“That is one big rock!” Her exclaimed.

We were seated in our rented Toyota RAV4, A/C blasting, in the sunset viewing parking lot several kilometers from the base of Uluru, the massive monolith in the Red Center of Oz.  We decided to stop over here to see the “postcard view” before going to see the rock itself.


Him and Her at Uluru

To emphasize just how big Uluru is, think back to the last black and white TCM film you watched. Remember the screen the filmmakers positioned behind the couple’s jalopy to make it appear as if they’re actually driving? Well, Uluru is so otherworldly — an inflamed pimple on an already blistered face — that it seems to be projected on one of those screens.

We had arrived from Sydney that morning and spent our first afternoon photographing the massive rock and marveling at how things were turning up for us.  We had secured an unbelievable rental car deal with Hertz through drivenow.com.au — AU$104 for a one-way, two-day rental to Alice Springs with unlimited kilometers while other companies were charging AU$450. And, because Hertz didn’t have the manual economy car I requested, we received a complimentary upgrade to an automatic RAV4 (small SUV).  We braved the swarming desert flies and explored the base of Uluru. Afterward, we paid a visit to the park cultural center to learn about the Aboriginal and modern histories of the area.

According to the indigenous Australians, whenever you walk around the Mutitjulu (Uluru) waterhole, you are surrounded by the presence of two ancestral beings — Kuniya, the woma python, and Liru, the poisonous snake. Liru killed Kuniya’s nephew, Kuniyawati, and as she took her revenge, she created the holes and black lines of Uluru.

Exhausted, and with Her unknowingly starting her bout with conjunctivitis, we ventured back to our hotel, the Outback Pioneer Lodge in Yulara, to get some sleep and try to recoup from all the travel we had recently completed.  When we woke up the next morning, Her showed me a photo she had taken of her right eye in the middle of the night. The eye was completely full of green goo and sealed shut.  I immediately walked over to the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge‘s reception desk and asked if there was a doctor in Yulara.

“There is, and you can make an appointment, but they won’t be open until 9AM.” I was assured by the clerk at the front desk.  With the present time being just 6:15AM (I think it was that early — I still wasn’t sure that I adjusted my watch correctly; you see, the Northern Territory doesn’t follow daylight savings and is actually 1.5 hours behind New South Wales), I very impatiently and nervously waited the nearly three hours to make our appointment.

The nurse was very nice (repeatedly called Her “mate”), and after giving Her instructions to keep her eye clean and administer antibiotic drops every two hours, we paid our set AU$77 bill and went out to do more sight-seeing (Her is such a trooper!).  We had originally intended to complete a 4-hour hike around the base of Uluru early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and awful desert flies, but the medical appointment kept us busy until almost noon.  Instead, we decided to drive the 45km over to the less-visited Kata-Tjuta, an equally impressive series of giant rocks in an otherwise flat desert.  Fortunately, the sky began to cloud over and we were able to hike the Valley of the Wind trail through Kata-Tjuta in warm, but not oppressively hot, weather.  After a 2-hour hike, we got back into our car to drive back to Yulara.

About halfway back to Yulara, Her asleep in the passenger seat, I stopped the car abruptly.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta

“That’s a camel!” I shouted pointing to the roadside.

In fact, there were four or five camels all standing within 20 feet of the road and grazing.  Her awoke immediately and, without a word, somehow managed to be halfway out of the car taking pictures before I even came to a complete halt.  After about 10 minutes of photographs, the camels decided they didn’t like our paparazzi antics and marched away single file.  We headed back to celebrate over some chicken and wild fig and Tasmanian honey ice cream. (Big fans of Connoisseur ice cream now)

Around 5:30AM the next morning as we were driving to Alice Springs and recalling our favorite parts of the Red Center, I once again had to slam on the brakes (thanks to the Toyota engineers for making such reliable brakes!) to avoid crashing into three kangaroos who decided the best place to cross the highway would be directly in front of a SUV traveling 130km/h.  Even while I was still shouting obscenities at the fleeing kangaroo hooligans, Her was snapping photos with her telephoto lens.

Once the kangaroos had disappeared into the brush, I accelerated once more and continued the drive into the sun. Out there was a serene emptiness and silence not even that odd Uluru-tribute country radio station could permeate. The radio dial merely performed continuous laps of static. Her was soon asleep.