Love & Loathing In Alice Springs

I had wanted her for years. I kept meeting her former lovers, still spellbound from her presence, and I knew that she was truly hot. She has golden red features and is passionately worshipped by black and white alike. So spirited is she, that yet no one has known her depth. So honestly, beautifully brutal and indifferent is she, that both women and men draw their last breath with her. And yet, I had to embrace her – I had to be inside her, if only just once: I had to go to Alice…

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What was I getting into this time?

ALICE WAS A GUY

There is no denying it; Alice Springs is a female town. And let’s be honest about it; as far as towns go, she ain’t too pretty. We love her and she will suck you in with her incredible charm, but her looks, well, they will just have to grow on you.

Her straight and barren streets get you lost in a grid of buttoned-up suburban houses and except for the feeble curves of the dry Todd riverbed, Alice is very straight and fairly boring to behold. But houses and streets and cars and shops, are only Alice’s latest layers. Before she got her name from a telegraphist’s wife, her name was actually Stuart.

That’s almost a hundred years ago now. She weren’t too pretty then, either. That was her pioneer macho phase, where suddenly thousands of desperate white men with guns and cattle and pieces of paper, decided to scratch out a living in the desert (and maybe a bit of gold).

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A landscape from just outside Alice Springs.

NO PROPERTY – NO PROBLEM

They needed a place for transport and trade, and as fate would have it, they put up a telegraph station for their “singing line”, right in the middle of a songline¬†junction. Black fellas’ pathways have always crossed on this sacred site. White fella only slapped a bit of tarmac on them and proceeded to squat the place and call it theirs.

Trying to be a town in a desert is a pretty terrible idea. Maybe that’s why the original locals, the Arrernte people, never built a town in their tens of thousands of years of belonging to this place. They call Alice Springs for “Mparntwe” – ‘Meeting Place’ – and they don’t claim to own her, they only look after her.

On Arrernte land there are 8 different “skin-names”. Each skin is a tribe and a story about the country it belongs to. Each tribe has a right to travel, but it’s also the caretaker of it’s neighbours’ land, by way of their complex kinship structure. You are, so to speak, related to the land. No property – no problem. Different story now.

australia day

FRESH WOUNDS

The last Aboriginal family in Australia to be exposed to the wicked ways of the white man, came out of the Gibson Desert near Alice Springs only 30 years ago, in 1984. I presume they had been hiding from the slaughtering of their people and protecting their culture. When they finally came out, they encountered a world where blacks and whites live in the same place, yet in different realities.

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Beauty & The Beast Records Album In Quaint Queenstown!

I met Javi in the neatly utopian community of Tui in Golden Bay,¬†where we were both WWOOF’ing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). It turned out that, not only did we have a mutual friend back in Australia, we were also both on the lookout for a fellow musician to travel with. After a month of jamming around the campfire, we decided to go on a tour of the South Island – it was to be the most epic hitchhike I have ever done…

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Beauty & The Beast at the “Half Way Around The World” point of their “Friend of a Friend of a Friend Tour”

The tour could well have been called The Friend Of A Friend Of A Friend Tour, because so many times we got picked up by amazing Kiwi’s who not only transported us but also fed and sheltered us and finally passed on the contacts of their friends who in turn did the same. And so it was that a sister of a friend in Tui, offered us to stay in their family’s beautiful old town house right in the center of the quaint little tourist trap of Queenstown.

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Trying To Be A Tourist In Rotten Rotorua

Through the awesome website www.couchsurfing.com I have found a host who will put me up for free for my three nights in Rotorua. Just the same, for this is tourist-land and they sure know how to cash in on the holiday makers, eager to tick of yet another must-see destination from their list. I very rarely find myself doing that sort of thing, but this time is different; I have decided to be a genuine tourist and “do” Rotorua. At least, that is my plan…

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Rotorua is much more than just a hole in the ground, and yet holes like this one is what attracts thousands of tourists to the town every year. Judging from the smell this could be a special kind of hole…

Richard – my generous host – tells me over the phone that he unfortunately won’t be home before much later that night, but that I should just let myself into his house and “get stuck in”. I find the keys in a hidden spot and enter his dream of a house. Richard is a doctor and his solid income is nicely reflected in his dwelling: Luscious rooms full of tasteful record and book collections; marvellous kitchen with a monstrous marble slab for a table-top; class A touring bikes in one corner and a pantry full of organic foods and homebrewed beer. Getting “stuck in” has never been easier and before you can say weary traveller, I have already lit the fire, made myself a hearty omelette and slipped into Richard’s comfortable couch.

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Who needs hotels when you can stay in a house like this? For free!

Around 10 pm the incredibly trusting Richard turns up and I find myself in the odd position of being able to welcome home in his own house. We hit it off immediately and it is only the advancing night that breaks off our flow of words – Richard has work in the morning. I decide to get up early too and ride with Richard into town as he lives a good 15 minutes drive out in the hills. I wake up to yet another rainy day but determined to be a good tourist, I drag myself out of the soft guest bed to go exploring in Rotorua.

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