T-Team With Mr. B (4)
[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…
In this episode, the stony plains of the desert, called Gibber Plains, posed their own problems from finding a comfort station (toilet) to comfortable sleeping arrangements…
Challenge Number 3: Where do you go when you have to go?
We travelled constantly for most of the day, stopping to stretch our cramped legs or go to the loo. The road was hot and dusty, and it was hell to sit in the back. I must add that dunnies were scarce in the desert and mostly a bush in the distance had to do. On such occasions, when a toilet stop was necessary, the boys took advantage of the opportunity to stretch their legs and do some shooting. The general rule was that shooting must be done in the opposite direction to avoid any rude shocks during someone’s quiet contemplation.
William Creek—Challenge Number 4: Finding a Campsite
Having taken the Oodnadatta Track, we rolled through William Creek with one and a half hours remaining until sunset.
‘It’ll be getting dark soon,’ Dad said, ‘we have to find a campsite.’
No easy task, I soon realized. Our heads swung left and right as we scanned the gibber plains for a clear patch of ground for camping. The land was barren except for stones; dots of umber that spanned in every direction to the horizon.
‘We’ll camp near a creek,’ Dad said. ‘So that we have firewood.’
‘Surely we can camp in the creek,’ Mr. B said. ‘The sand is soft in the creek. I want a decent night’s sleep. I mean, the sky is clear, so I doubt we’ll get flooded out.’
‘The rain and floods could be hundreds of miles away and then come on us without warning.’
‘I doubt it,’ Mr. B said. ‘I think we can take the risk.’
‘Where are these creeks?’ I asked.
‘You’ll see,’ Dad said. ‘The highway is crisscrossed with dry creeks. You see a row of trees, that’s where the creeks are.’
Sure enough, I saw them in the distance. ‘Hey, there’s a creek, we can camp there.’
Dad slowed the Rover down as we crossed the dry creek—as dry and rocky as the gibber plains surrounding it.
‘Not this one,’ Dad said. ‘Maybe the next one.’
For the next half an hour we passed a parade of promising treelines, only to be disappointed when we passed them. Some had a few stagnant puddles, but mostly these riverbeds were filled with rocks and not much sand. Dad explained that the water was underground, and the roots of the gum trees drank from a subterranean supply.
The sun sank like an orange squashed at the edge of the world.
‘I guess we’ll just have to take what we can find,’ Dad mumbled as we approached a thick row of gum trees.
Dad drove the rover parallel to the trees, and when far enough from the highway, parked. We hopped out and all helped to clear the area of stones.
As the light faded, Dad raced around the site as if hyped up with coffee, lighting the fire, ordering me to chop the vegetables, getting Matt to fill billy cans with water, and then boiling the water. Dad then stirred the pot with much huffing and puffing as he cooked up the stew.
While Rick organized the bedding for the night, Mr. B scrambled down to the creek-bed to set up his own bedding. Half an hour later, a disappointed Mr. B reappeared complaining. ‘It’s too stony. How can a man get a good night’s sleep around here?’
‘Oh, no!’ my brother moaned. ‘A puncture!’
Matt with his rifle, hopped over to Rick. ‘You ready to go shooting?’
‘In a minute,’ Rick replied. ‘I’ll just fix the puncture while there’s still some light.’
By the time my brother had repaired the blow-up mattress, the land of stones was shrouded in dusk. However, nightfall did not stop Rick, Matt, and Mr. B from venturing out for some shooting again. I guess they had plenty of rocks to aim at.
I stood up to follow the shooting party.
Dad called out. ‘Lee-Anne, you stay here and stir the custard.’
‘Be thankful,’ Dad said. ‘This is the day the Lord made.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022
Feature Photo: Desert Sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1950