The Red Center of Australia

The next leg of my Australian road trip I was on my own. I was going north, far north to Alice Springs and the heat would not be a pleasant experience for an expectant mum. Three hours flying over nothing, and I mean nothing, except red desert to land in the sleepy tourist town of Alice Springs that seemed to exist mostly as an entry and exit point to the middle of nowhere. But the ground was a beautiful shade of red, and I do love deserts, so I was perfectly pleased.

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Uluru on approach


At 6 a.m. the next morning, I was hustled into a tour bus and sent on down the highway while I watched five hours of pavement pass underneath us. It was a long ride, but the destination was a rock formation elsewhere in that red nothingness. Uluru. A rock I had to see, because…it was there. The “nothingness” was, of course, a whole lot of something to those who traveled that way for thousands of years, long before I was ever a twinkle in the stars. Uluru is massive monolith that is so much more dramatic up close than photos could ever show. There are rock slides and gashes and canyons and deep open caves, some so sacred to ancestors of that land that photographs are not allowed.

And then there were the stories – the creations stories from the Anangu. Dramatic tales of battles, family tragedies and wildlife that account for every mark on that rock. I could have spent a week photographing and exploring it all, but I only had a few hours. Just enough time to appease my curiosity and more than justify the three days of travel to reach it. I watched the sun set on that rock, champagne in hand (who am I to refuse?), purchased aboriginal art that retold the most memorable story of Uluru and packed myself back onto the bus. Finally, another five hours drive through inky black nothingness that hid a world of somethingness that I hope, one day, to discover.


The artist graciously allowed me to photograph her with the artwork I purchased.


Australia from the passenger side

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For the first time ever, I found myself planning a trip to a place I had already been. I spent a summer in Australia as a 15 year-old, a backseat driver on a road trip from Newscastle to Canberra, then off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef and the bluest ocean and most colorful reef I could ever hope to see. The experience was worthy of a front row seat in my memory for decades.

Twenty-two years passed, then happy accidents began to form – a dear friend moved to Melbourne the year before, my family planned a mid-winter trip to Hawaii and I overworked myself enough that I swung approval for a 3 week vacation. When in Hawaii…keep traveling south? It made sense to me.

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And here is where the story begins to repeat, with a view of oceans and red deserts and koalas out the window. I am still a passenger (should I take offense that my friends don’t let me drive on the left side of the road?), but I’ve spent my life looking out the passenger window and the views I have seen there are burned into my memory for life. It is the greatest gift for a traveler.

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