Straight to the heart of the country.
A road trip to Uluru/Ayres Rock.
The first journey in my sky blue VW Kombi van. Originally my brother’s, he was handing it over to me.
“You sure about this, Bhakti?” asked Bo. He’d inherited a cautious streak, while I’d got the adventuring bug.
“Absolutely. And I’ve helped you fix that van often enough.” Whether changing tyres, the fanbelt, or making more serious repairs, I knew my way around that baby’s engine.
My best friend, Lux, was coming along for the ride. Being a photographer, she wanted to capture the outback. Uluru – a sacred site for many Indigenous people in Central Australia.
The trip was a first for both of us, and to honour it, Lux wanted me to get inked. Tattooing was her side gig and we’d been trading for years – her art for my tarot readings and jewellery. She spied the silver cuff I was wearing, studded with lapis lazuli. Ancient Egyptians saw the ultramarine hue as a symbol of the sky, lit by the fire of the stars. The heavens made earth.
“Nope, not that. But I’ve got a silver, star pendant with a turquoise gem.”
Lux grinned. “Deal.” She proceeded to ink my left shoulder with a delicate crescent moon; the other with a constellation of stars, and on my upper arm, a pinprick design of the sun. They were stunning.
They symbolized a new beginning.
We weren’t in a rush.
Riding the stretch of highway, we took turns driving. I loved sitting in the passenger seat, my worn cowboy boots propped on the dash; keeping cool in a pair of faded jean shorts and an off the shoulder peasant top. My hair was windblown from the open windows, my eyes shaded by Juno sunglasses.
The open road. The expanse of sky, the blue so clear, I swore I could see through to outer space. The dusky air, dry heat, and a vast landscape.
I felt free.
I didn’t care that the Kombi overheated; that we made frequent stops for petrol, and that we’d avoid the hottest parts of the day by detouring off the highway along dirt roads in search of shade. Lux would wander off to take photographs, and I’d play my guitar, or daydream.
On the journey, we picked up a couple of hitchhikers, both musicians, parting ways at the opal-mining town, Coober Pedy, where I traded crystals for opal chips with a local. We camped, lounging for hours around pit fires under the star studded night sky. Laughing hysterically, we swapped lame jokes while listening to our favourite music. We discovered off-road pubs resembling ranch houses, sharing a few beers, stories and hustling pool with fellow travellers.
And the colours. Crossing into Northern Territory, the earth became the colour of rust, a scorching red; the trees and scrub a palette of ochres to bottle greens.
Lux marvelled at the emptiness of the landscape, but I sensed something else. The land was full of spirits. I could feel them.
And my own spirit soared.
Anything is possible…
Nothing prepared me for seeing Uluru looming from the land.
It was immense, wondrous, a monolith from Creation times.
“It’s incredible,” whispered Lux. We were awed. And as we drove closer, we were silent.
My hand instinctively clasped the silver cuff, as if searching for a touchstone, to anchor me while my imagination took flight.
We parked the Kombi amidst a group of visitors. Out of the van, we both stood, transfixed. People were standing, or mostly sitting on car roofs, lawn chairs, or the ground. A helicopter hovered, but the tourist element didn’t detract from the experience.
Lux set up her tripod, wanting to capture the changing colours of Uluru, as day became night. I climbed up to the Kombi’s roof with a beach towel, a battered straw hat on my head. I kicked off my boots and sat cross-legged, my eyes eager to drink in the view.
I don’t know how long I sat, mesmerised. Lux joined me on the roof, handing me a beer. We toasted the moment, just being here.
“I can’t do this justice,” Lux said.
“Perhaps witnessing it is enough.” And as I rested my head on my bent knees, tears slipped down my cheeks.
My heart swelled with a sense of life being somehow infinite, expanding, that such an ancient testament to the earth’s existence was right before me. I felt grateful to be here, a quiet joy in my soul, the simple realisation that my life was connected to all that was created.
In that moment, that place, anything seemed possible.