Thursday, July 26, 2012

Catch-up Post: Our Hero Outback Ricky

As mentioned in the previous post, Morgan and I planned on driving from Kings Canyon back to Ayers Rock. That way, we could spend the night camping there, wake up to see the sunrise over Uluru (since the rain seemed to be going away), and catch our flight back to Melbourne at noon.

Well, I backed up the car and then pulled forward to leave the parking lot. But I didn't see a very low wooden post in front of us. Therefore, I rammed the undercarriage of the car into the post, and it did a little damage. Whoops.

That was only the start to our car adventures. We stopped at Curtin Springs campground again to get some fuel. It's basically the only place you can get gas (or even see any form of civilization) between Kings Canyon and Uluru (a few hours apart). Well, I sort of filled our car's tank with diesel gas. Whoops again! In my defense, I was still flustered from ramming the post, and the pump was old-fashioned and not well labeled at all. 

Luckily, I realized what I had done before we drove away. We would have been SERIOUSLY stranded if we had driven away and headed out on the cell phone reception, no people, nothing. Americans, we joke about how there is "nothing" when you drive through states like Kansas or Nebraska. You haven't seen true "nothing" until you've been in the Outback. I've never seen such emptiness; I can't even explain it.

Anyway, as soon as I realized what I had done, I knew it was bad. We told the people inside the little store, and we soon had a few guys who worked there gathered around our car trying to figure out what to do. The first thought was that we could siphon out the wrong gas, put the correct kind in, and be on our way. Well, our rental car was a newer model that had some sort of "lock" on it so you couldn't siphon it out with a hose in the regular way. Not that we had any clue what the regular way was!

One guy who was helping was particularly attractive. His name was Ricky, although to this day we refer to him as "Outback Ricky." Imagine the most ruggedly handsome cowboy-ish Australian guy possible, and that pretty much sums up Outback Ricky. This guy took off his cowboy hat and tried to siphon out the gas with his MOUTH for us. We're talking mouthfuls of pure diesel, folks. He was nearly gagging as he did it, but he tried for several minutes.

Unfortunately, it was soon quite apparent that this method wasn't going to work. After all, I had basically filled the whole tank before realizing it was diesel. Outback Ricky and his friend (a tour group driver who pulled in with his van full of folks for the evening) then came up with an idea where they could undo the fuel line from under the hood of the car and blow out the diesel fuel. This was after calls were made to car dealerships in Alice Springs to figure out if there was any way to easily fix this problem with this model of car (there wasn't). But the big boss man told us that Ricky couldn't do anything on his property, because he would be held liable if anything went wrong.

There was a repairman in Kings Canyon, but he was done for the day and couldn't come out until the next morning. So we were basically stuck. Outback Ricky and his friend pushed our car toward a campsite (since we were apparently staying for the night). Actually, once they were out of view from big boss guy, they pushed it over toward their work shed and kept trying to figure out how they could help us. Unfortunately, big boss man caught them and gave Outback Ricky a bit of a "talking to" around the corner of the shed. We felt so bad that we got him in trouble!

So we stayed the night at Curtin Springs. We made lots of frantic pay phone calls to the Kings Canyon resort to set up the repairman's visit as early as possible the next morning, and to Zack, trying to organize alternative flights if we weren't going to make ours the next day. That night, the tour group guy invited us over to share in his group's campfire. We met some nice folks from all over the world. We shared glow sticks with them, and they shared damper (traditional Australian bread made over the campfire) with us. It wasn't too bad after all.

In the morning, we anxiously awaited the repairman's arrival. He came, but it took awhile for him to get all of the gas out. Then we had to push the car back to the pump, put in the right gas, and head out on the road. Morgan gave Outback Ricky her phone number on the way out, because he was making a trip to the US (including California) in a few months. I desperately wanted a picture of him, but Morgan refused to let me take one. She was too embarrassed! I'll never let her live it down. Unfortunately, he never did call her! :)

Anyway, if we were going to make our flight, we really had to book it. The nice thing about Outback roads is that they are completely straight and empty. I was seriously going over 100mph almost the whole way to the airport, and it didn't even feel that fast. We were a little sad as we passed by Uluru when the sun was actually out; seeing the sunrise would have been awesome.

We made it to the airport in time. In fact, our flight was delayed! Unfortunately, this wasn't a good thing, because it meant that we would possibly miss our connection in Sydney. We had a plan when we got to Sydney; Morgan would get our bag, and I would check in with the Jetstar people and beg them to let us on the flight. Our first flight was with Virgin Airlines, so I knew Jetstar wouldn't be that sympathetic to our missed connection. Well, our bag was the last one out, and the Jetstar folks were closing the flight, saying I would have to get on the next one, which would cost us each over $100.

Morgan ran up the stairs and over to me with the bag as they were telling me this, and I begged some more. They said if we didn't have the bag, it would be no problem. So I said, "Pretend we don't have the bag; we'll leave it back on the conveyor belt with Virgin." They said if we did that, they could get us on the flight with just our carry-on luggage. So we ditched the bag, which ironically we only brought so we could have the tent (which we never used because of the rain!). I knew that Zack was traveling to Sydney for work the following week, so I figured he could pick it up then or something.

We ran through the airport, made our flight, and when we landed, I had a voicemail waiting for me from Virgin Airlines, saying that we had left a bag there (surprise!). I called them back, acting like we "forgot" it in our rush to make our connecting flight, and they actually flew it to Melbourne for free. So when I brought Morgan to the airport to go home the next day, we were able to get it! In the end, everything ended up okay, and we got home safely. Zack had food and flowers waiting for us, and we were happy to be back in Melbourne, where we were dry and warm.

Our trip to Uluru was kind of crazy and definitely not the normal tourist's experience, but it makes for a good story now. And I learned to always double check which type of gas I'm putting in the car!

Our only glimpse of Uluru in the sunshine!

1 comment:

  1. As crazy as your trip was, I am still super jealous!