Our first taste of Australia…the Outback! As we flew into Alice Springs Airport, all that’s on the wide open horizon is red earth and bright blue sky. It really did feel like we were at some desert outpost. No surrounding buildings, roads enough to get you from point A to B, and a few lonely windsocks flapping around an almost empty runway and terminal. Where are we??!
Our stay was more than welcoming. We were taken in (and fed!) by a very nice Australian couple who own a camping sight for retreats and getaways which emphasizes the importance of encountering the land and using creation to contemplate your relationship with God. Some Australian ‘delicacies’ we were treated to included kangaroo tail, damper (campfire baked bread), an assortment of Aussie beers and wines, and Milo hot chocolate. We also got to chat with some of the men and women who come from the Aboriginal tribes of the local region and later had Mass in their chapel run by the Missionaries of Charity!
But no trip to the middle of Australia is complete without seeing the famous Ayers Rock, which has been returned to its Aboriginal owners who call it Uluru. Our top-notch tour guides left nothing out, giving us a glimpse of this world wonder at sunset and sunrise, taking us to hike through the nearby Kata Tjuta formations and finally a walk around Uluru. I think all the SPES students adapted well to the change from city life. At nights we would gather around a campfire to keep warm (this is winter after all) and then snuggle into our ‘swags’ for a night’s sleep under the stunning array of stars. I can proudly say that on any given night I’m able to pick out the Southern Cross constellation.
Next stop is Melbourne for Days in the Diocese. Should be nice to start the WYD events, but it’s been a real blessing to have this unique cultural experience at the beginning.