Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Crossroad








I along with most balanced males consider myself a bit of an expert and critic in the subject of preparation and serving of steak. I've had two outstanding steaks in the past 20 years. The first was a 50mm fillet from The Bourbon and Beefsteak grill in Darlighurst 1992,it set the benchmark. Since then I've been on a quiet quest for something to match that magnificent lump of beef. At about 6:30 pm on 4/1/09, 'De Bernales', an unassuming and unfussed Bar and Grill in Hannan St Kalgoorlie served something to challenge the aformentioned legendary establishments best.
Three evenings, and 1800kms of red track later and were were sitting in an internationally owned and service orientated grill several kms from Uluru in the resort village of Yulara. The brochure boasted the usual cliches about how discerning the establishment liked to think of itself and it's food. The menue offered (no doubt for the benift of the numerous Japanese tourists) a steak they claim was from the rump of a tender milk fed young beast and promised to be perfect.
It was served with some exotic mushroom mix and upon a layered potato arrangement in a creamy sauce. The steak was barely 20mm thick, stiff as a board, chewy and tasteless. It was twice the price of the Kalgoorlie masterpiece. Oh the fickle world of steak.
The quality of the accommodation at Yulara seemed sumptuous. I think it may well have benefited from the previous two nights we'd endured at Laverton and Warburton who are in an endless battle for the title of butt-hole of Australia although I've not been to Port Hedland. Anybody from either of those three 'places' who reads this and disagrees is deluded and maladjusted.
My advice for those considering to travel this route is to leave Kalgoorlie very early in the morning and make it to the Tjukayirla Roadhouse to stay the night. Next day go to Warakurna(magnificent landscape and dinkum aboriginal artifacts for sale at roadhouse) that way you avoid staying at Laverton and Warburton. Warakurna is near the Giles Met station and is where the Gunbarrel Highway meets the Gt Central Rd. This area is owned by the Ngaanyatjarra community and requires a permit to traverse. Only about 80ks from the NT border the topogaphy here is not the flat to shallow undulating spinifex dunes of the Gibson, but magnificent ranges coloured from red to blue. Even a local resident cited her daily amazement at the beauty around her. I love this area, from here to Kaltukatjara(Docker River) has an alluring spirit it seems to beckon you to leave the road and explore the thousands of rocky havens and caves. Regardless of what is intellectually known about this area there is a definite spirituality emanating from this landscape. Lasseter, the legendary explorer sadly perished after staying in a cave near this area after his camels took off.

A couple of hours later along the Tjukururu road after crossing the border ones eyes begin to scan the horizon for the first glimpse of Kata Tjuta(The Olgas).
These gigantic red granite rocks first appear as a pinkish blue ghost on the horizon through the numerous Desert Oaks. The road is poor here but the jarring from the corregations goes un-noticed as the great rusty domes rise from the earth and command worship.
The Olgas are about 200m taller than Ayres Rock(which makes them about 550m) and are just staggeringly awesome. It is at their base that our red dirt road ends along with the illusion of freedom. I wish I could adequately describe the sensation of anxiety that arose within me when confronted with the sealed road and the signs and marks of hard edged civilization.
This junction of roads is trully a crossroad.
The base of Kata Tjuta is unique and symbolic. A better mind could perhaps write a treatise about the clash of cultures at this point for not more than a few kms ahead squirms modernity in all it's garrish and obscene commerciality. Yulara is a gut wrenching man made turd of a place where tourists of every nationality swarm like flies gathering , all wearing weird dark flynets over their heads to keep those pesky little devils off their clean pale skin. These things have an ironic way of making the wearer resemble the very insect they're designed to foil.
At the right moment everyone buzzes off together for Uluru, "The Rock" to catch sunset or sunrise.
These mighty sentinels of time are sacred cash cows. No people own these places but all people exploit them.
I'm reaching the conclusion that there is little difference between the traditional perspective and the european when it comes to the dollar.
The desert can do strange things to your perspective.

8 Comments:

Blogger wayne said...

David! Your post here makes for fantastic reading!! Inspirational & colourful! Your intuitive sense of the spirituality of the landscape is very clear in words like: "...magnificent ranges coloured from red to blue. Even a local resident cited her daily amazement at the beauty around her. I love this area, from here to Kaltukatjara(Docker River) has an alluring spirit it seems to beckon you to leave the road and explore the thousands of rocky havens and caves. Regardless of what is intellectually known about this area there is a definite spirituality emanating from this landscape" ...that's awesome!

Found myself remembering some quite 'forgettable fillets' LOL, re: "steaks"! Yeah, i've chewed on 'leather' (the kind you chew over and over and can't seem to swallow, maybe like the poor beasts themselves who rechew the cud -- curious isn't it?), others like pre-chewed chewing gum, yet others that looked sumptuous, juicy and 'just seared' but, upon slicing-thereinto, felt more like i was a veterinary surgeon and looking for swabs (?napkins) and sutures! Some of these experiences have found me looking more for 'the grain' than the 'grain fed', and more for the 'milk', than the cow itself, LOL!

The photos are great, yet your writing provides a whole new dimension of 'colours' (as above) and also the quirkishly wonderful (imo) description/cariacature of the "..tourists of every nationality swarm like flies gathering , all wearing weird dark flynets over their heads to keep those pesky little devils off their clean pale skin. These things have an ironic way of making the wearer resemble the very insect they're designed to foil." [LOL, LOL!] Brilliant!! Vivid, with a wry spin of circular satire...

... i am sensing further pictures (visual, in words, in music) on the way--- you're inspired, -- more power to you!!

..brings back memories of the Red Centre for me as well as of other amazing landscapes and culures!
Cheers,
ω

January 14, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger David Burge said...

Thanks for keeping an interest in my blog Wayne.
It's been a little stressful adapting to the new environment up here in Alice over the past week, I've been neglectful of others blogs and I apologise for that.
The blog serves as a good way to disseminate the trip and experiences to family and friends.

I'm hoping to start some landscape inspired painting soon but I've had no time whatsoever. I've no intention of plein air stuff, way too hot for that.
Still trying to sync work and play and get an opportunity to have a close look at the bush. It's hard so far.
I'll try to complete our transition from Perth to Alice on the blog this week with a few more jpgs. Have a few sketches to post as well.
It's great to receive your remarks Wayne.
Hey, I like your analogy of veterinary surgery re 'cheat steaks' as I call them. Anyone can make a steak tender but the trick is to cook the bloody thing as well.

January 14, 2009 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I have just read the description of your trip with great interest Dave!
I will be returning to read more, because I am also heading out there sometime within the next few months.
Never even thought about flies!!!!..
My youngest daughter and I are going on the Ghan to Alice Springs and of course out to "The Rock" Not doing it too rough ...looking forward to it!

January 18, 2009 at 1:46 AM  
Blogger PERUGINA ART said...

Hi David,
I was not aware until now that you are travelling and I wondered about your absence on the blogosphere. Here you are recording your journey for all who follow your blog and be witness to it and like me perhaps will never get the chance to see these places IRL as you will experience them so BRAVO and thank you for sharing! I will get to the steak part later lol and btw have had me a great laugh tonight reading what you and W have written here re: your/his experiences with la carne (meat) lol, so I thank you/him too! lol

What has struck me here tonight reading through your journal is your sentence, “The road is poor here but the jarring from the corrugations goes un-noticed as the great rusty domes rise from the earth and command worship”. Wow…can totally relate to this experience somewhat as I have a fear of flying and get very sick on aircraft albeit constantly making trips abroad as a child and teenager to Italy and back (you would think that I’d be used to it by now) however, I always delighted in trying to spot Uluru from the air (known and referred to as Ayres Rock back when) and The Olgas and for a moment forgetting this fear and feeling ill as I would be totally awestruck by the colours of the earth from above and the weird shapes of the land below.

The steak – being almost vegetarian for many years and hardly ever touching steak, have found two places here in NSW that know how to cook it – but what do I know! If you ever find yourself here or the other for that matter, will only be too happy to pass on the details for the best burnt flesh money can buy! LOL

Your photos are awesome, I’m always astounded by how red the earth really is! I love the side mirror shot the best.

Take care, don’t wander into any or stick any body parts into unknown cracks and crevasses no matter how much it bekons! lol Many dangers lurk in The Territory! Will look forward to your posts.

January 18, 2009 at 3:17 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Wow Dake, am I to understand that dirt path is the "highway" across that part of Australia? I have a feeling cell phone reception ain't real good out there. As the others said, this is wonderful reading, it doesn't matter what you turn your colorful and wicked pen on. Curiously, I don't think I had heard of the Olgas, though I've heard about that rock, and the highway where there is only one tree. (over here they would cut that damn thing down) Some of the place names sound familiar, such as Kalgoorlie. Your account has me anxious as ever to get down there.
I also have had one classic steak that was above and beyond all others - a large center-cut sirloin grilled by my friend Gil in about '95. I'd put it up against the Pride of Kalgoorlie, but of course I would need to be there!

January 20, 2009 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger W. K. Moore said...

Unbelievable David .. the pictures are truly beautiful. And the steak story quest - fascinating and quite satisfying to the inner taste buds. Food and travel, both can be of hell or heaven. I'm happy you chose to bring us the celestial - a steak house in heaven?? I'm intrigued! mushrooms please --

January 20, 2009 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger David Burge said...

G'day Sandy, I think the Ghan would be a great way to see the central region. In Autumn or Spring is best of course.

Patricia, for those with a fear of flying, no need to get on a plane anymore. Since Google Earth the earthbound can see these places from a new perspective. I must have "flown" up and down our intended route 50 times before driving, it was nothing like the reality of being on the road but still gave a sense of the geometry of the trip.

I've not had the opportunity to enter any dark nooks yet but will heed your advice if I do. I have respect for the size of the scorpions and the toxicity of the snakes up here.

G'day Nick and WKM, always a thrill to see your comments!

Every second person here is an artist.
It's a fact the Alice Springs boasts more nationally and internationally successful artists per capita than any other city/town in the world.
Painting here is like foolball in Melbourne...now I'm exaggerating slightly, but it's a measure of competitive edge amongst even the hardest of men(no exaggeration). Makes an very average brush-slinger like me keep quiet about ones efforts.
It's a landscape that urges saturation of colour and texture. There's a big argument going on there.
The would be artist needs to be judicious with dominance more so than ever. Because the topography is either flat or dramatic composing the landscape in a balanced and interesting way is a challenge. Reading a book by John Olsen , more a book of memoirs, but has some interesting thoughts on the process of composition in regard to what he calls 'reconciliation' of geometric composition with psychological elements which offset the classical standards of composition.
Quite relevant to this landscape I think.
The dominance of indigenous art up here is overwhelming. It's difficult not to feel artistically irrelevant as a caucasian.
Of course one is not and it is a thinking error to entertain that notion but it deserves a mention if only to guard ones self against such thinking.
There's some staggeringly beautiful work around but mostly it's crap, just like in any genre.
Walking through the mall on market day is not unlike a whip through the w/c gallery of Wet Diaper. The difference here is that the aboriginal people don't call themselves artists just because they paint, they have a lot more insight and humility. But if a naive tourist will buy it well why not have a go...!?
A familiar trait in all circles no doubt.

January 22, 2009 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger joel said...

excellent reading Dake. i think that you have summed up what i expect to feel when i get a chance to travel the inner nucleus of this red land.

i am not sure if i would be able to resist stopping to paint something. but perhaps if i did - i would not make it to the next stop alive? i guess you need to carefully weigh up your distances and stops - it ain't a casual set of "day trips" is it?

February 8, 2009 at 10:59 PM  

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