We didn’t have very long to recuperate after the travails of the Larapinta Trail. Our good Argentinean friends, Maxi and Joe, had a car booked for the day after we arrived, one of those nauseating Wicked Campers with duff quotes on the side (ours said “Caffeine is the gateway drug” and there was another quote from The Joker with his grimace on the door like we were his henchmen). It had a fold out tent on the roof though, which was ridiculously convenient. We were setting off for Uluru.
People head to Alice Springs especially to go to Uluru as it’s supposedly nearby. It’s 550 km away. Still, in the grand scheme of the Australian Outback, that’s pretty convenient. We stuffed vital supplies into our car (9 bottles of wine and some crisps) and off we went!
Uluru was waiting for us. We were told by some unimpressed Englishmen that to go and see The Rock wasn’t just a waste of time, it would be (to be read in Yorkshire accent) “a waste of your life.” They continued, “just lie down in your garden and look at an ant hill up close. There. You’ve been to Uluru.” Always good to lower your expectations I feel, especially before seeing a famous landmark. But no such dampening was required in this case. Uluru was worth waiting for.
It loomed from the horizon, light swimming across its faceted body in dark tones of red as the surrounding bland desert kow-towed in apparent shock and awe. We set up camp and watched the sunset, almost as if it was succumbing to the rock as well. I’m not a spiritual person at all. At all. But this great hulk in the middle of nowhere seemed to emit something. Like one of the monoliths in 2001: Space Odyssey, except bigger and redder. Up close, it hides waterholes and caves and pockets of trees, which would have made a great meeting spot for the Aboriginals, their cave paintings a reminder of this fact – the heaving tour buses and ring road a reminder as to why they’re not meeting there anymore. Nearby was another chunk of rocks called Kata Tjuta, which looked like Uluru if had been subject to a giant cake slice.
To complement all this geological majesty we got to witness Maxi and Joe bickering like a married couple. They’ve lived together for a while now and have gotten to know each other’s ticks and habits. This allowed for some pretty detailed arguments about who’d forgotten the Maté (Argentine tea that must be drunk out of a leather goblet at absolutely any given opportunity, I’d include rollercoaster rides and funerals based on their reliance on it). It was pretty spectacular.
On the way north towards King’s Canyon Maxi passed a cop car on the side of the road a little too closely. The cop was so flummoxed by this he gave chase, sirens blaring and yelled at us for nearly killing him. “If I wasn’t so angry I’d give you a ticket for dangerous driving!” He screamed hysterically, our blessings truly counted for his squiffy logic. However, cop karma was soon to follow as Maxi, now in co-driver position, dropped his Go-Pro out the window mid-filming as we chucked along at 120km an hour. Screeching to a halt we swivelled round to pick up the gadget only for a truck and trailer to flatten it before our very eyes. It was the only vehicle we’d seen in hours.
Luckily for all, King’s Canyon was another rock-based rumpus, playing like a highlights reel of Northern Territory sights, with waterholes, weird circular mounds of stone, an oasis literally called The Garden of Eden and yes, a bloody great canyon, upon which various backpackers were trying to top trump each other with who could take the most precarious selfie. From all this nature, it was off to the big smoke! Sydney was calling!