by Peter Nelson
Well, if it does, it sure doesn’t happen very often. The Todd “River” runs right through the eastern edge of town. A pleasant bit of shade, nice healthy trees. A good place to have a picnic, but if you’re looking to have a swim, better bring your wading pool!
The locals have a great sense of humour about their “river”. They have an annual yacht race there — the Henley-on-Todd, and it’s quite the major event. People come from all over the country to compete in 4-man teams. The boats are sturdy, streamlined craft, with only one unusual feature. They have no bottom! None at all. But don’t worry. Your crew won’t even get their feet wet, because there’s no water in the “river”. It’s dry. The crewmen board their craft, lift it up in their muscular arms, and set off running down the riverbed in their bare feet. Great fun!
One evening we decided to splash out and take in a movie. From the outside, the theatre looked perfectly ordinary — a large, sturdy building with a box office at the front, movie posters plastered all over, etc. But when you get inside, your jaws drops! The building doesn’t have a roof! Totally open to the sky! That alone tells you how often it rains in Alice.
The heat here is a menace. The sun is an alien, a seriously dangerous enemy not to be taken lightly. No one leaves Alice without spare tires, lots of water, lots of jerry cans of spare petrol. If you go off the road and your car breaks down, you can die before anyone finds you. True, the air temperature during a Kansas summer can go higher than anything we’ve seen here, but the Outback heat is all-pervading, inescapable. When you sit down to eat, the chair is hot to the touch, the table top is hot, the silverware is hot. The glasses, the plates, everything you touch, everything around you is hotter than skin temperature. Even the “cold” water out of the tap is hot. Must be because of the latitude. Being closer to the equator, the rays of the sun are more direct.
Alice Springs is apparently near enough to the tropics that we are catching some northern clouds. Hope it clears up because tomorrow we’re going to rent a dune buggy and charge off into the interior in search of red canyons and purple rocks. Unless the sky is clear, photographs can’t show the incredible Martian colors of this otherworldly landscape.