Fair Dinkum

        According to crazed old outback man's mumblings translated by our plumber buddy, "fair dinkum" is Australian for "no shit, I'm telling the truth." Fair dinkum, this is one of the best traveling days I've had.
        First it's a mega-hike: 23.7 km, Larapinta Trail from Alice Springs' Old Telegraph Station to Simpson's Gap. Everybody but Riad and I have had enough by about 8 km and turn back. It's not that the terrain's anything too crazy, it's just an obscenely long way at a heavy pace. All told, it's just under 5 hours and probably the farthest walk I've ever taken. Some might call the trail boring, but I was content enough to be walking in the middle of the outback that I felt it interesting throughout. Back to town is a breeze and my first time hitchhiking as we ask people in the parking lot of Simpson's Gap for a ride. Further proof that Australians are nicer than Americans: we get a ride into town from the second set of people we ask (the first weren't headed that way).
        With pizzas sold for $6 AUD per large pie, we all agree that a gorging is called for. They don't offer kangaroo as a topping, but we still order 10 pies for the 5 of us. A party in my mouth and a rumbling in my stomach soon ensue.
        And then the real fun begins. The campground we're squatting at has live music tonight at its tavern, which turns out to be some rather drunk Australian who occasionally forgets lyrics alone on stage with his guitar. He covers a song about Uluru, so we're having a great time. The highlight of the night is Mud's performance. Cool Plumber Guy Whose Name I Forget and his family have joined us and his little girl takes the stage for "Spinning Matilda," some really popular kid's song. With my urging, Mud joins her, doing hand motions worthy of Napoleon Dynamite's Happy Hands Club onstage as we laugh our asses off. Later, we impress a local by solving his riddle of how to get beer from an ashtray into a glass with seemingly random bar paraphernalia and without lifting up the ashtray. The solution's to put the glass over lit matches stacked atop casino chips / coins in the middle of the drink; I think I only got it because I saw / read about it somewhere, but I'm still happy to hear the local guy say "I'm never trying that with Americans again."
        The strangest Australian I've met is definitely this grizzled old guy at the bar who told us what fair dinkum means. He tried talking to us hours ago before the musician by ripping a coaster, sticking it on his nose, and walking up to us saying "which one of you mates threw this?", and he more than makes up for the lack of a conversation then. My policy of nodding and laughing when I'm not quite sure what he's saying is mistaken as great interest in his stories, so I hear all about Amish country and how he got drunk and missed a flight and many et ceteras. He's so drunk that his nose is bright red and seemed to be half-heartedly attempting to pick a fight with plumber guy, so we all just try to walk away during breaks in conversation.
        The night wraps up with more pointless but entertaining bar games, the best of which is arm wrestling. Lisman and I end in a draw, but I'll be the bigger man and admit that he probably would have beat me eventually. Plumber guy ties with some local dude as bar champ; they're locked for a good 5 minutes like statues with neither gaining any ground. Arm wrestling in the middle of the outback: definitely a hell of a lot more interesting than falling asleep in some boring class!

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