Sunday Morning: Farewell Glen Helen
[Seven years ago, the T-Team, next generation embarked on their pilgrimage to Central Australia. Purpose: to scatter Dad’s ashes in his beloved Central Australia, in Ormiston Gorge.
Over the next few weeks, I will take you on a virtual trip to the Centre and memories of that unforgettable holiday in 2013, with my brother and his family; the T-Team Next Generation.
This time, the T-Team farewell Glen Helen, then struggle with the concept of driving in convoy.]
The sound of boots scuffling in the boys’ section of the tent woke me. I wormed my way out of the sleeping bag, careful not to wake my husband, Anthony. He still puffed out the sweet dreams while softly snoring as I crept next door to investigate.
Son 1, his face clouded in a frown greeted me. ‘Couldn’t sleep, so went for a walk,’ he snapped.
‘Best time of morning to enjoy the views.’
‘Sure you don’t have sleep apnoea? You kept me awake with your snoring all night.’
‘It’s just the cold desert air,’ I replied, then left for my own walk with views.
Captured more of Mt. Sonder at sunrise; this time in blue and mauve hues rising above helicopter landing pad. In 2010, Mum and her sister had splashed out and taken this helicopter ride over the MacDonnell Ranges. In some ways an easier way to have a birds-eye view of the ranges without all the huffing and puffing and effort climbing a mountain.
Mum had been there and done that in her youth when she climbed Mt. Sonder with my dad and other Hermannsburg friends. Mum shared just recently, that one of the friends was a rather luscious looking fellow. She puzzled why there seemed to be no photos of this chap in Dad’s slide collection of the occasion.
On my return from this venture down memory lane, I collected some firewood from an old campfire.
Anthony narrowed his eyes and growled, ‘We’re not making a fire.’
I approached my nephew who squatted by a campfire which he had lit. ‘We’re not making a fire,’ I said and then dumped my wood collection into the fire. ‘We’re not having a fire?’
My nephew laughed. ‘I was just playing with my stick and it broke and went in the fire.’
‘And my pieces of wood just fell into the fire,’ I added.
We watched the flames grow, both chuckling at our insurrection to his Kling-ship’s fire-ban.
After a toilet break, I filled a billy can with water and it made its way onto the coals. The family gathered, enjoying its warmth and relative scarcity of flies and other insects. But for some, like my younger niece, the fire failed to ward off all the flies; especially those tiny little sticky flies that crawl in one’s eyes, nose and mouth. For her, the only solution was to put a re-usable cloth shopping bag over her head.
Following breakfast by the fire that my husband said we weren’t going to have, I washed and packed up my bedding and stuff in the tent. Having done as much as I could to pack the Ford, I walked up to the restaurant with Son 2. He wanted an iced coffee. There, while Son 2 drank his iced coffee, I bought a book about Uluru, and then had a coffee with Mum. We talked with the owner and Mum shared that she had visited Ayers Rock (Uluru) in 1953.
‘We were the only ones there,’ Mum said.
‘Was Dad there that time?’ I asked.
‘Yes, but I was much younger, and we weren’t going out then.’ Mum laughed. ‘One of the ladies lost the sole of her shoe when we were climbing, and Dad gallantly lent his shoes to her and walked down the rock barefoot.’
‘Just like Richard did in 1981 with his cousin. Only they did it as a dare.’
‘Must be in the genes,’ Son 2, who had been quietly listening to the conversation, snorted.
By 10.30am, the T-Team convoy had left Glen Helen, its red cliffs, its flies and the doused and covered fire, in a distant mirage and we headed for Ormiston Gorge, again. My sister-in-law wanted to buy a souvenir magnet at the Ormiston Gorge information centre.
We parked at the turn-off, where Mum, Son 2 and I waited in Mum’s hire car for the Ford containing Anthony and Son 1 to arrive, and the T-Team in their white van to appear.
‘What’s taking them so long?’ Son 2 asked.
‘Maybe the Ford won’t start.’ A definite possibility, I thought.
‘Don’t say that,’ Mum said.
‘What about the T’s? They’re late too.’ Son 2 grumbled. ‘We’ve been waiting twenty minutes!’
I sighed. ‘Perhaps the old Ford has broken down and Richard is under the bonnet trying to fix it up.’
‘Should we go back then?’ Mum asked.
‘Yes, I think we should,’ I sighed again while starting up the engine. I rolled the car forward, performed a U-turn and then headed back to Glen Helen.
Just as we reached the road to Glen Helen, the Ford appeared, and sailed past us on its way to Ormiston Gorge.
Down the valley we travelled until we could safely do another U-Turn, at what we had coined the “U-Turn Crossing”. This was the place where a couple of nights ago, Son 1 had collected firewood while I collected photos of Glen Helen’s iron-red cliffs bathed in the golden rays of the setting sun.
Then, stepping on the accelerator, we chased the Ford. Upon catching up to the Ford, we beeped the horn and flashed the lights of our rental car.
‘What the…?’ Son 2 pointed at a white van on the opposite side of the road, heading back towards Glen Helen.
‘No,’ Mum said, ‘we’ve missed the turn off to Ormiston.’
More sighs. A brief park by the side of the road, our car with the Ford, and then exchange of information with Anthony and Son 1. Then with my brother who had earlier missed the turn off to Ormiston and had to retrace his tracks back to the Ormiston road. Then, we turned around (in our cars) and following each other, bumped our way down the rough track to the Ormiston where we waited for Mrs T to buy her fridge magnets.
Transactions done, we began our journey to Hermannsburg. This time, the T-Team in their white van, waited for us to catch up before launching into the T-Team’s convoy to Mum T’s childhood home.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Red cliffs of Glen Helen © L.M. Kling 2013