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Friday, 06 February 2009

Uluru or Bust: Adventure in Australia’s Outback - Page 4

Written by Kristen Hamill
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They thought we were slightly nuts.

Six of us, all students at the University of Adelaide — three Americans (Jonny, Kate, and myself) one Brit (Carrie-Ann), one Canadian (Taylor), and one Aussie (Jakob) who had made the trip before — were making a five day round-trip from Adelaide, north through 1500 kilometers of empty desert, in the middle of the Australian summer, without air-conditioning.  We were headed to Uluru, the giant red monolith also known as Ayers Rock, sacred to Aboriginal tribes and as much an Australian icon as the kangaroo.


We downed the cheap beer like water as Carrie-Ann, Kate, and Jonny compared war wounds from their rolls down the canyon and the aisle of the campervan. A few rounds in, the doors to the bar flew open and the Emu Train—a bus of elderly tourists—filed into the room. The bartender was now crooning into the microphone and winking at the truckers leaned against the bar. When she saw Kate and me waiting, her face lit up.


“Come on girls,” she cried over the music, “this one’s a classic!” She said turning up the volume to a ‘50s song neither of us had ever heard.


“Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E, becomes final today,” she sang, swinging her hips.  “Oh I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” she thrust the microphone across the counter at us, “SING!”


Maybe it was the XXXX Gold, maybe it was the fact we knew we’d never see anyone in that bar ever again, but within a few minutes Kate and I found ourselves singing Shania Twain to a bar full of greasy truckers, weary-looking senior citizens, and one jolly bartender. The night ended with Taylor and Jonny losing to the rough couple at pool, and the six of us closing the bar with a boozy rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”.  We boiled a pot of noodles and wandered into the desert to watch the stars before heading to bed.


We anticipated Day 5 of our outback adventure to be the least eventful; all we had planned was a full day of driving back to Coober Pedy to celebrate Thanksgiving. When the van swerved hard to the left it felt like another near miss, until a clump of feathers flew by the window. Jakob and Taylor, who had been in front, ran over to a heap in the road about a hundred yards back. Jakob covered his face and doubled over.


“Oh my God,” Kate gasped. “It’s an eagle.”


There had been a group of black wedge-tailed eagles picking at a kangaroo carcass on the side of the road, left by a careless driver who didn’t consider the hazards of unattended road kill. Instead of flying into the desert when we approached, like his companions, this eagle spread its 8-foot wings and flew towards the van, careening into the windshield. Its legs were broken and the asphalt was dotted with blood. Jakob informed us that these eagles were an endangered species. As if we didn’t feel rotten enough.


(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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