2016

I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Back from the desert, where it was hot and red during the day, and quiet and black at night. A few highlights...

The first night a hot desert wind blew till 5.00 am. We had camped in our little hired campervan, with Joel in a tent pitched close to the sliding door. We had parked just off road, halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, and I struggled with all kinds of fears and anxieties as it got darker and darker, and there was no one in sight. The sky was full of clouds and the moon struggled to be seen. Joel and I both slept badly, as the hot wind howled through the open doors of the van, and the badly assembled tent. Day dawned crisp and still, though.

Second night we watched the sun set over Uluru, having walked a little at its base in the afternoon. Even though there were lots of tourists, it was still breathtakingly quiet and beautiful. As the great rock turned red in the sunset, a thin, pale, watery moon rose just to the left. We camped in the only place you are allowed to, for miles around, at the Yulara resort. Girls in the bathroom with hair curlers and straighteners, re-charging phone and camera batteries.

Third night we watched the sun set at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), after a wonderful hike through the Valley of the Winds. No moon, until we were on our way to our next (off-road) campsite. Then it rose, bright orange through the red dust of the desert.

The fourth night the moon modestly rose later, allowing the full spectrum of stars and planets and satellites to appear. We were staying at Kings' Canyon (a huge campsite), so it wasn't until several nights later, at Trephina Gorge in the East Macdonall ranges (thanks to Elsewhere for this tip), that we were in pitch blackness at 10.00 p.m. to see the stars in all their glory and glamour. We were in a tiny campsite (one other family; and a pit toilet), and so we could turn out all the lights, and see nothing but what you could see by starlight. The Milky Way streaming moodily across the great canopy of stars, a shooting star catching my eye, and stars right down to the horizon - at your feet, as someone said to me today. It's like being in a huge snowdome; the glass hung all over with stars.

In the end, we spent very little time in Alice Springs, and while I thought I would be hanging out for hotels and lavish campsites, I found I treasured best those nights when it was just us, the stars, and the Scrabble box. We sang and talked in the car, told stories and worked on jokes with each other. I read Andrew McGahan's White Earth, the perfect choice of a gothic Australian narrative about land use and land ownership: thoroughly recommended. I then started on Alexis Wright's Carpentaria. I'm struggling a bit, but the man in the restaurant at Alice Springs (The Lane) said it was worth persevering with, so I will.

We got back on Friday night: the house is still covered in dust, though the end is in sight; and the best news when I opened up the email.... We got our ARC grant! It's hard to give a sense of just what a wonderful thing this is. They awarded money to only 21% of applications this year, and though they cut our budget down, we can still do most of the things we want. I'll write about this in more detail soon (it's in part what this blog is supposed to be about), but just wanted to clock in. Will find a few photos, too.

4 comments:

Philip said...

A beautiful entry;
deliriously good news!

Well done, Stephanie.
x

Kathleen said...

Congrats on your grant - that's great news! Look forward to hearing more about the project here.

Pssst...keep your eye out for a certain Miles Franklin-winning author at your hotel on Thursday. She's bunking down there too, because she's in town to be interviewed by Andrea Stretton at Woollahra Library...

meli said...

I'm glad you had a wonderful time in the desert. I've had my fair share of stars (and occasional anxieties) in the Australian desert too. Most memorably when my cousin (who lived in Alice at the time) insisted that we didn't camp at the King's Canyon camp ground, but rather off a deserted side road a fifteen minute drive away. Twice a mysterious four wheel drive passed us and slowed right down but didn't stop. Being three girls alone in the bush suddenly didn't seem like such a good idea. After cooking our dinner, we drove back to the camp-ground after all...

Stephanie Trigg said...

Yeah, I had a few Peter Falconio moments, I have to admit. But mostly it all felt rather benign: the most eerie thing was the wonderful sense of the spiritual past and present that would take me over at the most unexpected times.