Henley on Todd

Smoke haze at sunset

Smoke haze at sunset

We’ve been in Alice Springs for a week now. Whilst this is our third visit we always find plenty to do. There are bad grass fires south of Alice at the moment and the smoke haze is very noticeable. We have ash falling on the caravan. Luckily the predominant vegetation is grass and scrub so there are few trees to catch fire. There has been a constant stream of fire trucks past the caravan park and helicopters overhead. A forecast change in the wind is expected to help extinguish the blazes.

The big clean

On arrival we made for the Heritage Caravan Park which is the one we normally stay at. A bit run down but the facilities are good and the unpowered sites are big and plentiful. Not cheap though, we are paying $30 unpowered however I heard one chap say he was paying $45 across the road at the Big4.

Have had a big clean up. It took us two days to clean the car inside and out. There is a good car wash facility in Alice so we cleaned the outside then went back to camp, unloaded the car and returned to the car wash to vacuum the inside. We must have removed about 50 kilograms of bull dust! Vicki spent a considerable effort cleaning the van. Its good to have them clean but if everything goes according to plan they will get dirty again pretty quickly.

The Ghan heading south

Whilst coming back to camp one afternoon we saw cars stopped beside the road and people, cameras in hand looking back towards Heavitree Gap through which the road and railway enter Alice from the south. We immediately twigged that the Ghan passenger train was about to make an appearance so stopped as well. It was a large train, Vicki counted 30 passenger carriages.

Yesterday we went to the Henley on Todd regatta held in the sands of the dry Todd River. I am sure most have heard of this mad cap event which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

The regatta has a nautical theme although the nearest suitable water for a regatta would be thousands of miles away. There are all sorts of “boats races” with no bottoms in the boats and the contestants standing inside and running. The kayak events consists of contestants sitting in a kayak on a trolley running on rails and propelling themselves along the course with shovels. There are sand shovelling competitions and tug of wars. Everyone is invited to take part, there are even special backpackers teams. The highlight of the regatta is the last event, the “battle boat” spectacle. Three “boats” have been built over the chassis of a 4WD. The Viking is not unnaturally a Viking longship, HMAS Courage is a naval patrol boat and Nauteus is a pirate boat. Manned by what the programs describes as 12 deranged members of any sex they are each armed with 25 electronically detonated flour mortars, high pressure water cannons, smoke bombs and numerous hand to hand weapons mainly flour and water bombs. The boats line up in the arena and on the start signal proceed to battle each other whilst trying not to get bogged in the soft sand. After about 15 minutes of this mayhem the fight is declared over and the winner decided by crowd approval.

It was a great fun day with a fantastic crowd atmosphere. Contestants and officials make a great effort to dress up in costume and this of course adds to the atmosphere. The regatta is held on the second last Saturday of August each year so put it on your “to do” list.

"Boat" races

Viking "Battle Boat"

Nauteus

Have fitted an electronic tyre monitor to the vehicle whilst here. This monitors pressure and temperature of the vehicles and vans tyres so should warn us of a puncture before we ruin the casing. Anyway that is the theory so lets hope it works as when we leave here we hope to head west into the Great Sandy Desert. We are waiting for a permit from Western Australia. The Northern Territory permit was easy to obtain but the WA permit is taking longer than we anticipated. Apparently some of the communities we need to transit are classed as closed so the permit needs assessment. Oh well we will wait and see.

It is Ruby’s 94th birthday this coming Thursday and the family threw a surprise birthday party at Shane and Felicity’s today. We have just Skype’d them. It was terrific seeing and speaking to everyone there.

Happy birthday Ruby from Alice Springs

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