Well, are any of you wondering about the camel photo at the top of this website? Yes, that was a photo I took this week, the week in which we felt like we were in the Twilight Zone on Mars (the red planet, yes?). More about that in my next post.
Our first and last nights in the Outback were spent at Toddy’s Backpacker Lodge in Alice Springs, separate rooms the first night, sharing a room the rest of our time in the Outback, cooking in the hostel kitchens of our various lodging locations. Good training for the Camino next year . . . and excellent relief for our wallets, with outrageous restaurant costs all through Australia. This is NOT what we remembered from eight years ago on Oz’s east coast. But we weren’t on the east coast yet. We were in the middle of the desert, surrounded by heat and red dust.
We awoke on Day Two, excited to head for King’s Canyon. Since I’m the 4WD driver in most situations, I took the wheel. Remember, our driving time in Oz was focused and on the lookout to make sure the driver, sitting in the passenger seat, turned left onto the left side of the road, and turned right onto the . . . left side of the road. We also got to laugh at whoever was in the “driver’s seat” every time he or she used the windshield wiper rather than the turn signal, also situated on the wrong side of the steering wheel. It was a twisted brain exercise each day, re-learning to turn ourselves backwards and inside out. Anything to get to the reverse orientation. And the passengers cheered and counted all the right and wrong actions of the driver as we made our way down the dirt road.
So . . . I drove. We were to go by way of the Mereenie Loop Road to King’s Canyon, but needed a permit to drive on the Aboriginal property. My instructions were to drive to Hermannsburg to a gas station there, buy a permit, and be on my way with my three red-dirt companions.
Anxiously on the lookout for Hermannsburg, we saw it rolling up into our line of sight like a strange tumbleweed . . . in the middle of absolutely nowhere, there was the “gas station”. Hmmm . . . dust, old cars, lots of Outback mutts gathering around and a battered building with a caged front door.. I got out of the car, and walked into the “store”, greeted by a goofy white guy, perhaps in his mid-twenties. When I asked to buy a permit for the Mereenie Loop Road, the guy guffawed, stopped, put his hand to his mouth, guffawed again, and told me he was “real sorry” but they were out of permits. Yep, he had just started working there a week ago, and he had run out of permits about three days into his new stint. (Chortle, chortle, sideways look, silly grin . . . )
“But hey, if they stop you”, he advised, “just tell them you WANTED to buy a permit, but we just (guffaw, guffaw) ran OUT!”
I’m not sure what he was smoking, but I would like to have tried some of it.