The Arctic Dream

We leave crumbs of our wandering souls in every town we visit, waiting for other itinerants to rekindle them with a life of their own and wander all over again. We spend our lives hoping and dreaming that somewhere in those cities our laughter still echoes; and our spontaneous dreams still live on in the memories of passing strangers. And I still wonder – what is life if not a sum total of a million memories created by us and those deep in the sub-conscious of lives we once touched?


With mad dreams of living in every city we visit, we started walking on the narrow streets of Oslo’s down town. In these streets you would expect cars and trams to jostle for space and possibly be constrained by the design, but to our surprise, the traffic was as smooth as can be expected. Oslo was our first port of call in Norway as we embarked on a 10 day vacation to the land of the midnight sun. Continue reading “The Arctic Dream”

Vertical limit

“One thing that we share is the silence of God
We got nothing to do but wait out our trip
To the end of the world, you get used to it
And all we’re asking for,
Is nothing but the truth” – Coby Brown (Edge of Man)

The clouds tumbled down the lush green mountains as the first rays of light streaked through the dense skies. I stirred from my early morning stupor as the car lurched precariously along another curve. Beside me the soon-to-be chef slept like a log. On the other side, my soon-to-be wife, slept with her hair in tussles, beautiful and with a confident calmness about her. The beautiful landscape that rolled by at great speed was just a precursor to what we would see over the next 4 days. We hardly expected what came our way, but in the end we were happy about it. Continue reading “Vertical limit”

Just the beginning….


The strains of an African tune filled the car as we cruised through the wildly varying landscapes – from mountains to valleys, rivers to lakes and dense forests to open meadows. 700 miles of these over 5 days across Montana and Wyoming. We were graduating from being just good road trippers to real campers and adventurers.

It was nearing the end of one of the best years of my life. And it was the end of the summer of 2012. We decided to end it on a high note by visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton – two of the finest national parks in the US. Continue reading “Just the beginning….”

Of Bays, Sin City, Death Valley and Red Rock Country

Devil's Bridge

San Francisco to Lee Vining

The biggest attraction of our trip to the west coast trip was the epic road trip that we were going to do. For us it has always been the favorite aspect of any trip. Hence, when we reached San Francisco we decided to cut down our time in the city to just one evening and the following morning. It was probably the wisest decision we made on our trip. Large cities have never interested us. Small towns where you can breathe the everyday life of the people and feel their warmth are what excite us. Continue reading “Of Bays, Sin City, Death Valley and Red Rock Country”

End of Road

The Trip: Bangkok, Pattaya, Cambodia

Partners in Crime: Sid and Me

There always comes an end in a journey of wandering souls and the beginning of something new. For us it will be the fact that Sid is getting married in 2011. This was something of a last journey together. Something of a memoir to remember life as we know it. Things may not be the same again for both of us, but they won’t be bad. They will be different. The beginning of a new era. A new chapter of life. And what best way to end it than visiting Thailand and Cambodia in a beer-filled haze. Memories of many evenings are but a fraction of what we would usually have. The beer did the trick. We walked with Singha.

Day 1, 2: Bangkok

The build up to the trip was intense with the amount of work we were squeezing in everyday. That’s the best way to enjoy any trip. Work yourself up to a point of frustration and then you can really take anything that a trip would throw at you. We landed up in Bangkok on the weekend of the Kings birthday. Started off the first day with some awesome Thai food with a friend who was in Bangkok. She helped us out with some of our planning and also took us around to the Chatuchak market. Probably the only place in the world that can beat Khan El-Khalili in Cairo.

The two days in Bangkok passed by quickly with evening spent in company of Singha beer and thai food. What we were looking forward to was the next leg of the journey. The road trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Day 3, 4: Siem Reap

Monday morning presented a challenge. We had to wake up early and get onto a bus for Aranyaprathet – the border town on the Thai side. A 6:30 AM bus got us started off on the 5-hour trip to Aran. Although the trip was uneventful the border at Cambodia was one big scam. Luckily for us, we had read about it on the internet and being Indians we were used to getting scammed on tourist locations. We are naturally trained to be street smart while going out as tourists.

We got the visa the authentic visa counter of the Cambodian officials (they were very helpful and friendly) and avoided the scams going on  slightly before the border. Next step was to negotiate with a cab driver to take from Poipet to Siem Reap. It was a good 2 hour drive through the country side with small towns along the way – we started off with an Angkor beer which was really awesome. The driver gave us a taste of Cambodia by eating a bag full of insects in the car. Thankfully they were dead and fried – or we would have had a situation.

We slept off the afternoon to be ready for the eventful evening tht followed us. Siem Reap is famous for the number of pubs it has. There is a street near the old market which is called Pub Street. This is half a kilometer long and is lined up with pubs back to back on both sides of the street. There are all different kinds of pubs from Irish to Ghetto to Oriental to Hip-hop.

What followed was a rampage through the street – going to atleast 3 different pubs. At the end we settled at the Ghetto styled pub called “Angkor What?”. Funny name we thought. The bartender was a young guy with stories to tell of his travels. As the bar filled up so did we with beer after beer. We started chatting with some random Canadians and played several rounds of pool with them – of course towards the end we were kind of drunk and barely knew what was happening.

Its funny how closed we are while we meet strangers in our own lands but never exchange a word. Maybe all we share is prejudice for each other. Maybe its the way we’ve been brought up, maybe its the culture in this country. But when we travel we are different people. We are bound by the common thread of backpacking. Of being among the adventurous few. When we travel, we are no longer Indians or Canadians or Americans or Europeans – we are travelers. We share experiences, we share lifetimes. Its those memories that stay with you forever. I still remember my conversations with random strangers in Yulara out in the wilderness of the Australian outback even though its been nearly three years. It is these experiences that define a journey. Its these strangers that make your travels worthwhile.

On the second day of the trip we visited the ruins of Angkor Vat. These are the temples and the ruins that have witnessed centuries of struggle and genocide in a land where god abandoned the people. With the towering branches and roots gobbling up the Ta Prohm temple it almost felt as if various secrets are being protected forever. The eerie silence in these ruins weigh heavily on us and after noon and lunch we call it a day. On the way back to Siem Reap we are greeted by rains which are a common thing in afternoon in these parts of the world. The air is damp and we enjoy the ride back to Siem Reap and thank ourselves that it was not a car/ cage, but an open Rickshaw.

Day 5, 6: Pattaya

Welcome to sin city. Its a city that lives on sex. Sex is sold on streets, in bars, in hotels, in shops, on the promenade, in the alleys… everywhere. The beach road in Pattaya is something that I will miss the most after the crazy town of Siem Reap. Rows and rows of pubs interjected by small allies – yet again filled with pubs and go-go bars. They all end in one giant culmination called the walking street. Try to walk this street without being felt up atleast once and I will give you a thousand dollars. We walked around on the beach road and walking street, enjoyed all the sights and sounds of Pattaya.

We realised that it was cheaper to buy beer from 7/11 and drink it on the streets. After all it was all legal here. On the beach street, in every direction you look, there will be atleast one 7/11 (except of course in the direction of the sea). After two nights of fun and debauchery we were ready to return to Bangkok and end the trip.

Day 7, 8: Back to Bangkok

The last few days in Bangkok were uneventful but we had a lot of fun by going to different bars. Last night in Bangkok we went to a pub called The Rock which was really awesome with a live band playing some hits from Metallica and Megadeth. We were almost tapped out of cash by the time we got out of the pub. It was a long walk back to the hotel.

The nights in Bangkok envelop the city in an almost deafening cloak that keeps the good insulated from the bad. The bright neon lights camouflage the distress of the thousand of girls and the desires of men. Under its willing arms, Bangkok conceals a lot. I wonder what we would have discovered beneath the mask and the guise if we had but stayed on longer…..

…. But the secrets would have to wait as we bid farewell to the city that marks the end of an era for us. To new beginnings and to growing up…

Desolation Angels

What started off as a casual idea of us doing a road trip together soon snowballed into a plan and set off several things in motion. Over the course of 5 months, I got my US tickets, the visa and made a plan to visit my sister in New York. What hinged my trip to my travel philosophy was the lure of the road trip through 4 states. New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The route? New York – Winchester – Doughton Park (via skyline drive) – Great Smokey mountains national park (via Blue Ridge Parkway and Tennessee Interstate).

The drivers – Me and a friend from engineering days

The car – Chevrolet Cobalt (never ever rent American cars. They suck. Period.)

The start – Jersey City, New Jersey (0 miles)

The trip started off with a bounty-hunt trying to find the rental car in the sprawling West parking deck of Newport Mall. As she drove us out of the city, I could almost feel both of us slowly shedding the worries of work, the daily grind, the urban fears, the heartaches and everything that held us down.

First stop – Winchester, Virginia (250 miles)

When you are in a fairytale town and there are things you want to say, it becomes that much more difficult to hold them down. And I swear I could have cried in that little town. Not out of sadness but out of hysteria at the tipping point of the year that went by, out of the fear of the finite nature of this journey, out of the fear of pouring my heart out. We were living in a fairytale. We were two souls thrown together with a common purpose – to find ourselves through this journey, to find a way out and to change what we could not in the urban chaos. As we walked along the cobblestone streets of downtown Winchester, we saw the quaint little town in all its resplendent beauty. Little bars with happy and content trippers – maybe some travelers. An old man with a very familiar face gave us the best advice on relationships during the trip. The Irish stuff was slowly getting to me. I never wanted to go back, but the alcohol weighed us down after a while and we walked along the dream and back to our room. When I woke up in the morning, I could have sworn that last night was a dream.

Second stop – Bluffs Lodge, Doughton Park, North Carolina (650 miles)

What lay ahead of us was a 100 miles of the beautiful skyline drive in the dreamy Shenandoah valley followed by hundreds of miles of winding roads in the Appalachian range. The day’s target was to reach the only inhabited place along the 600 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway called Doughton Park. A million overlooks rolled by on both sides of the parkway. We stopped at a few to gawk at the sprawling mountain range and appreciate man’s creation jostling for some attention in the selfish show of nature. As I smoked a cigarette at one of the overlooks, I could almost hear myself breathe in that silence that surrounded us. The air, clean at this height and damp with the impending rains.

As I tired after a while she took the wheel only to be greeted by a dense sheet of fog, lashing rains and desolation. I wondered if this was her comeback. She battled the rains as it became a tug of war – sometimes the rain slowed her down and on others she tore through the rain with determination I had never witnessed. After her trial by the rains when I took over, we had a minor fuel scare. We managed to get through the situation nearly scraping the fuel tank in the process after which she slept sound only to wake up at Doughton Park. There was a sense of accomplishment as we opened the bottle of wine and chugged a few glasses before going to sleep.

As I stepped out in the morning, I was greeted by a beautiful panorama of rolling pastures and lonely scattered trees. A quick breakfast at a typical North Carolina deli and we were ready to hit the road again.

Third stop – Great Smokey Mountains, Tennessee (900 miles)

Every trip has a purpose whether you set out with it or you find one during the trip. Road trips are designed like that. For some people there is nothing glorious about driving a 1,000 miles to reach a camping destination – however what they don’t realize is that travelers do not seek glory. We do not seek acceptance. All we seek is answers – though we never get them. The day you start getting your answers is the day you stop being a traveler or it’s the day you die.

As we snaked along the parkway in the bosom of the Blue Ridge Mountains I knew the purpose of this road trip. Catharsis. I needed to change things about life. I needed to come up with things I wanted to do differently with life. (However, I didn’t come up with a list until later while doing the Highline walk in New York City). What we did come up with were lists of things we both wanted to do before we died. Our bucket lists.

Day slowly turned to evening as we finally slid off the Blue Ridge parkway almost saying a good bye with a heavy heart. We weren’t sure if we would ever be able to come back or if things would be the same if we ever did manage to return. A small Applebee’s diner in a Tennessee town saw us through our lunch and we continued onto the Tennessee Interstate tearing down to Cosby, TN. The goal was the reach the Great Smokey national park before the last bit of sun went out and the black bears came out to play. As fate would have it, it rained that evening and we ended up spending the night in the car – brought back memories of Australia when we spent several nights sleeping in the car. We did manage to light up a fire for a brief period of time and got high enough to be able to sleep it off.

Fourth stop – Gatlinburg and then back to Jersey City (1,650 miles)

The next day we headed towards another dreamy little town which finds itself ensconced among the high ridges of Great Smokey Mountains. We had an elaborate breakfast after which we started heading back to Jersey City. I found myself feeling depressed through a large part of the trip back, because let’s face it, the thought of a big city invariably has thoughts of the mundane life and the urban chaos associated with it. Though New York City has a charm of its own, I can’t help but feel boxed in. At the same time, the thought of ending the beautiful 4 day journey came bearing down on me. We stopped yet again at Winchester on our way back and we went to the same bar. We couldn’t believe it when we saw the same old man yet again! Winchester lifted up my spirits as we started talking again – talking about our heart-breaks, talking about where life was heading, about a million other things. As we sang along to songs we loved, we rapidly zipped through the Interstate highways at 80 miles an hour. The lights of Jersey City loomed on the horizon and it was time to say goodbye.

Made by Men, Touched by God

Mumbai airport. Terminal 2. Gate 7. I’m finally here. It all started off as a drunken babble. Or it must have been something similar. The fact is it all happened so long back that I’ll need another drink to delve into that part of my brain which acts as a dump yard of unwanted waste. It’s amazing how you can muster all the patience for things that you like to do.

These were the days of great unrest among us. Our lives were so entwined with the daily worries of stock markets and clients and deadlines that our youth was getting crushed in that great juggernaut. The worst part was we failed to realize. Maybe we still do not. But this journey was an attempt on our part to get back the lost days, to discover new lands, to feel like adventurers, to feel free again.

Onward to Sydney

By the time we grow old, probably a third of our time would have been spent at airports and transit lounges. Singapore airport turned to be another one of those so-called great airports of the world. I had a different opinion about it. But that could be because I hate all airports. The enormity and manufactured ‘beauty’ didn’t really change my opinion about it. It turned out to be a tiring journey and it was morning by the time I reached Sydney.

I met Sid there and the excitement of the journey started brimming from that point onwards.


We’d decided to spend the first day in Sydney preparing for our trip and the vehicle which would eventually take us around the great Australian Outback. The shopping list included a tent, stove for cooking the food while we are camping and certain essentials for the trip. It was a Saturday and our journey was to begin early on Sunday. Sid’s friend was ready to give us his ’92 Mitsubishi Lancer (two-door) for the trip. We decided to accept that as it would save us a lot of money from the car rent (this would eventually turn out to be one of our worst decisions of recent times). We went and brought the car and parked it within the city so we could hit the road early Sunday morning.

Sydney to Katoomba (110 Kms)

Day one of the trip started off in a bad hangover from the previous night’s drinking. I was to drive us out of Sydney as Sid was not conversant with manual gears. The M4 motorway was a beauty and we reached Katoomba in no time. This was where the Blue Mountains were. They were called Blue Mountains because of the colour they assumed during the day. The hills of Katoomba offered a beautiful view of the Blue Mountains and it was the perfect way to start the trip.

Katoomba to Hay (500 Kms)

The night rolls away with a puff of wind among the vast, cold plains of the New South Wales winter. We drive through the thunder and rain, almost impeding us at every turn. The wipers move with a death rattle that could leave us in the lurch at any point of time. We’re singing songs along the way, oblivious to the rain outside, yet enjoying every minute of it, smoking cigarettes, talking about old times and all the things in life that won’t matter to us during the next 10 days. The road abruptly stops its sprint as it ends with a final sigh into a T-junction – gear shift, clutch, brake – the engine almost complains as we bring the car to a halt after taking a left towards Hay. The rain has finally let up and we decide to water the plants by emptying our bladders into nothingness. As I stepped out of the car, a sudden realization dawned upon me; that of being in the absolute wilderness and being free. No cell phones, no emails, no worries – just the open road and the car. All around me were the flattest plains of the great Australian continent. We drove the final 100 Kms in silence; probably both of us were contemplating our choices in life and the decisions we made. What we had given up in the past couple of years was our own self that was free; free of choices, free of decisions, free of the family. We were changed men. Maybe the whole purpose of this trip was to bring back that old self. Talk to our long lost alter egos that got killed in the hustle of daily life in the city. But here we were now, in a small town called Hay, just a few hundred Kms from the border of New South Wales. The night was heavy with sleep and moist with the fresh rains. We pulled over at a roadhouse and slept in the car. Our first night’s sleep, sound as hell.

Lake Mungo National Park (700 Kms.)

We woke up early just in time for a large breakfast prepared by the jovial old lady of the roadhouse. Sid joked around with her when she brought us our breakfast plates in her bare hands and warned us that the plates were extremely hot. We freshened up and headed for the first major town along the way. Balranald.

Sid drove all the way to Balranald while I sat back smoking a few cigarettes and enjoyed the beautiful morning views. We had a bad tyre condition when we reached Balranald. To aggravate it further, some vital part required to detach the tyre was missing. It took us about an hour to get it fixed and cost us 25 dollars. We picked up a bottle of Jim Beam, supplies for the night to be spent at Mungo National Park and some firewood.

The drive to Mungo was through a dirt road. Took me a long time to get used to sloppiness of tyre grip on that surface and after a while I started enjoying the fact that car would just glide over the surface. The speed limit was 80. Hell. I take it past 120 with no steering response. We reached there just in time to catch the days last bit of light which helped us put up the tent.

By the time we started the fire (after several attempts and using various techniques like starter twigs, petrol, paper, etc.) it was dark and getting colder. Sid heated up the beans on our little gas stove and we gulped them down like hungry dogs. Soon we polished off a bottle of Jim Beam while standing around the fire-pot and talking about the old days, about the future, about how stupid we were at times, about how we missed another friend of ours at that point of time. It would be futile to even attempt to describe the sky that night. Sid was convinced that he could see atleast two galaxies from out there. Millions of stars gazed at us in amazement asking us where we were all our lives. It was as if we were born to see this day; as if all the stars in the sky had come out in one giant parade to adorn this vast continent, to honour the night and to look over the weary travellers, to cradle them in their beauty and make them feel at home. The night grew darker and we grew hungry after finishing of the entire bottle of Jim Beam. Sid cooked the chicken over the open fire and I felt it right then. We were living in the wild. Away from the burdensome civilization, living our own lives and we were truly free.

Mungo to Coober Pedy (1,400 Kms.) and the Kangaroo Incident

We looked like slick city boys every time we took a shower or shaved. Deep inside we just wanted to be adventurers but it’s so difficult to shake off that other self of yours!

First stop from Mungo National Park was Mildura which was in the state of Victoria. Sid slept all through as I drove at high-speeds of 160 kmph to reach Mildura as soon as possible. We had a couple of pints of Guinness at O’Malleys, a beautiful Irish pub. After having the usual lunch of burgers and fries we hit the road yet again.

This time we drove through beautiful wineries just out of Mildura and the road all the way up to Adelaide was cut straight out of God’s own photo album. The Barossa Valley and the other small wineries around were simply breath-taking. As we reached Adelaide the road started going uphill and around beautiful green pastures of various shades until all the roads came down-hill with a final sigh to reach the city of Adelaide. Cities have never excited me much. It was the raw and untamed outback that I was lusting after. I was to taste the power and ruggedness of the outback tonight.

Adelaide was the southernmost tip of our journey. After having dinner at Adelaide we started heading north. The road from here goes in the absolute north direction right up to the northern tip of Australia which is Darwin. Sid slept yet again as I drove from Adelaide to Port Wakefield and all the way to Port Augusta which was like an inflection point. Beyond this town lay the beautiful Australian outback. The sudden changes in the landscape (as Sid described it) really amazed us. It was like god had put a ruler out there and drawn a straight line across. We filled up on Gas at Port Augusta and also filled up our Jerry can for extra fuel since we were going to be driving through the night.

Just as we left Port Augusta and hit the Stuart Highway the air became colder and the night became calm and an almost eerie silence enveloped our car, almost travelling with us. Civilization, vegetation and lights soon thinned out as the road jerked itself into a straight line; straight as an arrow. We kept on driving through the night till we ran out of fuel. Sid was awake now and I needed his jerry-can skills. As we opened the door we were hit by a gust of chilling night air. No sound anywhere. No life. The winter wind breathing down on our necks and the sound of our quickened breath. Sid refuelled the car as I looked around and all I could see was darkness fallen like a blanket over the plains surrounding us. These plains would run for several thousand kilometres. And in the great Australian outback, the roads unfold like one continuous, giant carpet, made by man but touched by God.

Once again we headed towards Coober Pedy and this is when we switched the driving seat a couple of times amongst us until I finally suggested we pullover on the side of the road and sleep. We must have been sleeping for about half an hour when a truck driver stopped and asked if we were okay. I lost my sleep at this point and without saying anything I just started driving with one objective in mind – to reach Coober Pedy. This night was a recipe for disaster. I must have been driving at 140 Kmph when a huge 6-feet tall Kangaroo went across the road. Since it had already gone across I decided not to slow down but as fate would have it, the Kangaroo saw us and just turned back and timed it so perfectly that I had no times to brake and we ran into it. The Kangaroo died and the complete kerb-side of the car was badly damaged. It was a borrowed car with no insurance cover. Sid suggested we drive on slowly till Coober Pedy since, luckily, the car engine was still running fine. We finally reached around 4:30 in the morning and got a 3 hour sleep at a roadhouse.

Mike and Wally (Almost a dead-end)

We woke up with red and swollen eyes. It was a sunny day but not cheerful at all. Our first stop was Bull’s Garage where we were told that the only way out was to sell off the car in Coober Pedy and get a flight back to Sydney. Our hopes of making it to Ayer’s Rock almost came crashing down on us. Second stop was Dusty’s Mechanical Works. Same story, same response. Dejected we decided to stay over in Coober Pedy for that night and think about what to do through the course of the day. We went to The Underground Motel and met Mike there who was very helpful and he too mourned for our car. But he suggested we take the car to one of his friends, Wally. Wally looked at the car and promised us that he would do something about it if we left it with him for the day.

We spent the day catching on some sleep and whiling our time in the little mining town. Sid was on the phone constantly trying to snap things back into place. We got ourselves a few beers and saw some TV. As promised, Wally brought us our car first thing next morning and it was temporarily fixed and Wally promised we could drag it for another few thousand kilometres. This immediately lifted our hopes and we were all packed and set to hit the road again. Battered and bruised but never say die had become our motto then.

The Road to Uluru (750 Kms)

The last few grains of sand drain away in the hourglass; no one turns it for decades.

Life probably stood still in the northern territory for decades. Dead animals lay all over the road showing signs of humans having driven there. The soil turns red as if in anger, smouldering at these unwanted guests. Kulgera was the first stop; probably the last before Uluru. We’d decided to make it to Uluru by sundown so that we wouldn’t have to drive in the dark with one headlight. A couple pints of Carlton Draught and we were good to go. Once again the bar left a lasting impression on us; a place as small as Kulgera and bang in the middle of nowhere, yet they conjure up a beautiful pub like this. Life seemed to fade away into gentle slumber in these towns. The worries and hustle of daily life seemed to be a thing of no consequence here. Our aim in each town – find the nearest pub for a pint of beer. Why is it that people you meet on the road leave a lasting impression and you never forget them? I still remember that girl who was bartending in West Wyalong. That drunk who was listening intently to our story while vigorously nodding. It was then that I realised my biggest folly. It was never the places that define its people. It was the people who made these places worthwhile. Without them all the natural beauty of these places was of no consequence. We asked the bartender for some information about the next stop where we could refuel our car. The next stop was Ehrldunda, where we refuelled and drove on.

The road to Uluru goes west from Stuart Highway. At Ehrldunda you take a left turn off the Stuart Highway and it goes straight to Uluru and to Kata-Tjuta National Park. The same road also continues onto the border of the ever elusive and dangerous Western Australia; the Western Australia of the deserts that adorn the land and bring out its barren beauty. We were cautioned several times about the road we were taking as it was full of animals, not only Kangaroos but also bulls and rabbits and koalas. The road just swerved around the flat plains to negotiate dry rivers and lakes. I drove on at 130, soon 140. We had to be there by sun down. Soon it became a mad race between us and the sun. Every bend where the elevation in the road blocked the sun, was like a victory lap for us. The evening sun shone right into my eyes as I tore through the outback. In the end we made it safely to Yulara and just in time (with a couple of scares when I had to just slam the brakes right in).

Two Nights at Yulara and the elusive Ayer’s Rock

We were almost broke by the time we reached Yulara. Hell, not just broke but also in debt for the broken car. We only had enough money to buy petrol and food that would take us back to Sydney. Sid mourned the fact that all those Europeans would be staying at the plush hotels within the resort while we had to make do in a tent on the campgrounds (which cost us a bomb). After buying a couple of things from the Supermarket the only natural thing to do was to go to the pub. It was called the Outback Pioneer Pub. It was beautiful. There were people from all over the world: Germans, Americans, French, Italians and Indians. All were here to see the rock and breathe in the pure and spiritual air from the heart of Uluru. The man who played the guitar and sang Dire Straits was a perfect addition to the whole ambience. We had a few beers and started heading back as the crowd thinned out.

The night wrapped us like an iced blanket out for revenge. The temperature had dropped to -1˚ C. Shivering and shaking we walked the long walk back to the tent. Sid was constantly on the phone with the ‘girl of his dreams’. I called him a pansy and made him feel guilty about being on the phone. It’s hard to make him feel guilty, but I was really surprised to find that I was succeeding.

Next morning was when we headed to the Ayer’s Rock. Our great aim was to climb it. The local Anangu tribe requests all visitors to refrain from climbing the rock as it has some kind of a spiritual significance for them. But the urban visitors that we were, we do not pay heed to their advice. Several people had died while attempting to climb the rock. But we took it on a challenge and started climbing. We drove 4,000 kms for the Ayer’s Rock but we couldn’t do it. We were weak. Or maybe we were still weighed down by a thousand worries of the real world. This isn’t real, none of this. And on the climb up, I could feel the Anangu whisper to me and I could feel the tribe giving us gentle admonitions. It’s their tradition, their heritage and their spirit. We dared to soil it with our gutless goals. And we couldn’t go further than halfway. On the way back I felt I conversed with them. And I asked them, where did you come from? Where did you disappear? Did the worldly pleasures not suit you? Why did you give it all up? Why can’t I give it all up? I didn’t expect any answers- maybe I was talking to myself. All I could feel was the massive and intimidating Ayer’s rock push me down; back into my own world; into my own life of misery.

And in the Land of Anangu, under the Ayer’s Rock, we shall taste true freedom, all our vices will bleed in the courts of the dead and truly free is what our souls shall be. Our past lives will be wrenched free from our hearts by that vast untamed outback and life’s beginning will shine bright over that timid, amorous sunset.