Traffic crawls over hot pavement like molasses. We bake slowly on the freeways, until; finally, we stumble into our houses and apartments after a long day, completely fried. Crawling inch by inch over miles and miles of broken asphalt. That joyful fast flying feeling of kinetic inertia slips away. When it lets up, when that rush hour noose loosens just enough to swerve into the fast lane, and the speedometer glides up, on that takeoff arc, and you stare up into the evening sky at a giant sliver a moon, God’s toenail, perfectly pedicured, pointing at the ocean, it’s tempting to go for a drive.
Sometimes I do. I roll the windows down and let the desert air flow in across my face, that same wind that kissed my cheeks and pushed our van from Adelaide to Uluru, all the way to the very middle of the outback.
When I lived in Sydney It was easy to smell the ocean from my front door. Driving the Great Ocean Road, I got to know the waves intimately, as they whispered me to sleep. We turn north and sneak away from the Ocean, an old lover, tiptoeing out the back. We meet the teasing wind, playing hopscotch over miles and miles of space, and a long straight road that connects the bottom of Australia to the top of Australia, like a zipper, and we’re zipping up it in our little camper van: Lisa, Marco, Andy, Vishal and I.
Dirty Harry, our handsome Wicked Camper, proclaiming to the road behind us: “Clothes off for Smirnoff.” We add to that message with homemade signs for others going our way: “Have Goon! Pull over!”
We sit outside, watching for discarded stars. For days, none of us could see them, but a box of Goon relaxes your eyes and all the sudden they start floating down like eyelashes blown by cosmic winds in droves of wishes. Andy teaches me how to photograph the night sky. We drink and play card games, and pee in bushes in the dark, careful of snakes and spiders and lonely, curious possums and kangaroos, and wallabies. We sleep in a neat stack in the van, 3 on the bottom, 2 on the top. It’s murder in the top corner.
We’re wake hung over, and walk to see dawn crack its golden eye over the rim of Kings Canyon. We were promised a Mars-scape, but with all the rain this year the Australian Outback looks like a Chia pet, with pop up forests everywhere, and mile long puddles incubating mosquitoes and flies. I count about 50 bites on my legs alone. Those bugs must have a sweet tooth and an alcohol problem to want my blood after a night like that. The sun peaks at us, and we peak at it, then troop down the slippery hillside to make breakfast on a little camp stove, on to Uluru.
Somebody mowed that big red rock! There’s lush Lorax forests all around it, but that rock is big, and red, a heart. As we walk the 10 km around it, I swear I can see it beat. Our flirty winds prevent us from climbing it so we walk it’s perimeter, and stare at it’s many, many chambers. This exposed, beating heart, pumping water like blood and letting it out through articulating crevices. This rock is alive. I know it as I leave our crew at the Ayres Rock Airport. From the plane I have a view of that giant’s heart, that earthy heart. As the plane rocks, the rock beats, a shift in vision or a shift in position. I’m pushed away by these sportive zephyrs, back to the constant Ocean, back to the front.
I roll up my windows against the teasing air. Back towards home, the traffic slows.