Trekking Tuesday–MacDonnell Gorges (1)

The T-Team Series — The Gorges of the MacDonnell Ranges

In this episode, the T-Team valiantly explore as many gorges in the MacDonnell Ranges as they can…in one afternoon. The challenge, avoid the crowds of tourists while keeping Mr. B entertained.

Ellery Creek and Serpentine Gorge

[Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.

The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 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 guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope? And how many times would my brother lose his way in the bush?]

With our two Indigenous guides, Dad drove the Rover along the rough dirt track (probably a “short cut”) to the road that parallels the MacDonnell Ranges, Namatjira Drive. These days, the main roads are sealed, but not back then. Dust billowed into the cabin as we drove on a road that parallels the MacDonnell Ranges.

*[Photo 1: View of MacDonnell Ranges from Namatjira Drive © L.M. Kling 2013]

Nearing the intersection of Namatjira Drive from the unknown track, Dad turned to Mr. B. ‘Ellery Creek? Or Serpentine?’

Mr. B gazed at the mountain range and pointed. ‘Ellery Creek. You did say it’s like the local’s swimming pool.’

‘There’s many interesting gorges and creeks in these hills to explore,’ Dad said. ‘We won’t be staying at any for too long.’

*[Photos 2 & 3: Gorges Dad dreams of visiting again and again: Ormiston (2), Glen Helen (3) © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

2. Ormiston Gorge
3. Glen Helen

Mr. B frowned. ‘Just long enough to take a few snaps like the tourists, I expect.’

‘You sure you don’t want to start at Serpentine to our right? We could hike up while the morning’s still cool.’

‘What morning? It’s already past noon.’ Mr. B flicked his map flat. ‘Ellery Creek, I say, for lunch.’

Dad sighed, ‘Very well, then, Ellery Creek.’

Ellery Creek

After lumbering along the wider but corrugated road, Dad turned into the barely discernable trail that led to Ellery Creek. After entering the clearing for parking, we hunted for a car park. Not an easy feat as the car park was full; even the spaces in between swarmed with tourists.

Dad squeezed the Rover into what seemed the last remaining gap, and the T-Team piled out.

*[Photo 4, & 5 Aspects of Ellery Creek © L.M. Kling 2013]

4. Trees of Ellery Creek

5. Ellery Creek Big Hole

*[Photo 6: Recent visit to Ellery Creek © L.M. Kling 2021]

‘It’s like Glenelg beach,’ I said, ‘it’s stuffed full.’

Richard looked at the offering of water; a disappointing dam at the end of a sandy bank. ‘There’s more sand and water at Glenelg.’

‘As many people, though,’ I replied.

Matt sniggered.

Mr. B stomped past us and with elbows akimbo he stopped at the water’s edge. ‘Is this it?’

Dad joined his friend. ‘I warned you.’

So, with obligatory photos taken while dodging the crowds, we made our way to Serpentine Gorge.

*[Photo 7: Said obligatory photo of T-Team with guides at Ellery Creek © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

As he turned the Rover left so heading east towards Alice Springs, Dad smiled. Mr. B pouted and folded the map. He insisted we have lunch before we start on the hike up the gorge. Dad went one better announcing that, since it was Sunday, we’d have lunch AND a Sunday Service.

Mr. B’s response was to shake his head and mumble something not-so-polite into his red dust-stained handkerchief.

Serpentine Gorge

Less populated, Serpentine Gorge begged to be explored. Our Indigenous guides were not interested in joining us, so we bravely set off on our own adventure. To get to the narrowest part of the gorge, we had to cross a deep pool of water on our air mattresses and then walk along a rocky creek barefoot. We had forgotten to bring our shoes. Not that it concerned the men, they raced ahead leaving me behind hobbling on tender feet over sharp stones.

*[Photo 8: Later lilo exploits © C.D. Trudinger 1986]

Then, disaster. Mud and slime replaced jagged rocks. In the shadows of gorge, I trotted on the path near creek. My heel struck a slippery puddle lurking by a pool of sludge. Next, I skated, feet flew from under me, and I landed bottom-first in the murky depths of the Serpentine Creek.

*[Photo 9: That special part of Serpentine Gorge at that special time of day © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

I pulled myself from the rock-hole, my clothes caked in mud and stinking of slime.

Dad jogged up to me, his barefoot steps slapping, the sound bouncing off the slate walls that lined the gorge.

‘What do you mean special part of the gorge?’ I snapped at Dad. ‘It’s not so special to me. It’s too dark, and I’m just too uncomfortable.’

*[Photo 10: Not so special to me © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

‘Ah, well,’ Dad sighed. ‘We better get back to the Rover. We need to find camp before it’s dark.’

As we hobbled back in the fading light, I mumbled, ‘Sure it’s not dark already?’

Other Gorges for Another Day

Dad endeavoured to distract me from my discomfort with descriptions of the many other gorges in the MacDonnell Ranges and tales of adventures exploring them. His stories whetted my appetite to view these wonders myself one day, on this trip, or perhaps in future journeys to Central Australia.

*[Photo 11 & 12: Other Gorges to look forward to. Redbank (11) Ormiston (12) © C.D. Trudinger circa 1950]

11. Redbank
12. Ormiston

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022

*Feature Photo: Ellery Creek Big Hole © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Introducing the Olgas

[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.’

*[Photo 1: Key to Trekking success; packed up and ready to go © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

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.

*[Photo 2: First glimpses of the Olgas © L.M. Kling 2013]

 ‘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.’

*[Photo 3: Walpa Gorge to the right © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

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.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: T-Team Next Gen at Walpa Gorge entrance © L.M. Kling 2013

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Tyre Carnage

The T-Team With Mr B (14)

 [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.

In this episode more carnage to the trailer. This time the tyres take a beating. But there are unexpected rewards for those who wait…]

Tyre Carnage On Way to the Rock

We sailed along on the road to Uluru, the warmth of the sun on our cheeks and breeze in our hair. Sand-hills rolled up and down and then into the distance. Black trunks of ironwood trees flitted past. The Rock made random appearances and disappeared. A wheel flew past and bounced into the bush.

*[Photo 1: Glimpse of Uluru and Kata Tjuta © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

I looked at Richard. ‘What was that?’

‘A tyre.’

‘Where did that come from?’

‘The trailer,’ Richard remarked with a sigh and pointed.

The trailer scudded on its side, red dust billowing all around it.

Richard leaned over the rail and thumped the driver’s window. The Rover eased to a stop and Dad leapt out. ‘What?’

‘The trailer!’ Richard said. ‘Again!’

*[Photo 2: Shredded tyre travails of the T-Team’s travels © L.M. Kling 2013]

The men gathered around the trailer and discussed their options in lowered tones. Dad frowned, he put his hands on his hips and gazed at the ground as Mr. B glared at him.

‘Poor! Very poor for a trailer!’ Mr. B muttered. ‘What are we going to do about it, mate?’

Dad shifted his feet and then with his boot scuffed the stones. ‘I don’t know. What do you reckon, Richard?’

Richard shrugged.

‘I say, laddie, can you find that tyre?’ Mr. B asked.

‘It’s long gone,’ Richard said. ‘But I’ll try.’

‘They’re expensive.’ Dad kicked the one remaining trailer tyre. The men stared at the one-wheeled trailer as though they were visiting a gravesite.

‘Alright,’ Richard muttered, ‘I’ll go and see if I can find it.’

Richard stomped down the road. He placed his hand above his eyes and peered in the direction the tyre had vanished into the scrub.

Matt caught my gaze. ‘Boring!’

‘Let’s go up that hill and see if we can take a photo of Ayers Rock and the Olgas,’ I said. As we were walking, I conveyed the information I had gleaned from Dad about the Olgas. ‘Did you know, Matt, that the people who own this land call this amazing collection of giant boulders, Kata Tjuta which means “many heads”?’

‘How far are the Olgas from Ayers Rock?’ Matt asked.

‘My dad reckons they are 30 miles west of Uluru,’ I replied. ‘he says we’re going to camp outside the national park, just beyond the Olgas.’

‘Olgas, that’s a funny name.’

 ‘Yeah, it’s German, I think. Dad was telling me that in 1872, the pioneer explorer Ernest Giles discovered them and called them “The Olgas”, after Queen Olga of the German Kingdom of Württemberg.’

 ‘Imagine having a few rocks named after you.’ Matt laughed. ‘The Boulders of Lee-Anne.’

‘Matt’s Massif,’ I joked.

Matt tittered. ‘What about, Richard’s Rock?’

‘Hey, I just remembered, back in Ernabella, there’s a Trudinger Hill. How cool is that?’

‘So, every time, people see those funny rocks and boulders in the distance, they will be reminded of some mouldy old German queen.’

‘Now that you put it that way, sounds a bit odd, us Europeans putting our names on the features of this ancient land. I wonder if they’ll eventually change the names back to what the Pitjantjara peoples call it someday.’

*[Photos 3,4, & 5: Views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta © L.M. Kling 2013]

[Photo 3: Uluru under a cloud © L.M. Kling 2013]
[Photo 4: Uluru’s Flank © L.M. Kling 2013]
[Photo 5: Many Heads of Kata Tjuta © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

We mounted the nearby rise and admired the Rock, bathed in the blue of midday.

‘There are certain advantages to trailers breaking up,’ I remarked.

Matt nodded. ‘Yep, sure are.’

‘It’s like an adventure.’

‘Yep, sure is.’

*[Photo 6: Sunset on Uluru © L.M. Kling 2013]

The men decided to leave the trailer on the side of the road and fix it upon our return when we passed that way. By then we hoped to have the parts and equipment required to reattach the rogue wheel that Richard had found and then hidden underneath the trailer.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018; updated 2022

*Feature Photo: Kata Tjuta (Known as The Olgas until 1993 but by 2002, its name has been officially reverted to its indigenous name, Kata Tjuta) © L.M. Kling 2013

***

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T-Team Series–Mt. Woodroffe

[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.

In this episode, the T-Team with Mr. B scale the heights of the highest mountain in South Australia, Mt. Woodroffe. Even back in 1977, Mt. Woodroffe being on land owned by the Indigenous people, we needed permission and a guide. Don’t know what happened to the guide back then, but we had permission. The situation has changed in the 44 years since we climbed…more about that later.]

The Top of SA — Mt. Woodroffe

The sun climbed over the horizon, its rays touching the clouds in hues of red and Mount Woodroffe in pink.

*[Photo 1 and feature: Mt. Woodroffe, our goal © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

In the golden light, packs on our backs we filed up the gully. The narrow creek in the hill-face gave way to the slopes leading to the summit. With no defined track except for euro (small kangaroo) ruts, we picked our way through the spinifex. Rick carried his .22 rifle in the hope of game for dinner.

 ‘You’ve got to watch that spinifex,’ Dad said. ‘If you get pricked by it, the needle stays inside your body for years.’

‘Years?’ I asked. ‘What does it do there?’

‘It works its way through your body and eventually it comes out through your hands or feet or somewhere.’

‘Yuck!’

‘Ouch!’ Rick screamed. ‘The spinifex just stung me.’ My brother stopped and pulled up his trouser leg to inspect the damage and then muttered, ‘Next time I’m making shin-guards.’

‘I guess one should be careful when one answers the call of nature out here,’ Mr. B said.

Matt sniggered.

I gazed at the acres of spikey bushes and decided to resist the call of nature.

*[Photo 2: The sting of Spinifex © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

After about two hours of weaving our way through spinifex, climbing over rocks, scaling waves of ridges, we reached the summit.

We gathered around the cairn and surveyed the mountain range that spread like ripples of water in shades of mauve below us.

Dad pointed to the north. ‘Can you see? Ayers Rock, The Olgas and Mt Conner.’

*[Photo 3: View of the North from the summit © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

I studied the three odd-shaped purple monoliths popping up from the plain. After the strenuous hike to the top of South Australia, I gazed at the ranges resembling waves rising and falling in the sea of the desert was filled with euphoria.

 ‘Wow!’ I gushed. ‘Apart from spinifex, the climb was a walk in the park—a most worthwhile journey.’

Mr. B folded his arms and grunted.

Still on a high, I ran around the stone pile, snapping photos from every direction with my instamatic film camera. Then I gathered the T-Team. ‘Come on, get around the cairn. We must record this momentous occasion for posterity.’

The men followed my orders like a group of cats and refused to arrange themselves. Mr. B hung at the back of the group and snapped, ‘Hurry up! We need to eat.’

Lunch of corned beef and relish sandwiches at the top of South Australia was Dad’s reward to us for persevering. We rested for an hour on the summit taking in the warmth of the sun, the blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds and the stunning views of the Musgrave Ranges and desert.

*[Photo 4: Musgrave Ranges view from the summit © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

My adventurous brother climbed on his own down the slope and out of sight.

‘Where’s your brother gone, girl?’ Mr B asked.

‘Probably gone to hunt kangaroo for tea,’ I chuckled, ‘he’s had no luck so far.’

‘Better than egg soup, I guess,’ Mr B muttered.

‘Well, aren’t you going to follow him?’

‘Nah, I need to rest before the hike down.’

About twenty minutes later, I detected his head bobbing up and over the rocks and bushes. I watched as he sauntered along the scaly rocks towards us.

Dad frowned. ‘Careful walking over those rocks.’

Rick looked up. ‘What?’ He caught his shoe on a wedge of stone, lost balance and stumbled, crashing on the rocky surface.

‘O-oh!’ Dad scampered over to my brother. I followed while Mr. B and Matt stayed planted on their respective rocks.

*[Photo 5: More Musgrave Ranges view from the summit © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

Rick pulled up his trouser leg and with our father they inspected the damage.

I peered over Dad’s shoulder. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘I’ve bruised my knee and leg.’ Rick sniffed.

Dad helped Rick hobble to the cairn and then gave him a canteen flask of water to wash over the injury.

‘How are you going to get down the mountain?’ I asked.

‘I mean to say, laddie, you can’t camp up here,’ Mr. B added.

Rick sighed. ‘I’ll be fine. It’s nothing.’

Matt chuckled at my brother’s bravery.

Dad patted Rick on the back. ‘Ah, well, you’ll be right.’

With the T-Team all in one spot, I took advantage of the situation and seized the moment on camera.

Mr. B glared at me. ‘Make it snappy.’

‘Okay,’ I said capturing the less than impressed Dad, Mr. B, Matt and my brother nursing his bruised knee.

*[Photo 6: T-Team at the summit © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

After photos, we began to climb down those jagged rocks, carefully avoiding the spinifex. But try as he might to avoid the menacing bushes, more spikes attacked Rick’s tender legs. ‘Definitely going to wear leg guards the next time I come to Central Australia to climb mountains,’ he grumbled.

We reached a rock pool, just a puddle of slime, actually. I pulled off my shoes and emptied grass seeds and sand onto the surface of slate. Then I ripped off my socks. They looked similar to red-dusty porcupines, covered in spinifex needles. My feet itched with the silicone pricks of the spinifex. I dipped my prickle-assaulted feet in the muddy water.

‘You mean, David, old chap,’ Mr. B massaged his feet and turned to Dad, ‘we’re stuck with the prickly critters long after our climbing days are over?’

‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ Dad replied.

*[Photo 7: Rock pool of rest © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

During rest at the poor excuse of a rock pool, nature called, and this time I could no longer resist. I hunted for a suitable spot, but everywhere I looked, ants scrambled about, millions of them. The longer I looked, the more ants congregated and the more desperate I became. But I had to go, ants or no ants. At least the patch was clear of spinifex. I suppose for the ants, my toilet stop might have been the first rain in weeks.

*[Photo 8: Honey Ant; not the same at I encountered, but a sweet delicacy according to the Indigenous © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

Back at camp, we began our ritual of preparing the bedding. Mr. B stomped around the creek bed until he found the softest sand. Dad grabbed the sleeping bags one by one and tossed them to each of us.

‘Argh!’ Mr. B cried.

‘What?’ Dad asked.

‘Oh, no!’ Rick moaned.

‘What?’ Dad asked.

‘Who’s been piddling on my sleeping bag?’ Rick grizzled.

‘Piddling?’ Dad stomped over to Rick.

‘It’s all wet.’

‘I say, boy, why’s my sleeping bag all wet? Couldn’t you use a bush?’ Mr. B remarked.

Matt turned away. ‘Wasn’t me.’ He unrolled his sleeping bag. ‘Oh, no, mine’s wet too.’

Rick looked at me.

‘Hey, I stopped wetting the bed years ago,’ I snapped. ‘Anyway, mine’s dry.’

‘I wasn’t going to say anything,’ Rick replied.

I raised my voice. ‘You were, you were looking at me like…’

‘There, there, cut it out,’ Dad strode over to Rick and me. He held up a bucket. ‘The washing buckets leaked on the sleeping bags.’

*[Photo 9: Desert Sunset © S.O Gross circa 1950]

***

These days, in the days of the “new normal”, as a result of Covid, climbing Mt. Woodroffe may not be possible. I did a little Google research about it. During the times of the “old normal”, permission from the Indigenous Owners of the APY Lands was still necessary, but it seems the Mt. Woodroffe climb was part of an organised tour. To find out more, here are the links below:

https://www.diversetravel.com.au/aboriginal-tours/nt-mt-woodroffe-climb

Mt Woodroffe – Aussie Bushwalking

Best summit hikes in South Australia | Walking SA

[An extract from The T-Team With Mr. B: Central Australian Safari 1977; a yet to be published prequel to my travel memoir, Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981, available on Amazon.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2021; 2022

Feature Photo: The Goal, Mt. Woodroffe © C.D. Trudinger 1981

***

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Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Bush Tucker Mr. T Style

[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.

In this episode, my dad (Mr. T) brews up an unusual “stew” by accident…]

Egg Soup

The sun lingered above the horizon as we returned from a hike to our campsite at the base of Mount Woodroffe.

‘Ah, an early tea,’ Dad said. ‘It’s always best to cook while there’s daylight. We can make an early start.’

*[Photo 1: The dream of a Waterhole; not to be in 1977 © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

‘Well, after that disappointing jaunt to find that damned waterhole you went on about David, I’m pooped. I’m going to have a lie down,’ Dad’s friend, Mr. B said as he slumped onto a nearby log. ‘I hope you’ve found us some nice soft sand to sleep on. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep yet on this trip.’

*[Photo 2: Up the Creek at base of Mt Woodroffe © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

‘Yes, well, um,’ Dad called after him, ‘I need some help stirring the pots.’

‘Get your daughter,’ Mr. B replied, ‘I dare say, she’s a girl, that’s what she ought to be doing—cooking, I mean.’

I stopped blowing up my mattress. Uh-oh, now I have to cook and miss out on all the fun, I thought as air slowly wheezed out of the mattress.

Dad coughed. ‘Er, um, actually, I’ve asked Lee-Anne to sort out the bedding and to pump up the mattresses. And the boys, Richard and your son, Matthew, have gone out shooting, getting us some roo to cook. I have it all organised. So I would like you to stir the pot, please.’

I breathed out and then started blowing up the mattress again. Phew! Dodged that bullet.

‘Oh, very well, then,’ Mr. B said as he negotiated his path through an obstacle course of billy cans, tucker boxes and tarpaulin back to the campfire.

I thought, there is always a danger being too early and organised. So it was this evening when Dad, who prided himself as “chef-extraordinaire”, prepared scrambled eggs and soup for dinner.

I hopped over to Dad. ‘Do you need some help with dinner?’

Dad patted his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. ‘No, I have Mr. B helping me. You go and pump up the mattresses.’

‘But my jaws are sore from all the blowing,’ I said. ‘I need a break.’

‘No, I have it all covered. It’s about time Mr. B does his fair share.’

I could see from Dad’s expression, the pursing of his lips, keeping the chuckle from bursting out, Dad thought he was being really clever asking Mr. B to help stir the soup pot.

As I shuffled around the campsite sorting out my bedding, I distinctly heard Mr. B mutter, ‘My goodness this soup is awfully thick.’

 [Photo 3: Gone hunting at the base of Mt Woodroffe © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Being the only female in the crew, Dad appointed me to call in the troops. I tramped through the scrub in search of the boys. My brother Richard and Matt loved to shoot with their .22 rifles. But neither were good at it. I could hear the rifles popping, but in the dimming light I failed to locate the lads. So I returned to camp.

There the men were, all of them (minus the roo for dinner), their spoons dipping in and out of their cups.

Mr. B grimaced as he put another spoonful of soup to his lips. ‘Ugh! This is awful! This is the worst feed yet!’

‘It’s alright,’ Dad said as he bustled around the campfire. His cup wobbled on a rock as he handed my portion to me. He gave the other billy a maddening stir.

‘What’s in there?’ I asked.

‘Egg, egg scramble,’ Dad said and handed me the ladle. ‘Go on, you can stir it.’

I peered in at the watery mist. ‘It’s awfully thin, are you sure?’

‘Just stir will you?’ Dad snapped. ‘I’ve got other things to do.’

‘Alright.’

I sipped my soup and stirred the pot.

Richard and Matt stood by the fire and stared at their metal mugs.

‘Come on, drink up,’ Dad commanded.

The boys dutifully slurped up their soup.

Mr. B raised his voice. ‘So what sort of soup do you call this? You know, it tastes awfully like egg. You’re sure that you didn’t mix up the billies?’

‘Oh, no, not at all!’ Dad replied.

I took another sip. The soup tasted nice. I quite liked it. Then again, anything tastes good when you are a starving teenager.

*[Photo 4: Dinner Time camping in the creek © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

As Dad settled himself by the fire, Mr. B slavishly gulped down the remainder of his soup. ‘Well, that is the worst soup, I’ve ever had in my life. Oh, for some decent food! And a decent night’s sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink last night and my back’s aching!’ He spied his son playing with his soup. ‘Eat up, boy! Look! Tha girl’s eating hers.’

Dad began to take a spoonful of soup. ‘Hang on. This’s not right.’ He pointed at a billy sitting on the ground to the side of the fire. ‘Lee-Anne, can you just check the other billy?’

‘What for?’

‘Don’t ask, just check, would you!’

‘Okay!’ I grumbled and hobbled over to the billy sitting in the cold, the contents supposedly waiting for the frypan. I lifted the brew onto the wooden spoon. In the fading twilight, I spied water, peas, carrots and corn, but not an ounce of egg. ‘Looks like soup to me.’

Dad pushed me out the way. He had to check for himself. ‘O-oh!’

‘So we did have egg soup!’ Mr. B said, ‘I knew it.’ Even after less than a week with this pompous friend of Dad’s, I suspected this fellow would never let Dad hear the end of it. I imagined, from now on, till the end of Mr. B’s days, Dad’s culinary skills would amount to egg soup.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Dad said. ‘My mistake.’

‘I knew we were just too well organised,’ I said.

‘I won’t forget this occasion,’ Mr. B said. ‘Egg soup, what next?’

Poor Dad.

Dad boiled the correct soup and dolled it out in the dark.

We drank our portions void of conversation until an awkward “Oops!” cut through the icy air. Matt had spilt soup all over the tarpaulin.

‘Oh, Matt, did you have to?’ Mr. B said. ‘Now, clean it up and be more careful next time.’

As Mr. B harangued his son to clean up, drink up and for-heaven’s-sake be careful, and where-on-earth did you put the cup, son, we don’t want another accident, Dad sighed and ushered my brother and me to retreat to our sleeping quarters and away from Mr. B’s ire.

In the sanctuary of space away from Mr. B and son, we washed our clothes and prepared for the climb up Mt. Woodroffe the next day.

‘We need to make an early start,’ Dad said.

I reckon Dad did not want to add any more disasters to his list.

 *[Photo 5 and feature: Sunset © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; revised 2018; 2022

***

Read more of Dad’s culinary disasters and successes…

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 

And escape in time and space to Central Australia 1981…

T-Team Series–Closer to Ernabella

T-Team with Mr. B (8) —Closer to Ernabella

[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.

In this episode, the T-Team encounters an outback custom on the roads…]

The Obligatory Wave

As we prepared to jump in the Rover, a battered old utility car (we Aussies call it a “ute”) roared up to us. The ute stopped, and two Indigenous men stepped out.

‘Do you need any help?’ one asked.

Dad waved at them. ‘It’s okay.’

The men jumped back in their ute and then waved at us. They drove away with dirt and dust from the road billowing behind their vehicle.

[Photo 1: Dad adjusts load on Rover © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

After loading ourselves into the over-loaded Rover, we thundered down the road. A Holden sedan approached from the opposite direction. Dad slowed down as we prepared to pass on this narrow road, and we positioned our hands for the obligatory wave. The thing about the outback, as the drivers of the cars passed each other, was the slow raising of the hand to the windscreen; a ritual greeting for the rare fellow traveller.

*[Photo 2: Road in the Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

The car neared, and we lifted our right hands up and down. The Indigenous owner of the sedan did the same. Dad tracked the car as it passed us. Then he looked back.

‘Felix! (Not his real name),’ Dad said. ‘It’s Felix, I would recognize him anywhere.’ He stopped the Rover in the middle of the road.

‘Oh, why are we stopping?’ Mr B whined. ‘We’re already late as it is.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ I replied. ‘More time to admire the scenery. Look, a flowering gum.’

*[Photo 3: Wild hops in the Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Felix had also parked mid-track. The two old men from their respective vehicles jumped out and paced to each other. They shook hands, laughed and babbled away.

‘Dad really can speak their language,’ I remarked to Rick.

We all climbed out and Dad introduced us to Felix who shook our hands. Dad continued to banter in Pitjantjatjara. I reckon he was showing off his linguistic skills for Mr. B’s benefit.

Some delicate yellow flowers caught my gaze. I shifted to them, and bending down, plucked a couple. I’ll preserve them in my bible, I thought.

*[Photo 4: Flowering gum © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

Mr B peered at the desert rose I had as my souvenir. ‘That’s a pretty ordinary looking flower, if you ask me. I say, where’s the Sturt Desert Pea when you want them? I thought we’d see them everywhere being in the desert and all.’

I shrugged. Dad and his Indigenous friend continued their banter, so couldn’t ask them.

*[Photo 5: Desert Wildflowers © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

After some time chatting in Indigenous tongue to his friend, Dad shook Felix’s hand once more and then the men patted each other on the back before bidding each other goodbye. Then we jumped back into our respective vehicles and continued our journeys; the T-Team to Ernabella and Felix away from Ernabella. 

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

*Feature Photo: Desert rose © S.O. Gross circa 1950

***

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T-Team Series—Approaching Ernabella

Broken Cars, Broken Trailer

T-Team with Mr. B (6)

[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, Dad shares his childhood adventures in the Musgrave Ranges and the trailer, tired of desert travel, has a tantrum …]

Dad pointed at the expanse of red sand dotted with spinifex. ‘This land belongs to the Pitjantjatjara people.’

I sat in the front seat while he negotiated the corrugations, bumps and lumps of the poor excuse for a graded road. Abandoned cars, just shells really, languished in the scrub each side of the road.

*[Photo 1: Abandoned Car local to area, Marla © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘They—’ Dad waved at the wrecks that were planted in crimson fields of wild hops. I knew he meant the owners of this land. ‘—run their cars to the ground. Anyway, normally you need a special permit to go onto their land.’

‘Then how did you get to go here?’ I asked.

Dad chuckled. ‘Well, I wrote a letter to their council of elders asking permission. I put at the end that if I didn’t hear from them, that meant they gave their approval. I didn’t hear from them.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘I have friends at Ernabella as well,’ Dad adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. ‘I used to come up to Ernabella when my older brother was teaching there. When I was ‘round your age.’

Dad went onto explain how he made good friends with the Pitjantjatjara lads about the same age as him and how they explored the Musgrave Ranges. ‘I even learnt the language,’ he boasted.

‘How long ago was that, Dad?’ I asked.

‘Oh, something like thirty-five years ago.’ 

‘And you were ma son’s age,’ Mr. B called out from the back seat.

*[Photo 2: Dad and brother Paul with Pitjantjatjara friends at Ernabella © Ron Trudinger circa 1940]

I glanced to the back of the Rover. Matt blushed and looked away. I’d been impressed by his silence on this trip. I was sure I hadn’t heard him utter more than a few words the four days we’d been travelling. He seemed an obedient little chap, especially in his father’s presence. I wondered what Dad was like when he was Matt’s age. I imagined Dad as more talkative, after all, he could speak the language of the Pitjantjatjara people.

‘I reckon, you must’ve been more adventurous than Matt to go camping in the Musgrave Ranges, Dad,’ I said, hoping to get a squeak of protest out of Matt.  ‘Anything could’ve happened to you.’

‘There was this one time,’ Dad said, ‘when I went exploring with my friends in the middle of summer. We forgot to take any water and it was hot. We got lost and had to search for a waterhole. I was so thirsty, I thought I was going to die. We found the waterhole just in time. But I learnt a valuable lesson to always take water and salt tablets.’

Matt’s only response, a smirk.

While his father said, ‘Who, in their right mind would go out into the desert without water? I ask you.’

*[Photo 3: “Just in time” waterhole in Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!

‘What’s that noise?’ Mr. B shouted.

‘Oh, no!’ Rick peered out the back window. ‘One of the trailer bars is broken.’

Dad sighed. ‘And we’ve only just started today.’

We stopped, jumped out of the Rover and then formed a circle around the trailer that leaned on its side.

‘Now what are we going to do?’ Mr. B asked.

Rick shrugged.

Dad bent down and examined the damage. ‘A part is missing.’

‘I’ll go look for it,’ Rick broke away from the circle and sauntered down the track.

The rest of us stood mesmerized by the leaning tower of trailer that seemed to be sinking in the sand.

*[Photo 4: Desert Travel takes its toll. Rugged terrain near Hermannsburg © S.O. Gross circa 1941]

A few minutes later, Rick returned. ‘It’s gone, I can’t seem to see it anywhere.’

‘So, what are we going to do?’ Mr. B asked again.

Dad kicked a tyre. ‘There’s only one thing we can do. We have to pile everything on top of the Land Rover.’

‘What? You are kidding, aren’t you?’ Mr. B laughed.

‘No, I’m serious. We have to get parts to fix the trailer, and we can’t leave it here,’ Dad said.

‘You—you mean the trailer too?’ Mr. B asked.

‘Yes.’

‘The trailer? How’s the Rover going to cope with that?’

‘It’ll just have to,’ Dad said. ‘I wouldn’t risk leaving it here in the bush.’

‘Yeah, not by the looks of those car wrecks,’ Rick muttered.

Mr. B scratched his head. ‘You mean to say, if we leave the trailer, someone will come along in this desert and take things?’

‘Yes, most likely,’ Dad replied.

‘Even if we hide it in the bush?’

‘Have you seen where the other car wrecks are, Mr. B?’ Rick asked. ‘They’re not exactly on the road.’

Mr. B put his hands on his hips and frowned.

*[Photo 5: Some people, like my grandpa, will do what it takes to move the immovable in the desert. Towing their broken-down truck by donkeys © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

‘Look,’ Dad said, ‘we’re not far from Ernabella. We can get the trailer fixed there. I’m sure we’ll be alright for a few miles.’

Mr. B grunted and then pointed at his son. ‘Well, come on boy, don’t just stand there, help us unload the trailer.’

We all helped pile the contents of the trailer and then the trailer on top of the Rover. While Rick tightened the last of the ropes over the trailer stack on the Rover’s roof, I stood back and said, ‘Now the Rover really does look overloaded.’

[Photo 6 : Comic Car Crush © from RAA magazine circa 1977]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo : Sunset on a rock, near Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

***

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T-Team Series–T-Team With Mr. B (2)

The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australian Safari 1977

The Beginning

Part 2

[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 our first campsite, it became clear, I was not the one that Dad should be concerned about.

On Our Way 

We travelled past the Flinders Ranges and reached Lyndhurst. The hired Land Rover so far served us well. Dad and Mr. B enjoyed the luxury of the front cabin, while we younger members of the T-Team in the rear suffered the fate of sardines. Despite the cramped conditions, I managed to have a game of chess with Matt and won.

*[Photo 1: 30 years later…Road through Flinders Ranges © L.M. Kling 2007]

We camped in the scrub near Lyndhurst where we collected firewood and then Mr. B insisted on helping Dad light the fire.

‘I’m an expert fire-maker.’ Mr B lit a match and held the flame to the grass. ‘Small things first.’

We watched as a puff of wind extinguished the feeble flame.

Mr. B lit another match and held it to the grass, then dropped it and shook his singed fingers. Then he bent down and blew at the sparks.

‘You might need some newspaper,’ Dad said.

‘No, no, that would be cheating,’ Mr. B snapped.

‘Yeah, well, we don’t want to be eating at midnight.’ Dad lit a wad of newspaper and chucked it into the nest of grass.

Then the two elders stooped to their knees and blew, encouraging the flame to take hold and prosper.

*[Photo 2: 28 years later my hubby had the knack of starting a campfire—even in the rain. Melrose © L.M. Kling 2005]

As the fire consumed the grass, then twigs and the small logs, Mr. B said, ‘I hope you don’t consider fuelling the fire with petrol.’

‘No, never,’ my dad replied. ‘Slow and steady, and just enough to cook. There’s no need to have a big bon fire.’

‘Oh? You mean, my friend we’re not going to have a big fire when we sleep? How may I ask are we going to keep warm?’

‘Like the Indigenous. They have their individual fires which they keep burning all night. Fires also keep the wild animals away.’

*[Photo 3: 41 years later, my hubby by the campfire in the Flinders Ranges, Mambray Creek. These days campfires must be contained in these metal half-barrels to prevent bushfires © L.M. Kling 2018]

‘Oh, I don’t know about that, David, sounds like a lot of bother,’ Mr. B remarked to Dad. ‘I don’t mind sleeping under the stars, but having to tend my own fire? I think my sleeping bag will keep me warm.’ He looked around at the ground covered in iron pebbles. ‘By the way, where are my sleeping quarters?’

Dad waved a hand at a small clearing a few metres from the cooking area. ‘Take your pick.’

Mr. B frowned. ‘But it’s all stony. I need some nice soft sand. This will not do.’

‘You’ll be on a tarpaulin and a blow-up mattress. You won’t feel the stones,’ Dad said.

‘I hope you’re right,’ Mr. B muttered. Then he called to Matt, ‘Boy? Go blow up ma mattress. Make ya-self useful.’

*[Photo 4: Gibber Plains still the same 36 years later © L.M. Kling 2013]

So, while Matt, Rick and I sorted out the bedding, Dad cooked for us chops and sausages on the fire. We ate the sausages with bread and lashings of butter.

Night, and with it a chill. One by one we pulled on our jumpers and warmed our frozen hands by the fire. Dad shared his plans: Ernabella and the Musgrave Ranges where we’d climb Mount Woodroffe, then Uluru and Kata Tjuta, then Alice Springs, MacDonnell Ranges, Hermannsburg, and an adventure way out West to climb Mount Liebig.

Dad rubbed his hands together and grinned. ‘That’s a total of 2374 miles.’

‘And you expect us to do all that in less than three weeks?’ Mr. B said.

‘Oh, yes, but we need to get to bed and have a good night’s sleep, so we can make an early start,’ Dad replied, then pursed his lips.

Mr. B grunted and then gave some good advice which has stuck with me. ‘Whenever we travelled, wherever we stayed, our hotel rooms, you see, when we packed up, we’d go back into the room and check it over including getting on our hands and knees and look under the bed for anything left behind.’

The B’s must be rich if they can stay in hotels and motels whenever they go on holiday, I thought.

I gazed up at the blanket of stars dipped in the froth of the Milky Way that covered the sky and shivered in my cotton sleeping bag. My feet froze—even with woolly socks on. I did as Dad advised and like the Indigenous owners of this country, I made a small personal fire. One side of me warmed while the other side remained icy cold. And my toes ached with cold. On that cold and frozen-toe night, sleep eluded me.

Mr. B groaned. ‘I dare say, David, I can feel the stones. I can feel the stones right through my mattress. I thought you said I wouldn’t old chap.’

Dad sighed.

Rick grunted.

Matt buried himself in his sleeping bag and wriggled like a worm.

‘I say, David. David?’

Too frozen in our bags to respond, we ignored Mr. B who challenged our endeavours to sleep.

‘David? Damned how one is meant to sleep on this infernal rocky ground,’ Mr. B muttered one last time before he tossed and turned on the mattress making it squeak and produce other rude noises as it consorted with the tarpaulin beneath.

My first night camping…

***

*[Photo 5 and Feature: Sunset in the Flinders Ranges © L.M. Kling 2001]

I recalled the motto I’d written in my travel diary: Jesus is with me always. And I pondered on the sixth member of T-Team who would protect and guide us on our journey into perhaps one of the most isolated parts of the world. Watching my personal fire spark and crackle, I remembered Jesus’ promise: ‘…and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’ Matthew 28:20b

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

***

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T-Team Series–Climbing Mt. Conner

Picnic on the Plateau

[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]

At midday Dad, my two cousins (C1 and C2), and I set off to conquer Mt. Conner. My brother stayed back at camp to nurse his sore feet and our family friend, TR to recover from his Uluru climb. All that hype from Dad about a perilous and impossible ascent to the plateau was highly exaggerated. We followed a euro (rock wallaby) track, although rocky, had no loose rocks and the spinifex was sparse.

*[Photo 1: The prospect of climbing Mt. Conner © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

We reached the plateau in ninety minutes. After hiking through the bush for ten minutes, we found a clearing. Dad lit a small fire. We cooked damper and boiled water for tea. So, for lunch we enjoyed sardines, peanut butter and jam on our damper, and washed down the whole fare with billy tea. I reckon Dad had to reassert his glory as chief cook after I’d provided porridge for breakfast while Dad went rabbit hunting—unsuccessful rabbit hunting.

Our stomachs settled, we wandered towards the cliffs.

‘Oh, we’ll be hiking for quite a while,’ Dad said erring on the side of pessimism. ‘The cliffs are five miles away.’

‘Well, what’s this then?’ C1’s voice floated back through a thick wad of tee tree.

We stepped through the wall of scrub. My older cousin lay flat on his stomach peering down a 500-metre drop, his bare back hanging over the edge.

*[Photo 2: Careful, cousin © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

‘Ah, well.’ Dad tiptoed toward the precipice and looked down. ‘You be careful.’

‘I know what I’m doing Uncle.’ C1 inched further over the ledge and snapped a few shots with his camera.

I held my breath as C1’s body edged over the cliff side. I took a photo of his dare-devil act. For most of the time C2 loitered way back by the bushes with his uncle, reluctant to venture too close to the edge. However, I do have a photo of my cousins on a rocky outcrop near the cliff.

*[Photo 3: The drop © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Mid-afternoon, we commenced our return to camp T-Team. Wanting to locate the highest point of Mt. Conner, I made a little detour. Everyone followed.

We stopped in the middle of non-descript scrubland where Dad muttered, ‘We’ve wasted half-an-hour.’

‘Alright then, not much of a summit anyway,’ I said. ‘It’s like Mt. Remarkable in the Southern Flinders; most unremarkable. And no view.’

We trudged down the stony euro path to the plains below.

*[Photo 4: View from the plains © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Our descent took an hour and, as the sun hovered just above the horizon, we arrived back at camp triumphant and exhausted. A box kite constructed out of brown paper hovered above the mulga trees. At the other end of the rough string, in a small sandy patch, Richard tugged at his lofty creation.

The sun squeezed golden rays through high clouds near the horizon. A photo opportunity arose. Soon it’ll be over, I thought, and plucked up Dad’s chunky camera bag and darted towards the bush.

‘Hoy!’ Dad yelled.

I cringed. Just my luck he’ll make me peel those petrol-tainted spuds. ‘What?’ I yelled.

‘Where’re you off to?’

‘I just want to take a photo of the sunset on Mt. Conner with your camera.’

‘Oh, I don’t know about that.’

‘Oh, please!’ I placed the bag on the ground and then clasped my hands together. ‘I’ll be careful.’

‘But…’

‘I won’t go far.’

Dad took two paces towards me. ‘But—um—er—’

‘I’ll be back to help with tea in a minute. I won’t be long.’

‘Oh, alright! Go on then.’ He flung his hand around his face as if shooing a fly. Then he locked eyes with me and shook his index finger at me. ‘But don’t go off the road, do you understand?’

‘Yes, Dad.’

I picked up the bag and skipped through the scrub.

I did have to go off the road in search of a vantage point. All the good high ground happened to be off track. The forest of mulga trees obscured the view of Mt. Conner. I climbed a tree. Dad never said anything about climbing trees. Perched on a branch, I watched the sienna tones on Conner’s cliffs deepen. Then I grew bored and moved to a higher tree.

The sun sank through the clouds and into the horizon. The cliffs turned orange, then soft crimson, and finally, blood red. I snapped each stage with the best shot just after the sun had set, bathing the mesa in crimson.

*[Photo 5: Mount Conner at sunset © L.M. Kling 1981]

Pleased with my photographic efforts, I commenced my descent down the rough branches of the mulga tree. Snap. My foothold broke and crumbled. My lower half scudded a few inches catching on the splintery trunk, while I caught and hung onto the brittle branch above. Dad’s heavy camera dangled like a lead weight compromising my equilibrium, causing me to teeter. I rotated my body, shifted the camera to my side, then, hugging the tree trunk, began climbing down bear-style. The strap got in the way and as I used my elbow to slide it and the camera to my back, I lost my balance and plummeted to the ground.

I picked myself up and checked the camera. The body and lens appeared whole and unscathed. My shirt sleeve was not so fortunate, having been torn by the trauma of the fall. Ah, well, I’ll sew it up some time. I dusted the spinifex needles from the seat of my pants and marched back to camp, arriving just before nightfall. I rolled up my shirt-sleeve hiding my brush with personal catastrophe.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

Photo: Mt. Conner Sunset © Lee-Anne Marie Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981

***

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T-Team Series–Mt. Conner

Broken Springs

Have been reviewing The T-Team with Mr. B, the prequel to my first travel memoir, Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981. The updated manuscript has been resting long enough for me to revisit Mr. B and his intrepid adventures with the T-Team. Ready to publish…Maybe in the new year.

The sun sparkled through the gold-green leaves of the river gums, and a flock of white cockatoos chattered in the branches. The air hinted warmth and enticed me out of my sleeping bag to explore. Dad had mentioned we’d be probably camping near Curtain Springs on our journey to Ayers Rock (now called Uluru). But this morning I wanted to check out a spring closer to camp.

[Photo 1: Flock of Parrots © L.M. Kling 1984]

I ambled down the soft sands of the creek bed, past Mr. B wrapped up in his sleeping bag of superior fibres for warmth. He smacked his lips and snored as I trod to the side of him. Matt and Richard stood like the risen dead warming the cold blood in their veins by the fire, offering no help to Dad who stirred the porridge.

‘You sure that’s porridge?’ I asked Dad.

‘Of course it is!’ Dad snapped and then peered into the billy to be sure.

‘Can never be too sure, after egg soup last night,’ I said and kept on walking.

Richard and Matt laughed. First sign of actual life from the boys I’d seen that morning.

Dad called after me. ‘Er, Lee-Anne, where are you going?’

‘For a nature walk.’

‘Oh, don’t be too long, breakfast is almost ready.’

I patted my camera bag. ‘Yes, Dad.’ Just after I’ve checked out the spring to see if the scene was worthy to be photographed. No need to tell Dad that information. He’d just try to persuade me to have breakfast first and then I’d miss the not so early morning photo opportunity.

The creek narrowed, and I scrambled over rocks, pushed through reeds to the spring. Anticipating a pretty pond, with waterlilies, ducks and a kangaroo or two drinking the fresh clear water, I was disappointed. The spring, if you could call it a spring was little more than a pit of slime. A puddle at the end of our driveway at home was more photogenic than this hole filled with muddy water.

After a glance at the so-called spring, I tramped back to camp and ate cold porridge for breakfast.

 [Photo 2: The pond of disappointment © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

After our “business trip” to civilisation, Ernabella, where we collected the trailer, had a shower, filled up with petrol, water and replenished our supplies from the store, we began our travels to Uluru.

On the way a large flat-topped mountain emerged through the red sand dunes.

[Photo 3: Mt Conner © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘Is that Uluru?’ I asked Dad.

‘It’s Mt. Conner. Remember we saw it from Mt. Woodroffe?’

‘How come it’s higher than the land around it?’

‘In Central Australia’s prehistoric past,’ Dad explained, ‘this piece of land kept its integrity while the surrounding area had eroded away. It’s called a mesa.’

I was fascinated by this monolithic plateau. ‘Can we stop and get a photo of it?’

‘When I find a good place to stop,’ Dad said.

He kept on driving up and down the red waves of sand hills, winding left and right, the mesa appearing and disappearing, never quite the perfect view or park for our Rover. We rolled onto the plain and in the distance, Mt. Conner rose above the dunes. Dad parked the Rover at the side of the road and we jumped out. I hiked further up the road. The flat-topped mountain looked so small in the viewer of my instamatic camera.

[Photo 4: Mt Conner, Dad and Rick © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Dad groaned.

‘What?’ Mr. B asked.

‘The trailer’s cracked up again.’

‘Not again!’ Richard muttered.

‘I’m afraid so,’ Dad said. ‘Can you fix it, Richard?’

The men gathered around the trailer, once again sinking into the ochre sand and leaning on its side.

‘It’s the springs.’ Dad circled it like a shark. ‘Can’t take the rough track.’

‘Hmmm,’ Mr. B grunted, his hands on hips and elbows akimbo.

Richard lay down on the ground and peered up into the trailer’s underside.

Dad sighed. ‘We better unload the trailer, I suppose.’

While the men relieved the ailing trailer of its load and bound up the fissure with some rope, I scaled a small rise and took several shots of Mt. Conner. Then as the males in the T-Team stuffed most of the luggage into the back of the Rover and then with the light left-overs, reloaded the trailer, I gazed at the mesa, this top-sliced mountain in an expanse of yellow grass and sienna dunes. Boring! My photos needed a human figure to add interest. Richard and Matt, having completed their trailer-duties, wandered up the road.

I ran down the hill and chased after Richard. ‘Take a photo of me.’

Richard gazed up at the cobalt blue sky. ‘Oh, alright.’

Positioning myself on the side of the road, I looked at Richard. ‘Come on, I’m ready.’

‘Just wait, move to the right,’ Richard said.

I did and then noticed Richard’s finger hovering over the camera lens. ‘Move your finger.’

He shifted it, but as he snapped the photo, I thought his digit remained too close for comfort to the lens.

To ensure I acquired at least one good shot, I photographed Matt, then Dad and Richard as my humans in the foreground of my mesa muse.

[Photo 5: Mt Conner and me © R.M. Trudinger 1977]

‘Careful you don’t waste your film,’ Dad warned.

‘I won’t,’ I replied without telling him I’d already “wasted” several frames on the wonder of Mt. Conner. How could I resist?

I climbed in the Rover and asked Dad, ‘Can we visit Mt. Conner?’

‘Er, um, not this time.’ Dad had places to be and trailers to properly fix. So the next vital destination on his agenda was Curtain Springs.

To be continued…

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; new and improved 2018; updated 2021

Photo: Mt. Conner by Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013

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[Cover photo]

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