If I’ve discovered one thing about the Australian outback its that each time you travel to the red centre it is never the same.
One winter can be totally different to the next.
It can be like a barren moonscape in places and then those same places the next year, depending on rainfall, can be green and teeming with bird life.
We only usually go exploring the desert in winter(Only insane overseas tourists with a death wish go in summer) but one year we went a bit later -in early spring.
I wasn’t prepared for the transformation.
It had become a vast unwelcoming desert of prickles.
Everywhere we went prickles stabbed and stuck us, got in our clothes, our sleeping bags, shoes, socks even our hair.
Trying to pick prickles out of our socks was impossibly tedious. Futile really because you always missed one that continued to unrelentingly prick you to distraction.
We resorted to wearing thongs (Yikes, not those sort of thongs. The ones you wear on your FEET. Flip flops if that’s your preferred term.)
But even our thongs got prickles in them. They became platform thongs, elevated by a two inch blanket of prickles underneath.
These prickles were transported into the car, in, on and under the floor mats, migrating to the seats, eventually ending up in our underwear.
Some of the prickles were not even prickles but lethal three barbed THORNS that could pierce through the rubber bottom of your thongs!
Evil, evil things.
Then the weather started heating up.
We were experiencing an unprecedented heat wave for this time of the year, so they said.
Temperatures started climbing horribly and with that the fly population exploded and we begun being harassed by hoards of bush flies.
Now if you’ve never been to the outback you don’t really know what a true Aussie bush fly is like.
Unlike normal placid houseflies that buzz around lazily that you can swat away from the picnic table with a tea towel, Aussie bush flies are ruthless and relentless and not at all perturbed by any amount of slapping, swatting, foul language or bug sprays and lotions. (we’ve tried every insect repellent known to man and NOTHING deters them.)
You squash ‘em and they get up again and try once more to burrow into your eyes, nose, mouth, and ears looking for any bit of moisture they can find.
And there are MILLIONS of them!
The sound they make is as though a swarm of bee’s has descended around your head and the only thing you can do to stop from swallowing or inhaling them is to wear a fly net over your face and neck.
Trying to attend to toiletry business out in the open was a nightmare. Not only did we have to watch out for the prickles, and potential snakes, but every time we dropped our dacks a billion more flies would arrive to investigate.
My bare butt has never felt so vulnerable for attack.
By the time the temperature had reached 42 degrees, where it stayed for a week straight, even at night (that’s 107) I was beginning to lose my mind.
I don’t deal with the heat well. It makes me tired, cranky and mentally unstable.
All we could do to escape the heat was to travel longer hours through the day where at least the air conditioning inside the car offered some kind of relief.
Being on bumpy dirt roads for sometimes six to eight hours a day my arms and knees would rub against the dash and the arm rests causing them to chafe.
My feet looked like a ninety year olds, wrinkled and scaling.
Bleeding cracks had appeared in my heels that no amount of moisturizer could fix.
Prickle pricks in my legs, arms and feet throbbed.
I was a sunburned shriveled overheated overwrought MESS!
It was at this point that my husband, taking pity on me, promised that we would camp at Uluru, in the resort camp ground where we could take a shower and at last eat a decent meal INSIDE, in an air conditioned restaurant without having to fight with the flies. Oh bliss!
I was happy. After living off hurried meals dumped out of a tin and served by lamp light to escape the flies (but only to have to face picking moths out of our bowls) I was overjoyed at the prospect of eating some mouth wateringly delicious food and ohhh….with vegetables!
We got there and stood looking at the big blackboard menu.
To my horror it read.
“CAMEL STEAKS. CAMEL BURGERS. CAMEL SAUSAGES.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The only thing on offer that night was CAMEL.
I don’t eat things with humps. I’m sorry I just don’t.
I’d just spent two weeks running around with my video camera filming them (because they were the only creatures to be seen in such horrific extreme conditions.) and had developed a deep affection for them.
We walked back to the car. No, actually hopped, skipped and ran because the sand was so hot that the mere act of walking in thonged feet was excruciating torture.
Yanking open my car door I went to sit on my seat and the leather was as sizzling hot as any barbeque griddle I’ve ever fried a sausage on.
Leaping out again, holding my burnt bum cheek, screaming and getting a mouthful of flies in the bargain I finally went into complete meltdown – literally.
There in the parking ground, with other people watching, I began wailing like a three year old.
“Bloooooody frigging caaaaamel burgers! I can’t believe there is nooooothing but bloody camel on the menu! I want vegetables….and chicken! I can’t DOOOO this anymore! I cant take it. I’m exhaaaaausted. I’m dyiiiiing in this heat! I’m staaaaarving! This is the worst trip we’ve EVER been on! Put me on a plane and send me home. IWANTTOGOHOOOOOOOOME!”
I stood hunched over and sobbed and the flies got even more excited because this woman with an oasis of water trickling from her eyes wasn’t even bothering to swat them away anymore.
I was spent. Done. Defeated. Cooked!
Pricked to death, burnt and cracked up.
I’m terrified of flying on small propeller planes but at that moment I was seriously planning my escape from this evil torturous place and if it meant dying, I really didn’t care.
I was already in hell.
My family remembers that day fondly.
The day mum cracked up in the parking lot at Uluru.
I honestly have no memory of the rest of the trip.
I think I must have sat in the front seat catatonic and drooling like a mental patient until we finally got home.
I did write a song about it though afterwards.
You can hear it here.