Heidi and I got on and off the tour bus and walked up and down paths to gaze at ochre pits, gorges, and waterholes. Lachlan, our guide, talked about the geology, anthropology, paleontology, and other ologies of the area with authority and passion. We could lob any question at him and he knew the answer, but not in a pompous, lecturing way.
Any question, that is, except ones about the Dreamtime. Again, we were told that those stories were off limits to non-Aboriginals.
The water holes were what I had been waiting for—I whipped off my clothes, ran barefoot across the blazing hot sand in the searing sunshine and leapt in, then screeched and screamed because the water was, surprisingly, cold as a witch’s tit, as the saying goes. I ran back to the water’s edge and re-entered slowly. It was so cold my heart was palpitating, but I did a couple laps around and enjoyed hearing other unsuspecting initiates shrieking as they hit the water. Heidi sat in the shade and chatted with Lachlan.
I walked to the toilet block to change out of my wet suit, and saw this sign.
They had me at effluent.
As I write this, I am smiling and laughing. It’s six in the morning; I hope my upstairs neighbor can’t hear me. It was a wonderful day. Another wonderful day in Australia. These are photos of a dry riverbed and a big gum tree that had grown up out of a crack in the rock.
Here is Heidi contemplating another water hole; in the second photo you can almost hear her sighing with contentment.
We pulled into a place called Glen Helen for lunch. There was a sandwich buffet and it looked beautiful, but it was placed in such a way as to make it very slow going to get through the line. I thought I’d come back later. I went outside, kicked off my sandals, and ran down to the water’s edge.
Shoe removal had been a very bad idea. After cooling my feet in the water and checking out the birdlife, I picked my way back up to the canteen exclaiming, “Ooh aah agh! Agh argh arrrrgh!” The sand was so hot my feet felt slightly scorched for an hour afterwards.
Back inside, Heidi was sitting at a table with a German guy from our tour who had severely wandering eyes. He talked nonstop about how he had planned his whole two-week trip by himself. Well whoop dee doo! Heidi had planned a whole month. He never asked about our itinerary. But Heidi isn’t one to one-up, so she simply smiled and nodded. She is so nice. Much nicer than me.
There was a tiny gift area and I picked up a book, hoping it would explain the mysteries of the Dreamtime. However I think the author has been listening to too much digeridoo music, because none of it made sense. Or maybe I’m just not deep enough to understand.
After lunch, another water hole. I sat in the shade next to an weathered old man wearing a cowboy hat. He pointed out a long line of ants and warned me not to get too close or they’d “set ya skin on fi-ah.”
Back in Alice after the tour, we stopped into a supply store so Heidi could find a fly net hat. We found one, artfully displayed with beer goggles.
We ate some leftover cheese and crackers for dinner and Heidi flipped on the TV while we got ready to go to the laser light show.
We never made it to the light show. We became riveted to The Bachelor—Australian version, which is exactly like the American version but with Australian accents.
The bachelor in question was called the honey badger. He was a former rugby player.
I was fascinated and repelled. “What’s with the eighties hair and mustache? I hope he’s being ironic?”
“I’ve never seen the show,” Heidi whispered, mesmerized and horrified.
“Yep,” I replied. “They’re not allowed to say god—only gosh. But then the guy is screwing two women at once on national TV and telling each one, ‘I’ve never felt this way about any woman.’”