Day 24: Uluru to Alice Springs
For some reason, it felt odd not to go back and say goodbye to Uluru before I headed back up to Alice. It's kind of like staying in someones place overnight without properly acknowledging them. Yulara 20km from Uluru is a stone's throw compared to being anywhere else in Australia.
I made a half decent attempt to catch the sunrise but I was more curious to see what it looked like in broad daylight. When I got there, Uluru was fully dressed in her day clothes. A brilliant red with dark maroon shadows caused by her deep ridges and low lying sun. The grass was every shade of yellow and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Because of my late start, flies came in the thousands so I scooted back to town for a $10 bread roll marketed as a sandwich.
Yulara lives off tourists because foreigners don't know the real Australian standard for service and food. It's actually quite high. Australia has a fantastic hospitality industry with heaps of education options and certifications. It is cool to be a barista or server or hotel staff in Australia. Aussie food is often homemade and isn't prewrapped offsite like American food. Cafe competition in Melbourne is fierce so prices are fair and food quality is of the highest standard anywhere you look.
However, in the middle of the desert, it's hard to find employees willing to live and work in a resort. And I can see how the job can be tiring with long hours and frustrating requests from tourists. Props to them for getting supplies into Yulara every day. But I still can't believe I paid $10 for an empty sandwich. (To be fair it had 5 leaves of spinach and a slice of lamb) Note to self: if you visit Yulara, make your own food.
Back on the road again. It was quite a nice feeling knowing what tonight's bed will look and feel like. It's the first time this trip that I'm riding back to a familiar town (Denham, Darwin, and Yulara are all towns I spent another night in but didn't leave). So, I began riding back 463km on a road I've been on only a few days prior. The scenery didn't change as I expected it to. For some reason, I thought it would be a whole new exciting world. No, it was literally the whole ride I just did - backward. And this would be part 1 of 3 parts of the backtrack. Sometimes a bit of familiarity is a good thing. For example, I wouldn't have to fumble around for a lightswitch tonight because I'd know where it was. It's the little things, really.
I just played my music and got lost deep in thought for the most part. My thoughts were filled with reflections on the trip and the memories I made in each portion. I especially thought of the people I met, namely in Perth, who helped make this trip worthwhile. This leg was the obly time I felt sore at any point while still on Sheba. Usually I feel it while in bed. But I think the mindlessness of the straight familiar road made me feel like my buttcheeks have been slapped repeatedly for 24 days.
When I stopped at the fork to Alice Springs for petrol, I decided to grab a ton of postcards and a coke to chill out for a bit. I have no bloody idea how I missed it the first time, but this roadhouse actually keeps live adult emus out the front right by the parking lot. There were at least a dozen. One of them looked very suspect and I reckon it's because I almost hit his cousin near Denham WA.
Throughout this trip, I would commend Sheba for completing a task. For example, if we had a bit of a slip on some gravel in the road, I'd tell her she's a good girl. She was named after a dog so it seems right. Sheba's a Suzuki GSXR which is popular in Vancouver but for some reason it's a model of motorcycle that people love to hate. They say that GSXRs are slow, don't handle well, and have mechanical failures all the time. Well, and they don't like the aesthetics. Not that we really tested her speed on this trip, nor are there twisties to test the handling (or that I have the skill to do a decent run) but I do know that she's practically invincible. She has been crashed at 120km and turned around to ride to Sydney and back just a few months later (thanks to Tracey and Win). The only thing that's happening mechanically is that her chain is losing o-rings because of the gravel detour and we blew a fuse from the water crossings. Perhaps a couple of paint chips from the roadworks we went through - they can stretch to 100kms! Her chain is looking pretty rough and I don't doubt I'll have to replace it soon. Other than that, she is a beast.
When I arrived in Alice, I fueled up and grabbed 4x 1.5L of water, grapes, bananas, and yet another chicken. The fact that I will have consumed 12 chicken sandwiches in 4 days amused me to no end. But I was still on the bike, and the water bottles took up precious cargo space. So, I rode back to the hostel with a bagged roast chicken on my handlebar. This is real bikelife.
Back at the hostel, it felt a little like coming home. It really was more like a shared house filled with the type of people who don't mind that you're carving a whole chicken in their midst at 3pm. My evening here at Alice's Secret Hostel was spent sipping iced coffee and writing a mound of postcards to my friends and lovely previous customers at random. The nice thing about the desert is that the nights are clear and beautiful, and you don't feel as alone if you think about all the other people looking up at the exact same sky.
Tomorrow is the last leg of the whole trip which involves me going straight North back to Devils Marbles.