The Challenges–Part 1
[The last few months I have revisited The T-Team with Mr. B: Central Australian Safari 1977 which is a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981. In preparation for its release later this year, I will be sharing posts of this adventure.
Here’s how it all began…]
1977, August, mid-winter and I was excited. Dad had never taken me camping. Then, when I turned 14, he decided to take the risk and allowed me to join the T-Team on a Central Australian safari. Dad’s friend Mr. Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I had gathered from Dad’s reluctance to invite me on previous adventures out bush, that he had some reservations how I would cope…
But, in this episode, by the time we reached Lake Eyre, Dad faced a particular challenge with his camera…
Challenge Number 1: How to worship God in the desert?
The next day, warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but no Central Australian safari can qualify as a safari without challenges—especially at the beginning as the crew adjusted to the conditions and different personalities.
Dad, of course, being the good Christian man that he was, and the day being Sunday, gathered us around the campfire. He sat on the tucker box and with his trusty ukulele, strummed and sang the chorus This is the Day.
We followed Dad’s lead, although my brother yawned every second line.
When we finished that particular song, Mr. B muttered, ‘I dare say, choruses get a bit repetitive, what about a good ol’ hymn?’
Dad looked at the stony ground and then up at Mr. B. ‘Er, um, did you bring the black hymnal?’
‘Do you know any hymns off by heart?’
‘So I guess we’ll be singing choruses, then.’
Phew! I thought wiping my brow. I preferred to sing choruses.
Dad gave a brief devotion. I can’t recall the details but probably ran along the lines this day was a special day God had made and we should thank Him for it…even if this day held challenges for us.
Lake Eyre and challenge Number 2: How do you fix a camera?
We continued our journey, travelling north-north-west. Dazzling white in the distance, caught my attention.
‘What’s that?’ I shouted from the back cabin and pointed.
‘That’s lake Eyre?’ Dad said. ‘The southern tip of Lake Eyre.’
‘A lake? It looks awfully white for a lake,’ I said.
‘It’s a salt lake,’ Rick my brother explained. ‘No water in it. Just lots and lots of salt.’
‘Hmm, Daddy would like that,’ I laughed. ‘He likes loads of salt on his vegetables.’
‘Probably not that sort of salt,’ Rick snorted.
‘What do you mean? You said it was salt,’ I said. ‘Why call it salt if it’s not salt that you can put on your food?’
Mr. B interrupted our debate. ‘I dare say, old chap, can we get a bit closer so I can take a photo?’
‘Oh, but it’ll be nothing, I assure you,’ Dad said. ‘I want to get to William Creek before night falls.’
‘Look, my friend, I’ve never seen a salt lake before,’ Mr. B said. ‘Please. I need a break.’
We lumbered up a track leading to Lake Eyre and then parked by the side of the road near a pan of cracked clay. In the distance the sea of white shimmered in the morning sun.
Mr. B jumped out of the truck and trod over the clay surface. He stomped on it. He walked a few paces out towards the white horizon. A mirage made the lake appear to have water in it; water that floated above the salt.
‘I say, David,’ Mr. B said as he returned to the Land Rover, ‘you couldn’t drive to where the salt is, could you?’
‘No way,’ Dad said. ‘The clay pan looks solid, but it wouldn’t hold the truck. We could get bogged or worse, we could sink in it like quicksand. I wouldn’t even walk on it, if I were you.’
‘Oh, I see,’ Mr. B said and then pointed at Matt, Rick and me. ‘Now, kids, don’t you go walking on the clay pan. It’s dangerous, you understand?’
‘Yes, sir,’ my brother muttered.
Matt and I nodded.
I took a few paces up a small rise and then with my instamatic camera photographed the expanse of salt with our red land rover in the foreground. Mr. B also stalked up and down the track and clicked away with his camera.
Dad hovered behind Mr. B and aimed his lens at the salt-lake. He sighed and fiddled with the knobs and then the lens. He aimed again. ‘Oh, no!’ he cried and then retreated to the Rover to fiddle with his Konica SLR.
I’d taken my precious photo, so I jumped in the front seat with Dad.
Dad had pulled the lens off his camera body and was blowing into the cavity.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
‘My camera’s wrecked.’
‘It won’t take a photo. When I push the button, nothing happens.’
‘That’s no good.’
‘No, and it’s only two years old.’
Mr. B poked his head through the window. ‘What? You’re not going to take any photos, David?’
‘No, my camera’s not working,’ Dad said.
‘Well, you would get a camera that’s made in Japan,’ Mr. B said.
Dad reattached the lens and wiped the body with a cloth from his camera bag. ‘I’m sure it’s not serious, I’ll get it working.’
(He did get the camera working, but upon return to Adelaide and developing the photos, discovered that the dodgy light-meter had caused most of the photos to be underexposed. Thank God for computers in the 21st Century and Paint Shop Pro!)
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022
Feature Photo: Sunrise, this is the day that the Lord has made © C.D. Trudinger 1977]