We’re sad to leave Ooraminna and the Lorimers – omnicapable Nicky and laconic Morgan with his cowboy tan, pale forehead atop ruddy cheeks and a wide smile – and their independent, curious children. The helicopter we noticed on our way in is how Morgan herds the Homestead’s cattle. The potential efficiencies don’t balance with the utter jackass peril. In the kitchen, Nicky fixes us a box lunch as the two of us gab, while Ali and the girls, Mia and Savannah, work on Cinderella’s jigsaw puzzle. I sit down with them and they ask me if I’ve ever flown first class. I find myself ‘splaining, the gist being – “Big seats that fold down all the way,” I say, pointing the La-Z-Boy by the TV.

Ali and I depart shortly after nine with a five-hour journey ahead of us. The road to Uluru (Ayers Rock) doesn’t seem as monotonous as the one up the west coast. Plus, we stop at every roadhouse for bladder realignment and the pleasure of purchasing each establishment’s hokey stickers. Roughly four hours into the journey, I spy a great red butte or mesa or something that I immediately mistake for Uluru. It’s Mount Conner, another monolith.

Onward. And, at last, the red red Rock, majestic, serene, and singular in every aspect. A sprawling resort has been built nearby to accommodate ALL the tourist traffic, from backpackers to the haute bourgeoisie. We crash and then we putter. The resort is a self-contained little town, complete with post office and supermarket. Liter bottles of water are required for tomorrow’s anticipated circumnavigation of Uluru. Dinner is simple and sleep is semi-delicious.

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