We flew in to Yulara today (posting this a few days after it was written, to include pictures). Yulara is the town near Uluru, the famous rock in the middle of the Australian Outback which is also known as Ayers’ Rock. The trip has made for several firsts – our first time in the Northern Territory (did you know that Australia has 5 states and 2 territories? I’ve heard often that they have 7 states, but NT and Canberra are both territories, not states. Not that I know what the difference is between a state and a territory …) It’s also our first time in the Outback – aka the “Red Centre”! (My husband posted on Facebook that he was headed to the Red Centre and I had no idea what he was talking about. Well, once you land it makes perfect sense – the dirt here is a beautiful bright orangey-red! It looks just like the soil of Uganda to us.)
It’s very hot here (32 C, which doesn’t mean much to me except that I know average body temperature is about 37 or so? This felt super hot to us!) When we first arrived, Naomi was understandably antsy to get outside after having been on a plane for so many hours. This was noticeable in many ways, including the way she thought everything she saw out of the car was a playground and demanded that we go out to it. :) We did manage to find a playground on the resort center which is the lonely vestige of Westernized life out here – truly the only pocket where you have air conditioning, groceries and petrol (gasoline). However, the playground was not at all suited for someone her age, and, combined with the fact that she kept getting sand in her sandals but the sand was too hot to walk on barefoot, the playground was kind of a flop. But the pool and kiddie pool right next to it were a big hit! We all enjoyed cooling off there.
We headed back to our hotel, and for the first time in months had a real appreciation for air conditioning! The funny part is, when we were walking out of the airport to our rental car, I realized I felt like I was finally home for the first time in almost 3 months! Southern California is truly a desert – and today I realized that Sydney is not in the desert, so coming to Yulara feels very familiar. :) I think the fact that CA is desert also makes desert less interesting to me. It’s not really worth “going to see,” since it’s just “normal.” I know that sounds kind of snooty, and I do really appreciate being able to be here seeing the Australian desert, but it was interesting to me to realize how familiar it all felt.
The other odd thing about the Northern Territory is that they are 1.5 hours behind Sydney time. Um…? Not sure what the half hour is for, but ok. So since we decided to just stay on Sydney time since we’ve been traveling around so much, it means Naomi is going to bed at 5:30 pm! Nice! However, it also means that we’re trying to go to bed by 7:30 or 8 pm. AND that she will probably wake up around 4:30 and we have to be ok with that because it will feel like 6 am to her, which is acceptable. Oh well, it’s only for 2 mornings. Then we’re back in Sydney – finally! I am looking forward to being back. And then two weeks there, and then 2 more weeks of nomadic life in New Zealand, and THEN we’re home. I feel a bit wearied from all the moving around.
This refusal on our part to adjust to local time does mean that meals are a bit dodgy. Today we were wanting to eat dinner around 3:30 pm. There actually was a deli that was open, so we enjoyed some paninis – an egg/bacon one, a pizza one and then … an “Outback panini.” When I queried, I was told that it contained spinach, roasted red pepper and kangaroo! So of course we tried it. Good, but as the spinach tasted strongly of fish this was my initial impression of what kangaroo tastes like, which was odd. Anyway, it was basically like beef.
Naomi had a meltdown there, so while Daniel took her home, I picked up some groceries. Food is ridiculously expensive here – comparable to the prices we faced in downtown Sydney when we first arrived. But I was braced for it and just bought some peanut butter and bread and cereal. And I had one of those awkward moments that I haven’t had since I first moved to England for a few months in 2000: the grocer was scanning all my items through while I stood there watching, wondering why she was letting them all pile up to the point that there was no more room… and then she glanced at me and asked if I’d like to purchase a bag. No, not really but since it’s either pay $1 for a bag or somehow carry all my groceries back in my arms, I said yes. And then she handed me the bag and I realized I’m supposed to bag them myself. Oops.
Nighttime is really sweet here in the desert – after Daniel got home from his airplane flight over the rock Uluru (!), we went out on the verandah and enjoyed the pleasance of cool/warm night air that only comes after a hot day. I like that and kind of missed it back in CA by skipping out on August summer. Then the lightening started, and the thunder, and then the rain! It was a warm rain, though, and we stayed out for awhile. We both love a good rainstorm (although one of us prefers to be out in it while the other prefers to be snuggled up inside), and the fact that we had a corrugated tin roof over our patio just made it ten times as good. :)