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ROCKing and rolling

So what have I been up to since I bought my new (really old) car? I’ve set off – into new and isolated territory: I’ve set off on adventure. And it’s been a blast. I did have some problems in Adelaide with my car though. She was making quite a bit of noise as I rolled into town and the next day, I took it to the shop and the me and the mechanic ended up putting in a new engine mount and bolting down the engine. It was just kind of flopping around (it being the engine) and as I’m sure you can imagine, “flopping” isn’t something you want your engine to do. We also changed the oil and filter and then I got some new front tires. You don’t want those things popping in the middle of the outback.

So I got all that taken care of and headed off towards the “red center” and ended up calling it a day at Port Agusta. I met a girl from New York there who’s car had blown up and was stuck there. She was collecting frogs in the outback for research and we talked all night and marveled at one of the weirdest nights I’ve ever had in a hostel.

“I reckon’ I could do it. I don’t know, but I reckon’ I could kill viruses with prism’s.”, the kiwi guy announced at the dinner table.

Beckie and I looked at him surprised. We had been talking and he had interrupted.

“How are you going to kill the cell membrane of the virus without killing the human cell?”

“Prisms.”

The guy was regurgitating terms he learned from college before dropping out and doing a lot of drugs. He was hell bent of making sure everyone noticed him and loved being the center of attention. He talked about prisms and viruses all night. He even drew on napkins. It was incredible. A true nut case with a real inferiority complex. Interesting though.

I met a guy from Basque Country the next morning and we split fuel costs on the way up to the Flinders Ranges. We camped out in the national park and did some hiking at Wilpena Pound. There were wallabies hopping all throughout the park and it was really cool and I was able to get back into speaking Spanish after a break. Two solid days of it was a good refresher. The car was doing really well.

After we got back, I dropped off Ingo (the Basque guy) and headed off to a town called Coober Pedy about 500 kilometers North. After arriving, I went on a tour of the city. It’s quite interesting really. The town’s only claim to fame is the fact that it’s right on top of a huge opal reserve and everyone goes there hoping to make it rich. There are huge piles of dirt all around the town and massive holes and mines everywhere. All the houses are also built right into the ground. I actually stayed in an underground hostel, which was really cool. Apparently when someone wants a house, they buy a hill and get this machine to cut into it and make all the rooms. Then the live it in. Some of the houses are pretty posh and really comfortable. No A/C required either. The tour took us to a really colorful part of the desert called the breakaways which were incredible and I learned quite a bit. It was such a weird little town.

I had learned on the way up there, though, that my car was rocketing oil out of the oil cap if I went above 120 KPH (about 72 MPH). Not good. I had to keep putting oil in it and I had to go really slow.

I eventually figured out the problem and it’s all fixed. The last person to mess with it put the gasket on backwards. It runs like a top now.

So from Coober Pedy, I headed up to Uluru and camped out at the campsite a few kilometers from the rock the first night. I ended up being in the same site as an Irish guy I had met in Coober Pedy and I met a few other people and we had a great time. We messed around with this HUGE spider that threw it’s front legs up in the air when we walked by and stayed that way for 10 minutes. It also spit venom at us (I’m pretty sure, although it was dark). I moved it away with this huge stick (it did a bit of break dancing whenever you touched it) and we spent the rest of the night waiting for it to crawl up one of our legs. In the morning, I went to Ayers Rock (a really cool rock in the outback which has great spiritual significance for the Aboriginals and gets brilliant red at sunrise and sunset) in the morning and watched the sunrise over the rock, which was absolutely incredible. I hung out all day at the rock, went to the cultural center, took a free guided walk with the ranger around part of the base of the rock and then walked around the whole thing by myself (running into people from the camp along the way). It is a huge monolith, the biggest in the world, and has some really incredible features. I waited around till sunset and watched the rock again. It’s the biggest tourist attraction and you have to park and stand in this certain area with all the other tourists as everyone snaps pictures. It was worth it though (take a look at the pictures).

That night I went back to camp, chatted the night away and in the morning, got up early again and checked out the sunset over the Olgas (some other really cool rock formations). I walked throughout them in the morning and then took off to King’s Canyon, about 450 K’s away. I arrived in the evening exhausted and relaxed by the pool and read and then in the morning went to the canyon. It was pretty incredible, despite the rain and the rock formations blow you away. You walk around the rim of the canyon and then through it and it’s absolutely phenomenal.

From there, I drove up to Alice Springs and ran into the same people again (there is only one road here so this kind of thing happens) and we hung out at the pub and relaxed last night. Today I’m gonna go explore Alice Springs and head up the mountains and then towards these cool rocks called the Devil’s Marbles tomorrow.

So how has the trip up the center been so far? Absolutely incredible. The desert is beautiful and it’s really interesting to see the changes in the nature as you drive up. The desert is really really red here due to Iron Oxide in the soil and sometimes you see scrub and small trees, sometimes just rocks, sometimes hills, sometimes nothing but dirt. And lots of dead kangaroos on the side of the road. I counted 18 in two days. You also see wild emus running around and these HUGE Hawks (they must come up to my waist in height) eating all the dead animals. When you are driving, it’s just you and the road and it’s very relaxing. I kept hearing stories about how horrible it was to drive for so long in the “boring” desert but I’ve been having a blast and it gives you a lot of time to think and observe.

Ayers Rock was incredible and I loved it. I’ve talked to a lot of people who told me it was just a “stupid boring rock” and hated it, which is a shame. People just rush through this place and don’t take the time to appreciate it, I think. They take these tours and hurry them through and they never get to spend any real time anywhere. The car is great because I can just go where and when I want and the freedom does make quite a difference. I think having your own car is the best option here, albeit a bit more expensive because of high fuel prices. The benefits of stretching out, stopping to look at stuff, and not having to look out of the side of one window the whole time make it worth it though.

Next I head up to Darwin and the Kakadu National Park which promises to be even neater. I really can’t wait.