Matt is here! I got up this morning, got ready, and checked out of Toddy's. I waited about an hour after checking out, taking advantage of internet I had purchased, before requesting a cab. I got to the Desert Rose Inn a little after 11am and was immediately more happy upon walking into the lobby. I was greeted by a spiral staircase in the middle of the lobby, which added a nice touch, though it was carpeted in that fake green carpeting. I checked in with no problem and went upstairs. The room is nothing special, with the most ancient TV I think I may ever have encountered, and my grandparents have had old TVs in my lifetime. The shower is literally a shower standing awkwardly in the corner, like it was placed somewhere randomly that it has no reason to be. There is a sink, and mattresses are noisy with their old springs, but all this is still vast improvements to places I have stayed while here, though I know it will be quite an experience for Matt. I explore the grounds before he arrives, noting the kitchen and the quite cozy common area, with a very large flat screen TV, giving the place a feel that it could maybe qualify to be a museum for TVs "through the ages." There is also a salt water pool and a laundry. I busy myself with TV and tour books, all the while not really able to concentrate as my real distraction is that one of my oldest friends will be arriving very soon. There is a knock at the door a little before 1pm and I know who it is. I jump up and open the door and there stands Matt, here, in the middle of this tiny hotel in the center of Australia. I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't been so meticulously planned months ahead of time. I hug him first awkwardly because he is still holding all his bags, then allow him entry into the room, where we have a better hug. It's very strange to be seeing someone I know after so long of being alone. It feels like it hasn't been that long and nothing has really changed, but at the same time, it has been months, and I've been traveling for months alone in Australia, so something is bound to have changed, right?
We settle in a little, and I give him a 30 second tour of the hotel before we head out into town for lunch. It becomes immediately clear, as far as our interaction goes, that nothing has changed, but I find while sitting the restaurant, that I have about a million and ten new anecdotes that I will need to get off my chest between now and when I die, and will probably be subjecting the people I love to them for the rest of my life. I have so much new data that is labeled as "interesting" in my head, just because it occurred in Australia. Even common day to day interactions with waitresses is fodder for stories, so be prepared all, this is your warning!
After lunch, we walked around town a little more. There are Aborigines here, like there has been in Darwin and Coober Pedy. I feel like you see them more in the Northern Territory and remote locations. But it's a new experience for Matt, because he's only been here for a day and a half, and only in Sydney, where I didn't see a single one. We got to the visitor's center and browse brochures, selecting ones that might be of interest later. We are slowly realizing we are signed up and paid up for a hot air ballooning excursion less than 48 hours away, and the thought is beginning to trouble us. We went back to the room for a while, Matt kept proclaiming how hot it was, while me, a little to annoy him (which clearly was working) and also because it was very true, kept exclaiming what a relief and difference it was from Darwin, to be in the dry heat rather than the wet. North Carolinians know, humidity makes all the difference. We sat in the room a while and ended up talking about middle school, and laughing a lot. It's not like I haven't laughed with people on this trip, but it's great to share a laugh about something old and familiar again. We decided we needed to go grocery shopping, and made a vague list to follow in the store. We ended up circling the store about ten times while shopping, but we got enough for breakfast, 3 meals, and our Thanksgiving. We managed to find the staples: turkey (already cooked, but a small serving because raw whole turkey was $60 and would take us a week to eat), stuffing (which was narrowly missed not having, but located last minute), and cranberry sauce. We also have biscuits, which they labeled as scones, but we think are really biscuits, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Quite a feast for backpacking. We went next door and got some wine as well before lugging everything back to the hotel. We hung out a while again before making dinner. It was interesting to be cooking with someone in an unfamiliar kitchen, but I let Matt lead. We somehow made a pretty tasty stir fry dinner, and had left overs for the next day.
I think we have decided, due to money shortages on my end, that while Matt is here, he will pay for most day to day stuff, to allow me to have leftover money for Sydney, and I will pay him back once I get to America and work again. I hate having to do it, but I am seriously not going to make it until the 8th unless I do something drastic, especially considering the amount of dining out we will be forced to do in Cairns and Sydney, due to not having kitchen access in those places we are staying. I felt pretty good making it so far and budgeting pretty well, but I also miscalculated something I thought I had already paid for back in September when I booked it and am actually paying for now.
People I have spoken to lately at hostels have asked where I have been, and I have drawn a deep breath and rattled it off: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Coober Pedy, Perth, the southwest including Albany, Denmark, and Esperance, the west coast including Monkey Mia, Coral Bay, and Exmouth, Broome, Darwin, and now Alice Springs. I watch as their eyes get big with my list, and I too think about it and am overwhelmed. It's amazing to me, and I will definitely need to reflect and decompress when I get back.