T-Team Series–Stuck in the Finke

The T-Team with Mr B (24)

   [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.

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?

In this episode, the T-Team experience one of the hazards of camping in a creek bed.]

Bogged

The sun peeped over the horizon, its rays causing the river gum leaves to look like they’d burst into flames. The creek was alive with a conference of birds, screeching and chattering over breakfast. I sat up in my sleeping bag and stretched.

*[Photo 1: Another creek bed another time, but the conference of parrots is the same. Conference of parrots, Flinders Ranges © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1983]

 ‘Did you have a good sleep, Lee-Anne?’ Dad asked.

‘Yes, I did. I had a wonderful sleep. It’s just like you say, Dad. The hip hole made all the difference.’

[Photo 2: Speaking from Experience waking up in the Finke River bed © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

During the night, since my air mattress had gone flat, I had dug a hip hole. Dad recommended doing this in place of an air-mattress. He said that the aborigines did this when they slept.

‘That’s good,’ Dad said and then tramped over to the Rover.

When he had disappeared behind the vehicle, I unravelled myself from my bedding, pulled on my boots and shuffled over to the fire joining Richard and Matt, spreading hands over the warmth to continue the process of waking up.

*[Photo 3: Waking up and warming by the fire in Finke Creek Bed © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

 ‘Oh, no!’ Dad cried.

‘What?’ Mr B sat up in his sack. He looked like a red caterpillar with slits for eyes.

‘The Rover’s bogged,’ Dad yelled from behind the Rover.

‘How can you tell?’ Mr B asked.

Dad sighed. ‘Ooh, it doesn’t look good. Told you we shouldn’t’ve camped in a creek bed.’

 ‘Pff!’ Mr B wormed his way out of his sleeping bag and then sauntered over to the Rover, vanishing like Dad behind it.

The men talked in low tones, their voices muffled.

*[Photo 4: Boys will be boys on the Finke © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Richard grabbed his .22 rifle and nodded to Matt who then picked up his. ‘Just going to do some shooting,’ he said and then the two boys walked down the creek. I started to follow them.

‘Lee-Anne!’ Dad called.

I stopped and looked back. ‘What?’

‘Come and help us dig out the Rover’s wheels, would you?’

I put my hands on my hips. ‘Oh, al-right!’

Then I stomped back to the Rover.

Dad huffed and puffed as he shelled out the sand with his bare hands.

*[Photo 5: Our goal, Hermannsburg. Mt Hermannsburg and the Finke. Will we get there?  © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Mr B used the camp shovel. ‘I hope this has been washed and sterilised thoroughly,’ he grunted.

‘Well, um…’

I muttered, ‘Why do the boys get all the fun?’

Both men stopped their shovelling.

Dad glared at me. ‘What did you say?’

‘Er, um, nothing,’ I replied.

‘I don’t want to hear any grumbling, you understand?’ Dad’s voice had an edge to it.

‘No, Daddy.’

‘You should be thankful for the privilege,’ Mr B added.

*[Photo 6: Ah! The privilege of camping on the Finke River © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

‘Yes, I am.’ Where else would I get the joy of digging the Rover out of a bog of sand? I continued digging.

Mr B stepped away from the Rover. ‘Try the Rover now.’

Dad gathered some green leaves and placed them in the cavities under each of the Rover’s tyres. Then he hopped in the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition. The Rover’s engine puttered to life. Dad sat in the idle Rover while it chugged. Then he engaged first gear with a crunch of the clutch.

He stuck his head out the window. ‘Get behind and push.’

Mr B and I laid hands on each side of the Rover’s back end and as Dad pressed down on the accelerator, we pushed. Four wheels spun. Sand and leaves sprayed us.

‘Push, girl!’ Mr B shouted.

‘I’m pushing!’ Sand smattered my face. ‘It’s no use!’

Dad switched off the engine. He jumped out the Rover and marched to the rear tyres. He then knelt and dug deeper under the tyres. ‘Get some more leaves and small branches!’ he cried.

*[Photo 7: Meanwhile, the boys seemed to have escaped responsibility. But Rick’s day of reckoning will come…© L.M. Kling 2013]

Mr B and I scrambled up the bank and gathered armfuls of fallen branches. When we returned, Dad was smoothing out the holes under the back tyres. He also had placed twigs and small branches under the front tyres. We added our offerings to the holes below the back tyres and Dad patted them down. He’d also deflated the tyres a little.

Dad climbed into the driver’s seat. ‘We’ll try again.’

This time with Mr B and me pushing, the Rover’s tyres spun, then caught and jerked out of the bog. Dad sped up the dry river bed and parked on firmer ground. He then returned. Dusting his hands, he said, ‘Alright, Lee-Anne, after I’ve pumped up the tyres again, we’ll be ready to go. Go get the boys. We’re off to Alice Springs.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; Updated 2018

*Feature Photo: Red Walls and the Finke near Hermannsburg © C.D. Trudinger, circa 1955

***

Read more of the adventures of the T-Team in my memoir, Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 available on Amazon and Kindle.

Check it out, click on the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Snake

T-Team with Mr. B (23)

  [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?

This time the T-Team encounter a snake…

SNAKE OF PALMER RIVER

We sailed onwards from Curtin Springs. On this stretch of road, Matt and I were the Captain and Skipper of the good ship Land Rover. We rode up and over waves of copper-coloured sand dunes, juddered along stormy corrugations, and crept through stony creek beds.

*[Photo 1: Riding on the Rover © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

As the sun hovered above a line of gum trees in the distance, a sign to Palmer River rose out of the mirage. Crossing the dry creek bed lined with eucalypt trees, their trunks white and thick and branches covered with lush green leaves, Dad slowed the vehicle to a crawl. He then turned into the creek and drove the Rover along a track of soft sand. After travelling some distance down the dry riverbed, he stopped. The men stepped out from the Rover.

*[Photo 2: Finke River with Mt. Hermannsburg © S.O. Gross circa 1955]

‘I think we’ll camp here tonight,’ Dad said.

‘You’ve got no argument with me,’ Mr. B replied. He gazed around at the cream-coloured sand and shady gum trees. ‘Now why didn’t you find somewhere like this before?’

Dad shrugged.

Mr. B rubbed his hands together. ‘Right time to get the BBQ together and fire it up.’

*[Photo 3: Camping in the Finke © S.O. Gross circa 1955]

While the older men cooked the meat, the lads ventured out to shoot some meat of their own. I followed at a safe distance. Walking over to a track that crossed the riverbed, I spotted a dark long object.

‘Hey, look at this,’ I yelled to the boys.

They stopped and turned.

‘Careful,’ Richard said.

‘Is that a snake?’ Matt asked. He raised his rifle.

I tip-toed up to the long dark creature and peered at it. A brown snake, two metres in length, lay across the track.

‘It’s a snake,’ I said.

*[Photo 4: Snake (not a Brown) © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

‘Get out the way,’ Richard said. He raised his rifle and squinted lining up the target with his “iron sight” (the bit at the end of the rifle’s nozzle that helps with the shooter’s aim).

I trod a couple of steps closer. ‘It’s not moving.’

‘What are you doing? It might strike,’ Richard shouted.

‘They’re poisonous, you know,’ Matt added.

‘It’s alright.’ I walked up to it. In two places the snake appeared to be flattened. ‘There’s tyre marks across its body. It’s dead. Very dead.’

Richard crouched down beside the effigy and then picked it up. ‘Yep, it’s dead.’

‘And some car’s the culprit,’ Matt said.

As the sun sank into the horizon, casting its tangerine magic on the trunks of the river gums, the T-Team gathered around the BBQ.

‘Well, ma boys,’ Mr B flipped a steak in the pan, ‘you got anything to add?’

Richard and Matt glanced at each other and then gazed at the pink and grey waves of sand of Palmer River.

*[Photo 5: Memories of dinner on the campfire past © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

I giggled. ‘They wanted to, but their shooting venture was fruitless.’

‘That’s a shame,’ Dad said. ‘Ah, well.’

‘We could have the snake,’ I said.

‘I don’t think so,’ Dad cleared his throat, ‘we’re not that desperate.’

So, while parrots chattered in the gum trees celebrating another brilliant day in the Centre of Australia, having escaped the boys’ efforts to shoot them, we savoured our juicy steak from Curtin Springs Station.

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

Feature Photo: Snake © S.O. Gross circa 1950

[Palmer River is a tributary of the Finke River. Some of the photos above remind me of our Palmer River campsite.]

***

Read more of the adventures of the T-Team in my memoir, Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 available on Amazon and Kindle. Check it out, click on the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

Or

Download The Lost World of the Wends

Free till 2 August 2022.

T-Team Series–Palm Valley

The T-Team with Mr B

Lost in Palm Valley

[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 would my brother survive?]

Our truck lumbered over the designated four-wheel drive track-come-dry Finke Riverbed to Palm Valley.

[Photo 1: Dry river of the Finke © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Dad turned to Mr. B and chuckled. ‘How would you like to sleep on this riverbed?’

Mr. B pouted, folded his arms and looked out the window.

We continued to bump over the rocks and sand where two-wheel drive vehicles fear to tread. Dad recalled his days travelling by donkey along this same track when he explored Palm Valley with his Arunda students.

*[Photo 2: Those were the days when only donkeys trekked the path to Palm Valley © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

‘O-oh!’ Dad uttered as the Rover’s underside scraped over some boulders. When our vehicle continued to move, though slowly, we all sighed with relief.

‘O-oh!’ Dad gritted his teeth and sucked air through the gaps in them. The Rover jolted to a stop. The engine screamed. The body rocked. The wheels spun. ‘O-oh! I think we’re bogged.’

Mr. B groaned, ‘I hope that doesn’t mean we’re sleeping on this god-forsaken creek tonight.’

‘Okay—oh, better put it into four-wheel drive. Now, for one more try.’

Dad readjusted the grip of his fingers on the steering-wheel and pressed his foot on the accelerator. The Rover leapt out of the bog-hole.

‘Good thing you remembered that the Land Rover has four-wheel drive,’ Mr. B muttered.

We crawled along the creek bed for a few more minutes, until confronted with formidable boulders where we were forced to stop. Dad reckoned we were a mile or two from the valley, so we had to hike the rest of the way.

Rick raced ahead. As was his habit, he lost us.

*[Photo 3: Palm Valley with me © C.D. Trudinger 1977 (taken with my instamatic camera)]

We entered the land that time had misplaced, forgotten and then found preserved in this valley. Lofty palms swayed in the breeze. Fronds of green glittered in the sun while their shadows formed graceful shapes on the iron-red cliffs. Here a cycad, spouting from the rocks, there a ghost gum jutting from those same deep red walls. This sanctuary for ancient prehistoric palms, which had existed there since the dawn of time, distracted us from my errant brother. We trundled over the stone smoothed by the running of water several millennia ago, admired the mirror reflections in the remaining pools, and breathed in the tranquility.

*[Photo 4: Mirror reflection © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

Then, as if the ancient palm spell was broken, a frown descended on Dad’s face. He stood up, tapped his pockets checking to feel if his keys and small change still existed, and then marched down the valley. When he’d disappeared into a gathering of palms, I asked Mr. B, ‘What’s my dad doing?’

‘I think he’s looking for your brother,’ Mr. B replied. ‘He seems to have a habit of getting lost.’

Matt, Mr. B’s son sniggered.

[Photo 5: Wiggly Palm © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Still in the zone of swoon, I sat beside the billabong in the shade of the palm trees and changed my film. Then I stretched, and leaving Mr. B and Matt to their rest, I ambled along the stone-paved bed looking for Dad. Again, time lost relevance in the beauty and wonder of the palms: tall skinny ones, wiggly ones, short ones, clustered ones and alone ones.

[Photo 6: Pa peaceful amongst the palms © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

I found Dad, but there was no sign of my brother. The sun had edged over the western walls of the valley casting a golden-orange glow over the opposing cliffs.

Dad huffed and puffed. ‘It’s getting late. I s’pose Rick has gone back to the Rover.’

‘Better head back, then,’ I said.

On the way, we collected Mr. B and son. They had not seen my AWOL brother either.

*[Photo 7: Sunset on the cliffs of Palm Valley © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

We waited back at the car for Rick. Dad’s concern turned to annoyance, then frustration. Dad had plans for a picnic, but as the sun sank lower, his well laid plans were becoming remote. Dad paced the sand, hands on hips, and muttering discontentedly. Trust my brother to spoil a perfect place and time for a picnic tea. The idea of proceeding with the picnic without Rick did not occur to Dad. I guess the thought that some peril had befallen him had sabotaged any appetite. Dad nervously tapped his right pocket; at least his keys hadn’t gone AWOL.

Every few minutes Dad paused in his pacing. ‘Ah—well!’ he’d say. Then sucking the warm air between his gritted teeth, he’d resume pacing.

An hour passed as we watched Dad track back and forth across the clearing.

*[Photo 8: Memories of a ghost gum © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

‘I swear you’ve made a groove there in the sand,’ Mr. B said.

Dad halted and narrowed his eyes at Mr. B.

I peered at the sand, straining my vision to pick out the path Dad had created.

A branch cracked. Footsteps, thudded. Distant. Then closer…louder.

Dad turned. All of us in the clearing froze and we fixed our gaze on the path leading to Palm Valley. The prodigal son stumbled into the clearing.

[Photo 9: Waiting for the prodigal son—view amongst the palms © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

Contrary to the parable, Dad snapped, ‘We were going to have a picnic tea. But it is 5 o’clock, now. We have to get going!’

So, with less than an hour before darkness descended, we navigated the bumpy Finke River ride, and Dad’s grumpy mood, back to Hermannsburg.

After tea, Dad recovered from the grumps as we played cardgames; first “Pig”, followed by “Switch”.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2021

Feature Photo: Palm Valley © C.D. Trudinger 1981

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Dreaming of an Aussie Outback Adventure?

Click the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981,

And escape in time and space to Centre of Australia 1981…