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)