We set off for a road trip on the Red Centre Way with the goal of seeing Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), over 1600 kilometres from Adelaide. Neither of us had seen it before. I was keen to see something new, have a bit of an adventure and maybe rekindle a deeper connection to the land and its people; chasing a feeling that I had experienced after previous outback trips when I was a medical student.
Our plans to get some good sleep and an early start were thwarted due to poor preparation: we were still up at midnight doing last minute oil checks, filling diesel jerry cans and stacking boxes of water into the boot. As we departed Adelaide, suburbia gave way to familiar yellow fields and farm land before gradually changing to sparse scrubland. I love the look of small rural towns, especially after travelling overseas last year – there’s nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world. I reminisced over my time living in Kapunda and Mount Gambier in the past and day dreamed about what life would be like living in such places again.
We stopped just before Port Augusta: a big crash between two trucks the night before had killed both drivers. The blackened gnarled wreckage blocked one lane. I looked away as we drove past.
After a greasy KFC lunch in Port Augusta, we figured we wouldn’t be able to cover the distance to Coober Pedy before dusk. Not wanting to hit a kangaroo, we pulled over a couple hundred kilometres before the opal town and drove down a red dirt track to a secluded bit of scrubland by a salt lake. A free and private bush camp away from caravans and other noisy humans!I went about setting up our tent, only to discover that we had left our tent pegs at home! It felt like a small disaster because I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to buy some replacements in remote towns. Another unexpected discovery: thousands of flies had come out in force. I longed for my fly net – they were constantly crawling into your eyes, ears and mouth. Unable to find any large rocks for the tent, we made do by tying the guy-lines to our boxes of water. Not the best pitch, but it’d do for the night. Tired from 8 hours of driving and frustrated at our slow progress and poor preparation, I was starting to regret our trip. Maybe I could have just relaxed on the couch at home. I had (stupid) thoughts of abandoning the trip and driving back to Adelaide the next day.
But then the late afternoon light changed. The sun lowered in the horizon and the most amazing outback sunset I have ever seen lit up the desert sky. Rows of clouds had hung around in the late evening, providing an endless canvass for orange, red and purple light to be splashed across.
Falling asleep to the sounds of the outback, I felt happy that we had come out here. How often our desire for comfort and control stop us from doing the things we really want to do, seeing the things we want to see, and experience what this world has to offer?