Wycliffe Well stories: Tamzen Hayes swears she saw a UFO

My dream Halloween costume is from a cheesy 1990s TV show called Roswell. Something about the little blue diner dress with alien-head apron just hits me in my small-town, kitsch-loving heart. I adored this show as a kid – part teen rom-com, part sci-fi, and set in an alien-themed town. Where every shopfront has an alien welcoming you or a pun-ny UFO name.

It was 2012. My friend Lucy and I hired a van to drive from Darwin to Alice Springs on a whim – no plan and no Google Maps. It was our first experience with the Australian desert, and we were both immediately awestruck. Staggered by the beauty of the land, the expanse of sky, the rich red earth.

We swam in a waterfall at Litchfield National Park, hugged the huge round boulders at Devils Marbles, and politely declined to add our underwear to the collection that hangs from the roof of the famous Daly Waters Pub.

Four hours from Alice Springs, signs for the next town came hand-painted, worthy of a Sunday morning garage sale. They read “Wycliffe Well UFO capital of Australia” and “Humans also welcome”.

My heart skipped a beat. Had we stumbled across Australia’s own Roswell?

The caravan park at Wycliffe Well was also the service station, the supermarket, and what seemed to be the remnants of an abandoned theme park. The facade of the building was a faded mural of outer space, and large, green alien statues greeted us at the entrance. The alien puns were rife, with bathroom signs for both Malians and Femaliens.

The walls inside were plastered floor to ceiling with newspaper articles on UFO sightings, with one man’s face beaming from most of them. It was the same face that greeted us from behind the counter. He informed us that seven people lived in Wycliffe Well, that this was the fifth-best place in the world for UFO sightings and there was space for us to park behind a deteriorating green statue, which may have once been the Hulk, just past the statue of Elvis.

He also had one main rule: if you see a UFO you must tell him immediately.

Outback sightseeing on the Stuart Highway.
Outback sightseeing on the Stuart Highway.

The desert is unlike any other landscape – the sky is so clear you really can start to believe that saying about there being more stars than grains of sand. I find you also breathe deeper in the desert – it’s as though with each breath you are closer to being one with all the mysteries of the universe. Or maybe that’s just how I was feeling at the end of that day, while we drank a bottle of rosé and played Uno. Just me, Lucy and the Hulk.

That’s when we saw it. A strange oval-shaped ship gliding away into the sunset like the cowboy at the end of a western. We could only stare, frozen and slack-jawed as it disappeared. 

Look, I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat as I write this, but I swear we saw something unexplainable in the sky that night.

Once it was out of sight, we went to tell our UFO-fanatic host about what we saw and to ask him what he thought it might be. We thought we’d done the right thing by reporting back, but instantly knew we were in trouble. He got angry. We had broken the cardinal rule.

“I need to be told when the bloody thing’s still in the sky, not when it’s gone back to its bloody home planet!”

Welcome (if you follow the rules).
Welcome (if you follow the rules).

We hightailed it out of there at about 6 am the next day, in fear of our pictures ending up on the wall with “Lifetime ban” scribbled across our faces. Wycliffe Well lit a fire in my belly and I did eventually make it out to the real Roswell in New Mexico. It was Wycliffe Well turned up to 100 and did not disappoint. Alien street lamps, a UFO-shaped McDonalds, alien puns galore, and the UFO Museum and Research Centre.

But no Crashdown Cafe – sadly that was completely made up for the TV show. So if anyone knows where I could get that diner outfit for next October, hit me up.

Actress and writer Tamzen Hayes shares her sharp, dark humour in her solo show Never Said Motel. She has been on our screens in TV shows such as The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Winners and Losers. You can follow Tamzen at @missthayes and @neversaidmotel

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com


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