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Leura Guidebook

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Leura Streetscapes & Landscapes

Leura Streetscapes & Landscapes

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[We asked Leura artist, Jane Canfield to share with us her initial and vivid impressions of Alice Springs – her first trip to the area took place in June 2010.]

“From the air, I saw the ripples of sand and the colour of the ground changing into one huge abstract painting laid out to the curve of the horizon”.

The first night we spent in a B&B in Alice Springs (Alice Springs Station) and there I joined my other friends, Sophie Seeger (abstract expressionist artist), Karen Swaffer a Sydney based glass jewellery artist and Margot Turner who works at Ochre Indigenous Art Gallery in Leura.

The next day we set off in a huge 4WD. There Sophie had arranged to meet a man who was to make our trip the most amazing and informative 6 days of my life.  His name is Vincent Forrester, Indigenous Elder and Artist – a Luritja/Aranda man. Vincent acted as our guide for the next 6 days.

First stop Kings Canyon Resort.  Here we spent 2 nights and walked the rim of the canyon. Our first sunset was sitting in the dunes with ‘Sundowners’ watching the colours change in the desert. We watched the mountain range change hue from russet orange to mauve and purple… the ‘Dingo and her Pups’ (integral to the stories of the Aboriginal people.)  I was fascinated to hear that the stories relate directly to our very own 3 Sisters here in the Blue Mountains, part of the ‘7 sisters’ legend.

We saw sacred places where your average tourist does not see. At every opportunity I had my paints out creating colour studies. I painted at the mouth of a cave with Ghost Bats fluttering around me.  This was special for me as I am a WIRES carer and I care for injured bats.  The cave had special markings and the smoke from generations of fires was on the roof and the smell lingered.

As we travelled, Vincent told us stories of his people. I love Australia, but hearing these amazing stories, made the country come to life.  We went to Angus Downs Station, a place where Vincent spent a lot of his younger life as a stockman. Around the outside fire, his boyhood friend, Tim, the station manager – a ‘Black man in a white man’s body’– joined us for dinner. Then we returned to our camp. We slept in swags around the fire. I watched the moon move across the sky and saw a shooting star. I had a dream… a Dingo grabbed the back of my swag and was dragging me around the desert. I mentioned this the next morning and Vincent had the same dream! Apparently Dingos are cheeky.

We met Phillip and Sadie, at Lilla Community. We were shown more sacred places and they shared more stories. I was fascinated by the communities’ dogs. Anyone that knows me is aware that I have a soft spot for dogs. I feel this will be a special part of the upcoming group exhibition.

The colours in the desert are almost overwhelming. The sand is truly orange… the colours of the Mulga and the Spinifex against this creates a wonderful contrast to the vibrancy of the sand. Even dead Spinifex has a colour all its own, a sort of mauve blue grey all contorted into wonderful waves.  The stands of Desert Oaks create a vertical sculptural form in what are quite muted colours. And some of the Desert Oaks still had seed pods hanging from them. Against the sky and sand they appeared black, but close up, the seedpods lying on the sand were silver and look like little grenades.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta can be seen from each other. When you travel between them, both appear as such wonderful graphic shapes. Depending upon the time of day they hover against the horizon in reddish mauve and purple and all the colours in between. 

It is a shock to come across pockets of water – these areas are well vegetated. At the base of Uluru, in the gorge of Kings Canyon, little eco systems survive in a harsh yet stunning environment. Reflections in the pools of water are crystal clear, catching the vibrant sky and rocks. Sometimes a flicker of movement will alert you to a rock pigeon or a little lizard – almost camouflaged in their environment.

Everywhere on the sand are tracks of all sorts of creatures. Some larger: Dingo, Fox, Kangaroo but most are lizards and birds. It is a shame to ruin them with our big boot tracks.  And I couldn’t help thinking that I had just ruined something special by walking their way.

My trip to the centre of Australia opened my eyes in more ways than one. Not only did I discover how unique and stunningly beautiful this country is, but I saw some of the issues facing the communities, both Indigenous and non Indigenous.

Meeting Vincent, Phillip and Sophie and the people of the Lilla Community who welcomed us to their special part of the world opened my eyes to how this country lives and breathes through the Indigenous peoples.  We can learn so much from momentarily stopping and listening to them, not forcing them to live as we live, nor putting our slant on how they should live their lives.  We can learn from our indigenous friends. The respect they have for the land, and the animals that we share it with.

So anyone who is thinking of a trip to the centre of Australia, I highly recommend it. Avoid a busload of tourists, listen to the Aboriginal people, listen to the land and leave only footprints. Respect the Aboriginal people’s request – don’t climb Uluru.

 [Blogger's note: Australia is a country of stunning natural wonders. Travellers from across the globe will be amazed and delighted to find them. Our local Leura residents, such as Jane Canefield are surrounded by a natural wonder -- a designated world heritage park.  In the future, we will ask other Leura residents to share their travel experiences with you. It you would like to contribute, please let us know!

For all you artists or artists at heart, a beautiful 2-storey artist's studio in a charming Leura Garden setting is available now for a short term rental. The studio is of Japanese architectural style and is very private and perfect for the artistic work at hand. Wonderful place for reading, meditation or taking tea in the garden. Call Jane Canfield for bookings on 0409 692 780. We love this space and in spring it should be Leura at its best!

And for a "pat on the back" to Leura's Silk's Brasserie: among the NSW Awards for Excellence, Silk's won the 2010 Contemporary Australian Restaurant, Blue Mountains. This is a wonderful kudo for the staff and owner, Stewart Robinson and we aren't surprised. In June, we stepped into Silk's out of the Blue Mountains chill for lunch -- a tender breast of chicken served on subtle greens -- lite enough fare for lunch but warming the tummy in June weather. The "special" Silk's bread is worth a thousand words on a wintry day.  We arrived early, but by 12:30pm tables began to fill. At a nearby table, a couple were celebrating with a bottle of bubbly -- perhaps newly "in love," but certainly enjoying the window table at Silk's. Give yourself a Silk's treat on your next visit to Leura.