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promises. And they are.)

After a hot climb back down the canyon’s

ridge, heaven is found in the resort’s freshwater

pool and the slow swimmer shares the water

with bright, tiny birds that dive for insects on

the pool’s cusp. The best viewing spot for sunset

over the George Gill Range is also the easiest to

find – we just look for the drinks trolley set on

a wooden platform at the resort. With a chilled

glass in hand, we join the crowds to watch the

range roll through the colour wheel from bright

orange to dark purples and into a soft dove grey

as night closes in.

Back on the road, Central Australia’s most

famous outpost is the town of Alice Springs,

a four-hour drive – give or take how much

you like to stickybeak. The day we hit town,

all the talk is about Parrtjima, the town’s first

ever Indigenous art festival (back this year from

22 September to 1 October), which projects

light shows along 2.5km of the beautiful West

MacDonnell Ranges. Most exciting for me,

visitors to the festival can design their own light

show and see it displayed on this 300 million-

year-old canvas.

The mountain range was made famous by

Australia’s most beloved Indigenous painter,

Albert Namatjira, who lived and painted their

beautiful faces. His descendants, of which there

are many, all seem to have been born with a

paintbrush in hand to form what’s now called

the Hermannsburg School, and we meet them

at work in their Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Arts

Centre. The artists painted a series of massive

‘skirts’, canvases wrapped like a beach umbrella

or 1950s skirts, while a fat, giant, illuminated

caterpillar was designed by local children.

Alice has grown up in the years since I

last visited, with a healthy café culture on its

central strip, Todd Mall. Fancy a spiced chai

latte? Or perhaps an avocado smash? The cafés

oblige. They’re interspersed with shops selling

Indigenous art from the surrounding regions.

After nearly a week in central Australia, I can

appreciate that those seemingly empty stretches

of desert are the source of inspiration for the

beauty found in Alice’s galleries. The carvings,

weavings and canvases are drawn from remote

Indigenous artist centres scattered across

four states, unhindered by such bureaucratic

constructs as borders.

Red earth, blue sky, a sea of golden

wildflowers and the rich orange cliffs that the

sun uses as its canvas. It’s an ancient story, but

one I’ll never tire of hearing.

The Red Centre Way

is the driving route

between Uluru, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs.

You can download stories about the region at

www.nt.gov.au/westmacs

British artist Bruce Munro’s strange, beautiful,

curious

Field of Light

installation of 50,000

LED bulbs glows at the foot of Uluru, in situ until

March 2018. See

www.ayersrockresort.com.au/

uluru/fieldoflight

Start the conversation of life beneath the stars

on a fun astronomy tour at the sustainable

technology and renewable energy

Earth

Sanctuary

just outside Alice Springs.

See

www.earth-sanctuary.com.au

Alice Springs’

Parrtjima Festival of Light

celebrates Indigenous art and the landscape from

which it was born, from 22 September to

1 October 2017. For more information

see

www.parrtjimaaustralia.com.au

The Rim Walk

around Kings Canyon takes about

two to three hours to complete, with plenty of

steps. However, the gentler flat Creek Walk is an

easy hour-long stroll at the canyon’s base.

See

www.kingscanyonresort.com.au

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DON’TMISS

BNE May/June 2017 |

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QantasLink flies direct between

Brisbane and Alice Springs

twice a week. For details

see

www.qantas.com

Parrtjima festival lights up the MacDonnell Ranges