Alice Desert Festival and Wild Bush Foods
My life is pretty rich I have to admit. Apart from having a gaggle of wonderful mates, a village as a family and a great network of acquaintances, I also get the opportunity to do what I love and love what I do.
I once did a radio interview where my guest regaled a tale of the realisation that what he did was write about food and share in so many amazing experiences. I had a bit of a light bulb moment at the same time, realizing that I am in a very privileged position of being able to experience much of the same.
This last experience brought to me to central Australia, to Alice Springs. I had a picture in my mind of what Alice looked like, most of it romanticised from images seen and stories read. Nothing prepared me for the obliteration of the expectations I had of Alice Springs.
The people here are wonderful. Friendly, easygoing and fond of a laugh. I am here just for a few days and what I have experienced in these couple of days has been fantastic.
My first surprise was the topography. I expected a flat expanse of dry red soil with a great big red rock fallen from nowhere, that sits just up the road. Nothing could be further from the truth. Alice is surrounded on all sides by the McDonnell Ranges. Along with these stunning ranges, there are spectacular gum trees, refreshing waterholes, beautiful palm trees, awesome colours, amazing wildlife, and a people who seem to take everything pretty much in their stride. Ayers Rock or Uluru is about 5 hours away and not just up the road as I had thought.
Contrary to what I thought, Alice also has a vibrant gay community. I was introduced to the mayor of gay Alice Springs, a man filled with passion for the town, its lifestyle and the opportunities that abound. Phil Walcott should be the Mayor of Alice Springs. He is very passionate about what this town offers and why a visit must be on every one’s bucket list.
There is a subculture here as well, a sad underbelly to Alice that is prevalent everywhere you look. It is a very large and obvious Indigenous community. There is poverty, alcoholism and other social issues that affect every town with an Aboriginal population of this size. But I can’t dwell on that. I can’t fix the social issues here – that is a job for governments and those charged with making these changes. All I can do is acknowledge that this exists.
Tourism NT brought me here to make an episode of my new internet TV show. Their generosity in funding the extraordinary crew that came with me is unbounded, and they will achieve what we set out to do. To tell the good stories that come out of Alice Springs. To be a part of the Alice Desert Festival and more specifically, the Wild Bushfoods part of the Festival.
I wonder what it would be like to live here, and the staff of the hotel (some of whom are part of that vibrant gay community) have given me an indication of what life is like here…. And they don’t have a bad word to say. It seems in Alice Springs that people just expect you to be a good person, do the right thing and contribute. Who you sleep with seems to be a very insignificant thing.
Tonight I get to celebrate with the local community at the Wild Bushfoods Gala Dinner. I am sure that this will be a wonderful experience and one that further endears me to this great town.
I will come back one day, with more time and the chance to explore more of the sacred territory around Alice – Uluru, The Olgas and those other iconic Central Australian land marks. Until then I depart with some red dust in my shoes, some terrific images and a full heart filled with memories created right here on the edge of the desert. I am sure the crew that is with me will do the same.
*Pete Dillon and the crew referred to in this article were guests of Tourism NT at the Alice Desert Festival.