When we set out on this trip, we had the first night planned – and not much more. We meandered through NSW and Victoria, and slowed down a bit in SA while we had a decent look around. And then instead of heading around the coast to WA, we decided to take a sharp right and head north through the middle. I thought I would miss the beach (and we do) and would race through the middle of the country as fast as we could to get back to the coast up the top. But something strange has happened here in the centre. It’s hot and dusty, we are dodging dingoes and wild camels, it is ridiculously hard to buy wine – and yet we cannot bring ourselves to move on. Time seems to have slowed down out here.
We are not go-go-go on a Contiki tour spending a day here and there anymore (though in true Contiki style I have a bit of a crush on our driver and I get to stay up late drinking with him when the other young passengers go to bed). Each day we are choosing our own adventure, where we go, how long we stay, what we do. And now our choice of adventure is taking us round and round in circles, Alice Springs, Uluru, back to Alice Springs – and then probably back to Uluru again.
A town called Alice
We made a pitstop in Alice Springs to fix a broken windscreen. Thanks to our NRMA premium care package (which I knew we we would need frequently), we got this done in the first two hours – and ended up staying a week. After being in the outback for a few weeks, we were just a bit excited about having drinking water, a bit of shade, grass and – yes, a waterslide. I wish I could tell you about all the amazing things we did in our week in Alice Springs, but the truth is we really just hung out in the caravan park by the pool and waterslide – a LOT.
We did see some animals and went for a few walks – there were rocks, waterholes, eagles. But it was mainly about the waterslide.
We also had a few hits on our own version of “Tinder” for travelling families. Sounds so wrong. But this bizarre pattern we have gotten into of following travelling families on instagram and Facebook (and having them follow us) sometimes feels a bit like a warped dating app. Who knew – social media has actually turned out to be quite, well, social. First step – find travelling family – tick. Are they close by – tick. A message here and there to find out how old the kids are. All signs point to compatibility of families. Do we want to have a drink? Meeting at the pub for the first “date”. Hey, we need to entertain the kids, and get new drinking buddies somehow (seeing as though we don’t have the Petersham Bowlo anymore 😦 ). Big hits in Alice where we found two families with kids the same ages as ours, with parents we could have a drink with. One of the families was even staying at a campground that had a bar by the pool. Double score! Another reason we stayed a few extra days.
Law – what is it good for?*
…Sure as hell, not for starting up a conversation in an outback pub. I am used to all conversation dying when I tell people I am a lawyer at a bbq in Sydney. And I’m not even a useful lawyer – sometimes I get “a lawyer, hey – well [if I have to keep talking to you] then maybe you could help me with [insert family / divorce / immigration / property / petty crime / major crime – legal issue]” – to which I, as a corporate lawyer, will say “oh, sorry I don’t know anything about any of those legal issues that are relevant to the general public. Gimme a call if you want to do a hostile takeover”. And the person I am speaking to will then desperately look around to find someone more interesting. Multiply that reaction by a thousand in the outback and delete the bit where they try just a little bit to be polite. The almost universal reaction out here is “I fuckin hate lawyers”. End of conversation.
So I stay pretty quiet about what I [used to] do. The hubby, on the other hand, is Mr Popular. Everyone wants a plumber/tradie/someone handy out here [“out here” being this ginormous mass in the middle of the country that is about as big as Europe but which has more camels than people – and apparently loads of plumbing issues]. Which is good – because Mr Popular is about to have to be put to work for a while.
We are spending WAY more money than we thought we would. Which I guess is what happens when you pluck a budget out of the air without once thinking of what the price of diesel is, how much we would need to fill up, how often we wouldn’t free camp, how bloody much our kids eat – and those wineries – they totally screwed us. We also still have the spending mentality of a family being funded by a cashed up lawyer, rather what us homeless, unemployed bums should actually be spending. If we keep this up, the rapidly diminishing lump sum that we set aside for this trip will be completely depleted in substantially less than a year.
So, something has to change – and unfortunately, I don’t think it will be the price of diesel, and fortunately it most certainly won’t be our wine habits. We need to get some funds in, rather than continuing to haemorrhage cash out. And what good is a lawyer in the outback? Absolutely useless.
We got to Uluru and loved it. If we have to stop and work somewhere, then this seems like a pretty good place to do it. So, crazy new plan.
The multi-talented hubby is not only good with fixing dunnies, he is also a bit of alright on a motorbike, and has lucked upon one of the coolest gigs we could imagine – riding Harleys around Uluru- and getting paid for it. We need to trek back to Alice again to sort out getting him an NT licence (and will probably hit that waterslide a few more times). Then if we can figure all that out, it looks like we will be circling back to that big rock after Easter and staying put for a month or so.
Uluru is every bit as incredible, mesmerising, captivating and special as we had heard it to be. A few days there really wasn’t enough. And since we will be hanging around for a while longer I will save my gushing for later and try to come up with something a bit more articulate than “OMG awesome”.
And in the meantime, I will continue in my unpaid position of helping (my) homeless juvenile delinquents with their school work. Speaking of which….
It is school holidays!!! I have (I mean the kids have) two and half weeks off school – woo hoo!! Never before have I been so glad for a school term to end. I take my hat off to anyone who has ever taught my kids, or any kids. It can be brutal. I will never, ever again make snide remarks about how many holidays teachers get – they need every second of that respite from the ratbags. If not more.
One day I will put together a few ramblings about how rewarding this home schooling gig is, and how, even though sometimes it is hard, the kids are coming along in leaps and bounds….rah, rah, rah. But right now that feels a bit too much like school work. And I am on school holidays. Wine and pool time.
And now I need to wrap this up – because as I am sitting here in the Kings Canyon and typing this, a mangy dingo is circling me. And I am a big wuss. And I don’t like this at all. Eek – gotta go.
*to paraphrase/plagarise (badly) Jerry Seinfeld, who convinced Elaine that the original title of War and Peace, was War – what is it good for. Disclaimer – this post does not have nearly as funny an ending as Yuri Testikov the Russian writer throwing a malfunctioning palm pilot out the window of a cab and hitting Jerry’s latest fling in the head. Which, by the way – was the same episode that George pretended to be a marine biologist and had to fish a golf ball (that had been hit by Kramer) out of a whale – classic Seinfeld tying everything together hilariously. I digress…and I miss TV