By Julius Wright
It’s not often that my wife and I manage to go on a vacation that does not center on our two children. I’ve spent the last five summers taking trips to Disney World, Six Flags, and various other “family friendly” destinations. It’s been…well, to be honest, it’s been miserable. Heat rolling off sun-baked asphalt, overpriced fried food, and lines so long I thought I’d be eligible for an AARP membership before I reached the end.
For my 39th birthday, my wife surprised me with a trip meant just for the two of us: we would depart on an Australian tour and I would spend 3 days on a gritty, manly adventure like my hero, Indiana Jones. My wife even bought me a replica of his trademark hat.
Although our trip was amazing, it brought about the startling realization that I am no adventurer.
At Least It Wasn’t Hump Day
“Sallah, I said *no* camels. That’s *five* camels. Can’t you count?”—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
We were picked up by the tour company at Alice Springs Airport and whisked down a dirt road that would eventually lead us to Kings Canyon Resort. Our journey was briefly interrupted by a refreshment stop in Camels (yes, it’s actually called that), where my wife convinced me a camel ride was in order.
I knew Indiana Jones wasn’t overly fond of camels, and since I was wearing his hat, I decided I wasn’t either. However, after a quiet and gentle ride, I realized camels are far cooler than horses. My camel (Sparky) had a winning personality, and I was disappointed when my short ride was over.
Especially since I had six more hours of uneven road to enjoy…
I Nearly Hissed Myself
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” – Raiders of the Lost Ark
Our second day started early with a short drive from the resort to Kings Canyon.
My wife signed us up for the guided Rim Walk – which the tour company said would be suitable for people with a “good fitness level.” Guess who has two thumbs and isn’t quite as fit as he thought?
That’s right, this guy.
I was stunned by the amazing beauty of the Amphitheater, the Lost City, and Garden of Eden — when I wasn’t wheezing like one of our dog’s worn out squeaky toys. I was slightly let down that the Lost City wasn’t actually a lost city (because hello, Indiana Jones) but I didn’t let my disappointment show. Mainly because overworking my doughy, middle-aged body had led me to a completely new level of nausea and I was busy trying not to lose my breakfast.
After we recovered from our walk, we promptly went on another (yay!). We spent the afternoon with some athletic safari guides who shared their extensive knowledge of Kata Tjuta while making me feel like a sad, sorry excuse for a man.
At one point we came across a snake and I screamed like a little girl. It turned out to be a carpet python, which isn’t poisonous (I thought everything in Australia was?) and the guides may or may not have chuckled at my squeamishness.
This is where my common ground with Indiana Jones ended.
Indy Never Would Have Allowed This to Happen
We watched the sun rise over Uluru on our third day. My wife cried at the splendor.
I sat there and ached.
After sunrise, most of our fellow guests climbed Uluru, but we decided to head back to the hotel for breakfast. I was in pain, and I wanted to drown my sorrow with bacon and a Bloody Mary.
After I self-medicated with meat and booze, we headed out for a tour of Uluru with an Aboriginal guide. We learned about the Mala who lived at Uluru, their lifestyle, and ceremonies – culminating in a visit to their caves and the Kantju Gorge.
While we were admiring the beauty of the watering hole at the Gorge, a gust of wind blew my hat into the pool. It was probably the most cliché moment in my entire life.
I didn’t have a bullwhip, I hadn’t discovered any ancient treasure, and I lost my hat. Any lingering conceived similarities between Indiana Jones and myself were dashed as my fedora floated away.
We made our way back to the hotel, collected our luggage, and headed back to Alice Springs. My wife buzzed the whole way home about the beauty of the Australian Outback, and although I agreed whole heartedly that it was one of the most amazing places we’d ever been, I was secretly mourning the loss of my manhood.
Just thinking about it makes me want a Bloody Mary.
And a bullwhip.
Julius Wright is a writer, husband, and father from Boise, Idaho. He enjoys microbrews, T-bone steaks, and many other manly things. He’s currently trying to grow a majestic mountain-man beard, but his wife says it’s patchy at best.