Where to begin??
Finally in Alice after 8 days on the road. Was a fully awesome, mind bending experience and I am just so pleased I have done it. This computer (at backpackers, henace cheaper than other ones around Alice) is really fucking me off, as the screen is old and crap and fuzzy. Anyways....
First day on road, left Adelaide for Clare Valley and camped in the Flinders Ranges for the night... Tour guide, BT ("Stands for Bloody Terrific, maaaayte") is one of these rough as guts, brilliantly energetic outback chicks, with so much enthusiasm for everything it was hard not to get excited. But there was plenty to make me go "oooh" and "ahhh" - such as that first night, when a kangaroo hopped into the camp to say hello, and BT got out her "didge" and encouraged us all to have a go.
It was already apparent I was lucky to be on a tour with a brilliant bunch of people. Couple of mad English girls - "Right, that's it, I need a coffee with three sugars and a fag", English couple, Craig n Mand, just awesome; gorgeous German girls - so totally positive and up for everything; Kath n Richard, lovely English-Candian couple in their 50s who held hands on the bus; Johnny the English pilot from Reigate, (about 5 miles from where I lived in Ashtead); couple of cheeky Dutch boys, and best bit of all - East German couple Wolfgang and Gertrude (seriously); who (unwittingly) provided much of the entertainment along the road. More on that later.
So it was Flinders Ranges the first night. Think bush, leafy, and peaceful. Stef (happy German girl) and I shared a tent - apparently I snore (?). Woke up early, had breakie, did big walk to top of Wilpena Pound, this amazing basin like mountain chain. Came back, got on road again. Thighs incredibly sore from climb.
Bus then turned off the main highway onto a dirt road, in the direction of Angorichna, which we learnt was a camp for people with tb after the war. The bunkhouse certainly had not changed a lot - you could practically hear the echoing coughs from the whitewashed walls and metal beds. Delighted to learn that the local shop sold Blonde (beer) for $12 a six pack, so that was me set up for the evening. Met up with another Wayward Bus tour, had campfire, got a bit tiddly. Learnt that German couple were in fact not married. The boys were up a bit later drinking and Craig fell off his bunk, waking up in mid-air and falling on the wooden floor. I missed all the excitement as I sleep so heavily. Apparently I snored again.
Next morning lost my cellphone, and then found it stashed in a secret pocket in my backpack that I didn't remember, embarrassing. Back on dirt road to William Creek. This place was probably my least favourite stopover of the whole week. Why? The flies. The fucking flies. Like nothing I had seen before. Thousands of the buzzing little shitters - on your food, in your nose, in your ears. Once the sun went down they went to bed and we went to the pub. William Creek hotel is a little roadhouse, literally, in the middle of nowhere. But it does have one claim to fame - the mementoes left by travellers. Wall to wall - there were credit cards, business cards, photos, t-shirts signed by entire tours, bras, and even shoes. For a small donation to the RFDS, I added my personal keepsake... my Richmond Gym membership (can always get a replacement).
Slept in swags under the stars that night. Stars amazing - a swathe of pinpricks against the dark navy canvas... so dark and so clear. Woke up to the fly alarm - difficult to sleep when a hundred black things are buzzing round your head. That day we got to Coober Pedy - an opal town in South Australia. Quite literally in the middle of the desert, this place gets so hot in summer the locals have contructed dugouts to deal with the heat. It is so bright and hot there, and rough and tumble - not at all unlike Mos Eisley. If you listen closely, I'm sure you could hear a Tusken Raiders call.
BT was totally in her element in CB, having opal mined for many years herself. She taught us all about opals, their value and how they are presented. BIG night that night. It was Saturday after all...taken down to Happy Hour at the Croatian club by BT, then staggered back down to a Greek restaurant for dinner, then went to a pub that was a dugout. Was bone tired that night and we were all sleeping in a catacomb -the air was not pleasant. Had been listening to the (seemingly heated) conversations between Wolfie and his missus for the few previous days, but was unsure if they were actaully fighting, or it was the harsh sounding German which was confusing me. So I asked Stef if she could tell me. "You don't want to know," she said. Eventually determined that G was not having a good time on the trip - she hated everything about camping, the place was dirty and not all like home and as she didn't speak a lot of English she was finding it really hard.
Everyone hungover on Sunday - but had 12 hours on the burning black bitumen of the Stuart highway. BT had already warned us that the person who goes in the front passenger seat would have the duty of keeping her awake as she drove - unfortunately I was so knackered I kept nodding off until we got to this Aboriginal settlkement. Bought a couple of lovely items from the arts centre there. Very cool.
That night we finally made it to Ayers Rock. Bloody cool. The sun had already set by the time we got out there, so it was time for beers and dinner - green thai curry - bloody awesome. Woke up at ungodly hour of 5 to go and see the sunrise at the Rock. Bloody awe-inspiring and cool - no words or photos can do it justice. So massive and red - like a big fat dog asleep. Walked around the rock. A couple of the boys decided to do the climb up to the top of the Rock. I opted out, because a) am not fit enough and may have died, and b) it is not considered au fait with the local indigenous people to attempt it. It's a very sacred place for them, and everywhere there were signs saying "please don't climb". So I didn't.
Back to the camp ground for the afternoon - posted a few postcards, went to supermarket, went for very refreshing swim in the pool. Then back on the bus out to the rock for sunset. SO many people converge at sunset...and lots of beer and nibbles were consumed. The rock is even more spectacular at sunset - turns a rust red - just amazing. Back to camping ground, was cxoming back from shop and accidentally walked into the path of massive Deustch domestic. Early night that night - another sunrise viewing, this time at the Olgas. Unlike Ayers Rock, the Olgas are like a clump of heads poking out of the sand. SO windy, but still awesome. Despite breaking up the night before, Wolfie and G were holding hands the whole way. None of us could figure out what was going on. Packed up, next stop was Kings Canyon.
Kings Canyon is almost as awesome as the Rock. Unfortunately for me, the first part of the walk, a steep ascent up to the rim of the canyon, bears the moniker "heart attack hill". Even more unfortunately for me, there was no politically correct excuse to get me out of it! Considered staying behind, but BT threatened us all with having to get up at 5 am and do the walk then. Pain? Or getting up at 5am to have pain then? Marginal decision, but up I went. It wasn't even that bad - and I was so pleased I did it. The canyon is incredible... with dome like rock outcrops - kind of like on Geonosis.
Slept like a log that night. So completely shitfaced. Had the option of swagging but knew the fly alarm would go off at 7am and I really wanted to sleep in. Laura is petrified of spiders, so we opted for the tent, and giggled like a pair of eleven year olds for a few hours.
Next day - off to visit Dinky the singing Dingo, and then to see Rainbow Valley, which I swear was used at the start of the opening credits for Flying Doctors. The road was bumpy as hell, and again I was in the front seat, shitting myself with fear. I think Johnny may have got some footage of my white-as-a-sheet face at the time!
Got to Alice 6 last night, quick shower, then off to the pub to finish off the tour in style. Drank, danced, ate and drank some more. Fabulous! There was snogging, there were tears. All in all an awesome might, one of the best ever.
Such a massive treat to sleep in an actual bed last night - didn't wake up til 11.30. Met up with some of the girls today and went and had subway. Did my washing and found that inevitably, most of my light coloured clothes were stained with teh red dust of the desert. Went and bought 2 new tops from Just Jeans for $30 - can't be going to Sydney looking scruffy! Will go catch up on Neighbours in a minute.
The desert is so peaceful and wild and vast. Makes you feel so miniscule and young - the land here is old as time.