Thursday, January 27, 2005


What kind of idiot goes on a 2-day outdoor camping trip to the Australian outback (which is code for desert, by the way... the technical name for that landscape is "semi arid") in the height of summer while suffering from sunburns and an increasingly bad case of bronchitis?

Ok, not exactly a rhetorical question. I still can't explain what possessed me to spend a bunch of money on last-minute flights into and out of Alice Springs and a bunch more on a two-day camping trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta... I think I thought it sounded like fun or something. And it was. When you strip off the fact that I had to wear a flynet and gardening gloves--out in public, for the record--to defend myself from masses of the most tenacious flies in existence and the 100+ degree sunlight, respectively; that I failed to bring a book or music on a two-day trip that included about 1000 miles of driving; that I had to live without soap for 48 hours; that I had to get up earlier than 5 a.m. on both days; did I mention the 100+ degree heat? When you take away all that, yeah, it was fun. The tour was full--21 people--and those I talked to were really nice. Plus we had three guides instead of the usual one, because 2 were trainees and one was, I dunno, not, and he was teaching and evaluating them. He was awesome, too: he'd been doing these tours for five years and knew everything about everything in the Northern Territory and quite a bit outside of that, as well. One of those people who can (and did) talk for hours and be enthralling for every minute of it. I walked along the base of Kings Canyon, I saw Uluru and Kata Tjuta (which looks like Homer Simpson in profile) at sunset, and then walked around Uluru at sunrise. I got to sleep out under the stars in the quietest place I've ever been to: I woke in the middle of the night and didn't hear people, or cars, or animals, or even the wind. The full moon was so bright that it looked more like a street light. I drove across miles and miles of the greenest desert I've ever seen: instead of cactus, there are bushes and even trees covering the ground in all directions, and it doesn't even closely resemble the scrub that one sees in California and the southwest. And while it was hot, the weather was gorgeous because there wasn't a cloud in the sky on the first day, and just the right amount on the second: puffy Rene Magritte clouds stretching as far as the eye could see. I saw emus and dingos. Even the reading material problem worked out pretty well: on the return trip I borrowed a book called first they killed my father from a guy who'd just finished it, and it was excellent and something I never would have read otherwise. In all, I had a great trip.

There better be s'mores next time, though.

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