A visit to the Red Centre of Australia had alluded me during the “Matilda years” but I still yearned to go to this mythical place. The heart of the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. But during the past year another dream was on my “wish list” Since becoming more absorbed in art I thought an art based holiday would be a great experience. That is where it all started back in March. A thought, a spark, an interest that started me searching “art holidays” on the internet.
How lucky we are living in this digital age. A wish can be put into action at the click of a mouse. Surfing from page to page I found the answer to not one dream, but two. An art tour in the Red Centre based in the MacDonnell Ranges. I contacted Renata of “Redback Tours”. Fantastic… Sketching and painting in The Red Centre… I booked immediately.
One draw back, the tour did not go near Uluru (Ayers Rock). I MUST see this icon of central Australia. I would be close enough to almost taste it. So back to the computer…
Now as we get older our M.O. of travel has changed. Where as previously I had enjoyed wandering, with no time frame or set destination, I now plan shorter trips and suddenly the organised tour does not seem so restrictive as I once considered it. I now see the advantages. No need to worry about where the next bed would be, meals are all arranged and some one else will be doing the driving, leaving me free to sit back and enjoy the scenery. So I chose “wayoutback tours” Both these groups are small locally owned and operated and turned out to be excellent choices.
I looked forward in anticipation from March to July, it seemed so slow arriving. But then we were packing our bags and winging away to Alice Springs. Accommodation all arranged, even had a reasonable lunch on the Qantas flight
Next morning Sharon and Renata arrived to pick us up from the motel and whisk us away for a week of being absorbed in the magnificent scenery of the MacDonnell Ranges and trying to capture the colours and beauty that surrounded us.
First stop was Simpsons gap. One of the main ways through the MacDonnell Ranges and in 1871 it provided a route for the Overland Telegraph Line.The area is an important spiritual place for the Arrernte people and our first glimpse of the amazing red colours of the outback. As we wandered around deciding on a spot to sketch a black-footed wallaby watched us.
By the time I took these photos it was late afternoon and the sun had disappeared over the back and the colours had become quite muted. But this is the sketch I did. I must admit those reds do look very vivid in my painting…
Then it was on to Glen Helen Homestead our home base for the next 2 nights. This is a historic homestead originally a cattle station built-in the 1880’s. Life was hard in the Australian outback and the homestead had many set-backs. Fire, flood, drought it went through many changes of hands. In 1962 a road was finally built through from Alice Springs, things were looking up. But then disaster struck again, the road was washed away in the late 1960 floods. 3 more times it changes hands, then in 1985 a fire destroys the homestead. But outback people are sturdy and determined and it is rebuilt using windows, doors and fittings from old houses. But then when in 1988 the Finke River inundates the property with 400mm (16in) of rain in less than 24 hours causing significant flood damage it seems the old house finally gave up and it was left destitute. Then in 1999, after 10 years and another couple of owner changes, the property was leased, upgraded and reopened by Trevor Cox. In 2006 came the final (so far) transformation and this historic old homestead is now a tourist mecca.
What an amazing place to stay. After a day of sight seeing and creativity now sitting with a group of new friends, glass of wine in hand watching the sun set across the Finke River. The reflections are stunning and the colours breathtaking.
Golden hour and I stand on the banks of the Finke River a feeling of awe deep inside me.
As the sun sets over the river we go inside the homestead for a delicious home cooked dinner. Then to our comfortable beds in a block of modern, motel style units, with ensuites, built behind the homestead. After a busy day it is a good nights sleep to be ready for tomorrow…. (to be continued)