“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” I whispered as I picked up another stick.
Middle of nowhere. No other collection of three words had been as overused since we first set foot in the vastness of the Australian Outback. In this part of the world, almost everywhere is the “middle of nowhere.”
Our group was divided into pairs, all collecting firewood in between low trees and tall shrubs, sparsely fringing the red dunes. It had all the makings of a tragic thriller: temperature dropping, light dwindling, and dingoes howling in the distance. Every stick we picked up from the ground was followed by a deep sigh (or a silent prayer, had I been a theist). It was always a relief not finding a venomous snake or spider underneath. Australia’s deadly reputation is hard to shake off.
I wrapped my left arm around a stack of half-dozen sticks and dragged a whole slender tree trunk with my right to the side of the road, where our van was parked. Then, we broke the big, long branches into smaller pieces before handing them one by one to Nick, our tour guide, who stood atop the trailer and ensured that every firewood, down to every last twig, was in place.
“We’re gonna need these to sleep soundly tonight,” Nick said as he jumped off the vehicle. “We’re spending the night in the middle of nowhere.”
There’s that phrase again.
“And by ‘middle of nowhere’, I mean the middle of fckin’ nowhere,” he added before climbing back to the driver seat. We followed suit, finding our spot inside the van, where we spent the next hour wondering where the hell we were. Soon, the concrete road turned to dirt and the van shook as we headed straight into pitch darkness. After several minutes, we pulled over and braved the cold.
“Welcome to the middle of nowhere,” he said as he started a small fire, allowing us a look at our home for the night. And he wasn’t kidding.