It’s 5 a.m., 30˚F, and everyone is huddled against the bus, bracing against the ripping wind. Dawn is breaking to the east, the horizon shifting from black to a gradient of deepening purples, extinguishing the stars one by one. The inhospitable backdrop begins to take shape: shoe-staining red soil sand, clumps of spinnaker grass, sparse roads that carve through the landscape like stocking runs. As dawn breaks, so too does the heat. To the west, Uluru, a sandstone monolith unchanged for 400 million years, glows from purple to mahogany to rust to red—living, breathing color. The answering howls of two faraway dingoes break the silence. The undulating domes of Kata Tjuta poke out above the distant horizon. I am leagues away from anything and anyone I’ve ever known. And I’ve never felt so alive.