T-Team with Mr. B–School in the Centre

The T-Team with Mr. B (29)

A Lesson With Mr. C

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

This week a lesson on teaching in the bush. While Mr T, in the 1950’s, taught the Arunda students in a classroom, Mrs T learned by School of the Air, and in the 1970’s Mr C taught the Arunda children in their camps out bush…And Mr B slept in and missed out.

Mr. C greeted us. He stood on the dusty verge out the front of the old hospital. He grinned and waved at us. Still the Year Eight Maths teacher I remembered from last year at College. Just more tanned, making his blonde hair blonder, and he sported a trim moustache and beard. That year he’d taken up a position as teacher to the Aranda people, owners of the land around Hermannsburg.

*[Photos 1 & 2: Dad remembered how school in Hermannsburg was in the 1950’s © S.O. Gross circa 1955 (1), & C.D. Trudinger (2)]

Dad looked at his watch. ‘Oh, eight-thirty. I hope we aren’t too late.’

‘Pff!’ Mr. C laughed. ‘Don’t worry about it. The people ‘round here don’t fuss about time.’

Dad checked his watch and after tapping his pocket, pulled out the keys for the Rover. ‘So, we’ll follow you?’

‘You can do that,’ Mr. C replied. He turned to Richard and me. ‘Do you want a ride on the “Dune Buggy”?’

*[Photo 3: With mist in his eye, Dad remembered the common mode of transport for this rough terrain (horse or donkey) for his Arunda students in the 1950’s, and the clay model one of his students had made © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

My brother and I looked at each other, then at Mr. C who smiled at us and we nodded.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ve always wanted to ride in a Dune Buggy.’ I imagined an all-terrain vehicle like I’d seen in Lost in Space.

Dad drove us away from the settlement and out into the bush where Mr. C had parked his “Dune Buggy”.

‘What is it?’ I asked as I approached this vehicle with no roof and four huge tyres. ‘Is this a mini-moke?’

‘Not exactly,’ Mr. C said. ‘But it sure goes over everything. Nothing stops my “Dune Buggy”.’

Richard and I climbed on board. I sat in the front and Richard in the back. Within seconds Mr. C had his “Dune Buggy” flying over humps and bumps of the dunes and lumps of spinifex. What an adventure that was! After sailing through the desert in the easy-riding Dune Buggy, I wanted one too. Way behind, Dad followed in the cumbersome Land Rover.

*[Photo 4: Many years later in Coles Bay, Tasmania Mrs T and I rode a quadbike, perhaps a descendant of the “dune-buggy” © S. Jaeschke 2011]

Mr. C stopped. A boy emerged from the shade of a Mulga tree and climbed on board the “Dune Buggy”. He sat next to Richard and he clutched the side of the buggy.

Mr. C turned and glanced at him. ‘You ready?’

The boy looked at his knees and nodded.

The teacher revved the engine and again the “Dune Buggy” skipped over the terrain.

I enjoyed the wind in my face and the scenery of grey-green salt bushes, lemon-tinted spinifex, and patches of sienna-coloured sand flit past.

*[Photo 5: Arunda Country from Gosse Range lookout © L.M. Kling 2013]

Mr. C slowed and then with the Buggy chugging, parked near a collection of structures made of wooden poles with corrugated iron leaning up against them. The Rover trundled up a nearby track and halted behind the “Dune Buggy”. Dad climbed out and strode up to us.

‘Where are we?’ I asked. The place looked deserted.

‘This is an elder’s camp,’ Mr. C said. He spoke to Dad. ‘Do you remember N?’

‘Of course,’ Dad replied. ‘He was one of my best students.’

A man emerged from one of the humpies and walked up to Dad and Mr. C. Dad grinned and shifted his weight from one leg to the other. He rubbed his hands together.

N raised his arms and exclaimed, ‘Ah, Dabid!’

Dad and N hugged and then patted each other on the back. After Dad introduced us to N with handshakes all round, Mr. C showed us his “classroom”.

Richard and I hung back and stared. Kids darted in and around a shelter; a metal frame with a tin roof for shade. There were a few laminated desks and plastic chairs, but no student sat on the chairs or at the tables. Junk—papers, bottles, pencils and toys—littered the floor of desert sand. Mr. C called a few of the children together to teach, but I figured to round up all of them would be a challenge. What a contrast to my Maths teacher’s previous appointment at College!

[Photo 6: School for the Arunda 1977 © C.D. Trudinger 1977] 

‘May I take a photo?’ Dad asked. At last, he finds something photo-worthy?

‘Sure,’ Mr. C said.

‘Is this—school?’ I almost choked on the word, “school”.

‘Yes. One of them.’

‘Huh?’

‘Yes, I go to all the different camps and teach the kids in the camps. It’s impossible to get them all to come to Hermannsburg. So, I go out to them.’

Dad wandered around the camp, snapping shots of the lean-to classroom, the kids sitting on chairs at their desks—briefly, and Mr. C “teaching” a couple of kids who hung around him. And I wondered how much learning was taking place.

‘It’s hard,’ Mr. C said as Dad packed away his camera. ‘But they weren’t coming to one central place. Not like I guess it was in the old days when you were there.’

‘Nah, those were the good ol’ days,’ Dad said.

‘The government has given funding for teachers like us to go to the camps. Even then, it’s hard. The kids, if they’re out hunting with their family, don’t turn up.’ He nodded at the rabble. ‘Good turn up today. Sometimes, I’ll go to a camp, and there’s no one there.’

*[Photo 7: Like a Namatjira Painting © L.M. Kling 2013]

Another Aranda man, tall, and solid, somewhere in his forties, strolled up to us. Dad and this man conversed in the Aranda language. Dad turned to us, his mouth spread in a broad smile.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘This is SV,’ Dad said. ‘He wants to be our guide when we go out West to Mt. Liebig.’

‘Oh, good.’

‘Yes, we need a guide. We can’t go into their country unless we have a guide. N’s going to join us too. However, we’ll have to delay going to Haast Bluff and Mt. Liebig for a day or two. He’s going to Palmer River and won’t be back for when we originally planned to go. We have to be flexible.’

*[Photo 8: MacDonnell Ranges © L.M. Kling 2013]

I nodded. Yep, in this land of the Centre, one had to be flexible; the people of the desert’s interpretation of time and schedules differs from my view, so I’ve learnt.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017; updated 2019; 2022

Feature Photo: Land Around Hermannsburg © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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–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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Have a virtual taste of Frau Biar’s kuchen…

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And begin your journey of discovery when the nineteenth century meets the twenty-first, and unfortunately Boris…

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–Mustering Conversation

The Parrot of Curtin Springs

  [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 Dad promises Mr. B rabbit stew for dinner.

Rick and I scrambled off the Rover’s roof-rack.

‘Race ya to the birds,’ I yelled and then ran down the side of the Curtin Springs store to the aviary.

Rick and Matt raced past me. ‘Beat ya!’ Rick called back.

The parrot squawked. ‘G’day mate!’

Matt laughed and said, ‘Hey, you got the bird to talk, Rick.’

‘Aren’t I clever,’ my brother said.

‘How did you do that?’ I approached the cage. ‘G’day mate.’

The parrot cocked its head.

In a falsetto voice, I said, ‘Hello cocky.’

The bird bobbed its head.

The boys laughed.

I persisted in a high-pitched tone. ‘Polly wants a cracker?’

The bird ambled over to me and then bit the wire of the cage, its blue tongue thrusting out its beak.

*[Photo 1: White cockatoos abound all over Australia. Here’s some in Sturt Gorge near my home. © L.M. Kling 2018]

‘Hello cocky,’ I sang.

The bird stopped nibbling the wire and then clawed its way along the cage away from me.

‘You just don’t have the touch,’ Rick said.

Matt sniggered.

Dad, his thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his trousers, strode up to us. ‘How about a soft drink? My shout.’

Rick shouted, ‘Soft drink!’

‘Ha! Ha!’ Mr. B who stood behind Dad, clapped. ‘Very funny!’

The parrot screeched. ‘G’day mate!’

*[Photo 2: White cockatoos close-up © L.M. Kling 2018]

I glared at Rick. ‘How did you do that?’

‘I have the touch,’ Rick said.

Dad marched into the store. A few minutes later, he emerged cradling five cans of lemon flavoured soft drink. ‘The petrol’s cheaper here than at Ayres Rock. And so is the steak. It’s from the cattle they have on the station.’

*[Photo 3: Cattle like these but near Gosses Range © L.M. Kling 2013]

The parrot cocked its head and watched us guzzle our drinks.

Rick wiped the sticky drops from his chin and sighed. ‘Ah, a real man’s drink!’

Dad licked his lips and then held up his finger. ‘You wait here. I won’t be long.’

We watched Dad disappear through the store door.

Mr. B raised his hand to his mouth, then after a discreet burp, he muttered. ‘No chance of egg soup tonight, I hope.’

I turned to the parrot. ‘G’day mate.’

The parrot squawked.

‘You just don’t have the touch,’ Rick said.

Matt giggled.

*[Photo 4: The Parrot of Curtin Springs (somewhere in the cage) and me © R.M. Trudinger 1977]

Dad returned, this time carrying a baby-sized packet wrapped in white butcher’s paper. ‘The Rover’s been fed, and we’ll have a feed tonight.’

‘That better not be eggs and soup,’ Mr. B snapped.

Dad pursed his lips as if some bird he’d swallowed was about to burst out. ‘Rabbit. I bought rabbit for stew. There’s lots of rabbits around these parts.’

‘What?’ Mr. B’s face flushed crimson. ‘I thought you were going to buy steak.’

Dad did that kissing motion with his lips and then in a level voice said, ‘Rabbit steak. It’s cheap.’

Rick turned away from Mr. B’s line of sight and wheezed with suppressed giggles.

The parrot flared its crest and screeched. ‘G’day mate.’

‘You did it again!’ I cried.

Rick snorted and laughed.

‘What’s so funny?’ Mr. B asked.

Dad patted Mr. B’s back. ‘It’s steak, mate. Beef steak. The best you’ll get around these parts. Curtin Springs runs a cattle station, you know.’

*[Photo 5 & 6: Rounding up Cattle in Central Australian Cattle Yard © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

‘You had me going there, for a while,’ Mr. B said.

‘Huh?’ I looked from Dad, to Mr. B, and then to Rick. ‘But you said, we’re having rabbit stew.’

‘Dad was joking, but we could shoot some rabbits or birds at Palmer River, if you don’t want steak,’ my brother said.

The parrot glared at Rick. ‘What?’

‘You did it again!’

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

 *Feature Painting: Mustering Cattle © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2014

[Curtin Springs, 100 km east of Uluru, still operates as a cattle station. Its owners, the Severin family, have been running the station since 1956.]

***

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–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…

***

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T-Team Series–Climbing Ayers Rock

The T-Team With Mr B (16)

 [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 we climb Uluru/Ayers Rock and Mr. B startles us with his dream for the Rock…]

Mr. B’s Dream for the Rock

Tourist buses lined the carpark. They looked like caterpillars all in a row ready for a race. People swarmed like ants around the base of the Rock and a steady stream of them marched up and down the slope.

Dad slowed the Rover to a crawl and slotted into a space at the end of the carpark. ‘Well, there’s the tourists,’ he said.

‘And what are we?’ Mr B asked.

‘I like to think we are travellers.’

‘What’s the difference?’

‘Tourists come to a place like the Rock, they climb it, snap a few photos and then they move on,’ Dad said. ‘Travellers take their time. They explore. They get to know the people who live here. They appreciate the culture and history of the place.’

‘So we’re tourists then,’ Mr B remarked, his expression dead-pan.

Dad scratched his brow. ‘Oh, no, I wouldn’t say that.’

‘I’m climbing the Rock,’ Matt said and then bolted out the back door.

Richard and I chased after Matt. We scrambled up the slope following the painted white line. Further up several tourists inched their way grasping chain rails that were secured into the rock.

*[Photo 1: Open at Last to climb the Rock © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘Hoy!’ Dad yelled. ‘Wait! We all go together.’

‘You forgot your water-bottles and lunch for the top,’ Mr B said.

‘Come on Matt,’ Richard called out to Matt who’d sprinted ahead, ‘better get our packs and stuff.’

Matt, Richard and I plodded back to Dad and Mr B where we collected our backpacks of supplies from them. Then as a group we recommenced our haul up the monolith.

The first part was treacherously steep. Before I even reached the rails, my shins ached from the gradient. We followed the broken white line. Deviation from the nominated path could be fatal. A plaque at the base of the Rock was a solemn reminder that several people had fallen to their deaths.

And yet, while climbing, I recall my mum telling me that when she climbed Ayers Rock back in the 1950’s, there was no white line, and not rail to clutch onto. Then she told me a funny story about an earlier time when a filmmaker took footage of the climb up the Rock with a local Indigenous guide. I have seen this film where at the top of the rock, there were pools from recent heavy rain, and the guide can be seen splashing in the water. Perhaps life and the way the Rock was viewed was different back then in the 1940’s and 50’s.

*[Photo 2: No rails or white line back in the 1950’s © S.O. Gross circa 1953]

Richard and Matt scampered ahead of me. I puffed my way up the slope behind them and soon lost sight of them. Dad and Mr B laboured behind me. Mr B rested every few steps. He swore he’d die of a heart attack before he fell to his death. Dad stayed with him and encouraged him to keep on going.

*[Photo 3: Climbing with Help © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981]

Tourists passed me as they descended the Rock. They nodded and said, ‘G’day’ and remarked that the climb was well worth the effort.

Spurred by these recent Uluru conquerors, I took a deep breath and continued the climb.

The steep slope eased into endless ridges. Up and down. Up and down. At least my shins experienced some relief. But I seemed to be hiking over these rocky hills and dales forever, as if Uluru was the Tardis of distance. I glanced at my watch. I’d been hiking over an hour. Was the Rock that big?

*[Photo 4: Those undulations © R.M Trudinger 1981]

I stopped, took a swig of water from my canteen and surveyed the plain beneath. The Olgas shimmered like mauve marbles above the land striped in sienna and gold in the afternoon sun.

‘You’re almost there,’ Richard called. He raced up to me and then pointed. ‘The cairn is just over there.’

‘Where?’

‘Are you blind?’

‘I can’t see it.’

‘Come on.’

Richard led me to the pile of stones set in concrete. Half a dozen tourists plus Richard and Matt milled around the cairne, posing for photos and pointing at the various landmarks below. Richard, Matt and I conformed to the way of the tourists taking turns photographing each of us standing next to the cairn with Kata Tjuta behind us.

*[Photo 5: The Young Ones On the summit © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

As we waited for our fathers, we admired the awesome scenery; the land below bathed in waves of pink, purple, blue and yellow. The boulders of Kata Tjuta changed from deep purple to blue with the movement of the sun as it travelled west. ‘Wow!’ I exclaimed. ‘This climb was well worth it.’

Other tourists summited, stayed a few minutes to snap a few shots and then trooped away down the Rock.

After Richard, Matt and I had eaten our sandwiches, signed the log book on the cairn, explored some bushes that grew out of the Rock and then watched the third lot of people arrive and disappear, Dad and Mr B staggered to the summit. Their faces glowed with perspiration.

Mr B clutched his chest and slumped down by the cairn. ‘I thought those corrugations would never end!’

Dad patted Mr. B on the back. ‘Ah, well, we made it.’

Mr B slurped water from his canteen, then standing up, he paced around the cairn while scrutinising the landscape with his binoculars. Dad pointed out the landmarks, Mt. Conner to the east, Kata Tjuta to the west and the Musgrave Ranges to the south, and so directing Mr B’s binocular-gaze.

*[Photo 6: The Oldies finally reach their goal © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

After several minutes admiring the view, Mr B remarked, ‘Amazing! Certainly well worth the climb, ol’ boy.’ He then sidled up to Dad and put his arm around his shoulders. ‘I dare say, ol’ chap, the experience could be improved.’

‘What? A cable-car up to the top?’

‘Oh, hadn’t thought of that. No, I suggest there should be a fast food restaurant up the top here. The place needs refreshments. I mean to say, all these people have spent two hours climbing up here. They need some refreshments, don’t you think?’

Dad cleared his throat. ‘Er, um…’

Is this man for real? I thought. On the climb and also when we visited the cave, I sensed the Rock was holy, sacred. How could Mr B even contemplate building anything on its surface? ‘I reckon there should be less people climbing the Rock, not more,’ I said.

‘And another thing,’ Mr B was not finished, ‘the Rock needs a swimming pool halfway up. I’ve already picked out the perfect location. You see, while I was resting and contemplating during that terrible steep climb, I saw it, the perfect place for a pool. What do you say, ol’ chap?’

‘The Indigenous owners will never agree,’ Dad replied.

‘Well, I have some advice for the natives,’ Mr B said. ‘They need to get with the times. I mean, look at all the tourists. Look at all the opportunities.’

‘I doubt it,’ Dad shook his head, ‘come on, we better get down.’

After Dad and Mr B signed their names in the log book, we made our way down the Rock tracking along the white line. We nodded at the people climbing up and said, ‘G’day’ to them and advised them that the climb was well worth the effort.

*[Photo 7: Uluru rest finally at sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1953]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2022

*Feature Photo: Uluru Climbers Like Ants © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013

***

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T-Team Series (15)–The Cave

The T-Team with Mr B—Uluru (Ayers Rock Back then)

The Cave

 [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 we venture up close and personal to Uluru/Ayers Rock…]

When we arrived at the fence that bordered the Ayers Rock-Olgas Reserve (as it was known back in 1977) *, we took more photos of the Rock, rusty-red with black streaks, and towering above us. We drove to the Park Ranger’s office to pay an admission fee to enter the reserve and see the Rock. Once Dad had returned from fee-paying, we commenced our drive around the Rock.

As there were more tourists in their Land Rovers and cars also circling the Rock, Richard and I descended from our high status on the top of the Rover and crammed into the back cabin. The roads, though not sealed, were better graded with gravel tempering the bull dust, so though the dust was still a nuisance, it didn’t make me cough.

*[Photo 1: Approaching the Rock © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

‘When are we going to climb the Rock?’ Matt asked his dad.

‘Soon, ma boy, soon.’

‘Have you climbed the Rock?’ I asked Dad.

‘Erm…’ Dad coughed.

‘Of course, you did. Back in the 1950’s. Not so many tourists then, I reckon. Were you the only ones camping near the Rock back then?’

‘Um…er…umm…’

 ‘You went with mum and her family back then, didn’t you Dad?’

Dad put his dusty handkerchief over his mouth and coughed.

‘I remember the beautiful photos taken by Grandpa. He was a missionary pastor at Hermannsburg, you know, Mr B. And Dad was a teacher at Hermannsburg. That’s where he met mum, did you know, Mr B?’

*[Photo 2: Ayers Rock 1950’s © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

Mr B rolled his eyes. ‘I know.’

‘I bet the place has changed a lot since then.’

Richard chuckled, ‘More tourists.’

‘The roads are better,’ Dad said. ‘They were just tracks back in the fifties.’

‘I dare say, ol’ chap,’ Mr. B butted into our conversation, ‘the Rock must still be the same.’

Dad chewed his lip. ‘Well, er, yes, I s’pose.’

‘If you ask me, all looks primitive to me,’ Mr. B said. ‘I mean to say, the land looks like we’re back in the 1950’s. I really think they should invest in some decent hotels or motels. Perhaps a tourist village. For the tourists. I mean, just look at the Rock—they’re missing money-making opportunities.’

*[Photo 3: Sign and reasons not to climb Rock © L.M. Kling 2013]
*[Photo 4: Tourists climbing the Rock when allowed © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad shifted his weight in the driver’s seat. ‘Er, I don’t know if having lots of tourists is a good idea for the Rock. The Indigenous consider the Rock sacred. I think they’d want less tourists, not more.’

‘Tourism, that’s where it’s at. And from what I’ve seen of the natives in this part of the land, they could do with some money to boost their living conditions.’

Richard and I glanced at each other. I pondered, Was this man for real?

Dad pursed his lips and turned into road leading to a cave in the Rock. ‘Before we climb the Rock, there’s this cave. It has ancient aboriginal artwork on the walls’, Dad said.

*[Photo 5 & 6: Aspects of the walk around the Rock, Caves & Liver Spot © L.M. Kling 2013]

We walked along a narrow path under the shade of ironwood and acacia trees. The Rock awed me by its size. If I had a camera with unlimited capacity to take thousands of photos, I would have spent the whole trek to the cave snapping away behind the lens. Nearer, the Rock surprised me with shades of tangerine, crimson, umber and red of the iron stone. As we got up close and personal with the Rock, I thought it looked like a giant elephant’s flank all scaly and knobbly. It had looked so smooth from far away.

We entered a cave which appeared as though it was a huge umbrella from the inside. In a zone of wonder we walked along the narrow passage under the roof. I imagined that waves had crashed against it and carved out its form. In one part, I studied the carvings of the ancient owners of this land.

We trod through the cave in silence. This was sacred ground.

[Photo 7 & 8: More aspects of the cave © S.O Gross circa 1950 and L.M. Kling 2013]

To be continued…

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2022

Feature Photo: In Awe of an Uluru Cave © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013

[*Note: Named by William Gosse in 1873 in honour of the chief secretary of south Australia, Henry Ayers. In 1993 the rock received the dual name, Uluru/Ayers Rock, Uluru being the Pitjantjatjara name for this sacred site.]

***

Want more?

1977 gave the fledgling T-Team a taste for adventure…

Find out how they fared on a full-two-month safari to the Centre in 1981…

Why not binge on the T-Team Adventures in outback Australia?

Click here on Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

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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?

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Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

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