I’ll have to let you down, after the cliff-hanger at the end of my last post I didn’t need the knife: the cowboys had only pulled over because they had to take a piss.
We continued our ride and after a half an hour they left me in Hughenden, a town known by absolutely nothing. The only thing worth mentioning is a gas station where my cowboys dropped me off warning me to watch out for the black guys. Hm, did I just felt a bit of racism there?
I spent the night under a tree by the gas station, on a mattress and in a sleeping bag. It wasn’t the most comfortable night ever: first, I was sniffed by a dog whom I thought to be a dingo; second it rained a bit; then I thought there were bats in the tree top above me (in the morning I realized those were only the parrots); and, finally, a man passed just before my head, nearly stepping on it. However, everything was forgotten when I saw the sunrise: it was the second in the past two days. I like them.
Since there wasn’t much traffic I got myself acquainted with a cleaning lady in the gas station and told her my story. She told me to take care of myself, approved me for the fact that I contacted my parents every day, and later, with a tear in her eyes, she mentioned that she also had a son, but she had lost him. I didn’t ask the details. Later it turned out that that lady had helped me: she asked one of her acquaintances who delivered mail to give me a lift to a 300-kilometers-distant little town, even though his company had a strict policy on not picking up hitchhikers, given the assurance or whatever.
I thank the kind lady, my angel for the day.
My new driver treated me to a meat pie, Australian specialty, and talking to each other we started off a three-hour ride. We delivered some parcels to the villages that were on our way, and while we were leaving one of those villages I noted a familiar face – Zeph, the hitchhiker whom I’d met the day before, was standing by the road with his thumb stuck out. I asked the driver to pull over and pick up Zeph, which he did.
Zeph is a CouchSurfer, just like me, and since both of us were headed for a little mining town named Mt Isa it turned out that we were staying with the same host – Laura. It’s a small world. We managed to stop the next car with joint forces and we got hundred kilometers to our final destination. And then Zeph decided to go to a supermarket since, given his previous experience, he thought that no one would pull over within next ten minutes. The experienced I suggested him not to go – first work, then pleasure. He didn’t listen to my advice, moved off from me some thirty meters the first car came and – pulled over. The guy was going to Mt Isa so I asked him if he could give me and my friend a ride. However, the driver simply waved saying that there was only room for one person. Even though the car was empty and there could easily fit at least three persons, I told him that there was no problem, waved to Zeph and jumped in the car. There you go with your supermarket.
Since there was nothing extraordinary in Mt Isa I decided to spend only one night there. Laura welcomed me with a dinner, offered me I shower which I needed desperately, and the following morning she gave me a lift to the city exit. Another sunrise, another thumb up.
I had to wait for the full three hours for the first car to pull over. A smiling young man came out, presenting himself to me, somehow seeming all too excited to bump into me. He was headed for Darwin, but he could give me a ride for some 600 kilometers to the crossroads between Darwin and Alice Springs. He told me that he had never traveled with someone, and that he was glad he’d bumped into me: at least he had someone to split the costs for the gasoline. I stopped for a moment to think what to do: should I accept it? I asked him how much money we were talking about and he replied that we were talking about 60$. I thanked him for the offer, but it was simply too much for me, and it was against my hitchhiking religion. His mood suddenly dropped, so he told me that he was prepared to lower the price on 30$, but, all the same, I thanked him once more, took my backpack and stuck out my thumb.
Later, I gave it some serious thought, wondering if I’d done the right thing: after all, the man had his costs, and from his point of view, it would be fair if I paid the half. However, the way I saw it, he would have to spend the same amount of money no matter I was with him or not, so it wasn’t necessary that I defray the costs of the ride. It makes me sad that, in most of the cases, human’s kindness has its price.
I didn’t get very far with my thoughts when another car pulled over. There were two French men inside headed for Alice Springs. I was very careful and waited for them to say the amount of money I’d have to pay, but the moment Simon, the driver, told me that he himself had hitchhiked a few months across eastern coast of Australia and that he couldn’t do anything else but pull over, I relaxed and carefree entered the car. I got myself a ride for the following 1000 kilometers! The co-driver’s name was JB (Jean Baptiste) and two of them had met on a gumtree web page and had decided to split the costs of travelling across Australia.
Soon we made a stop on a resting point where the guys prepared lunch – pasta with all sorts of vegetables and tomato salsa. For the following few days the menu would changed minimally – the vegetables could maybe be substituted by ham and the tomato salsa by the cheese sauce. After all, that menu was way better than my menu which usually consists of a food bought on gas stations – bananas, cookies and water. I thought about getting myself a portable gas stove, but the fact that everything I bought I had to wear on my back made me give up. Anyway, in 90% of the cases I stayed at the CSers so we had a proper kitchen and everything we necessary to make a decent meal.
At the rest point we met Grant, a guy in his forties, who had been cycling across Australia for the past three months. He had started in Perth, been through Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, and his final destination was Perth: he was supposed to get there in less than two months from now. He told us that he started that adventure because he had an annoying girlfriend, so he wanted some time for himself. He added that he wasn’t lonely, as one may think, the ashes of his late friend kept him company: that friend was supposed to join him on his adventure. In that way, this was also an honorary tour around Australia for his friend.
After 600 kilometers without seeing any sign of civilization we decided to spend the night on the next rest point. Simon didn’t feel like driving during the night because there was a great chance that a kangaroo or wallaby (there were more than 20 millions of those all around Australia) jumped in front of the car, so they could easily destroy your car. Every hundred kilometers or so there was a free camping spot where all the passengers would make a stop and then they would either take out their tents and camp or sleep in their car/camp house. Simon slept in the car, JB in a tent, and I slept on a mattress, under the stars. Not because of a romantic atmosphere, but because the land was so rough I couldn’t put a peg in it.
The following morning the guys revealed their plans to me: after Alice Springs they would go to Uluru, and, finally, to Darwin. Their plans were just like mine! They told me to feel free to join them which I accepted readily If everything went fine, on that ride I would pass more than 3,500 kilometers and that way I would break all my hitchhiking records, and, most probably, that one wouldn’t be that easy to break.
When we just started our ride across the Australian vastness I admired the scenery. There weren’t many things to see: grass, a tree or two, red or brown earth everywhere around us. I expected to see a desert similar to those I’d seen in Iran or those in Africa I’d seen only on television, but it didn’t happen. The signs of vegetation were weak, but not totally absent. Everyone was living for those few days of rain (and it was helluva rain). The period of rain was followed by another period of drought. This was exactly what fascinated me: the immeasurable vastness.
However, even the stunning environment and the ride became boring after a day or two. When people read travelling books, watch photos and videos they can’t see the boring aspect of travelling. They don’t have the opportunity to see or feel the moments when nothing is happening, the moments of monotony, sickness, disappointment and loneliness. No wonder everyone dreams of travelling. Don’t be fooled – photos can be a bit enhanced, everyone can add something to their story and videos can be edited. You don’t get to see everything that is going on. The truth is somewhere in between of those stories, photos and videos and it’s not simply depicted no matter how hard you try, and even no matter how good you are in it.
Travelling is, in fact, something utterly private. The only ones who can get them are those who happen to be at your side in the precise moment, although even they sometimes cannot understand it or feel it the same way you do.
So, what I’m trying to say is: don’t believe everything you read here or anywhere else. If there is any possibility, and there probably is, try to experience it by yourself. Just that.
There is a tourist place called Devil’s Marbles a bit before Alice Springs: beautiful red granite rocks, which are quite essential in the culture of the Aborigines. There are many different legends about their importance, or I’m just being too lazy to tell them all. Anyhow, we took some photos – it was very beautiful, indeed – and resumed our ride.
We thought of spending the night in Alice Springs, but, in the end, we only went to a supermarket to buy some stuff. Since I wasn’t paying for the gas, I bought enough food for the following few days, and a 24-pack of beer, just in case. We took a stroll through the town, and it was enough to get depressed by the scene: most people were of Aborigine origin, and a great majority consumed alcohol excessively and sniffed gasoline, which is probably the quickest way of burning your brain cells and becoming a zombie. It was very sad scene, indeed, and the ones who were to blame for the whole situation were, of course, civilized European newcomers who felt the need to impose their culture upon the people who had been living there for the past tens of thousands of years. The very same thing happened in both Americas. So sad.
After another night of camping, which I spent with Simon inside the car since the temperature dropped below zero, we continued with our journey to Uluru.
Once we were there – it was pure magic. I’d seen numerous photos of Uluru. I’d heard numerous stories about how beautiful it is. I’d heard numerous times about how people always got stunned by its beauty, despite everything they’d heard. I couldn’t believe it. I could hardly remember the last time some natural attraction left me speechless. Also, it was a good thing I hadn’t believed anyone – the level of magic would have been significantly lower if I had expected it.
When I caught the glimpse of it on the horizon for the first time I thought it was nice. However, when we got a bit close it was wow! When we parked in the foot of it and started walking to towards it, strange feelings began to overcome me. I wasn’t sure how to define it, but I simply felt the energy of the place in every part of my body. Most of that energy was – sadness. Immense sadness. I didn’t know why but tears just spread to my eyes almost seeking my blessing for the free fall all the way to the red earth, nearly two meters lower.
In that precise moment Simon asked the two of us if we would like to climb Uluru. One of the few things I knew about Uluru was its sacred meaning it had for the Aborigines which included their plead not to climb it because it was contrary to their tradition and their culture. Please, don’t climb Uluru – that was the sign in the foot of the mountain, where, in the moment of our arrival, were dozens of people climbing their way to the top.
And then I realized what the reason of my sadness was: all the injustice, all the lack of consideration and all the evil that those who belong to the stronger/more numerous group of people were capable of doing to the weaker ones. Uluru and the culture of the Aborigines were just one of the many examples in the world. Throughout the whole history there had been hundred and thousand of examples. These things happen even today: just take a look at what people are doing to Mother Nature, all in the name of paper called money. After all, money is the only reason why climbing Uluru is allowed – the government of Australia is afraid that the number of tourist could drop significantly if they forbid the climbing. However, they aren’t afraid of the consequences it may have on a culture which is almost entirely ruined.
I informed Simon about the reasons of my not climbing, while he decided that he simply had to climb it to admire the view from the top. I didn’t want to impose my viewpoint upon him since I knew he wouldn’t change his mind. JB wasn’t sure what to do: one moment he wanted to climb, and the other one he didn’t. When we reach the foot of the mountain he decided that he wouldn’t climb it, but instead he would take a walk around it. We left Simon do what he had to do, while the two of us each went our own way to see and admire the natural beauty.
The energy of the mountain didn’t leave me at all. It whiffed through me as if it wanted to communicate something to me. While I lied under a tree and observed that amazing beauty, it suddenly hit me. It was so clear and simple. In that very moment I was sure that there was an impossible mission ahead of me, as soon as this journey was over. That was the reason why I came here, the reason why I started this journey.