T-Team Series–Hermannsburg Back in Time

The T-Team With Mr B (28)

[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 our accommodation in Hermannsburg had sent us on a tour back in time…]

 Living in History

I lay in bed and gazed up at the ceiling. Wish I hadn’t. A hessian sheet hung above me, pinned to the four corners of the room and sagging in the middle. It appeared the sand from the Central desert had worked its way into the sheet, threatening to burst all over me. How long before the sheet would no longer be able to contain its weight? I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. A cockroach scuttled under the wardrobe made of oak. I shuddered. Better sand fall on me than cockroaches.

I grabbed my towel and toiletry bag, then padded out my room and down the dark hallway to the bathroom. There I gazed around the small room, sealed with green and white tiles, some broken. In the 1950’s wash basin, waist-high and looking like an enamel pastel-green pulpit, a line of rust coursed from the faucet to the drain. The matching bath suffered a permanent rusty-brown ring, a reminder of how full to fill the tub. I scanned around the room and above the bath. No shower—not even a rusty one.

[Photo 1: T-Team Next Generation waiting for the outside dunny © L.M. Kling 2013]

I heard a knock at the door. ‘Lee-Anne, are you in there?’

‘Yes, Dad,’ I replied. ‘Where’s the shower?’

Dad opened the door and poked his head through. He screwed up his nose and swivelled his head left, right, up and down. ‘Oh, no shower. I guess you’ll have to have a bath.’

‘Oh, al-right.’

‘Hurry, though, we’re off to see Mr. C and his school.’

‘Oh.’ Last year Mr. C was my mathematics teacher. Then, in 1977, he’d taken up a position teaching the Arunta children in their camps near Hermannsburg.

I turned on the tap. Water dribbled into the bath, brown and making the pipes groan. I gazed at the tea-coloured brew pooling at the base of the tub. I like baths, normally. Not sure about this one.

‘Don’t fill it too full,’ Dad said.

‘No, Dad.’ No danger of that happening. The bath looked like it’d take an eternity to cover even to the depth of an inch.

‘Don’t take too long,’ Dad added.

‘No, Dad.’

I reached in and tested the water. Cold. I then placed my fingers under the dribble from the tap. Cold. Great! Not much water and it’s cold. Yep, I’ll have a quick wash.

I stopped the dismal flow and rushed through the motions of washing. After raking dry shampoo through my limp strands of hair, I bunched them into pig-tails and returned to my room to change.

Then I walked into the kitchen. Light through the louvers reflected dust motes drifting through the air.

[Photo 2: School Room © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Dad looked up from his bowl of porridge. ‘Oh, you’re finished already?’

‘Yep.’

I helped myself to the saucepan of porridge on the ancient stove. The cooker squatted there in the corner, brass fittings attached to afford gas to the rings on top. And lime green. I could see Hermannsburg had a theme going—shades of green. Except the table, washed with the thin coat of white paint. Perhaps it was green once, at the turn of the century.

[Photo 3: Green the Theme outside the school © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

As if taking advantage of my abbreviated bathroom visit, Dad took his sweet time. So, while we waited, Richard and I played cards, on the kitchen table.

‘Mr. B and Matt are taking their time,’ I said gathering up the cards.

‘They’re sleeping in,’ Richard laughed. ‘I think Mr. B’s exhausted.’

‘He didn’t know what he was getting himself into coming on this trip.’

Richard snorted. ‘Bet he’s never been camping in his life.’

‘No, all motels and luxury for him, I reckon.’

[Photo 4: Certainly not the Chiefly Motel Alice Springs © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad stood behind us and coughed. ‘What are you talking about?’

We turned and widening our eyes to feign innocence, my brother and I chorused, ‘Nothing.’

‘I hope so.’ Dad cleared his throat again. ‘Now, come on, Mr. C’ll be here soon.’

‘Can I see Mummy’s house? Did we get permission?’

‘Er, um, later. Mr. C’s waiting. We’re late,’ Dad said and then strode out the door; the green door.

*[Photo 5: Tantalisingly close…but so far, Mum’s (Mrs T’s) old home © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

Richard and I followed.

‘We know whose fault it is we’re late,’ Richard muttered as we followed Dad out the historic hospital to meet Mr. C.

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2019; 2022

Photo: Spruced up Mission home, Hermannsburg Precinct © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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T-Team Series–Hermannsburg

T-Team with Mr B

Hermannsburg

[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 arrive at Hermannsburg.]

Dad held up Hermannsburg as the Holy Grail; some marvellous place that, every time he mentioned it, his eyes misted over, and he’d whisper the name with a sigh. Hermannsburg, the Lutheran Mission, founded in 1877 by those intrepid Lutheran Missionaries, Kempe and Schwartz, from the mission house of the same name in Germany. Hermannsburg saved by the stalwart missionary Carl Strehlow from 1894 to 1922. Hermannsburg, where my grandfather lived for 18 years with his wife and growing family. Hermannsburg where my Dad came to teach in the 1950’s and where he met and married my mum.

[Photo 1: View from a hill of Hermannsburg © S.O. Gross circa 1940’s]
[Photo 2: Dad as teacher at Hermannsburg © S.O. Gross circa 1955]

My father slowed and manoeuvred the Rover along a bumpy road lined with a cluster of buildings. The Rover’s headlights lit up stone walls of the historic church painted white, and then a house near by framed with a pair of date palm trees and a waist-high cyclone fence.

[Photo 3: Where we stayed is now known as “The Historic Precinct”. (All repainted and revamped in 2021.) My dream to see inside Mum’s old home © L.M. Kling 2021

]

‘We’re here,’ Dad said. He stopped the Rover.

A man pushed open the gate, and stepping up to us, he waved, pointing at the house opposite. ‘Ah!’ Dad started up the engine and then parked the Rover in front of that house.

‘Is that where Mummy used to live?’ I asked.

‘Nah, I don’t think so,’ Dad replied.

‘Can I get to see Mummy’s house?’

‘In the morning, it’s a bit dark now.’

‘Is someone living in it?’

‘I don’t know. I’ll ask—Um, Gary Stoll.’ Dad opened the Rover door and jumped out. ‘Come on, don’t just sit there.’

[Photo 4: The dream yet to be fulfilled, me in front of Mum’s old home © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

The rest of the T-Team climbed out of the Rover, and gathered around Dad and Mr. Stoll, the resident missionary. After introductions, greeting and shaking hands with the missionary, he showed us to our accommodation, one of the original Hermannsburg homesteads which was directly opposite my Mum’s old home. This homestead was built many decades ago as the old hospital.

[Photo 5: Misty memories of fun in the old days. Tug-of-war © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Gary’s wife appeared at the door of the cottage. She wiped her hands on her floral apron. ‘Come on, I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.’

‘Good,’ said Mr. B, ‘I’m looking forward to sleeping in a proper bed. You wouldn’t believe what we’ve had to put up with over the past two weeks.’

Mrs. Stoll chuckled. ‘What? No motels?’ Under her apron, her tummy jiggled up and down. She reminded me of my grandma. Similar sense of humour. Necessary, I guess.

[Photo 6: Mount Hermannsburg is a prominent landmark © L.M. Kling 2021]
[Photo 7: Hermannsburg is near the Finke River. Finke in flood, a rare occasion © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

Mr. B pursed his lips. ‘No, just creeks.’

‘Creeks?’ Mrs. Stoll laughed. ‘Luxury!’

Dad joined in. ‘That’s what I told him. Hey, mate, I thought you liked the one at Palmer River.’

‘Hmm! It was passable…except for the snakes.’ Mr. B scooped up his sleeping bag and sauntered off to his allocated room.

Mrs. Stoll showed me my room. The cold of night seeped into the old stone house. After she left me, I gazed at the limestone walls all lumpy and painted white. I shivered and then dumped my bag on the bed, the mattress looking equally as lumpy under army-grey blankets. Oh, well, it’s a bed. I glanced at the floor, threadbare carpet raked over the stone floor. I took a deep breath of musty air and coughed. I decided to keep my shoes on. I stood still and stared out into the blackness. It’s so quiet; like a ghost town. Was mum’s house like this one?

[Photo 8: Possibly the same accommodation we stayed in. Luxury! From an earlier time, one of the many visitors © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

I dared not look up at the high ceiling before walking to the door, pushing the knob of the old brown Bakelite switch down and checking that the naked globe dangling from the ceiling had gone off.

In the lounge room, I sank into an armchair of an ancient lounge suite, chunky and tan velvet. I leaned forward and pestered Dad. ‘Can you ask if I can see mum’s old home?’

9.
10.
[Photo 9 & 10: Aspects of Hermannsburg Precinct: Brickwork in Mum’s old home (9) and The Machine in the Museum (10) © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad sighed. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’

The T-Team trooped over to the mission house where we’d been invited for tea. Now, the thing about missionaries was their hospitality. Mrs. Stoll put on a spread. I mean, a banquet; an immaculate display on an antique oval table covered with white linen—Roast beef, well, it was cattle country. Fresh from our host’s garden: roast potatoes, just like my grandma’s all crisp and crunchy on the outside and juice and fluffy on the inside, boiled peas, carrots and cauliflower. Then, dessert, ice-cream, and apple crumble for which I always keep room. Satisfied I rubbed my stomach. Yep, our digs may be crumbling, but the food, the wonderful food, the amazing food. My stomach ached with pleasure from all the delicious food.

[Photo 11: A spread like this © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

‘This is the best meal ever!’ Mr. B said, then he leaned forward to Mr. Stoll, ‘Better than the egg soup we had to endure with my mate here.’ He pointed at Dad.

Dad blushed.

Mrs. Stoll strode through the door, her arms cradling tray of potato kuchen, steam rising above the strudel, and the aroma of cake filling the dining room.

She moved around table offering the cake. I took a piece. But then, while the others devoured theirs and asked for more, I stared at mine, willing a cake-shaped hole to form in my stomach to fit this delicious morsel in.

‘What’s the matter?’ Dad asked.

Richard eyed my cake, his fat fingers in pincer-mode ready to snatch.

‘I want it, but I can’t fit it in.’

‘Eyes too big for your stomach,’ Mr. B said.

I nodded.

Richard pounced. In one fluid movement, the cake vanished, and my brother leaned back, wiped the crumbs from his mouth and patted his tummy.

‘Don’t worry,’ Mrs. Stoll said, ‘we have plenty more cake. I’ll put aside some for you for supper.’

[Photo 12: Classic Hermannsburg sunset © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

We had the luxury of staying up until midnight, that night. Dad and Mr. B chatted with the missionary couple, while Richard, Matt and I played cards, and ate cake. I hoped Dad would ask the question: Can I visit my mum’s old house?

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2018

Feature Photo: Historic Church Hermannsburg © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013

***

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T-Team Series–Standley Chasm (Angkerle Atwatye)

[While painting this scene of a group of older men gathering to admire the glowing walls of Standley Chasm, I was reminded of the T-Team’s trek in 1977 with Mr. B. This wealthy man used to comfort and luxury, took on the challenges of roughing it camping with the T-Team. This stunning chasm is about 50km west of Alice Springs and is one of the first of many beautiful sites to visit in the MacDonnell Ranges.]

The T-Team With Mr B (26)

Mr. B slowed the Rover and eased it into a park joining the line of cars, land rovers, and buses awaiting their owners’ return. The T-Team piled out of the Rover and in single-file, followed Dad along the narrow track heading towards Standley Chasm. In the twists and turns of the trail that hugged the dry creek bed, I spotted ferns in the shadow of rock mounds the colour of yellow ochre, and ghost gums sprouting out of russet walls of stone. Hikers marched past us returning to the car park.

*[1. Photo: Path to Standley Chasm © L.M. Kling © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘G’day,’ they said. ‘Well worth it.’

Dad checked his watch and quickened his pace.

I ran to catch Dad. ‘Have we missed out?’

‘We better hurry,’ Dad snapped.

A leisurely short stroll became a race to the finish as we struggled to keep up with Dad; scrambling over boulders on the track, squeezing past more tourists going to and from the chasm, Dad snapping and cracking the verbal whip, and Mr. B moaning and groaning that “it’s not for a sheep station”.

*[2. Photo: Ghost gum and ferns on way to Standley Chasm © L.M. Kling 2013]

The crowd thickened, stranding us in a jam of people, fat bottoms wobbling, parents hauling their whinging kids, and men clutching cameras to their eyes for the perfect shot. Dad checked his watch and then shifted the weight from one foot to the other.

‘Are we there yet?’ I asked.

Wrong question. Especially when asking a grumpy Dad.

‘Not yet!’ Dad barked.

‘I reckon we’re not far away,’ I said. ‘All the tourists have stopped. Must be some reason.’

Dad screwed up his nose. ‘I dunno, it doesn’t look right.’

‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’ Mr. B, one arm stretched out before him, parted the sea of people and strode through.

We followed in Mr. B’s wake and within twenty paces, there it glowed. Standley Chasm. Both walls in hues of gold to ochre. Dozens of people milled around its base.

*[3. Photo: No quite the right time but still awesome: Standley Chasm © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad gazed at the chasm, and then squinted at the position of the sun. ‘It’s not there yet.’

‘How long?’ I wanted to know.

‘Not long, just wait.’ Dad paced towards a white gum that bowed before the grand wonder of the chasm.

‘Wait! I’ll take a photo of you,’ I said.

‘Do you have to?’

‘Why not?’

‘We might miss the walls turning red.’

‘They turn red that quickly?’

Dad leaned up against the tree. ‘I s’pose not.’

I dug out my instamatic camera and photographed my grumpy Dad.

*[4. Photo: While we wait, a grumpy Dad before the chasm © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Then we waited. The tourists snapped their shots and then filtered away.

‘When’s it going to turn red?’ I asked for the fourth time.

‘Be patient,’ Dad said.

‘This is boring,’ Matt mumbled.

‘Let’s see what’s the other side.’ Richard tapped Matt on the arm. The two lads scrambled over the rocks and I watched them hop from one boulder to the next over a small waterhole.

*[5. Photo: The rocks’ reflection, Standley Chasm © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad paced from one wall to the next while Mr. B photographed Standley Chasm from every angle.

*[6. Photo: The ideal image; Standley Chasm © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

I watched mesmerized by the sunlight playing on the walls. They turned from a russet-brown on one side, gold on the other, to both glowing a bright orange. But by then, most of the tourists had left, thinking the Chasm had finished its performance for the day.

*[7. Photo: Well worth the wait; Standley Chasm, just perfect © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]
*[ 8. Painting: Dad’s Standley Chasm in watercolour © C.D. Trudinger circa 1959]

As the other wall turned in hue to sienna, Mr. B packed his camera in his leather case and stood back admiring the view.

‘Get some good shots?’ Dad asked.

‘I reckon I did.’ Mr. B patted his camera bag. ‘You know, once the crowds thinned out, I reckon I got some good ones.’

‘Ah, well, I’ve seen Standley Chasm put on a better show in the past.’ I think Dad was trying to justify not having a functional camera.

‘Well, I enjoyed it,’ I said. ‘This place is amazing!’

[9. Photo: Standley Chasm mid-afternoon; still the same perfect light 36 years later © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad patted me on the back. ‘Ah! Lee-Anne, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you see Ormiston Gorge.’

‘By the way, where are tha boys?’ Mr. B asked.

‘Looks like we have to be patient and wait for them now.’

‘I hope your son doesn’t get ma boy lost.’

Dad laughed. ‘No worries. There they are, just the other side of the chasm.’ He waved at the boys.

Richard and Matt scrambled through the chasm to join the T-Team on the hike back to the Rover.

[10. Photo: Actual photo of men admiring StandleyChasm © L.M. Kling 2013]

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

Feature Painting: Men Admiring Standley Chasm © L.M. Kling 2018

***

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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.]

***

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T-Team Series–Uluru Sunset Lost

The T-Team With Mr B (21)

ULURU SUNSET—Lost

 [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.

This time, the customary viewing of an icon of Australia, doesn’t quite go to plan.]

Dad meant what he said; he believed we, as the T-Team were travellers, not tourists. So, when the sun began its journey to the other side of the earth, and edged towards the western horizon, Dad drove further west and far away from the popular tourist haunts for the sunset on the Rock.

‘Don’t go too far,’ Mr. B said as he glanced back at the diminishing size of the Rock. ‘I want a red rock of considerable size.’

‘I know what I’m doing,’ Dad replied.

But every vantage point that we considered photo-worthy, so did clusters of tourists. The ants may have been heading for bed, but the road west of Uluru swarmed with sightseers scrambling over the landscape to capture that momentous event of the sunset on Uluru.

*[Photo 1: Two blokes waiting for Uluru to turn © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

‘I hope we’re not going to miss Uluru turning red, ‘cos that’s what I came here to see,’ Mr. B said.

‘Plenty of time,’ Dad said. ‘Trust me.’

‘I’ll hold you to that promise, mate.’

Dad sighed and then turned into the next available place to park the Rover.

Mr. B glanced at his gold watch. ‘I mean to say, it’s nearly six o’clock. The sun sets at six, doesn’t it?’

We joined the tourists in the small clearing to take the Uluru-at-sunset-photos. There’s one snap I took of two travellers admiring the Rock as it deepened in colour, more a rusty-red, than the scarlet I’d seen on calendars. So, it’s taken with an instamatic camera and the quality is pitiful compared to the chocolate-box number my grandpa took in the 1950’s, but I reckon it captures the atmosphere.

*[Photo 2: Nothing like the Uluru sunset my Grandpa took © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

‘Enough of these tourists,’ Richard grumbled. Clutching his polaroid camera, he stormed up the nearest hill.

‘Wait!’ I called and raced after him.

My brother ignored me and quickened his stride. I tried to catch up but soon tired of his fast pace. I watched him vanish behind some spinifex bushes and decided his quest for tourist-free photos was pointless. I gazed at the Rock squatting behind waves of sand-hills and bushes. The view’s going to be just as good, if not better by the road and the masses, I thought and rushed back to Dad before the sun went down too far and the Rock had lost its lustre.

*[Photo 3: I mean, where’s the colour?? © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Uluru faded from clay-red to a dull grey and the tourist congregation thinned, trickling away in their cars and buses towards the camping ground situated east of the Rock.

‘Is that it?’ I quizzed Dad. The Uluru at sunset in my mind had been spectacular in its failure to deliver. ‘Why didn’t it turn bright red?’

[Photo 4: You mean, like this? Picture perfect, chocolate box in 2013 © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘You need clouds for that. Clouds make all the difference,’ Dad said, his lips forming a beak. ‘Glad my camera’s out of action and I didn’t waste film on it.’

‘You mean, the Rock doesn’t always turn red?’

‘No, it’s the clouds that make the difference.’

‘What on the Rock?’

‘No, to the west, where the sun sets.’

*[Photo 5: Yeah, clouds like the ones we had in 2013 © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘But the photo of a red Ayres Rock taken by Grandpa had clouds around it.’

‘Yeah, well, there would’ve been clouds in the west too,’ Dad explained. ‘See, the sky is clear tonight, so that’s it for the Rock.’

‘Disappointing! A very poor show, ol’ friend.’ Mr. B sauntered past us with Matt tagging behind. ‘Come on, we better get to camp. Don’t want to be cooking in the dark. Don’t want the likes of egg soup again.’

Dad peered into the distant black lumps of hills. ‘Where’s Richard?’

I stared into the thickening darkness. No Richard. ‘Dunno, went into the sand-hills,’ I said with a shrug.

‘Oh, well, I guess he’s gone for a walk,’ Dad said.

*[Photo 6: So different in 2013—All golden © L.M. Kling 2013]

The Rock became a dull silhouette on the horizon. We packed away our cameras and waited. And waited for Richard. Darkness settled on the land. We waited some more. The icy cold of the night air seeped into our bones. We waited but he did not appear.

‘Where could he be?’ Dad said and then stormed into the bush.

Minutes later, Dad tramped back to us waiting at the Rover. His search in the nearby scrub was fruitless.

Each one of us stood silent; silent sentinels around the Rover.

‘I hope he’s alright,’ my comment plopped in the well of silence. A chill coursed down my spine. What if an accident had befallen my lost brother? The dark of night had swallowed my brother up.

Dad grabbed the torch from the glove box in the Rover, and then marched back up the sand-hill.

I paced up and down the road. Mr. B folded his arms across his chest and scrutinised the shadows of bush that had now consumed Dad. Matt gazed up at the emerging mass of the Milky Way.

‘I hope they’re okay. I hope Dad finds Richard.’ My chest hurt with the pain of losing my brother.

Mr. B sighed. ‘Probably just a—’

‘What?’ I asked.

‘There they are,’ Mr. B said. ‘All that worry for nothing. You’ll get grey hairs if you keep worrying like that.’

I pulled at my hair and then raced up to my brother. ‘Where were you?’

‘I went out along the dunes. I kept walking and walking trying to find a good spot,’ Richard said.

Dad chuckled. ‘And when he did, he waited for the Rock to turn red.’

*[Photo 7: More of the “Red” Rock close up © L.M. Kling 2013]

For the night we camped in an aboriginal reserve seven miles out of the Uluru—Kata Tjuta Reserve. In preparation for the trip, Dad had successfully applied for permission to camp there. This time Dad and I had two fires going each side of us as the previous night was so cold that I had little sleep. We hoped that two fires would be better than one to keep the chills away. Mr. B and his son Matt on the other hand, settled for one shared fire and superior fibres of their expensive sleeping bags to keep the cold out.

And Richard, after all his effort to scare us by almost getting lost, buried himself in his rather ordinary cotton sleeping bag, next to his single fire, and was the first one, after our rather simple rice dinner, to be snoring away, lost in the land of nod.

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

*Feature Photo: Sunset on the Rock © Lee-Anne Marie Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977

Find out how, in the previous episode, Mr. B’s urging to climb Mt. Olga went. Click on the link here to my original blog…

***

Get ready for some holiday reading or begin planning your escape to adventure in the centre of Australia.

Click the link below:

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

To download your Amazon Kindle copy of the story…

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

T-Team Series–The Olgas, Windy Gorge

 [The last few weeks I have been revisiting our adventures with Mr. B. This time an excursion to the back of the Olgas turned messy in the back of the Rover…]

THE SPILT PEANUTS OF WINDY GORGE

Dad huffed and puffed as he hauled his weary body into the Rover.

‘Windy gorge, I gather the wind must’ve dried up all the waterholes,’ Mr B said with a chuckle.

I interrupted. ‘But, but the views were amazing, weren’t they, Richard?’

My brother nodded.

‘Why, it’s like something out of Lost in Space. All those boulders. And they’re so red. What about that plum pudding one? I hope that one of you and Dad with it in the background turns out.’

*[Photo 1: Plum Pudding, view from the top of Walpa Gorge © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Dad gulped water from his canteen, then when he had finished, he wiped drops from his chin. ‘Ah, well. I was looking forward to a nice swim.’

‘Never mind, old mate, we got some good photos. You must admit, the scenery is spectacular, better than Ayres Rock, I dare say.’ Mr B patted his son on the back. ‘Don’t you agree, ma boy?’

Matt stared at the ground and kicked a stone. ‘But Dad, Mr T promised.’

‘I know, I know. As I was saying at the Rock the other day, the place needs more accommodation for the tourists. A pool, that’s what they need, a pool.’

‘Not on Ayres Rock, though,’ I said.

‘Well, maybe the Olgas needs one,’ Mr B laughed. ‘Your Dad certainly thinks so. Why we’ve just spent a good two hours searching for one.’

*[Photo 2: Windy Gorge: Rick remembers the promise of a waterhole that never was © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad looked at the scarlet sand, his gaze wandering left and right as if hunting for ants. He cleared his throat. ‘Okay, everyone, in the truck. We’ll go ‘round the Olgas a bit.’

After savouring the water from our canteens, we piled into the Rover, the elders in the front and us young ones in the back. Dad drove us further around the base. As the Rover lumbered along the dirt track, I grazed on my bag of peanuts. Dad hit an almighty bump. Wheels and axle crunched. We bounced up.

*[Photo 3: Tour around the back of the Olgas © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

‘Oops!’ I cried. We crashed down. My bag of peanuts flew all over the back cabin.

Richard looked at me and shook his head. ‘You’ll get in trouble.’

I scuffed the scattered nuts under my shoes. ‘Nah, the back’s a mess, how would Dad know?’

‘He will, trust me.’

The Rover wheezed to a stop.

‘Alright, let’s see if we can find some water here,’ Dad said. The driver’s door creaked open. His boots thudded on the soft sand. Dad pulled open the back cabin door and light flooded into the dark, exposing the messy interior.

Dad’s face turned as red as the Olgas and he roared, ‘What have you done?’

‘It’s just a few nuts,’ I bleated. ‘Sorry.’

‘Right! We can’t go until you cleaned up every last peanut.’

*[Photo 4: Like a Koala–it is a koala and baby in our front yard © L.M. Kling 2011]

I could not get over how much like a koala he appeared; an angry koala. Everyone had to wait while I swept the cabin, purging it of the peanuts. My efforts were not really appreciated as Dad then had to go in and ferret around for more stray peanuts. What was it about those peanuts?

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2022

Photo: Windy Gorge © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013

***

Want more but too expensive to travel down under?

Why not take a virtual trip with the T-Team Adventures in Australia?

Click on the link to my book in Amazon and Kindle:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

And escape in time and space to Central Australia 1981…

T-Team Series–Walpa Gorge

The T-Team with Mr B (18)

Without a Certain Person

 [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.

*[Photo 1: At the entrance to Walpa Gorge © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

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.

*[Photo 2: Walls of Walpa © L.M. Kling 2013]

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.

[Photo 3: Boulders in the gorge © L.M. Kling 2013]

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.

*[Photo 4: Another alien landscape; view over Windy gorge © L.M. Kling 2013]

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.

*[Photo 5: View from Walpa back over the plain © L.M. Kling 2013]

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?’

‘Nup.’

‘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.

*[Photo 6: The Cave © R.M Trudinger 1977]

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.

 *[Photo 7: Dreaming Mr B’s dream of the future: Wide Road to Walpa © L.M. Kling 2013]

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?’

‘Did you?’

‘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.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Devotion,’ I piped up. ‘God’s Word.’

‘It is Sunday, after all,’ Dad said.

*[Photo 8: Kata Tjuta sunset © C.D. Trudinger) 1981]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated with photos 2018

*Feature Photo: Water at Walpa © L. M. Kling 2013

***

Want more but too expensive to travel down under? Why not take a virtual travel with the T-Team Adventures in Australia?

Click on the link to my book in Amazon and Kindle:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

And escape in time and space to Central Australia 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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More than Before?

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Bull-Dust

T-Team with Mr. B (13)

 [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 comes up with a rather unorthodox and unique solution to the bull-dust in the back cabin problem…]

The Curtain of Springs

Sometime along that rough-graded road, we crossed over the Northern Territory—South Australian border. We passed no sign but the road, though still just a dirt track, really, became smoother, wider and much kinder to our poor trailer. But the bull-dust that billowed into the back cabin of the Rover wasn’t kind to Richard, Matt and me. We were squashed together like sardines amongst the piles of extra luggage and boxes that Dad had relegated to the Rover in order to lighten the trailer’s load. The dust filtered into my lungs and I coughed. And coughed. And coughed.

[Photo 1: NT-SA Border © C.D Trudinger 1977]

And Richard complained, ‘Would you mind not coughing all over the place?’

‘I can’t help it,’ I wheezed. ‘I need some fresh air.’

Matt held his throat and rasped, ‘I can’t breathe.’

Mr. B glanced back at his son. ‘What’s that, boy?’

‘I can’t breathe,’ his son said.

I coughed, extra loud to emphasise our discomfort.

‘I say, David, old chap,’ Mr. B tapped Dad on the arm, ‘I can’t have ma son dying from suffocation in tha back of tha Rover. We need to sort this out.’

‘Aw, it’ll be alright, it’s just some bulldust.’

I coughed, a deep barking cough.

‘I say, David, old chap, ya girl’s not sounding too good.’

‘She’ll be alright, it’s just a cough.’

Matt clutched his throat and gazed with big pleading eyes at his father.

‘Look, David, my friend, I really don’t like the way ma son’s looking.’

‘Well,’ Dad said, ‘what about you sit in the back and your son sit in the front?’

‘What about me?’ I barked through another cough.

‘Ma son first, girl,’ Mr. B said.

‘Great! I have to share the back cabin with Mr. B!’ I whined.

‘Lee-Anne!’ my dad scolded.

With my head bent down, I muttered, ‘Sorry, Mr. B.’

‘Well, anyway, David,’ Mr. B said, ‘I was thinking, I could drive and you could have a turn in the back.’

Dad’s lips thinned, and he frowned. ‘Er, um…’

‘Come on, the road’s not so bad now, so I reckon I can have a shot at the wheel.’

‘Oh, alright.’

Dad slowed the Rover to a stop and we evacuated the dust-filled Rover. Richard paced over to the trailer and stooped down to check the axle. Dad shuffled to the rear of the Rover and looked up at the roof-rack. Secured to the front half of the roof-rack were a few boxes and some extra luggage. The rest of the roof-rack was empty.

Dad kept his gaze on the rack and squinting, screwed up his nose. ‘We could use the roof-rack.’

‘I’m not moving the luggage again,’ Mr. B said.

‘I mean, we’re in the middle of the desert, no one’s going to know,’ Dad said.

‘But I will.’ Mr. B had to be practical and down-to-earth. ‘We want to get the Curtain Springs before dark, don’t we? We want to get there to fix the trailer, don’t we?’

‘It’s better than sitting in the back of the Rover.’ Dad coughed as if anticipating his own discomfort. Dad’s lungs were not the best since he suffered pleurisy some years ago.

‘What? You mean you’re thinking of camping here?’ Mr. B asked as he edged to the driver’s side of the Rover.

Dad looked at Mr. B. ‘No, no, no. I mean the kids can sit on the roof-rack.’

I jumped up and down and clapped. ‘Yay!’

‘Alright!’ Matt said.

[Photo 2: Riding in Luxury, Blanches Tower and feature © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

So, Matt and I took up residence on top of the Rover while Dad continued as the designated driver without any protest from Mr. B. Richard enjoyed the extra room afforded him in the back of the Rover. Without so many corrugations, travelling up on the roof-rack was an easy ride. So liberating with the wind in our hair and a panoramic view of spectacular desert scenery. Ah! The freedoms we had in 1977!  Even so, Dad took care that we only rode on top of the Rover in unpopulated areas, as Australian road rules did not allow the riding on top of vehicles.

Without any further incidents, we reached Curtain Springs which lies 50 miles (80 kilometres) from the South Australian—Northern Territory border. Dad parked the Rover in an area to the side of the store where the two elders launched into action to repair the trailer.

Richard hovered around the dads who wanted to be heroes. ‘Do you need any help?’ he asked the men’s backs.

Neither Dad nor Mr. B responded.

Richard shrugged and joined Matt and me as we wandered off to check out the nearby aviary. A white cockatoo in a cage bobbed its head and squawked, ‘G’day.’

‘Hello cocky,’ I replied.

My darling brother insisted on taking a photo of me in front of the parrot cage, my braces matching the bars.

[Photo 3: Who’s the Galah, then? © R.M Trudinger 1977]

Following the bird inspection, we sauntered in the shop. I drifted over to the souvenir section. I admired the miniature renditions of Mt. Conner and aboriginal dot paintings on boomerangs carved out of mulga wood.

‘Richard,’ Dad called, ‘Can you come and help us fix up the trailer?’

‘Finally!’ Richard murmured and then followed Dad out of the store.

Rich’s mechanical prowess, lead to a successful resolution to the trailer’s woes. Mr. B rejoiced and celebrated by buying all of us an ice-cream. After a bland diet of damper, rehydrated rice and egg soup, the ice-cream was the best that I had ever tasted. With Matt and me again perched on top, we progressed to our next camp for the night.

In the magic golden light of late afternoon, we foraged for firewood. The land, now called the APY (Angu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) lands, is not at all what one would call a desert. Hardy plants that can survive months or maybe years without rain, grow in this country. Desert oaks with their straight black trunks and grey-green leaves like feathers, grow tall amongst the spinifex bushes, salt bush and acacia bushes. Mulga trees with their gnarled and twisted trunks also dot the landscape. Since there had been a drought, a number of the trees appeared dead and void of leaves. Good for us as we found plenty of firewood.

[Photo 4: More aspects of the Centre’s vegetated desert (Kata Tjuta in background) © L.M. Kling 2013]

With my arms full of sticks, I tottered back to the camp. Some mauve flowers peeped out from a tangle of twigs. The petals appeared so delicate, like crepe paper. I knelt down and picked a couple. These flowers would go in my diary. My not-so early morning venture to find the spring, had been disappointing. In fact, all the promises of “spring” had failed to deliver. I mean, did we see the springs of Curtain Springs? And was it the “springs” on the trailer that weren’t working so well causing the trailer to crack up again? But this sunset fossick for wood had its reward—the desert rose.

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

After tea, Dad gave a devotion thanking God for our safe passage into Northern Territory and covering our trailer trials. In the midst of our suffering over the trailer, he encouraged us with a verse from the Bible like Job 1:21 saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

[Photo 6: Desert sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

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

Feature Photo: Riding in Luxury, Blanches Tower © C.D. Trudinger 1977

For the previous episode, click here on T-Team with Mr. B —Mt. Conner

***

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 In the Centre of Australia?

Check out my memoir and travel back in time and space as you trek with the T-Team.

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Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

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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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981