I think I might have sleep walked my way through the morning, I’m not sure whether I woke to my alarm, someone snoring, camels bellowing or the smell of bacon and eggs. I vaguely recall having breakfast, possibly twice as I couldn’t decide between bacon and eggs and toasted muesli.
It gets cold in the desert overnight so I was layered up, topped off with a Merino jacket and beanie. We had all piled onto the bus in the dark by 5.15pm and before we had the chance to doze off again “I Feel Good” by James Brown poured out through the speakers. This was a good move because I was pretty cosy all rugged up and my body was not complying with the whole being awake state. If the music didn’t wake me up the gusty conditions outside soon did.
Let’s get going! Taking off in the dark, we could just make out the outline of Uluru so made some ground before the sun came up. The “early birds did not catch the worm” as they say because the sun rose behind thick cloud and colour wise, maybe we got a different shade of grey. It didn’t matter, the Rock was reward enough and we had it all to ourselves for a while. The wind howled and I put my hood up over my beanie and drew it in tight - I couldn’t hear a thing. Did you say something?
The walk was great, I had done it before but it made no difference, it was equally awe-inspiring the second time around. Once we had rounded the end of the Rock the wind disappeared completely and I was able to de-eskimo and carry on a conversation. There’s a stillness about Uluru. Yes I know, Uluru is a huge chunk of rock, known as a monolith and it’s not exactly going to move about but that’s not what I mean. It’s peaceful here, it’s easy to be in the moment and you can be sure the immensity of the Rock will be imprinted in your mind long after you have driven away.
As we rounded the other end of the rock the wind got up again.
“We must be getting close to our meeting point, the wind is back,” I stated.
“Well you’re just a real Aboriginal aren’t you,” said Domi laughing.
We made it back to the bus in time for fruit cake and oranges, and a sit down. Bad idea, food + comfy seat = very sleepy. We had a cultural walk next that would go for at least an hour. Wake up, wake up, wake up. The Mala cultural interpretive walk was informative and a great opportunity to learn of the deep cultural significance to the traditional owners, the connections of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara Aboriginal people (known as the Anangu) were a privilege to hear.
I sat politely, wedged between two rocks for a portion of the story and didn’t feel a thing as I listened intently, my bottom was completely numb I think.
Back on the bus it was back to camp via the Cultural Centre, here we watched the artists at work, though I did feel a bit out of place, I don’t think I’d want people watching me paint. I’m sure it's a fast way to remove the therapeutic element - mind you one of the elders sitting on a couch off to the side seemed to have quite a bit to say so I didn’t feel I was the only one disturbing the mood. Maybe she was barracking for them.
Lunchtime! Burgers, yum! We were all hungry!
Watered and fed we were off to Kings Canyon for the evening. We stopped briefly at a lookout to get a snapshot of Mt Connor (mistaken by many for Uluru) and use the worst smelling toilets I’ve had the displeasure of visiting. Clean sure, but smell, peeeeeee-yweeeeee! Domi went in bravely and then stuck her head back out to take a breath of semi fresh air before reluctantly going back in. Oh well, what’s a tour through the outback without a few toilet stories!
Back on the bus Domi asked me by what name she was to refer to the accommodation we’d had the previous night. “You know, what are they called? Cabbages?” she asked.
I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t speak. I wanted to say, “I think you mean cabins” but I couldn’t speak so I Googled cabbages instead and held up the the image on my phone. Most people were asleep but we roared laughing. Once we’d finally calmed down I did say they were actually permanent tents but they were pretty good, they could pass for cabins. Quality cabbages.
We arrived at Kings Creek Resort late in the afternoon and were treated to a seemingly never ending bumpy ride into camp, I did wonder where we were going but the road opened out into a clearing cut out of the rocks and our home of permanent tents came into view. Moments before I had felt quite isolated, not now!
We’d arrived with enough time to chill out before dinner but also just as it started to rain. Didn’t matter, Domi and I decided to end the day’s drive with a warm beer that Ross had kindly put in Wayne’s truck for us. We'd inadvertently left them in the trailer on the first half of the tour. Dinner was served a little after 7pm and it was good! A chicken and vegetable curry with rice, good wine and mud cake for dessert - who could say no.
Wayne was busy outside lighting a campfire like no other - the rain had stopped just enough so we all tumbled out full and merry, ready for more laughter - and to squeeze in a couple of toasted marshmallows. Wayne imparted details of the day to come and told us we could “sleep in” until 4.30am.
There was a slight breeze which blew the smoke in his direction from then on. So happened this was also in my direction but I wasn’t a seasoned campfire smoke inhaler and my eyes watered like a river. Wayne suffered through like a champion until we were across what we needed to know and had emptied the bowl of marshmallows. We all tapered off then to shower and sleep, or in my case snore.
I snore when I have had a little too much to drink or if I’m really really tired OR it seems, if I’ve inhaled a campfire. I was so tired I was asleep seconds after switching off the light. Each tent comprised two single beds and seconds after the previous seconds in which I had fallen asleep my tent buddy Domi called out, “Bridget what are you doing?”
“Snoring I think,” I replied, knowing I’d woken myself up at the same time.
Tip: Toasted marshmallows should have a little bit of “char” going on shouldn’t they? That’s my tip, otherwise they’re just “browned” and that’s not true to the word “toasted”.