Walk-through Aviary, Bird Display and Rory the Eagle
Driving into Alice that afternoon I noticed the rugged and crumbling hills that approach the road way from the Palmer river onwards. I had forgotten them and in the late afternoon they looked dramatic and even menacing, certainly worth painting or photographing. I thought as we passed the Palmer that this was one of the stops our bus trip made in the late 60s; it’s broad empty path seemed the same with big eucalypts growing beside it and on its sandy bottom. We have seen Alice two or three times now when travelling up here. It’s a growing and attractive town of 23,000 with good recent public buildings and a lot of pleasant landscaping. Aboriginal people seem well represented in jobs round the town and most are neatly dressed from Kmart or Target. They are absent from parks and I only saw one lonely old woman sitting in the bush by herself near the Todd River. In shops whole families talk to each other in their native languages which suggests that many of the desert tribes have embraced learning and passing on their languages. While Terry wanted to visit the Desert park, I only had two main requests: to visit the Strehlow Research Centre and view any stone tools that were in the collection; and to drive the 70km out to Chambers Pillar, a rock formation south east of Alice along dirt tracks. Neither have been possible. The research Centre is closed to the public effectively as they are planning to modernise their exhibitions policy and present several changing exhibitions starting from next year. A helpful new manager told me they didn’t have stone tools in the collection as Strehlow collected sacred objects. She recommended I try the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin instead. It appears even she has not been allowed into the storage areas as the objects are still in use by tribal elders and borrowed for ceremonies ; ‘a living tradition’ she explained. This being the case I wonder what they can possibly put on display next year. We visited Simpsons Gap again on Sunday, and Stanley Chasm and Serpentine Chasm today. All these features look similar, the same red dirt, dun colored shrubs and trees, withered kangaroo grass and crumbling ancient rock faces and mesas that line the road ways and fade in lines into the distance. Some are high like the Caterpillar ranges near Glen Helen and others look like low stone walls that were erected eons ago by long departed peoples.