Truthbutter

The Red Center, and some study abroad pro-tips

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Pro-tip number one: don’t study abroad if you aren’t okay with leaving part of your heart behind when you have to leave. Because you will. And it sucks.

I left Perth and Murdoch University five days ago, and I already miss it so much it hurts. I know it will get easier with time, and part of the reason I had such an amazing experience is because we were all there for just a semester, so we made the most of it, but knowing that doesn’t really make saying goodbye less painful.

I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to do a guided tour of the outback immediately after leaving my home in Perth, but I guess it didn’t occur to me when I was booking it that all I’d want to do is be alone in a room with a few cats, a guitar, a piano, and some ice cream.

There was actually a guitar at the hostel in Alice Springs I stayed at the night I left Perth, and that was really therapeutic. Even though I was playing it outside in the creepy parking lot behind the hostel so I wouldn’t bother anyone, and a cockroach climbed on me. I yelped and cursed and almost threw the guitar handled the situation very gracefully, because after all, it’s just a bug. I also rode a camel in Alice Springs, which was fun. The scenery was beautiful, and I managed to be quite friendly and social with the tour guide and my camel buddy, despite the fact that I just wanted to cry about leaving my Murdoch friends.

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The next morning was rough, though. I was supposed to get picked up for my Uluru tour at 6am, but there had been some kind of miscommunication with bookings and times, so when I got up at 5:30am, the tour guide was already looking for me in the lobby of the hostel and telling me to hurry up because we should’ve left ages ago. I also hadn’t eaten in about 30 hours (IF swag, amirite? No? Okay.), which is never good for sanity. It was also really cloudy and drizzly.

We drove for a few hours to get to King’s Canyon, and while everyone else on the tour bus talked and made friends, I listened to music and was sad in the corner by myself. Then when we got to King’s Canyon, the hike we were doing started out with a really long, steep climb they like to call “Heart Attack Hill,” and between the not eating and the sleep deprivation, I got kind of faint before I made it to the top and decided to just sit it out. I know it sounds like a bummer to miss a once-in-a-lifetime hike, but it was actually sort of nice, because I had 2.5 hours of alone time in a beautiful location to just wander around and not talk to anyone.

Because it was supposed to storm that night, we went straight to the campsite near Uluru (which has some shelters) instead of to Bush Camp, where there isn’t even a toilet. As much as I love camping, not having a toilet is not the best situation for someone without a large intestine, so this turn of events was actually pretty lucky. And it didn’t end up raining very hard in Yulara, so I still got to sleep in a swag under the stars. (For those of you who don’t know what a swag is, it’s like an all-in-one rolled up sleeping kit. You unroll it, and there’s a thin sleeping mat inside of a canvas sack that you can unzip and get in like a sleeping bag, and then you can zip it back up and pull a flap over your head to be protected(ish) from the elements.) Unfortunately, the stars weren’t quite as amazing as I was hoping they’d be, because even though we were in the middle of nowhere, the campsite had a bunch of lights everywhere that stayed on all night.

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The next day, we hiked at Kata Tjuta, which is another beautiful rock formation near Uluru. I decided to try and be less antisocial, so I talked to our tour guide Josh for a while, and I think the human interaction was good for me. It was also nice to feel like he didn’t hate me for being late on the first day. We were lucky with the weather again, and it was cloudy and not too hot, so the hike was pleasant.

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After the hike, I’d had enough of people again, so while they went to the pool I hung around camp by myself and journaled. Then we drove to the Uluru viewing area (basically a big parking lot with a few benches and tables) to watch the sunset while Josh cooked dinner in the back of the trailer. I was still being sad and antisocial, and Josh came over to see how I was doing and invited me to come talk to him while he cooked, which was really nice of him. I figured I should stop moping, and talking to him made me feel a lot better, especially since he’s traveled a lot and had to say his fair share of tough goodbyes.

It had been raining off and on all afternoon, and while we were talking, I saw a rainbow appear over Uluru. When I first arrived in Perth and was sad and missing home, a rainbow appeared then too, so seeing one when I was sad about leaving Perth was really comforting (in a cheesy symbolic way). I doubt too many people have been rained on while watching a sunset at Uluru, much less seen a rainbow, so I felt pretty lucky.

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The next morning, we got up at 4:30am to drive to Uluru again to watch the sunrise, which was beautiful (duh). Then we visited the cultural center and did the base walk around Uluru, which took about 2.5 hours. I broke away from the group so I could walk in silence by myself, partially because I just wanted to think and be alone, but mostly because it felt wrong, somehow, to talk to random people about random stuff while walking around such a sacred place with so much history and meaning to the Aboriginal people. It was bad enough seeing the hoards of tourists and seeing the signs for climbing Uluru, despite the pleas of the Aboriginals that people don’t disrespect Uluru by climbing it. It just felt much more right to do the walk by myself and really feel the place and the silence.

Again we were incredibly lucky with the weather, so even on the part of the walk in full sun, I wasn’t miserably hot. After the walk, it was still only about 9:30am and my flight to Sydney wasn’t until 1:20pm, but Josh dropped us off at a hotel and we took a free shuttle to the airport.

Now for travel pro-tip number two: use a hard-sided suitcase that is impermeable to water and other liquids. That way, if you do a 3-day outback tour, your large suitcase won’t absorb whatever questionable liquid was festering in the bottom of the bus trailer, and it won’t come out smelling like a dead animal rolled in fresh dog poop and blended with dirty socks and the worst-smelling cheese you can imagine. And then you won’t have to spend half of your first day in Sydney unpacking your suitcase, scrubbing said suitcase, doing laundry, and trying to get the smell out of your poor host’s guest room by lighting candles and opening the windows.

Anyway. By the time I got to Sydney, all I had eaten all day was 3 slices of dry gluten-free bread with apricot jam (they didn’t even have real butter), an orange, and then some chips, mentos, and a flourless chocolate brownie at the airport because I was starving and there was nothing else gluten-free. I also hadn’t showered in three days and was sorely lacking in sleep. It was such a relief to arrive at my aunt’s friend Michelle’s apartment, where I took a shower, ate some delicious fried rice (that I didn’t even have to cook!), and slept for about 12 hours. Thank goodness for the kind, generous people of this world who host weary travelers.

Yesterday, I met up with my friend Sarah, who I’ll be traveling NZ with and will be living with when I move back to Chapel Hill in January. We just walked around Sydney and talked for a few hours, and since we could talk about NZ and our apartment and next semester, talking to her helped me be more okay with leaving Perth.

And that brings me to today, when I’m just chillin, bloggin, collecting my thoughts, repacking my suitcase, and enjoying the fact that Michelle’s apartment is right on the water directly across the harbor from the opera house. You might not hear from me again until I’m home, because NZ will be hectic and then I won’t have internet access. So just in case this ends up being my last travel post on this blog, I’ll end with this quote that puts it perfectly:

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