Desert dessert

What a busy month! I wasn’t expecting so much to happen so apologies for the long post. You don’t have to read it all, but I promise to leave something fun at the end for anyone who has an attention span longer than 500 words.

On with the show!

The rainy weather has continued over Central Australia and on January 14 I saw my first proper flow in the Todd River. When the river’s raging it’s big news in town, and locals swarm to it like seagulls on a dropped chip at the beach.

I spent half the day photographing at different spots along the river, and met a bunch of excited folks having a paddle. You’ll notice yellow lines under people’s feet because the safest place to be in the water is where it runs over roads.

I saw my second Todd River flow later in the month, which means I’m just one away from becoming a local.

A week later my Mumma came to visit and during her stay we went to see the magical Field of Light installation at Uluru.

I offered to buy her a ticket for the ‘Night at the Field of Light’ experience for Christmas, which I probably should have checked the price of before I made the promise because the tickets were $235 each. Ouch. Lucky I have a steady income now.

I told Mum she had to drink lots of booze to ensure we get our money’s worth.

The experience started with a pick-up at our hotel with around thirty other guests. Our names were ticked off a list and we were given a lanyard, which instantly made me feel very important because only very important people have lanyards.

The bus took us to a secret Uluru lookout area for champagne and canapés at sunset, but since I’m not drinking I grabbed a lemonade and gave my glass to Mum. I think she’d knocked back about three by the time the sun went down.

Before the light completely disappeared we were guided to an outdoor dining area and seated at table of eight. Mum and I sat with a couple from England and another from Denmark — both pairs were about Mum’s age — and a young couple living in Melbourne (he was from Melbourne, she was originally from Los Angeles).

The night was pleasant and the food was fantastic. There were a few flies around but nothing too oppressive. That was until it was time for dessert.

The sugar in our third meal attracted every beetle, moth and mosquito in the central desert, and they were dropping out of the sky like a bonafide rainstorm. The Weather Girls started playing in my head.

At one point a big grasshopper dive-bombed straight into the Englishman’s wine. “Well that’s just rude,” he said with disgust and disapproval.

Moments later a giant praying mantis started crawling across the table. The tourists were horrified, they dropped their cutlery and leaned back with pursed lips. As it approached my plate of brownies (yes, plural) I picked it up and threw it into a nearby bush, earning me a round of applause from the table. “Hooray for Alice Springs!” the Danish man cheered.

Though the desserts were delicious, the Englishman was the only person to finish their sweets. “I think that was a bit crunchier that it was meant to be,” he declared as he folded his serviette.

Beverages were also left untouched — our glasses now hosting pool parties for alcoholic insects. It’s probably just as well because everyone was already pissed and we were about to walk along a barely visible path through the Field of Light. One drunken stumble and you could smash the delicate lights or step on a snake.

If you’re planning to visit the Field of Light my best tip is to leave your camera in your bag because you’ll just be disappointed. There's no daylight when you finally get to walk around and you aren’t allowed to take a tripod, so trying to get a decent photo will just distract you from enjoying the experience.

Don’t worry about taking any pictures and just look at the lights.

This week I covered the Alice Springs new citizens ceremony for the paper where I got to witness 90 people from around the world becoming an Australian citizen. Each one was ecstatic to receive their certificate and sincerely grateful for the opportunities their new country offers them.

In recent years it’s become increasingly hard to escape the politicism of the January 26, but the ceremony was a place where the controversy faded away and there was nothing but genuine joy. On the day it even transformed my perception of what the the Australian flag reprensents. Here are a couple of my favourite photos.

Photographically I'm bloody loving sports portraits at the moment; they offer so many creative possibilities and sports people seem happier than most to strike a pose. I was pretty happy with this photo I recently took of some cycling prodigies at the Alice Springs velodrome.

That's it! Congratulations if you've made it this far. As promised here's something fun to finish with. I give you full permission to have a five minute dance party to The Weather Sisters "It's Raining Men" (warning: some people may find parts of this film clip disturbing).


Emma Murray is a documentary photographer based in Alice Springs. The Alice Years is a personal project documenting life in and around the red centre.