In the words of a most pristine lawyer, accustomed to only highly luxurious 5 star travel, who visited us last week and had to set up a tent behind our camper trailer, “I had to lower my personal hygiene standards – but it was otherwise quite enjoyable” (Story of my life recently). And if she can handle all of the red dirt and camel poo – anyone can.
Real life friends
I have been a bit quiet on social media lately, because rather than virtually engaging with “connections”, in the last few weeks we have had loads of real life friends, in the flesh, come to visit us in the red centre. And they came bearing red wine. And wine-toting friends are the best kind of friends.
When all our mates started booking trips, I was a little apprehensive about whether these city slickers would enjoy the outback. It’s one thing to drive here, for days and days without seeing a tree, carting your water because it is hundreds of kilometres between fresh water supplies, and arrive with your car, trailer and everything inside covered in red dirt. You get accustomed and acclimatised to being in the outback.
It’s quite another experience when you leave your air-conditioned house in Sydney, hop into your air-conditioned uber to the air-conditioned plane, step out three hours later into your air-conditioned shuttle and arrive in your air-conditioned hotel in Yulara, Northern Territory. It can be a little difficult to appreciate quite how remote Uluru is, and adjust your expectations accordingly, when you are airdropped in.
We have seen first hand the disdain of tourists when accomodation, food, coffee, etc does not meet city standards. Example – a lady behind us in a cafe (picture Prue/Trude from Kath and Kim) summonsing the waiter over to complain loudly that the menu had said her pasta sauce would be “pesto with a touch of cream”, when in FACT, her pasta sauce appeared to be “cream with a touch of pesto”. The outrage this caused. The poor trainee waiter explained that sometimes it is difficult to get as much basil supply as they need. Presumably this lady did not stop to think about the extraordinary logistics involved in getting herbs transported hundreds of kilometres with some degree of freshness to satisfy her city basil needs, when she demanded that the menu be changed so it accurately reflected the cream/pesto ratios.
With this in mind, I tried to mitigate the culture shock for our friends and family so they would hit the ground fully prepped for not being in the city, and visiting us in our basic campground setting (granted there were some far more aware of the situation they were getting themselves into than others). Pre-emptively adjusting expectations with explanations / instructions such as:
“No, there are no cabs, or ubers here”
“No, we don’t have a Thermomix in our camper trailer”
“Bring lots of wine”
“Don’t wear white, it won’t stay white”
“Pack everything you own from swimmers, to thermals and uggies, you will need them all – and stuff your uggies with more wine”
Back in Sydney we had a party house, fully decked out for entertaining masses with luxuries such as seating, an oven, cutlery, a roof, and being able to duck out to massive chainstore liquor warehouses to stock up on booze.
Here at Uluru in our more modest abode we had to make the Shack party-able with picnic rugs, tag team use of plates and forks, and campfires.
The tight takeaway alcohol restrictions make it impossible to stock up on enough booze for a party (or even for our own personal daily wine habits). Luckily our FIFO wine toting friends solved this problem. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
[This is where the photo of all the wine everyone brought us would go.
Except we drank it all before I could take a pic]
All our visitors handled roughing it most awesomely. They got a brief glimpse into our life at the moment, with dirty kids covered in red dirt that can’t be scrubbed off, cold campground showers, freezing in the morning, roasting in the day, long walks, and intermittent basil supply. We all had a ball – well at least our family did – and if our visitors didn’t, then they were too polite to say so. And they probably didn’t get a word in edgeways to say so anyway. What with us being starved for company and chewing everyone’s ear off.
We had our favourite part of Sydney (our friends and family – and wine) dropped into the outback. They got a semi-local outback experience away from the typical touristy air-conditioned luxury. And we all got to see camels racing. It has been a fun few weeks.
Hump day in the outback – The Uluru Camel Cup
Part of the reason for wanting to stay longer at Uluru was so we would be here for the Camel Cup. We had been looking forward to it for ages and it didn’t disappoint. What a unique outback experience!
The invite said wear your finest. So we turned up in our finest shorts and thongs (that’s flip-flops for the Canadians). And fit right in. There were a few brave souls in frocks but I’m not sure how the stilettos fared in the red dirt and camel poo.
We cheered on our mate Shelley the cameleer to take third place in her race, and the kids were beside themselves with excitement and name dropping that we knew her [truly – the kids think Shelley, the sister-in-law of the kids’ first cousin once removed (that is actually the least complicated way of explaining the connection) who works at the camel farm, and rode in the Camel Cup, is THE coolest person they have ever met].
Trigger the camel won for the fourth year in a row, ridden by Judy the first ever female cameleer to ride the winning camel. The Rock (the camel version – and now my third favourite The Rock ) won the plate. And we were there for it all – what a great memory to take away with us.
hot COLD in here…
So PUT ON all your clothes. (Apologies if you don’t get this early 2000’s Nelly reference. My kids stared at me blankly when I made this hilarious joke – and then begged me, in between their shivering, to stop singing)
This is what I wore to bed last night – thick socks, thermals, trackies, hoodie, doona and extra blanket. The kids have as many layers, plus beanies (that’s touques for the Canadians). It’s just a bit chilly at night in the middle of the desert (and that’s where the Canadians laugh at what gigantic wusses we are…ha! they’re saying – you think that’s cold?)
We are still enjoying lovely days here. Sunny and breezy. Every day in Yulara is laundry weather (a domestic tip from the Real Housewife of Uluru)
But the mornings are fr-fr-freezing. I used to dread getting the kids out of bed in Sydney when the mornings were what, at worst 10 degrees? It was a tough task even back when we had gas heating, doors, walls. Try dragging kids out of their sleeping bags in -2 degrees straight out into the cold desert air. We have had to devise a system of getting them dressed in their sleeping bags, and handing them a hot chocolate in a tin mug to warm their hands (and to bribe them to get up) when they come out of the trailer.
Everything is dry and static – the unnatural fibres of our (fake target) “uggies” mingle with the dry air and metal surfaces of the trailer to give us electric shocks every time we touch something. Other than Gemma, who had an upcoming birthday coincide with a visit from nanna and pop and got actual, properly branded, natural fibres and everything, awesomely cool Uggies, and so is avoiding flying sparks.
Not only is my tan fading but I seem to be physically blending into the outback with my dry skin starting to resemble scales. Wah, wah, wah – we need to head north soon.
The kids are loving school here (other than the bit where they have to get out of bed to get to school). So we are going to stay at Uluru until the end of term, and be here to greet (and receive wine from) a few more visitors who are coming in the first week of the school holidays.
But then we are getting the hell outta here for some warmth, humidity and reptilian action (not involving my scaly skin) of the croc variety.
Until then, there are still three more weeks if anyone wants to book a visit…and bring us more wine?
Evidence of our real life friends coming to visit…and putting up a tent