Many years ago, when I was a musician, I travelled through the world’s biggest living dot painting to the Northern Territory, a bag in one hand and my guitar in the other.
I paid my way by singing for my supper, songs I’d written about the sea. Being a coastal girl I’d never been to a place where there were no seagulls.
I arrived at Yulara, the tourist town that leaches dollars from the grandeur of Uluru. The rock is a magnet for cars, tour buses and four wheel drives. It was hard to find a peaceful place in the middle of the desert.
During the day I would wander away from the resort and sit on a small dune, my pale bare feet digging into the red sand. I felt as though I was in a postcard, with the rock to my left and Kata Tjuta directly in front. I loved the Olgas, they welcomed me with embracing arms. But I found Uluru overwhelming and kept a respectful distance.
On the last day of my desert adventure, a friend took me out to the gorges. We went for a walk. A gentle gradient to the top of a cliff where a ghost gum grew. There we perched like rock wallabies, watching the light shift and change on the range. Down below, birds were coming home to their water hole.
Time slipped by unnoticed.
I gazed at the rock face, the ancient hills and cliffs, always seeing something new. Gum trees clung in seemingly impossible places. Why did they grow there? How? They had no choice, they had to stay where they sprouted and make the most of it. I felt shiftless and reckless in comparison.
We were running late when I took the wheel of Nelly, ship of the desert. She was a big boat of a Kingswood, column shift, dimmer switch on the floor near the pedals.
I sped across the plain chased by a blood red sunset; the fingers of night creeping up and the darkness scurrying behind us, descending gloom and the threat of looming cattle on the road.
The evening star guided us, first through grey/pink clouds and then through the twilight suspended dusk.
The sun disappeared with a thud and leached all the heat out of the air as it went.
I knew the next day Sydney would slap me in the face but that was many hours away.
The night was restless, windy and warm.