[Have been engrossed in a murder-mystery, come thriller manuscript that I wrote in 2009, and then filed away. Wrote it so long ago I have to read it to find out what happened. So, completely forgot to post my 100-word challenge last week.
Anyway, Dad’s mid-life crisis vehicles keep rolling in. Was this new development a reflection of the direction Dad’s mid-life crisis was taking? Or was he just having a go?]
100-Word Challenge — Have a Go
After lunch at Grandma’s one Sunday, my cousin showed off his prized Ducati. Inspired, Dad resolved to have a go, and buy his own motorbike.
The first hint that Dad was dissatisfied with current transport-arrangements, was expressed in a progressive story game, where he described money-saving qualities of a motorbike. I pointed out the dangers, my cousin’s friend had died in a motorbike accident.
Soon after, Dad came puttering down the driveway on Putt-Putt, a bright orange motorbike. From then on, for a time, Dad puttered his way from Somerton to work in Port Adelaide. Everyone was happy, until…the accident.
[The last few weeks I have been revisiting our adventures with Mr. B. This time without a certain person, the T-Team explore Walpa Gorge…]
At the mouth of Walpa Gorge, Kata Tjuta, we dumped our baggage under a tree, and then advanced up and into the gorge. The heat and flies evaporated as the dank shadows of the gorge’s walls towered over us. I was sure the floor of this gully had never been touched by direct sunlight. We tramped up the narrow path, our voices echoed in the cold air, and our sight adjusted to the blue-grey shade between the boulders.
We rested where the path vanished into a jumble of rounded rocks, large wrinkled marbles wedged in the narrowing crack of the gully. I gazed back over the plain. The red ochre cliffs of Walpa Gorge framed the pastel strips of pink, blue and lemon-yellow of the land. I snapped a shot.
‘Ah, don’t know if it’ll work out, dear. Too much contrast. You’ll either get the cliffs, or the plain, you won’t get both,’ Dad said.
He was right. When my photos were developed, I’d captured some of the colour on the Walpa Gorge walls, but the land below was invisible, all washed out. One has to be there, in the flesh, and see with one’s own eyes, the true beauty of The Olgas and Walpa Gorge.
We negotiated the boulders lodged like marbles in this gully. We struggled up slippery slopes and strained up steep inclines. We paused part way up and admired grandeur of the gorge. The walls glowed a russet red and the golden plains shimmered in the bright midday sun.
‘Come on, not far to go now,’ Dad said. ‘We’ll have lunch when we get there.’
We struggled onwards and upwards. Lichen-covered boulders threatened to thwart our endeavours. But we worked together to over-come the conglomerate of obstacles to finally reach the top-end of the gorge.
Over the lip, the view of Kata Tjuta reminded me of an alien landscape as if we’d been transported to another world. Massive boulders and bulbous granite mountains jutted up from the valley. I took photos, but my simple camera could not do justice in reflecting reality of what my eyes could see. We sat on the rocks, and with the breeze cooling our bodies, we savoured the view and a simple lunch of scroggin, a mix of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate.
After taking several long gulps of water from his canteen, Dad rose, adjusted his pack and said, ‘Okay, time to get back. Mr B will be wondering where we’ve got to.’
Richard, Matt and I stood up and stretched. Then we followed Dad down the narrow, obstacle-ridden gorge.
‘Now, don’t go falling on your bottom, Lee-Anne,’ Dad said.
‘I won’t.’ I was sure I’d be fine; the hike down would surely be easier than hiking up. Not so. A muddy patch greased with moss, caught the heel of my boot. I skidded, slipped and thudded onto my rear.
‘I told you, be careful,’ Dad said.
I stood up and brushed the mud off my bottom. ‘I’m fine.’
Then I trailed after Richard and Matt. No need to have them giggling behind me. I thanked God for small mercies that Mr B wasn’t with us. Imagine what he’d say about my messy backside. I was amazed at how smoothly the whole venture up Walpa Gorge had gone.
When we caught up to Dad who was having a rest, Dad whispered to Richard and me, ‘Imagine what Mr B would’ve planned for this gorge.’
‘I’d hate to think,’ I said.
‘Probably some sort of café, I reckon,’ said Richard.
‘Hey, Richard,’ Matt called from a few metres up the side of Walpa’s wall, ‘let’s explore this cave.’ He scrambled up the knobbly side to the cave as if he were a spider.
Richard climbed up to join Matt. They perched at the mouth of the cave and I snapped a shot of them looking out.
‘What’s in there?’ I yelled.
‘Nothing much,’ Richard replied.
‘It’s just a cave,’ Matt said.
‘No art work? No carvings?’
‘Must be something,’ I muttered and began mounting the wall to the cave.
‘Careful,’ Dad warned.
The boys edged out of the cave and made their way down back to us on the valley floor.
I continued climbing.
‘You too, Lee-Anne,’ Dad said.
‘Oh, alright!’ I sighed and ambled down to Dad at the base of the gully.
We walked a little further down. I spotted a cave some way up the wall but not as far up as Matt and Richard’s cave. Dad had marched far ahead, so this was my opportunity. Thrusting my camera into Richard’s hands, I crawled up to the cave. The conglomeration of stones melted together allowed me to grasp each foothold and handhold as if the climb were made for me. I then squeezed into the cavity shaped like a slot in a letter box.
I examined this small cavity. Richard was right. The recess offered nothing in the way of adventure or excitement. Just another hole in Walpa’s wall. I looked down and spotted a boulder of similar size and shape to the cave. I called out to Richard. ‘Hey, look, there’s the rock that popped out of the cave.’
‘What?’ Richard raised the camera and then clicked one shot. ‘I reckon I got a good one,’ he said. The shot he took featured my legs. My lily-white legs.
With our triumphant return, we entered our base for the day and milled around there. Dad raised his eyes and gazed around the landscape. ‘Hmm, I wonder where Mr B got to?’
Richard shrugged. ‘Beats me.’
‘Ah, well, let’s do some painting, then,’ Dad said.
Dad and Matt set up an impromptu outdoor studio and began painting while waiting for Mr B’s inevitable return. Dad arranged his water-colour paints, secured his paper to a board using masking tape, and then, contemplating the view, the new paper and paints, he folded his hands on his tummy, bowed his head and was soon snoring the flies away from his lips.
Matt held up his paint brush. ‘What do I do?’
‘I’ll help,’ I said. I picked out a thicker brush, and then most of my afternoon was spent helping Matt paint.
Mr B strolled down the track. He tip-toed up to Dad, head still bent in the art of sleeping.
‘Boo!’ Mr B said.
Dad woke with a start. ‘Who? What? Oh, it’s you.’
‘I found the perfect campsite,’ Mr B announced. ‘No problems with neighbours with this one.’
‘Did you get the flour?’ Dad asked.
Mr B raised his eyes to the sky. ‘Who do you think I am?’
‘Of course, ol’ chap. But I dare say, I expect something extraordinary with that flour I went the extra miles, on top of all the travelling I did to find us a better site. Understand?’
‘You haven’t tasted my damper,’ Dad said. ‘And besides, we’ll be feasting on the Bread of Life.’
My dad’s midlife crisis took a turn … for the worse. The Mazda. Not sure what type this less-than trusty steed was, suffice to say, he purchased it for a bargain as it had a damaged rear-end. So, the Mazda became the butt of many car-jokes with my friends.
A reblog, in memory of our much maligned Mazda.
An Ode to the Mazda
Now every time the battle-axe we release, We pray: Keep our Mazda running from police Particularly today.
Grant us all green lights, for our brakes may fail, And may thy Mazda’s effervescent light shine forth At both head and tail.
Forgives us our blinkers, our wipers, the lot, As we forgive those who are enemies and gripers Of the Mazda we’ve got.
[The last few weeks I have been revisiting our Central Australian adventures with Mr. B. This time the relationship between my father and Mr. B turns frosty…]
T-Team with Mr. B(17)
In a Hurry
The next morning Dad woke us stumping around the campsite. Mr. B sat up in his sleeping bag. He ground his teeth and glared at him. ‘What’s all this noise about? I just got to sleep after an awful night.’
‘Ah, well, we better get a move on,’ Dad replied while gathering up the cooking utensils and tossing them in the tucker box.
‘I’ll drive us to the Olgas,’ Mr. B snapped.
‘Are you sure that’s a good idea, if you’re tired and had no sleep?’ Dad asked as he chucked a bag of peanuts in the back of the Rover.
‘I’ll be fine.’ Mr. B dismissed Dad with a flick of his wrist. ‘You go and enjoy yourselves.’
Dad sucked the icy air between the gap in his front teeth. ‘Very well, then.’
After a quick breakfast of sloppy porridge, Mr. B eased his weary body into the driver’s seat and Dad climbed into the passenger seat at the front. Us young ones scrounged for what was left of sitting space in the back cabin.
As the Rover’s engine chugged under Mr. B’s control, Dad said, ‘I’ll show you the way to Walpa Gorge. Then you can take the Rover to find, er, um, another camping spot. Oh, er and don’t forget the flour.’
Mr. B grunted, pressed his foot down on the accelerator and scooted over the road edge, rapping the wheels as they met the gravel on the graded road. Dad stiffened and clutched the dashboard while Mr. B raced along the dirt highway and grinned. In the back cabin, we bounced as the Rover hit each corrugation with speed.
‘Careful!’ Dad cried through the judder.
‘You need to tackle those humps by going fast,’ Mr. B assured him. ‘The ride is better if you go fast over the bumps. Didn’t you say that?’
‘Er, I’m not sure, about that.’
‘Believe me, I know. I’ve had plenty of experience, ol’ man. I know what I’m doing.’
‘It is a hire vehicle, though. We want to return it to the company in one piece.’
I reckon I saw the dollar signs and calculations going off in a bubble above Mr. B’s head. His jaw tightened, and he slowed down the vehicle and muttered, ‘Fine then.’
Glimpses of the boulders of Kata Tjuta (the Olga’s), flirted with the dunes. Tantalised by these clumps of rocks that appeared as if some giant alien force had dumped them in the middle of Australia, I leaned forward and peered through the gap between the front seat to gaze through the windscreen.
‘Dad,’ I asked, ‘How did the Olgas form?’
‘The Olgas are made of conglomerate rocks,’ Dad said. ‘They are different from the singular formation of Ayers Rock.’
‘Were they from outer space?’
‘No, more likely that in ages past, an inland sea helped form the various types of rocks to fuse together. You can actually find seashells and seashell fossils in the rocks in Central Australia.’
‘You’re an expert, are you?’ Mr. B chimed in.
‘I’m not sure about The Olgas, but, um I’ve found shells in the dry bed of the Finke River, when I was here in the 1950’s,’ Dad explained. ‘I’ve done some reading. And well, you can see it, the way the land and the mountains are. Had to be an inland sea.’
Mr. B rolled his eyes. ‘If you say so.’
Dad pointed at a wooden signpost. ‘Walpa Gorge. Turn down here.’
The Rover lumbered down the narrow track until we reached a clearing. To our right, a river gum towered above us.
‘This’ll do,’ Dad said. ‘Nice place to set up our paints when we’re finished hiking, I reckon.’
The russet boulders that had looked like folds of skin from the highway, now appeared split into a gully begging to be explored.
‘How far are we from the gorge?’ I asked.
‘Oh, about half a mile,’ Dad replied.
‘I’ll leave you then,’ Mr. B said. He marched back to the Rover, jumped in and rapping the wheels again, sped down the track. We watched while the plume of dust Mr. B had left behind settled down to the red earth.
[Another fond memory from my childhood…and Dad’s catchcry, “for the time being” took a breather when, after being promoted to Deputy Principal (Primary School), he bought the Holden Premier.]
Serena, our dream family car ferried the T-Team to Canberra. In 1975, hardly a maiden for this voyage, she drove us to our destination; a comfortable, safe ride over the Hay Plains. No breakdowns. No stranded waiting for road service on the hot dusty side of the road. A smooth ride that rocked me to sleep; the vinyl with scent fresh from the caryard to us.
She mounted the snow shovelled roads to Thredbo. From her window, my first sight of snow on a brilliant sunny day, snow shining on twisted eucalypt branches.
In this episode we climb Uluru/Ayers Rock and Mr. B startles us with his dream for the Rock…]
Mr. B’s Dream for the Rock
Tourist buses lined the carpark. They looked like caterpillars all in a row ready for a race. People swarmed like ants around the base of the Rock and a steady stream of them marched up and down the slope.
Dad slowed the Rover to a crawl and slotted into a space at the end of the carpark. ‘Well, there’s the tourists,’ he said.
‘And what are we?’ Mr B asked.
‘I like to think we are travellers.’
‘What’s the difference?’
‘Tourists come to a place like the Rock, they climb it, snap a few photos and then they move on,’ Dad said. ‘Travellers take their time. They explore. They get to know the people who live here. They appreciate the culture and history of the place.’
‘So we’re tourists then,’ Mr B remarked, his expression dead-pan.
Dad scratched his brow. ‘Oh, no, I wouldn’t say that.’
‘I’m climbing the Rock,’ Matt said and then bolted out the back door.
Richard and I chased after Matt. We scrambled up the slope following the painted white line. Further up several tourists inched their way grasping chain rails that were secured into the rock.
‘Hoy!’ Dad yelled. ‘Wait! We all go together.’
‘You forgot your water-bottles and lunch for the top,’ Mr B said.
‘Come on Matt,’ Richard called out to Matt who’d sprinted ahead, ‘better get our packs and stuff.’
Matt, Richard and I plodded back to Dad and Mr B where we collected our backpacks of supplies from them. Then as a group we recommenced our haul up the monolith.
The first part was treacherously steep. Before I even reached the rails, my shins ached from the gradient. We followed the broken white line. Deviation from the nominated path could be fatal. A plaque at the base of the Rock was a solemn reminder that several people had fallen to their deaths.
And yet, while climbing, I recall my mum telling me that when she climbed Ayers Rock back in the 1950’s, there was no white line, and not rail to clutch onto. Then she told me a funny story about an earlier time when a filmmaker took footage of the climb up the Rock with a local Indigenous guide. I have seen this film where at the top of the rock, there were pools from recent heavy rain, and the guide can be seen splashing in the water. Perhaps life and the way the Rock was viewed was different back then in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Richard and Matt scampered ahead of me. I puffed my way up the slope behind them and soon lost sight of them. Dad and Mr B laboured behind me. Mr B rested every few steps. He swore he’d die of a heart attack before he fell to his death. Dad stayed with him and encouraged him to keep on going.
Tourists passed me as they descended the Rock. They nodded and said, ‘G’day’ and remarked that the climb was well worth the effort.
Spurred by these recent Uluru conquerors, I took a deep breath and continued the climb.
The steep slope eased into endless ridges. Up and down. Up and down. At least my shins experienced some relief. But I seemed to be hiking over these rocky hills and dales forever, as if Uluru was the Tardis of distance. I glanced at my watch. I’d been hiking over an hour. Was the Rock that big?
I stopped, took a swig of water from my canteen and surveyed the plain beneath. The Olgas shimmered like mauve marbles above the land striped in sienna and gold in the afternoon sun.
‘You’re almost there,’ Richard called. He raced up to me and then pointed. ‘The cairn is just over there.’
‘Are you blind?’
‘I can’t see it.’
Richard led me to the pile of stones set in concrete. Half a dozen tourists plus Richard and Matt milled around the cairne, posing for photos and pointing at the various landmarks below. Richard, Matt and I conformed to the way of the tourists taking turns photographing each of us standing next to the cairn with Kata Tjuta behind us.
As we waited for our fathers, we admired the awesome scenery; the land below bathed in waves of pink, purple, blue and yellow. The boulders of Kata Tjuta changed from deep purple to blue with the movement of the sun as it travelled west. ‘Wow!’ I exclaimed. ‘This climb was well worth it.’
Other tourists summited, stayed a few minutes to snap a few shots and then trooped away down the Rock.
After Richard, Matt and I had eaten our sandwiches, signed the log book on the cairn, explored some bushes that grew out of the Rock and then watched the third lot of people arrive and disappear, Dad and Mr B staggered to the summit. Their faces glowed with perspiration.
Mr B clutched his chest and slumped down by the cairn. ‘I thought those corrugations would never end!’
Dad patted Mr. B on the back. ‘Ah, well, we made it.’
Mr B slurped water from his canteen, then standing up, he paced around the cairn while scrutinising the landscape with his binoculars. Dad pointed out the landmarks, Mt. Conner to the east, Kata Tjuta to the west and the Musgrave Ranges to the south, and so directing Mr B’s binocular-gaze.
After several minutes admiring the view, Mr B remarked, ‘Amazing! Certainly well worth the climb, ol’ boy.’ He then sidled up to Dad and put his arm around his shoulders. ‘I dare say, ol’ chap, the experience could be improved.’
‘What? A cable-car up to the top?’
‘Oh, hadn’t thought of that. No, I suggest there should be a fast food restaurant up the top here. The place needs refreshments. I mean to say, all these people have spent two hours climbing up here. They need some refreshments, don’t you think?’
Dad cleared his throat. ‘Er, um…’
Is this man for real? I thought. On the climb and also when we visited the cave, I sensed the Rock was holy, sacred. How could Mr B even contemplate building anything on its surface? ‘I reckon there should be less people climbing the Rock, not more,’ I said.
‘And another thing,’ Mr B was not finished, ‘the Rock needs a swimming pool halfway up. I’ve already picked out the perfect location. You see, while I was resting and contemplating during that terrible steep climb, I saw it, the perfect place for a pool. What do you say, ol’ chap?’
‘The Indigenous owners will never agree,’ Dad replied.
‘Well, I have some advice for the natives,’ Mr B said. ‘They need to get with the times. I mean, look at all the tourists. Look at all the opportunities.’
‘I doubt it,’ Dad shook his head, ‘come on, we better get down.’
After Dad and Mr B signed their names in the log book, we made our way down the Rock tracking along the white line. We nodded at the people climbing up and said, ‘G’day’ to them and advised them that the climb was well worth the effort.