Parrtjima – A Festival in Light

Parrtjima Skirt

More Alice Springs!  In today’s entry I choose personal entertainment over environmental integrity.

When I landed in Alice Springs I saw a poster in the airport for Parrtjima – A Festival in Light. It was a limited-time only desert light installation.  I thought how convenient it is running the exact time I am here!  During my walking tour I asked my guide if she had been.  She said not yet and that she had mixed thoughts about it because it was disturbing the wildlife in the area.

The festival was projecting lights onto the MacDonnell Ranges. It turns out the MacDonnell Ranges are home to an endangered Rock Wallaby population.  No studies had been done on how it might affect the nocturnal Rock Wallaby to have giant colorful lights projected continuously into their habitat for 10 days.  There was worry that distressed mothers may eject their young from their pouches all so we humans could be entertained.

I felt for the Rock Wallabies, but had an ugly American moment as I found myself with nothing to do that night and decided to opt for the free light show.  I’m sorry wallabies!

I was not the only one who chose this route as the bus was full of tourists.  From the perspective of a human, who wasn’t trying to raise their young in the mountains, the installations were beautiful:

Parrtjima Skirt img_7427


MacDonnell Range


Caterpillar representing Aboriginal Dreamtime stories

My favorite were the umbrella-type ones which arguably would disturb the wallabies less.  Maybe next year more of those?

Each light installation had a recording of someone explaining the significance of the installation to Aboriginal culture.  However, the volume of the recording was rather low and almost completely obscured by the din of tourists walking around and taking photos.  So I’m not sure the cultural exchange they were hoping for occurred.

For example, when double checking how to spell Parrtjima I discovered the photos I had been referring to as umbrellas are actually:

A series of five large, illuminated skirts that feature the circular watercolour landscape paintings of five Alice Springs artists

Who knew?!  Probably me if I could have heard the explanation!


I toured all the installations and started to hear rumors of food.  I headed to the information tent to find this food before wandering too long in the dark.

As I arrived a child was explaining they couldn’t find their parents to a worried looking booth attendant.  Seeing me hovering behind, one paused briefly to ask if they could help me.  Shouting so my American accent wafted over the distressed children, I asked “where is the food?”

“Up the path to the right” she said, and went back to the children

I went and found the cheapest source of protein which turned out to be a sausage roll.  This is a sausage baked inside a flaky pastry crust.  I tried to eat it like an upright hot dog and as pastry crust kept spilling on me I added “Are sausage rolls meant to be eaten with a fork and a knife?” to the list of Australian questions in my phone.

I then splurged and got a $5 mango sorbet.  I casually photographed it as it’s my millennial birthright, but later noticed all the lovely lights.  It’s the loveliest lit, overpriced Mango sorbet in the history of the world!


I packed back on to the bus with my fellow tourists and headed home.

Next time in Alice Springs, The Kangaroo Sanctuary!



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