Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stuart Highway, Australia

Emily, the British voice inside my GPS, chirped the directions. Turn Right...Continue...636 miles.

If I’m going to make Ayers Rock, it’s going to be a long day.

I take a look at the seemingly endless highway, the red sand and scrubby brush, and step on the accelerator. In the absence of authority figures or the judgment that age is said to bring, I take the car up to 130 and keep it there. Okay, it’s kilometers, but still.

Eighties all-hit weekend and classical music fade, leaving only Aussie Rules Football scores burbling into the static. I punch the scan button and numbers roll through the entire radio spectrum again and again. In the shimmering distance, a mirage appears, taking the form of a monster road train, 189 feet of truck and three trailers barreling down the highway. As we pass, we give the outback salute, a single index finger wave. A sudden buffeting of wind and noise, then I’m alone.

Around noon, I pass Coober Pedy. Opal mining dreams are heaped in a thousand piles of tailings and dust. I once stood in front of a line of passengers boarding the day’s only departing plane with a $100 bill in my hand, trying to buy a seat out of there. For three long days I couldn’t find a taker.

I keep the engine running as I fueled up. No sense taking chances.

After eight hours, I hit my left turn signal. Emily says it’s 147 miles to the park entrance. If I step on it, I might still make it before sundown.


alex hayden said...

Your picture makes me think of a good series for you, since you follow crazy gps voices to and fro, as well as those in your head: always shoot the view with the dashboard in it. This is the way most americans see most things in "nature" through the windshield (or wind screen since you are in OZ). You would sell a bunch to young green (as in eco) AD's is trendy agencies for big money!

Tom said...

Paul- People who planned my Australia trip in '99 had us staying at least 3 nights in Coober Pedy and it seemed like an eternity. It is perhaps the cruddiest, most dusty place on earth- no wonder why people live underground there.

Paul Dymond said...

Hey Paul,

if you decide to head on up Cairns way let me know and I'll show you around.
As for Ayers Rock (Uluru) I lived there for a year and a half - it's an amazing part of the world.
If you get to look around Alice Springs definitely head out to the Eastern Macdonnell Ranges - less touristy and simply spectacular.

Paul Souders said...

Hey Alex - That's actually a really cool idea. Plus, it would save me from having to get out and actually walk around. We used to joke at the newspaper about the old photographer who would shoot his assignments from the car. I could finally become that guy.

Winston said...

If you had visited just a few years earlier, the 130 km/h speed limit didn't exist. Up until 2007, the speed limit in the Northern Territory was... "unlimited". Those days are gone now though...

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