Wandering Wednesday–Camping Hazards near Mt. Liebig

[I have been preparing The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977 to be ready for publication soon. So, below is an extract from the T-Team’s adventure.

While three of the T-Team faced the perils of climbing Mt. Liebig, a drama of a different, yet equally challenging kind unfolded for Mr. B and his son, Matt as they stayed back at camp.

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

Bull Meets Mr. B

Mr. B and his son, Matt napped under the shade of a bean tree. A southerly breeze ferried through the dry creek bed, spiriting away the father’s snorts. Matt tossed and turned on his inflatable mattress that was exhausted of air resulting from a small, elusive puncture. He imagined the three others of the T-Team, beating a path through the sweltering heat and stinging spinifex in their quest to the summit of Mt. Liebig. Matt chuckled to himself. “Suckers!”

[Photo 1: Mt Liebig at sunrise with bean tree © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

In a nearby tributary, a bull spied the T-Team’s father, son and daughter trekking in the distance, and stamped its massive hooves in the loose dry sand. Once the family had vanished, the bull trotted towards his stamping ground which possessed a gigantic bean tree as a feature in an otherwise dull bed of dust. His quest was to reclaim his territory that the humans had invaded.

“Matt, ma boy, do be careful. Don’t go too far from camp. A bull might get you.” Mr. B squinted in the direction of distant thumping, then rolled over and resumed snoring.

A monstrous brown hulk loomed through a cloud of dust.

[Photo 2: Resident cattle © L.M. Kling 2013]

Matt bolted upright “Dad! Dad! Th-there’s a big- ugly- brown – ugly- big – brown – ugly – b-b-bull!”

“Aw, Matt, stop kidding me.” Mr. B blinked and rubbed his eyes. “That’s enough of the jokes.” A short rumble from behind sent him scrambling to his feet. He flailed his arms while galloping. “Quick! Into the Rover. Now!”

“But Dad!” In the sweltering heat and moment, the boy froze, glued to his air mattress under the bean tree. Terrified, he witnessed his Dad bound over the dirt and fly into the empty Rover parking space and onto a thicket of spinifex. Matt winced. The massif of angry brown trod closer. It paused, pawing the ground, taunting its human prey.

[Photo 3: Cattle Yard © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

After rubbing his punctured behind, Mr. B scrambled for the tarpaulin and rummaged through the baggage. “Er, d-don’t worry Matt. I-I’ll charge this bull before it s-sh-shoots — er — us.”

“But, Dad, the bull doesn’t have a gun.”

“Well, neither do we, we’ll just have to be satisfied with this boomerang and spear, till I find the damn gun.”

The bull stalked, narrowing the gap. The son clambered up the tree and gasped as his father fought with a rucksack that had entangled his legs, while he waved the pathetic weapons above his head.

[Photo 4: Mr. B wishing his nemesis “subdu-a-bull” © S.O. Gross circa 1945]

“But Dad, they’re only souvenirs.”

“Why Matt, how can you say such a thing? Where do you think these genuine Australian artefacts are made?” With all his effort, Mr. B thrust the spear at the beast.

“Yes, Dad, sold in Australia, but made in China.” Matt watched as the menacing bulk of fury stomped the ground, dust billowing into a cloud around it. “Too bad the bull doesn’t know the difference.”

“Don’t be sarcastic at a time of crisis, son.” Mr. B flung the boomerang at the charging bull and ducked behind the tucker box. The projectile bounced off the bull’s hide, provoking it into a tumult of frenzy. Grunting like an eight-cylinder engine, he stormed towards its human attacker, screeching to a halt at the edge of the tarpaulin. As the bull glared down at him, Mr. B could smell its leathery breath.

[Photo 5: Meanwhile, Mt. Liebig in afternoon and more generous ghost gum © S.O. Gross circa 1946]

With a nervous smile fixed on his face, the father edged his way to the bean tree and climbed aboard. The bull stomped and snorted around the sacred bean tree while its victims trembled in the lofty branches amongst the beans.

From this vantage point, Mr. B spotted the rifle leaning up against the tucker box. Unfortunately, the bull sat between him in the tree and the tucker box.

Hours passed.

Father and son sat in the tree.

“Dad my bottom hurts,” Matt whined.

Mr. B sighed, “The others’ll be back soon. They have a rifle.”

“But Dad! I have to go!”

“Hold on,” Mr. B snapped.

The sun edged to the horizon.

Mr. B bit his lip wondering if he’d be stuck up this tree forever.

“Dad! I really have to!”

Mr. B turned to his son who was now rocking.

The distant hum rang through the golden landscape. Mr. B adjusted his grip on the branch.

The hum became louder. An engine.

The bull rose and sauntered out of the campsite, then disappeared into the bush.

“Just wait, Matt,” Mr. B said. He scrambled down the tree and grabbed the rifle.

Matt’s voice floated down. “Dad, it’s too late.”

As the sun disappeared below the horizon, the rest of the T-Team returned to find Mr. B clutching a rifle and pacing the clearing. Matt remained lodged high up in the bean tree.

“As you can see, while you’ve been climbing your mountain, we’ve had a not-so-welcome visitor,” Mr. B remarked.

[Photo 6: Mt. Liebig at sunset © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

“Somehow, I think the B-family will be taking a guided bus tour next time they go for a holiday,” I muttered to Rick.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2023

Feature Painting: Mt. Liebig in watercolour © L.M. Kling 2017

***

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Wandering Wednesday–Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges

T-Team: Young and Restless in Brachina Gorge

It could’ve been Good Friday; most probably was. One thing was for certain, it was the Easter long weekend, when throngs of city folk in South Australia head for the outback to camp. My brother and I joined our youth group friends on a camping trip to Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges. Ah, those were the days!

[Photo 1: Road to Brachina © L.M. Kling 1983]

Another thing was for sure. We had reached Brachina Gorge after a long day of driving and everyone was, let’s just say, less than civil with each other. At least no kangaroos had been slaughtered by car, no copious amounts of beer had been drunk in the car, and thus no unfortunate accidents causing us to escape the car had happened either. Not like some Easter in the future when the T-Team explored Chambers Gorge.

[Photo 2: Approaching Brachina Gorge © L.M. Kling circa 1983]

So, late Good Friday afternoon, we stopped in Brachina Gorge just before the track became too suspension-crunching rough.

B Calm sautéed his dehydrated rice on his personal gas cooker. He wasn’t grumpy.

I peered at the sizzling stubs of rice and deliciously smelling onion. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked.

‘Cooking,’ B Calm replied.

‘Looks good.’ I mused how B Calm could settle down and cook his dinner. The rest of the crew bumbled about the narrow sandy rise above the riverbed, searching for a decent-sized patch to plant their tents.

[Photo 3: In search of a tent site in Brachina Gorge © L.M. Kling 1983]

Storm bowled past B Calm. ‘This place is rubbish! Can’t we move on?’

B Calm ignored Storm and continued frying. The cliffs of the gorge shimmered salmon-pink in the late afternoon sun.

[Photo 4: Brachina Cliffs late afternoon © L.M. Kling 1983]

Storm paced in front of B Calm. He moaned, ‘There’s nowhere to put a tent up! Who chose this place?’

The culprit, my brother, also ignored this feedback. He hovered over the rock pool, searching for his tucker tonight. Yabbies.

[Photo 5: Tributary Creek in Brachina © L.M. Kling 1999

]

‘Any luck?’ B Calm called.

‘Nup,’ Rick replied. ‘But I just caught a tadpole.’ He then tipped back his head, opened wide his mouth and popped the tadpole in.

[Photo 6: Rock Pools in Brachina where yabbies and tadpoles thrive © L.M. Kling 1999]

‘Ew! Yuk!’ the girls, Summer and Autumn screamed. ‘That’s disgusting!’

Triv sniggered.

After a gulp, Rick shuddered. ‘A bit too salty.’

Storm stumbled past. ‘This place stinks!’

‘Find us a better place then,’ Rick replied.

[Photo 7: In search of Camping Paradise © L.M. Kling 1983]

Storm stomped down the road that led further into the gorge and disappeared around the bend. The sun, by this time had slunk below the horizon to light up other parts of the Earth. Twilight lingered, dusting wisps of cloud in shades of crimson.

[Photo 8: Sundown in Brachina © L.M. Kling 1999]

B Calm glanced in the direction of Storm’s venture. ‘He’ll be back.’

Sure enough, as the twisted bushes on the neighbouring ridge turned to ink against the fading sunset, Storm returned. ‘Still reckon this place is a dump,’ he muttered.

[Photo 9: Silhouettes of sunset in Brachina © L.M. Kling 1999]

For the rest of us, the ancient mystery of the Brachina cliffs had convinced us to stay put. Tents lined the banks of the creek. And our small group of friends gathered around the roaring fire, sausages sizzling in frypans and billies boiling for a cup of tea. Brachina, and the campsite Rick had chosen, was more than good enough for us.

[Photo 10: Campfire of content © L.M. Kling 1983]

‘Maybe we’ll move on in the morning,’ Rick promised; more to allay any remaining discontent, than a firm promise.

[Photo 11: Ancient mystery of Brachina Gorge © L.M. Kling 1999]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2020; update 2023

Feature Photo: Sunset on Brachina © L.M. Kling 1999

***

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Trekking Tuesday–MacDonnell Gorges (1)

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

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

Ellery Creek and Serpentine Gorge

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

The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope? And how many times would my brother lose his way in the bush?]

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Ormiston Gorge
3. Glen Helen

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

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

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

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

Ellery Creek

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

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

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

4. Trees of Ellery Creek

5. Ellery Creek Big Hole

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

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

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

‘As many people, though,’ I replied.

Matt sniggered.

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

Dad joined his friend. ‘I warned you.’

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

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

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

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

Serpentine Gorge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Gorges for Another Day

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

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

11. Redbank
12. Ormiston

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022

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

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–Palm Valley

It’s been a rough weekend. Storm, been called a mini cyclone, struck Adelaide Saturday afternoon, slaying trees all over the city and the hills, and tearing down powerlines. 100000 people were affected with no power to their homes, and even today, some are still without power.

We were without power for 24-hours, so work on the computer has been delayed. Managed to get some painting done, though.

Memories of the T-Team’s adventures without all the modern-day luxuries surface, and how we coped way back in 1977…

[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 (24)

Lost in Palm Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*[Photo 3: Palm Valley with me © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

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

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

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

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

Matt, Mr. B’s son sniggered.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Better head back, then,’ I said.

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

*[Photo 7: Sunset on the cliffs of Palm Valley © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

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

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

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

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

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

Dad halted and narrowed his eyes at Mr. B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022

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

***

Dreaming of an Aussie Outback Adventure?

Click the link below:

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

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

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

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