So, before leaving the South Pacific for pastures slightly less green, I decided that in order to capture the true essence of Australia, I would head into the outback and see what the big deal was about thousands of miles of red sand and kangaroos. If you read this blog regularly (and come on, why wouldn't you?) you will remember a girl way back from the start of my Australian adventure who made her blog debut when she got so drunk she stole a Dutch girls sandals and had to be fireman lifted back to the hostel. Remember? Well, she caused such trouble in Cairns that she headed straight to Alice Springs (the smallest town in the world) and has spent the last four months working in the hospital, trying to live down her shame and prevent anyone else from heading down the same path she did. After almost half a year in the outback, she was extremely excited to see me. (Or at least, I think she was - she'd recently indulged in some Botox in honour of her fast approaching 30th birthday and as such it was difficult to fathom her moods from facial expressions alone). If you don't know anything about Alice Springs, it is basically a little town randomly plonked in the middle of the outback which is so small that after three days of being there I was seeing people I knew in the supermarket. However, do not mistake it for a town where nothing happens. On Saturday, Rowena took me to the annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival - it is the only one in the world and consists of hundreds upon hundreds of bizarre beanie hats that would not look out of place at a circus (which, incidentally, Alice Springs does not have). It soon became apparent that this was the only town in the world where you'd look like a knob if you weren't wearing a hat with ears and/or an elephant trunk, and as such we spent at least 12 hours sporting ridiculous headwear and nodding in bona fide respect to anyone with an animal on their head. There was a slight drama when some woman had the audacity to attempt a theft of a beanie Rowena had already claimed, and had the Alice Springs bouncers not been lurking, I'm fairly sure some shit would have gone down.
On Sunday, we joined forces with Rowena's friend Kayla, rented a car, and headed into what can only be described as nothing. We discovered the car had pretty sharp brakes after Rowena gently put her foot down at the traffic lights and almost sent us both through the front windscreen... This was the first of many near death experiences in the car, as I later spent a good hour veering off the road at five minute intervals because I was too busy gaping in wonder at various aspects of outback scenery. Within ten minutes of 'outback driving', we had already come across a dead kangaroo at the side of the road. We pulled over (naturally) for a better look and I performed a quick prayer for the repose of its soul whilst Kayla poked it with a stick.You'd think that as it's so deserted there isn't much wildlife in the outback, but apparently this is not the case. Along with the kangaroos (some of which were actually alive), we saw camels (who knew?) and dingoes. Well, we think we saw dingoes - after noticing some very similar dogs in the carpark wearing collars, there's a slight possibility they were actually labradors... I'm fairly sure that at one point I was being circled by a hawk, too - it must have sensed that I was too unfit to be walking in the outback and started to get excited.
On our way back to civilisation (which in the outback means 4 or more people), we stopped by a wild wallaby habitat and got some feed for the wallabies, and it was then that, for the first time in my life, I came face to face with pure evil. As I held out my handful of feed and gleefully exclaimed at how cute the little critters were, I noticed a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. A member of the gathering was standing a little further back from everyone else, eyeing me with suspicion. His fur was matted and dirty, not clean and silky like that of his brothers and sisters, and, had he been able to talk, I'm fairly confident he would have spoken with a rough, East London accent. Taking pity on him, I edged closer and kindly held out my palm. What happened next played out in my mind as if in slow motion. Upon seeing my generous offer, the creature's eyes reddened and he took a threatening step towards me, raising one of his vicious paws as though to strike. Realising a split second too late that I had made a fatal mistake, I started to back away, but before I was sufficiently distanced, the Ronnie Kray of the marsupial world had lunged forwards and sunk his teeth into my flesh. I snatched my hand away, crying out in pain. I could feel the potential rabies spreading through me and, as Marsupial-Ronnie-Kray turned to limp away, I could have sworn he raised his head, looked me in the eye, and said, "see you around, princess", before disappearing into the night.
N.B. These events may differ slightly from what Rowena claims to have seen, but the truth of that night is known only by myself, Marsupial-Ronnie-Kray, and the infamous, dangerous Australian outback...