Chapter Twelve - Kindness of Strangers
I'm going to get my truck license. Fancy a girl from the Eastern Suburbs learning how to drive a 'stick' truck. My Jewish grandparents would be rolling in their graves.
I've seen the distances that the tour guides drive. The roads are long, straight and mono tenuous. I think it's time I learnt just in case anything was to go wrong and I needed to drive.
I'll learn through work, one of the men in the yard will teach me. The last time I had a lesson I was 16, so I'm a bit out of practice when it comes to learning how to drive.
Even though I'm a completely competent automatic driver, manual is a different story.
That's what I love about living in the outback. There are always new things to learn, from worlds I never knew existed, from 'bush chook' (emu) to hearing about new countries like Lichtenstein, a small country of just 35,000 people near Switzerland.
There are so many new things to take in. I love hearing about the history from Lasseters gold reef to the story about who Alice Springs was named after, Alice Todd, the wife of Sir Charles Todd, who the river is named after and was responsible for the telegraph lines.
The hostel has a revolving door of people, but when it's your friends going, it's really sad.
Two of my best friends left this week. Eric who I have known from day one and my close friend Dome who arrived shortly after I did.
The three of us have been close from the beginning. We saw each other every single day for three months. Catching up over coffees on the lawn, swimming in the pool and watching TV in bed together.
We always looked out for each other. If Eric needed his phone fixed and couldn't take it in during work hours, I'd do it. Or if I forgot to take my washing off the line, Eric would do it for me.
The boys have left for their next adventure. Eric drove up to Darwin with my tour guide friend, Sean. While Dome has moved to the camel farm at Stuart's Well an hour outside of Alice Springs in the direction of Uluru.
I know our paths will cross again, I'm just not sure when.
Kindness of Strangers
I had planned to go back to Sydney for a short visit, while a family member was having an operation. I chose to leave from Uluru as the flights are much cheaper than leaving from Alice Springs.
Alice Springs Airport is owned by Qantas so they have a monopoly over flight prices. You can't fly another carrier in or out of town, making it practically unaffordable for most.
On the morning I was supposed to leave, I thought I would catch the Voyages shuttle which stops at the camel farm, just next to our camp site. I was up at 4am preparing breakfast for my passengers, making beds and cooking lunches. I was feeling organised by the time it was 9am so I walked with my rolling suitcase to the camel farm to wait for the shuttle.
I was so excited to go home. I hadn't been in Sydney for 4 months and the thought of diving into the ocean drove me through those very hot desert days.
I asked the woman behind the counter at the camel farm to call the shuttle for me. She remarked that the 'shuttle doesn't start till 10:30am' and it was only 9am.
Oh no, was I really going to miss my flight?
There are no taxi's in Yulara (Uluru) and very few cars come down to the farm. I was desperate, I asked if anyone from the farm could take me. She explained that all her cameleers were out on tours and she was the only one in the office.
The day before, Owen, the loveliest porter from Desert Gardens Hotel had given me a lift to camp. He was the only person I knew that could help me.
I called the front desk of his hotel and explained myself. I was desperate, he enthusiastically obliged to give me a lift to the hotel and from there a shuttle would take me. I was thrilled.
That's the NT for you. People are so kind and always go the extra mile to help someone in need.
I owe Owen a six pack!
I luckily made it in time for the airport shuttle, with time to spare and grabbed a coffee in the hotel lobby.
While I was waiting for my coffee, I started chatting to a very friendly Kiwi woman. Her name was Susan and we instantly clicked.
It was like two long lost friends meeting again. Susan was in her late 60's and was in the NT on holidays with her husband.
We talked about everything from jewellery to finding love.
Very quickly we started to chat about meeting 'the one'. She had been married for 46 years, she knew after three days, her husband was the one.
We said good bye at the hotel bar where we were sipping coffees. We gave each other a big hug good bye. It was the friendliest encounter I'd ever had with a stranger.
I walked towards my luggage, looked at my phone and was luckily on schedule, thanks to Owen.
A few minutes later, Susan popped up again and asked a couple of questions, one of them was 'where did you grow up?'. Thinking she probably wouldn't have heard of Vaucluse, I told her. Usually I say Bondi to avoid a conversation about money.
She instantly said 'are you Jewish?'. I said 'yes' and she said she was too. I never expected it.
The conversation quickly turned to her two single sons. Like any good Jewish mother, she proceeded to auction them off.
She got so excited, she said 'I'd love you as my daughter in law!'
'And guess what? My daughter has a bridal shop!'
(IMAGE: This is a Troopie, not a truck)