It ain’t Hell but….

if you squint just right you can see the devil through the heat.  Things have been quiet here in the Alice.  The holidays have come and gone.  The town is slowly coming back to life.  Almost everything except the grocery stores shuts down for the first week of January, if not the entire month.  Trying to find a place to go out to dinner is a real challenge.  Our favorite pub is closed until Feb. 1 and most of the other good places in town are open sporadically.  Even most of the parties with friends have slowed. It seems that everyone is trying to recover from a whirlwind holiday season. With things this quiet, there’s been little to write home about.

Beyond all the vacations (holidays as the locals describe them) is the heat.  As we approach the peak of summer, Alice has seen a record number of days over 40C (104F).  The mornings start somewhere in the mid 80s. At that temperature, the desert air feels pleasant. Staying in the shade actually makes the outdoors enjoyable.  By 10, it’s hit 100. The increase slows from there and by 1 we reach our daily max in the 108-112 range.  Because it’s open here, the wind blows through forcefully.  If you stand outside, it feels like someone has turned a hair dryer on you or the oven door was just opened.  The temp holds there until after the sun sets behind the ridge.  By this point, the ground has absorbed so much heat that it begins to radiate into the night. The temperature drops but not much. It can still be over 90 at 10PM and the pavement will still burn your feet.

The folly of trying to keep a lawn in this type of weather is lost on the maintenance staff. Our sprinklers are only set to go off every couple of days and the lawn quickly turned a pleasant shade of tan.  Many of our friends keep gardens.  They have to water every morning and night.

When the weather gets this bad, it’s no longer a matter of comfort. It’s a safety issue to be outdoors for too long.  Many of the national parks close during this period.  Protecting tourists is one thing, but more often its to protect the rescue workers from having to carry someone back to civilization after they’ve gotten stranded out bush.  Beyond the heat, the sun feels stronger here.  It’s almost like you can feel the UV rays damaging your skin.  Sunscreen helps but not for long.  Trying to cover up only means you have more layers on. The end result is either a nasty sunburn or a pair of jeans that are soaked through with sweat.

The other thing to worry about in the summer is how dry everything gets. Alice posts the daily fire danger rating on signs at the edges of town. Since we’ve been here, it’s been Very High or Severe. It once dipped to High after a downpour, but there won’t be much rain until February or March. The highest rating is Catastrophic. So far, there have not been any bush fires near town, however they are out there. This morning a haze hung over town, and we’ve heard that there is a fire west of us. Fortunately, there are numerous fire breaks and lots of trained firefighters to keep us safe.

Ashley and I are anxiously awaiting the onset of fall.  We already have many of our adventures planned out, so stay tuned…

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Summer Solstice

Stuart Highway

Note: This happened back a while ago but got lost in the drafts folder. Enjoy!

While our northern hemisphere friends have been celebrating the fact that the days are starting to get longer, we’re facing the opposite phenomenon down here. We drove up to the Tropic of Capricorn (about 30k north of Alice Springs on Stuart Highway) to watch for the sun to be directly above us at noon on the Summer Solstice.

Tropic of Capricorn

The Tropic of Capricorn is marked with a big sculpture. We at lunch, hung out with friends, and waited for “true noon” (about 12:33) to rolll around. Someone stuck a stake in the ground and we watched until there was no shadow to be seen. We still had tiny shadows, but only because people are not a uniform size.

High Noon!

Once the shadows started to reappear, we headed back to town. We stopped at the highest point on the road between Darwin and Alice and at the Alice Springs welcome sign for pictures, more of which can be seen here.

Welcome to Alice