Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 45: Back in Alice

December 29, 2010

I wring out my shirt and put it back on wet. Next I pour water over my head from the little remaining in the bucket. It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. “I’m just cooling my temper as the heat rises,” I tell Johan who’s wondering why I’m interrupting the flow of packing up to get wet. It’s the only way I know not to get grouchy when the temperature’s already well past 30˚ and the temp inside the tent is a good 10˚ higher as I’m making the bed and taking down the poles.

Why do I love the outback so much if the heat gets to me so badly? We posit this paradox over breakfast, along with the bigger question: Why do we love the outback at all when it’s so harsh and hard to travel through? Some paradoxes just go unsolved, but the best answer we can get out of this one is that’s it’s just worth the challenge. Something in the challenge, the struggle of it all, makes it that much more exciting to achieve. Why do people climb Mt Everest after all?

Heat makes me grumpy, it’s true, but the feeling of cool water on me when I’m about to pop my cork is a fabulous experience. What else can I say? It’s one of those weird but wonderful eccentricities we all have. Isn’t it?

But as the day wears on, it’s becoming increasingly clear to both of us that enough is enough. The last 150kms of the Outback Way to Alice is paved and when our tyres roll onto the smooth bitumen, Johan once again breaths a sigh of relief. No more dirt roads. Not for a good long time.

We cruise into Alice around 3pm, tired but flushed from our success: we managed to drive the entire 2750kms of the Outback Way! With that achievement under our belt, we’ve little energy left for further adventure. Not in the wet east of Queensland nor the monsoon tropics of the north. After a couple of days’ rest in Alice, we’ll head south towards Adelaide, then west across the Nullabor to home. As our real estate agent is holding a home open on the 9th of January, we decide we’ll get home on the 10th, to save her and our house from the onslaught of dust, camping gear and dirty clothes.

We pull into the first caravan park as we’re entering Alice from the north. It’s shady and quiet and the pool will be a welcome reprieve from the heat and dust of the outback. After paying the manager for two nights, she says as I’m walking out the door, “Be sure to secure your valuables.” Good idea in a town like Alice; the proliferation of barbed wire fencing is evidence of a fair amount of thievery going on in the town.

We set up camp and head for the pub. A celebratory drink is in order and we grab an outdoor table at Uncle’s Tavern in town. Workers in fluorescent shirts and grimy caps smoke cigarettes and share yarns about their day. The tavern’s verandah is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence with a row of gold tipped arrows pointing up along the top. It gives one the feeling of being in a cage. On the other side, along the footpath, black men and women and a few children wander by, looking hot and downtrodden, avoiding eye contact with the beer drinkers.

“This is what it’s like in South Africa or the Deep South of the U.S.,” I say to Johan. Fences separating the privileged from the under-privileged. Only who’s trapped in the cage?

Hot and tired -- but we finished the Outback Way! Yahoo!!

Time for a celebratory drink


  1. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You both did it very well, I think. Thanks for the insight you gave in your lives by this blog.

    Henk Vellekoop

  2. Very interesting. But don't you think the Aborigines are more easily compared to Native Americans and not African Americans? You should travel through the Dakotas and see how they are treated. Not very well.

    Take Care! I hate the heat also and admire your tenacity to travel in the outback. Love, lis