’s and flushing toilets and we also got to over hear a couple having a barney on the CB radio as the husband was trying to reverse the car and camper trailer into their site. We chuckled as we knew that we have had some times where we sounded exactly the same!!!!
Whilst in Alice we also celebrated Bec turning 14 and Abby turning 10.The celebrations started with Bec’s pool party and concluded a week later when Bec organised a joint party at the skate park and a picnic and balloon games at the park at the cultural centre with our new mates, the Boardmans!!
And so it was after an epic 3 months in, up and around Central Australia, we had visited every square inch within a 1,000km radius of Alice Springs, a huge achievement that we are so glad we were able to accomplish and experience. However our time has come to pack up our many possessions and head south for our next scheduled rendezvous, one which we had been waiting ever so patiently for over 6 months now. We were excited to be tackling the next part of our adventure and heading to the next destination on our OZLAP……………