Saturday, November 15, 2008

Through the Red Centre, Part I

ALICE SPRINGS, NT, AUSTRALIA (Nov. 16, 2008) -- Every once in a while, one has a moment that -- even while experiencing it -- you know that you will remember it fondly in later years not because it was typical, but because it was so damn atypical that it stands out like a sore thumb.

To wit: the moment of zen I had earlier this morning:

"I'm walking home at 2 a.m. in a residential neighborhood in Alice Springs, Australia, in a driving rainstorm after a night of clubbing."

Let's dissect that statement. First, although I've been walking more recently, it's never at 2 a.m. -- I have a kid. Second, why would I be in a residential neighborhood in Alice Springs at 2 a.m.? Third, Isn't Alice Springs one of the driest places on the entire planet? Fourth, John? Going clubbing? Not since I was a teenager. But it all happened.

To understand all this, one has to regress three days when I got off the Ghan in Alice Springs. We arrived a couple hours early (easily making the one tight connection I had on this trip), so I had time to briefly tour Alice's downtown, go to a hostel and publish a blog entry.

Then at 11:15 a.m. sharp, Natalie from Adventure Tours grabbed me, a Scots woman (Kirsten) and four Irish "kids" (Paul,Sean, Eoin ["Owen"] and Ciara) to begin our "Just the Centre" tour. Already on the bus were an English couple (Luka [male] and Mieke [female]), a Swiss couple (blimey, forgot their names already) and Patricio (from Bologna). We filled out some paperwork, then stopped at the airport and picked up a couple German girls (Linda and ... I'll just say "Hannah"), a Brazilian girl (Joana), a Ukrainian (Garoslav) and a bunch more Swiss kids (Simone [male], Matteo, Angela and ... um ... "Heidi") before heading south out of Alice. A quick stop (two hours late) at the Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse let us pick up two Japanese girls (er, "Team Japan") and our group was complete.

A lot of people think Uluru and Alice Springs are close to each other. Maybe in the grand, universal scheme of things, but it's a four-hour drive between the two and first we were going to camp at Kings Canyon. Going south along the Stuart Highway can be a long drag of brown dirt and scrub, and one might think it's even longer when one's stuck in a minibus' uncomfortable seats with about 20 strangers and a foul-mouthed guide who loves singing "Waltzing Matilda" out at the top of her lungs while driving. Not me, I was having the time of my life, sore butt and all.

(More to come -- it's time to turn in here. I've been up for 23 hours, minus a nap in the bus)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to travel back in time to when you were 18 years old and give your younger self these journal entries to read. What would he think??