I was in Australia four months with no job.
There was a restaurant in Brisbane where I was called for an interview, but when I got there, the restaurant address appeared to be non-existent. Or maybe I was never meant to work in Queensland, because a week later I flipped on the news and saw a waterfront patio floating down the Brisbane river.
Terrified of ending up like that patio, I left Queensland in search of the driest place in Australia. I chose Alice Springs (a misnomer if I ever heard one) and landed there with a single mission: to hike the perimeter of Uluru.
If the floods weren't a sign of biblical proportions, the oppressive heat and flies that swarmed the airport in Alice Springs should have sent my butt back to Canada, back to Yellowknife, back over the Bering Strait (Arctic child that I am).
But it wasn’t until the next day, when I left the city in search of Uluru that I experienced real Australian heat. If you must know, it feels like someone holding a hair dryer in your face, and you can’t turn away.
For three days I slank my way through the desert, out of my swag bag every morning, and over rocks and cliffs. I squatted over poisonous spiders to pee. I slept under the stars with deadly snakes. I lathered on my SPF 15 sunscreen every half hour (I’m allergic to SPF 30). I drank out of a melted Evian water bottle purchased at the airport. I also drank copious amounts of warm beer and sang Waltzing Matilda.
One girl I was hiking with swallowed a fly and didn't know it. At least, she didn't know it until the fly buzzed out of her sun-stroked vomit.
I didn’t “find” myself in the outback, but I discovered the real importance of Uluru. That giant rock in the middle of the desert? It’s a temple, a life-source, a refuge from direct sunlight (need I say more)? I learned a hint of what Aboriginal peoples in Australia already know:
Sunscreen and deadly adventures are for bored, melatonin-deficient tourists. So find yourself a cave and a community and a water source. Eat a witchetty grub or two. Maybe you will survive. Maybe you will learn how to survive long enough to participate in a culture-specific self-actualization ritual.
Alas, it was two years until I was able to use a hairdryer again.
Cara enjoys long romantic walks down the makeup aisle, and what hasn't killed her has made her chilopodophobic. Once she was a backpacker, but now she prefers her morning shower to be cockroach-free. An aspiring novelist and comedian, she can often be found making bad puns on social media.