THE KING IS BACK

IMG_2698“I don’t believe it,” said Regina, staring at her iPad, the SD card plugged in. “Please tell me I didn’t just do that.” She seemed to be talking to the tablet rather than to us. She lifted her head and the shock that was settling over her usually lit-up face was all the indication we needed.

“You’ve just deleted a bunch of photos, haven’t you?” Paul said softly.

She turned to him, turned to us and back at him. “I just can’t believe I did that,” she repeated over and over.

174 photos of the Uluru sunset had vanished into cyber air at the tap of her finger.

“Well, we’ll just have to go back to the rock and do it again,” I attempted to cheer her up.

“I just can’t believe I did that,” my line fell on deaf ears. “I’m absolutely devastated.” She starred at Paul who could only embrace her in a hug.

“Did you delete the files or format the card?” I asked, taking control of the situation.

“Deleted,” she said. “I just can’t believe I did that.” She was in a trance.

“Well” I raised hopes, “when we get to Alice Springs I can look online for software to download and retrieve the files. They’ll still be on your card.”

She looked up at me. “I just can’t believe I did that.”

We continued on to Kings Canyon, driving down the Lasseter Highway, passing a wild camel and two wild dogs – not to be confused with dingos. These beasts seemed to be a mixed breed of we-will-eat-you. They stared at us hungrily as we zipped by. They gave off the kind of vibe that implied them having the ability to chew through the car door to get at the fresh produce inside – and I don’t mean the vegetables.

386 kilometers later we arrived at the Kings Canyon Resort – which was cleverly camouflaged as a caravan park. A sign advertised that the evening’s entertainment offered at The Thirsty Dingo Bar was a bush bash with a duo called, The Roadies between 6-9 PM.

After we pitched our tent and Paul and Regina parked, I attempted a second go at fixing the machine-head of the third string on my acoustic guitar. After taking it apart, Regina and I discovered that the cog was worn out and needed replacing.

“Guess I’ll have to wait till we get to Alice,” I said glumly.

I was really craving to play the six-string I’ve packed from Melbourne. I was happy to trade it in for another guitar if I could only find a second-hand store that would agree to such a deal.

“In Alice,” was the general consensus wherever I asked since leaving Kulpara, South Australia, some thousand-and-a-bit K’s ago.

Regina proved her point of being a Masterchef with dinner that evening. On the menu, a pork-based carbonara. And although I don’t eat pork for taste reasons, I wasn’t going to starve. And a good thing cause it was amazing (although it had pork in it).

After a few drinks we headed over to the Thirsty Dingo Bar to catch the live entertainment. We walked into a crowd of about 20 people, all part of an American film crew that were filming a 13-part documentary on the Brumbies, the Australian wild horses.

They had caught analpha-male, broke him in and by the end of shooting, they had given him to a local Aborigine boy.

Beside the stage outside sat a table of mixed Asians. The stage housed a guitar and mic, set up and ready to be played but there was no band.

“It’s quiet tonight so they’ve called it early,” informed us the bar maid.

I looked at the clock behind her. 20:25. Looking at the small stage I turned to Paul,

“Wanna hit the stage with me?” and before I realised what I had said, Paul lead us outside and talked The Roadies into letting us play.

I sat at the guitar with Paul on the mic. We ripped into The Commitments, Mustang Sally to a resounding sing-along from the 5 people that were outside (including our groupies, Regina and Cookie).

Some of the Americans came out to listen and clapped along to my rendition of U2’s, Desire which was followed by a failed attempt of Men At Work’s, Land Downunder.

“One more,” said Peta, one-half of The Roadies.

I ripped into Lynard Skynard’s, Sweet Home Alabama, and we left the stage to a deafening applause from our groupies.

And two other people that had stayed outside to suffer… I mean, listen.

The Roadies were quite pleased with our rusty performance. “Are you here tomorrow night? We can play together,” Ruben offered.

“Sorry mate,” said Paul, “we’ve got a gig in Alice Springs,” and we both cracked up.

Our improvised performance landed us a free beer – to share between the two of us. We moved on to a game of pool where Cookie pocketed the black ball in a tense two-on-two battle against Paul and Regina.

We befriended the Americans. One of them, Clinton Anderson, a famous horse whisperer (as we were told) teamed up with his mate Rick to play pool against Paul and Cookie.I stood by Regina who was sitting on a stool against the wall.

About 15 of the film crew had habitated the couches that surrounded the pool table and when Regina went to the bathroom, I sat on her stool. Just as she returned, timing it with an accuracy of an atomic clock, I released a silent IEF (improvised explosive fart) and stood from the stool, returning it to Regina in a gentlemanly manner.

“I kept it warm for ya,” I grinned. As she sat on it I added that, “I also farted on it.”

“What?” she stared at me as I walked back and stood by the wall, waiting for the carnage to unfold, knowing my abilities of clearing a school balcony of 50 kids with a downwind.

It was Clint who took the first hit as he went to grab his beer. “Jesus Christ Almighty!” he screamed out as he lurched back, hit by the shock wave. Regina followed suit and within seconds screams echoed around the bar as people scattered, running for the door, wiping tears of distress from their eyes. Flies were scraping at the glass windows – to get out.

“It burns! Oh my god, it burns!” someone gasped.

The smell lingered, a special talent I have, as Clint searched out the infidel responsible. He was about to blame Regina as she had leaped from the stool like a human cannonball when he saw me laughing uncontrollably in the self-designated safety zone.

“You!” he pointed at me as heads followed to see how I, or any living thing, was capable of releasing something that was against the Geneva war conventions. “Did you crock-pot it?” he demanded as I wiped away tears of laughter. I bowed before my teary-eyed public as Clint said, “I’d rather shove my head up a dead camel’s ass than smell that again.”

“We should send in a canary to make sure it’s safe,” suggested Paul as Rick high-fived me. It was a bonding moment.

“This is why I don’t eat pork,” I explained.

By the end of the night we were telling jokes, hearing Rick’s unrepeatable stories of his womanising days and how he and Alex, another Yank on the crew, drove to Darwin and back in one night (it’s a 17-hour drive from Kings Canyon – one way).

We hit the sack at 22:30 for a 7 AM rise to walk the canyon which was discovered in 1872 by Ernest Gilles (the same explorer that discovered Ayer’s Rock). On his expedition he had taken camels and horses and came across the Aborigines that lived in Kings Canyon, as it held enough water to sustain life. They had never before seen horses or camels, let alone a white man.

There were two walks: the 3-hour-6-K-round-the-rim-trek or the one hour return into the canyon.

Regina had woken up with a powerful headache. “Must have been the gas she inhaled last night,” joked Paul (although he could have been serious). I found a Tylenol in my first aid kit and gave it to her.

“We’ll head out,” I said, “and worst case, we’ll meet ya at the G’day Mate caravan park in Alice.”

Reaching the canyon, Cookie decided to do the one hour return while I opted for the 6-K round-the-rim. Noticing that the track was all rock, I threw my sandals into my backpack and hiked barefoot.P1020416

I climbed the terrace-like steps of red rock and hiked up to the rim, passing people who gave me quizzical looks when they saw that I was barefoot. I didn’t care. I was one with nature. I had the energy of a kid in a candy shop and was practically running the track.

Red formations, stylised by millions of years of weather beating down on the rock created the art gallery. I finally reached the bottom of the canyon, rightfully called The Garden of Eden. It was a lush green habitat full of trees and rock pools filled with black water, surrounded by the red rock that is the Australian Outback.

I continued on around the rim, agreeing with the guides that lead groups of Germans and French that I was perhaps, “Crazy to do it barefoot!”

I took a break, sitting on the edge of a cliff peeling a mandarin, feet dangling above a hundred feet or more of air, enjoying the vastness of the Outback that stretched out as far as a good eye could see. I met Cookie at the car exactly three hours later.

“Paul and Regina will be back in about 15-20 minutes and then we can head out to Alice Springs together,” she informed me as I made up a couple of peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

It was a 4-hour drive to Alice and I was hoping to get there before 17:00 to sort out my guitar. We hit the road at around 11:30, sighting another dingo by the side of the road that looked at us with hungry eyes. Just as we hit the Lasseter highway the clouds let loose and for the next four hours it rained non-stop.

We fueled up at Kings Creek and had a half-hour break at Eldrunda, at the intersection of Lasseter Highway and the A87 Sturt Highway.

As soon as we hit Alice Springs the rain subsided and completely stopped as we rolled into the G’day Mate caravan park just after 17:00.

“Next to the Coles supermarket there’ll be a second-hand shop where you might be able to find a guitar,” the owner satisfied my inquiry of finding a guitar.

That night was our last with Paul and Regina. After I found the proper software I retrieved the 174 deleted files – “I don’t believe it!” She continued with her chant as she awarded me with a big kiss on the cheek and a seat beside her during dinner.

We shared an evening of spaghetti meatballs ala Masterchef Regina which had my taste buds thanking me all night (Cookie doesn’t like tomatoes with the skin on so Regina went all out by peeling the tomatoes) and laughs provided by Youtube.

I found a skit by the American stand-up comedian, Pablo Francisco who does an amazing movie-guy voice impersonation with an Arnold Schwarzenegger overture which I had to show Paul.

We cried tears of joy watching the master at play. Paul then picked a skit by Robin Williams, interpreting the invention of golf by the Scots. Cookie picked Rhob Gilbert’s story of losing his luggage on a European flight as well as a ventriloquist skit by Nina Conti. Paul, Regina and I were all familiar with Jeff Dunham’s, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, which we introduced to Cookie.

I washed up the dishes while Paul and Regina cleaned out the campertruck prior to returning it to the Apollo rental company in the morning.

At 22:32 we said ‘goodnight’.

Howling winds put me to sleep as I calculated the 3,274 K’s I’ve put my car through.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Australia, Conservation, Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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