[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 visit Hermannsburg, Mum T’s old stamping ground.]
Midday, and Mt. Hermannsburg rose up above the desert scrub; just red sand dotted with tee tree bushes, spinifex and the invasive buffel grass. At regular intervals, horse poo appeared in high piles on the roadside.
‘I wonder why the horses do that?’ I remarked while driving Mum’s hire car.
No one in the car could explain.
‘The locals say that the buffel grass is a curse,’ Mum muttered.
‘Do you reckon it’s changed the weather here in Central Australia?’ I asked.
‘Would’ve made the bushfire worse a couple of years back,’ Son 2 said. ‘Now we can’t have a campfire anywhere.’
‘Why did they introduce the buffel grass, Mum?’ I asked.
‘Camels, I think.’
I read later that buffel grass was introduced to stablise the desert soil and reduce the risk of bushfire. The problem with this grass is that it is pervasive, compromising the growth of native plant species. PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia) has declared “Buffel Grass under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019”.
A massive animal carcass on the side of the road flitted past.
‘What’s that?’ I pointed, then placed my hand back on the steering wheel. ‘It’s too big to be a roo and too woolly to be a brumby.’
Son 2 piped up. ‘Camel?’
‘Hmmm, hate to think what happened to the vehicle that struck that camel,’ I said.
Not long after the camel carcass, we passed the memorial to Hermannsburg Mission and then a sign welcoming us to Ntaria—Hermannsburg. To our left, a supermarket, a pale brick structure languishing on the edge of a paddock near the road.
‘That’s where our friend, P, from church works,’ I announced. Our friends, P and wife, K had invited us to stay with them in Hermannsburg.
The convoy came to stop on the gravel road edge by the store.
I hopped out of the car and entered the store. Searching for P, I wandered up and down the aisles, filled with the owners of the Land, the Arunda people, but shelves empty of anything to buy. Except for the pie warmer, choc-full of pies, chips and other fast foods.
I approached the check out where an Indigenous lady served a long line of customers, who each held pies, chips, hot dogs, and burgers. I stood in line and waited my turn to purchase an answer to my question.
Finally, my turn. ‘Could you tell me where I can find P?’
The checkout lady stared past me.
‘P? I thought he worked in the supermarket,’ I said.
She nodded. ‘Ah, P?’
‘Yep, P.’ Expecting an instant reply.
‘Just wait while I serve.’
I waited about 10 minutes while she served a stream of customers purchasing their pies and other junk food.
So, I left.
‘Perhaps we’ll find an answer or P at the Historic Precinct,’ Mum said.
The T-Team convoy led by Mum’s hire car, then continued through Hermannsburg to the Historic Precinct. We passed a gated community. Yes, you heard right, a gated community. Houses painted in bright pastel green, yellow and pink, could be viewed through the cyclone fence, and their occupants sitting in backyards of red sand.
Further on, we rolled past another store. This one painted in pastel blue and decorated with a mural of native bush, mountains, and a kangaroo. Near a broken window, a faded sign, stating its identity as the “Finke River Mission” Store.
Mum waved a hand in the store’s direction. ‘I reckon P works here.’
The door appeared locked by a security gate of thick metal bars. Without stopping, or alighting from the car, I said, ‘I think it is closed on Sunday.’
A few metres on, we parked just outside the Historic Precinct. The wooden gate leading to the old buildings swung in the breeze, open. To one side, though, a formidable sign discouraged us with the words in black letters, “Closed”. Despite this sign and its statement, people wandered across the compound and in and out the buildings.
After climbing out of our vehicles, the T-Team lingered by the fence.
‘Are you sure it’s open?’ Anthony asked.
‘Well, there’s people there and the buildings are open,’ Mum replied.
‘They’ve just forgotten to take down the sign,’ I said and then led the way through the open gate and into the compound.
[To be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Mt Hermannsburg © L.M. Kling 2013