Saturday, February 10, 2007

Embarrassed in the Outback

Ayers Rock. Australia

Some years ago I spent several months traveling round Australia.
One of the places I visited was Alice Springs and whilst there it seemed like a good Idea to go on a trip to Ayers Rock, which now has an unpronounceable Aborigine name that I can’t
Remember. I traveled there on a coach with a whole bunch of other intrepid tourists. Ayers Rock is a lot further away from Alice Springs than it looks on the map and some bright spark
of a tour operator thought it would be a good plan to visit a
camel farm along the way.

It was after this spit stop that things started to go downhill as several of the aforementioned intrepids took up the offer of a free camel ride. Camels STINK. The rest of the coach ride was
an epic endurance test. All the camel riders sat there steaming camel stench and the rest of us were turning green, though not with envy.
It was a blessed relief to reach our destination and stagger off the coach into the blazing heat of the Australian desert. We were greeted by park rangers who blithely informed us that we were the first visitors to arrive since the reopening of the rock.

View from the top of Ayers Rock

It had been closed while they cleaned up after a previous visitor had fallen off and died. The day was just getting better by the minute.
After receiving advice about carrying plenty of water and not trying this at home etc we were led to “the chicken run”. This was a fairly steep area at the foot of the rock which you have to climb unaided in order to be allowed to continue the assent to the top. Most of the path has posts and chain ropes to help people along the way. After negotiating this initial hurdle we continued upwards, each one at their own pace, I dawdled a little not wanting to feel like I was in a train station at rush hour and most of my camelly companions were soon out of sight.
I had been climbing for about twenty minutes when I came across a forlorn figure sitting on the slope sobbing. It was a young woman who, upon my enquiring into her welfare, told me the sad tale of how she and her boyfriend had saved up for over a year for a dream holiday backpacking in OZ. This weasel of a man had chosen, half way up Ayers Rock, to tell his girlfriend that he wanted them to split up after the trip was over.
Having just reached the end of a fairly serious relationship myself I had nothing but sympathy for her so having persuaded her to continue the climb I kept her company for the rest of the way. There is a book on a pedestal on the top of Ayers Rock where anyone who gets there can write a comment and sign to record the event for posterity. Somewhere in that book along with all the profound comments about the majestic beauty of nature and poetic prose inspired by the climbers own sense of achievement there are two comments about what bastards men are, and I’ve not even got to the most embarrassing part yet.
That's me posing by the pedestal.

Forlorn and Weasel set off together on the descent while I took a few photos. I then realized that if I wasn’t quick the bus would be held up by my tardiness therefore I set off somewhat hurriedly on the downward part of my trek. As it turned out this was a lot quicker than I had anticipated because I slipped and fell backwards landing on my bottom then sliding for at least a hundred yards down the path before having my progress rudely interrupted by a protruding tree branch.
Feeling shaken but relatively unhurt I continued more carefully holding on to the chain for reassurance. I had almost reached the coach when I realized that the friction of my unorthodox descent had ripped the back out of not only my leggings but also my underwear. There I stood with my backside outside in the outback. And the worst was yet to come.
I climbed the steps onto the coach wondering how I could possibly reach my seat, which was near the back, without exposing my derriere to the world in general. It was impossible.
Having considered several courses of action I did what seemed, at the time, to be the most sensible thing. I faced my fellow travellers and apologized politely for delaying their departure, and then I turned around and mooned at them. Among the subsequent shouts and cheers I’m sure I detected the flashes and clicks of several cameras going off among the applause.
If anyone out there, in possession of an old photo of a stranger's bare bottom, ever stops to wonder if that was the most embarrassing moment of my life then I’m afraid to have to tell you that it wasn’t. But that’s another story.


Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Ayers Rock is magnificent. That view from the top reminds me of the U.S. Southwest.

As for camels, my father came back from fighting in North Africa during World War II with only one great hate: camels. I don't believe that it helped his feelings about the beasts that one bit him.

Hale McKay said...

THe Aboriginal name for Ayer's Rock is :


Cazzie!!! said...

backside outside in the outback. ...LMAO :)