One of the great things about traveling is the opportunity to find places as different as possible from your home. I’ve lived in and around cities my whole life, from London to New York to Washington DC, so for me, living in the middle of nowhere is about as different as it gets. In 2008, I lived in Tha Wang Pha, Thailand – a small village in the northern Nan Province surrounded by nothing but fields and mountains. Life was simple. I bought my food from the same woman at the market every day, I taught English to the same kids every week and on occasion I tolerated episodes of giant spider invasions and scorpions. I was living in a place that the rest of the world had never heard about.
Now here I am again, living quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Except this time I’m by one of the most famous natural landmarks in the world. Life is still simple –there’s one supermarket to buy my food, I take the same dirt road shortcut to get to work everyday, and dealing with the wildlife here is a daily adventure. Yulara, my one road town, is surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert. The only things interrupting the horizon are the two things that make this place famous: Kata Tjuta and Ayers Rock (Uluru).
The only reason Yulara exists is to provide a place for tourists to stay while they come to visit Australia’s most well known natural landmark. The town is made up of a handful of hotels plus the basic necessities required for all the staff here to live day to day. And even though this is one of the most hostile environments on earth, the wildlife thrives. Each time I walk outside, I get bombarded with dozens of desert flies that seem to love trying to fly into your eyes, ears and nostrils. At work, I know the chance of coming across a spider the size of my hand is usually more than 50/50, and that every few days we’ll get a visit from a goana lizard the length of my arm. While there are no kangaroos in this area, we have herds of wild camels, and at night people lock up their trash cans otherwise you can be sure that a dingo will come and hunt out your old food.
I work at one of the hotels here, Longitude 131, except my hotel isn’t in the main town, it’s out on a dirt track closer to the Rock. It means that we get the best view of the Rock, and it also means we get a lot more exotic creatures than in town. As someone who has suffered from arachnophobia most of her life, it has been quite the challenge to act normal around the guests every time someone finds another Huntsman Spider (the most common thing in the hotel besides the flies) and especially when someone comes across something that is definitely not a Huntsman, since every deadly spider in the world lives here and I don’t always keep a catalogue of what they look like in my head.
Needless to say, life is kept quite interesting despite the lack of cinemas, nightclubs and traffic lights. Who needs the movies when you can step outside after sunset and actually see the Milky Way plus other nearby galaxies and more stars than you could ever count. For a city girl, this is definitely as different as it gets.