Almost cinnamon in appearance, the powdery sand had a deep red color. It was dense, gritty and fine, perpetually sticky, and threatened to coat anything that it touched—from aluminum car paneling, to rubber tires, trailer hook-ups and hitches, and humans. Eerily, the pigment would find it’s way into sealed compartments, your cups and dishes, inside your socks, and it would line up unevenly under your fingernails giving you that unwanted wilderness look. For this was no ordinary sand; it was a parting gift from the world’s largest parallel dunes in Australia’s Simpson Desert, known to the locals as Nappanerica, or branded contemporaneously by the colonists as Big Red.
Anything but a proper shower would simply move the crimson granules about your person, temporarily banishing them to the least visited creases and folds in your skin. Thankfully, we found such a shower at the Swagsman Quality Inn at Miles, the gateway to the Australian Outback. Like a Vietnamese monsoon, abundant steamy hot waters flowed generously from the showerhead in room 11 of the Swagsman. An overhead heater in the bathroom furthered our comfort as our fragile human bodies attempted to regain normal body temperature after an adventurous week surviving the winter desert nights with only a cloth tent between the outback and us.
I watched triumphantly as erratic rivulets of sand flowed downward from my torso, thighs and legs, and swirled with resignation around the new aluminum drain (I forgot to note whether the swirl was clockwise or not since we were in the southern hemisphere). The hotel’s state of-the-art laundry facilities similarly expunged the grime and grit from our clothes, aiding in our return to normalcy and our typical personal hygiene standards after a fantastic challenging camping trip in the outback.
We stayed in the Swagsman for one night either side of a weeklong camping trip in the outback and it felt like a Ritz Carlton. It is a new hotel, with Wi-Fi, had a great shower and the dinner and breakfast was fabulous. It was also accommodating to park extra long camper trailers, a skill that I have otherwise yet to acquire.