We were hot. We were in the middle of the Australian desert. We had been out for hours and the tour we were on had given us a small bottle of water at the very beginning of the excursion. Since we are Americans, we assumed that this would be our ‘amuse-bouche’ beverage. Like an appetizer. So we all drank it right then and there. That was a mistake.
The tour guide was so earnest. At first it was endearing, he knew so much about Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Not that he was from there. But this wasn’t like visiting Gettysburg where we actually KNEW what happened (those people killed these people and there were bodies and George Washington slept here). No, this was like visiting the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind – but after a global memory erasing had been dealt. What does that “Third Kind” bit mean, anyways? I never got that.
So there are a handful of really white people orbiting this giant red rock, in the middle of the bloody desert with no shade, getting Third Degree Kinds of sunburns and dehydrating and listening to this tour guide cease to make ANY sense. About an hour in to this thing he starts telling us that the creases in the rock wall are due to things like “the snake god that took vengeance on the dwarf scorpion” and things like that. I mean there were like 12 of these totally fantastical stories.
My family, who are inquisitive but realize that you don’t ask a crazy person for directions, began to look at one another with long blinks and pouty mouths. Like “what the hell? The tour guide just went nuts.” My father, ever the antagonist, started pointing and asking about other visible fractures in the face of Ayers Rock, as if to egg the guide on. He was told a) that fracture has no significance and b) it is not Ayers Rock anymore – it is Uluru. Ayers Rock is a name that is insulting and disrespectful to the Aboriginal people.
"But the sign at the parking lot says Ayers Rock."
"We just haven’t gotten around to changing that sign yet."
We all took a quiet moment to regard the massive red rock before us. And broke out laughing. It was unstoppable laughter. The kind that is totally insulting to most everyone else. The laugh of drunk people. I remember laughing so hard I reached out to steady myself on a tree and then reeled back in mock astonishment at having discovered a tree. Right then and there my assholish family came up with a fake bit of Aboriginal lore as to how the tree got there.
“The turnip god ate a sun bean and reached for his mistress the sky – but the angry turtle god that had recently failed an anger management course cemented him to the earth out of spite.”
And this went on for FAR TOO LONG. We were all bent over laughing. Everyone else on the tour hated us. And we owned it. But they were stuck with us because there was no short-cut around a giant red monolith like Uluru. Meanwhile my family was totally bonding over sarcastically rewriting all Aboriginal legends. I think it was just the sun and the boredom.
When we got back to the starting point and the guide was finishing up he thanked us all (but made no eye contact with my family). Another person in the group asked about the ant trail of humans climbing up and down this one wall of the rock. He said “oh yeah, you can hike to the top along that rope line and see the view, it’s really fantastic.”
My mother asked about the small group of Aboriginal natives congregated at the base of the climb.
“Oh yes, well, ignore them. Those are Aboriginal elders. They are protesting the climbers since Uluru is a sacred monument.”
“… didn’t you just recommend that we all climb the rock to see the fantastic view of nothingness?”
“Okay, so I think that concludes the tour. It was a pleasure to have met you all. G'Day.”
We literally fell over laughing at this guy’s retreat. And then we got a bottle of water and climbed the rock.
There was absolutely nothing to see from up there. I mean NUH-THING.
We went back to our hotel, had cocktails and bitched about the loud birds again.