This is the second post about my 6-day tour in the Outback, traveling from Adelaide to Alice Springs. If you haven’t already, read part one.
Before jumping into days 4-6, here are the “firsts” I experienced in the first 3 days:
— First time being called a “seppo”
— First time eating emu (though it was in greasy burger form, so I’m not sure how much emu I was able to taste)
— First time tasting Boags Premium (nice!)
— First time being told I am a “really good listener” in a long time O:-) Yes, I listened heaps during this trip. And MW, my new friend from Sydney, declared I was a really good listener. Bless.
After experiencing the warmer temperatures and opal fields of Coober Pedy (♥), we hit the road and soon left South Australia and entered the Northern Territory.
It was a long day of driving, and during the journey, we often stopped for tour guide J to hop out of the bus and check kangaroos who had been hit and left in the middle of the road for joeys. He would then move the roo to the side of the road.
Before arriving at camp (yes, we camped for the last two nights!), tour guide M mentioned a job opportunity with the company. On the 3-4 day trips that are more expensive and higher-end than ours, the company provides both a guide and a host for a group of max 16 people. The host cooks all meals and washes the dishes — we shared the duties on my tour. The guests on the higher-end tours have beds to sleep in versus sleeping bags and swags, and the host prepares the beds. Cleaning is something I could do in my sleep, but cooking? At 30, that’s still not a skill I’ve really developed. But I was curious to learn more. I could learn to cook the types of meals we’d been eating if everything else fell into place!
Once settled at camp, we made a mad dash to make it to Ayers Rock/Uluru by sunset.
Once back at camp, I had another first…my first interview in Australia! An Assistant Manager (AM) was visiting the camps to check in on everyone, and he stopped by for a chat when he heard I wanted to learn more about the host position.
AM: So I hear you’re interested in the host position. Can you cook?
Me: (*little laugh*) Well, honestly, I bake more than I cook, but I can learn how to cook anything I don’t already know how to make for the tour. And I believe I have the cleaning and hospitality part down.
AM: Okay. (And he goes on to tell me a bit about the position and asks where I’m from).
Me: So how about you — where are you from?
AM: Cairns originally but I live in Alice Springs now.
Me: Oh, okay! I was joking with someone earlier that I hoped you weren’t from New South Wales since I’m wearing a Maroons shirt. (which was mostly hidden under my jacket)
AM: Oh you’re a Maroons fan? How did that happen?
And for the next several minutes we talked about State of Origin before moving on to Aussie Rules. Turns out we both barrack for the Lions. And I spoke effortlessly about sports, mentioning the names of my favorite players and Israel Folau’s recent defection from NRL to AFL. This impressed AM greatly, because he then invited me to take a look at the camping area of the higher end tours, introduced me to the guides and hosts of those tours, and then walked me back to my camp and told tour guide M, “Well we’ve just had our interview! Still don’t know if she can cook.”
I stood up a little straighter. What?! I’d just had an interview?! I had no idea! I thought it was a casual informational chat to learn more about the position, but the AM gave me his card and told me to send him my resume/CV. Wow.
Following the interview, I had my first experience with a swag. It’s like a sleeping bag for your sleeping bag. The swag + sleeping bag combo are supposed to keep you toasty warm, but every one of us (except for the tour guide) froze that night! My one hour of sleep was apparently one of the most anyone had.
2 photos of swag experiences, courtesy of Paleontour & creative commons on Flickr
Since no one slept the night before, it wasn’t that difficult to get up and ready for the Uluru sunrise base walk (a 9km walk around the base of the rock). It was so cloudy that we never saw sunrise but the walk was really nice.
Instead of walking the 9km base, it is possible to climb Ayers Rock. However, I knew before arriving that it is a sacred site to Aboriginal culture and they ask that you not climb it. With that request, I never considered doing it. I figured a few people would give it a go, but I was surprised at the huge numbers climbing the rock when we arrived. Just like I was surprised by how many tourists failed to wear a head scarf when visiting the mosques when in Istanbul two years ago. If you choose to visit a site that the culture you’re visiting finds sacred, respect their requests. If you can’t or don’t want to, don’t visit. Just my two cents.
At the conclusion of the walk I had yet another first…the first time I broke an expensive piece of equipment on the road
I put my camera bag on the hook in the bathroom stall, and it somehow fell to the ground with a *thud*. Terrified to look inside until I returned to the bus, I opened the bag slowly and was heartbroken to see my lens had busted into several pieces. I just sat there, frozen, realizing how much money I’d have to spend to replace it. Two friends went to work trying to salvage the lens and inspecting the camera body. I turned away, said a prayer asking God to help me quickly reframe and have a good attitude, and with that I managed not to cry. After having both food stolen from me twice and a credit card/identify theft scare the week before, I was really tired of handling so many financial burdens. BUT, it’s early in the trip so I’m not destitute yet, it’s nothing I can’t purchase again, and better the camera lens to be busted than my back! So with an amazingly quick reframe and sense of peace, I just let it go and continued with my day.
A more positive first followed the breaking of the lens — my first Tim Tam Slam since arriving in Oz! I’ve had quite a few over the last few years, but this was the first I’ve actually ever had in Australia
Before the trip I bought a couple of packages of Classic Dark Tim Tams to share with others on the tour. At the Cultural Centre several of us bought coffee or hot chocolate and gathered around a table for me to provide a Tim Tam Slam tutorial. Eager eyes watched as I demonstrated the proper technique…bite off both ends of a Tim Tam (though most people will tell you opposing corners), stick one end in a hot beverage, and then using it like a straw, suck the hot beverage through as hard as you can. The cookie/biscuit inside is porous and disintegrates quickly, so you then have to pop it in your mouth before it collapses into the drink While I like the Classic Dark better than the Original, the Original tastes much better with Slams.
It rained all night so we had to sleep in the tents. We were all so exhausted from the night before and managed to get some rest
We needed that rest because we kicked off the day with a walk through Kings Canyon. It drizzled the first 2/3 of the walk and rained the last 1/3. Thankfully we stopped at the camp site after the walk to change into dry clothes before settling in for a long drive to Alice Springs, which marked the end of the tour.
I spent a day and a half in Alice Springs, and since Day 6 was also Territory Day (a public holiday celebrating the NT), that meant most things were closed on both Thursday and Friday. So what’s there to do? Sleep, wash clothes, hang out with others from the tour and walk around town looking at all of the closed shops.
So was it worth it?
This tour came at the perfect time in the trip. After being lonely for days at a time in Melbourne and Adelaide, I was ready to be surrounded by people, and thankfully I was with a good group. I didn’t sleep much and the food wasn’t all that great, but for six days it wasn’t a big deal. Partially for that reason, however, I have decided not to pursue the job opportunity as a host. Eating unhealthy food and getting little sleep is okay for six days but not for 3-6 months, especially *while* you’re working and taking care of others’ needs.
I made a few new friends, saw a part of the country that most Aussies haven’t even seen, and stayed busy from before sunrise to after sunset every day. It took me out of the capital cities and into an Australia I’d yet to experience. And isn’t that a significant part of why I’m here?!
If you’d like to see more photos from the trip, you can see them on my Flickr account.