Sunday, January 25, 2009


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Critters of The Desert Part 1 - Scorpions

I've seen a few scorpions in my day and have felt their tail between my toes more than once but the ones e get in Perth are midgets.
The Desert Scorpions in central Australia are like terrestrial lobsters but I believe not seriously toxic. Nor are they quick to sting. I prodded one gently with a stick to test it's patience and to garner a sense of it's personality, a getting to know you mechanism if you will.
It did not choose to attack the stick
(like many spiders and big ants I've tried it on) but ran in a strange zigzag manner very quickly away. It might respond differently to a living appendage of course but I was satisfied it looked more fearsome than it behaved.
The above animal would be about 10cm( about 4 inches) in length when extended.
I would not choose to sleep in the desert without sturdy and well sealed protection, if not space, between myself and the ground.

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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Journey to the Red Centre

January 4 we departed the familiar and safe rolling hills of Roleystone for a five day road trip to Alice Springs through the Gibson and Great Victoria deserts.
Without laboring over it suffice to say it's a long, hot and dusty road, isolation being a familiar companion by the end of the second day. The width and breadth of Western Australia is incredibly vast, for readers not familiar with this state I'd suggest a quick visit to wiki to familiarize yourself. It's a four day journey at about 100kms per hour to reach the Northern Territory from Perth via the Great Central Road which is mostly unsealed.
You don't drive after dark here unless you're mad or in a large truck or tank. The nocturnal wildlife is numerous and often large. Camels run wild throughout the outback, donkeys and large red kangaroos make up the most weighty of the possible road encounters at night. Emus are also numerous and pose a risk for vehicles.
Anyway, we arrived in Alice Springs as planned on Thursday 8th.
Have not had time to do much painting but have a few drawings or sketches.
We have several hundred photos so I will post a few here for the record.
Kalgoorlie is the last major town before venturing into a much less comfortable environment.
It's a gold mining town from the 1860s and still retains much of the architecture and atmosphere of an earlier time. Kalgoorlie is a beautiful old town that boasts the largest open cut gold mine south of the equator. The "Superpit" has to be seen in real life to be appreciated. It's too large to photograph from the ground. Google Earth is a good way to see it's massive scale.
The photo I've attached here shows small oblong shapes at the bottom of the pit, these are regular 4wd vehicles, the larger dump trucks making their way up the ramps are carrying 100 tons of ore per load. Takes them an hour to reach the top.

I'll add more photos in the same format in coming days.

Gone are The Blues, this is the country for seeping in the landscape, flora and fauna as well as the culture here.
The town of Alice Springs has numerous galleries. Many of the local artists here paint in the galleries, the New York and european gallery buyers can come and browse and purchase direct.
More on that later.
It's a life changing experience.

This small slideshow shows a little of the early "western" architecture of Kalgoorlie.
For the American readers, Kalgoorlie was the home of Herbert Hoover for a period in his younger days he worked here as an engineer, later he went on to become a President I believe.