Monday, August 27, 2007

Alice Springs

Alice Springs, a.k.a. The Alice, will, for me, always be fondly remembered as the place where I lost my fear of horses and instead learned to ride them. That's some years back now—with the 'some' being somewhat of an understatement—but when I first came to Australia, pretty much fresh from Germany and traveling around to have a look at this new home of mine, I was shit-scared of horses. That had been a source of some embarrassment for me where I came from—details will not be forthcoming!—and when I got to Alice, which then was pretty much the closest thing to a Wild West town you could find outside the US, I told myself to get a life and deal with my fears. Not as easily done as said. Horses are big creatures, that can do serious harm to you if they're so disposed; and they can act quite unpredictably—well, if you don't know them, that is.

So I went to this riding school and a guy, let's just call him 'K', who was dressed like your stereotypical cowboy, minus the gun, and who, for the rest of my sojourn there referred to me as the 'bloody German', told me "So, you wanna learn how to ride? Well, go fetch a horse."

Whereupon K gave me a rope (I think; might have been a bridle) and pointed at an enclosure where milled about what to me looked like a small army of large animals, all of them horses.

"You want me to go in there?"

"You wanna learn how to ride? Go get one." (I may be paraphrasing. It's been a while. Still, the gist is the same.)

I nearly crapped myself (I think; maybe not; memory dim on that point) and entered the corral; and was soon immersed in the then-mind-numbing presence of horses, none of which seemed to like me, but who didn't appear to want to do me harm either. By some miracle, whose details are lost in the mists of time, I managed to snag one and drag it to the fence—only to have K tell me that that one really wasn't suitable for me. He then took pity on me and got me a horse and so proceeded the lessons for several days, until I had to move on, now without a fear of horses. Indeed I ended up doing some quite stupid things, later when I lived in Townsville for a time, and tried for a time to help break in horses. The experience ended suddenly when I was thrown against a fence with my back, remained in stunned numbness for several minutes, but then turned out to be unharmed. Still, I told myself, that maybe there were things I should not do; being attentive to my health and welfare and all that. So I didn't, but I continue to love riding horses; even, or maybe especially, 'spirited' ones. Just don't get much of a chance to do so.

Anyway, Alice is the place where it all started. Meaning I am rather fond of the place, because it's got good memories. It also has a peculiar charm that I've yet to understand; but my wife felt it as well, so I'm not making it up.

This gentleman was sitting, drawing I think, in the middle of the dry bed of the Todd River. Don't know how long he had been there or how long he remained after I sneaked this photo. But there is a leisurely air about this image—I hope you get it—that very much captures something of the charm of this place. And if you didn't do so earlier have a look at the Wikipedia entry for the town. It's worth a study, words and images alike.

We're seriously considering the possibility of packing up here and moving over there. Indeed, I will probably make an outright effort to see how this can be done. Time for a change of scenery methinks.

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