Out in the wilds of the Australian Outback, you might encounter Cubist-looking sculptures in the outdoor art gallery of Talc Alf
1 February 2003, 12 Years Ago This Week: One of the things about travelling is that s lot of new people come into your life along the way. To be sure, most of these people are only fleeting meetings and quickly forgotten – but a few become life long friends and others. without realising, just stick in your mind long after you’ve moved on and they’ve no doubt forgotten all about you.
One such person is Talc Alf, who I met 12 years ago this week out in the wilds of the Australian Outback. A group of us had rolled up to his dusty compound outside the small town of Lyndhurst, South Australia, on an Adelaide to Alice Springs backpacker bus trip. (That bus company and that trip itinerary are still going strong – clearly it’s a classic).
Alf’s home is also his outdoor art gallery, and there are numerous Cubist-looking sculptures carved from talc stone scattered all around, wide open to the elements, the bright white carvings contrasting with the red earth and retina searing blue sky. Completely self-taught, Alf has spent decades refining his art – indeed, the whole reason he ended up at Lyndhurst is because it apparently has the best talc deposits in the country. There’s little in the way of distraction and for most people the sheer emptiness of the landscape might lead to madness.
But Alf, while easy to dub eccentric, uses the time to develop his own ideas about how Australia should be a republic, (he’s even designed his own flag), the origin of the alphabet and a whole host of different ways to think about things which initially sound ludicrous but end up seeming quite plausible. He was also an affable showman, managing to effortlessly commandeer the attention of our beer-seeking gaggle of backpackers for a good half hour to expound on some of his theories.
Scorch, our trip driver, was chuckling to himself when we drove off. “I nearly didn’t bother visiting Alf because I didn’t think you lot would be interested” – the excited chatter coming from around the bus proving otherwise. There was something remarkable about Alf, something energising. Here was a bloke who basically had bugger all but because he’d spent the best part of his life creating and thinking out in his own patch of land, he seemed incredibly happy. Even if you didn’t care for his art or theories, there was something really admirable about his dedication and discipline to living life on his own terms.
What Is 12 Years Of Travel?I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.
- Week 1: Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Melbourne
- Week 2: Cannibal Rock, Komodo, Indonesia
- Week 3: Ocean Reflection, Ari Atoll, Maldives
- Week 4: Vertigo Bar Sunset, Banyan Tree Hotel, Bangkok
- Week 5: Talc Alf Sculptures, Flinders Ranges, Australia
- Week 6: After The Tsunami, Khao Lak, Thailand
- Week 7: Drugs Warning, Jakarta Airport, Indonesia
- Week 8: Beng Mealea Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
- Week 9: Failing To Climb Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
- Week 10: Night Diving At Maaya Thila, Maldives
- Week 11: Schwezigon Paya Temple, Bagan, Myanmar
- Week 12: Octopus, Hin Daeng, Thailand
- Week 13: A View With A Room, Bangkok Tree House
- Week 14: Koh Haa, Thailand
- Week 15: Angry Whopper, Singapore
- Week 16: Kuda Gili Shipwreck, Maldives
- Week 17: Model Shoot, Bangkok
- Week 18: Banda Islands, Indonesia
- Week 19: Port Eliot, Cornwall
- Week 20: Exmouth, Australia
- Week 21: Newquay Cliffs, Cornwall