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 Series (5)–Oodnadatta: The Ghan, Telegraph and History

On a Mission to Ernabella

Part 1

[The last few months I have revisited The T-Team with Mr. B: Central Australian Safari 1977 which is a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981. In preparation for its release later this year, I will be sharing posts of this adventure.

Here’s how it all began…]

 1977, August, mid-winter and I was excited. Dad had never taken me camping. Then, when I turned 14, he decided to take the risk and allowed me to join the T-Team on a Central Australian safari. Dad’s friend Mr. Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I had gathered from Dad’s reluctance to invite me on previous adventures out bush, that he had some reservations how I would cope…

In this episode, as the T-Team reach Oodnadatta, transport up north for the early Australian pioneers is explained…]

Full Steam Ahead North

The first rays of sun peeped over the horizon. Dad attacked the pot of porridge, beating the oats and water into submission. Such a racket woke us. But, when we refused to rise, he stomped around the campsite. There was no choice but to get up and line up for breakfast.

Dad dumped the sloppy oats on our metal plates and then darted around the site as if still charged by hyperactivity from the night before.

*[Photo 1: Trying to wake up © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

‘With all the effort to rouse us, David, you’ve made the porridge more like oat soup than porridge.’ Mr. B had a sour expression on his face as he sipped his porridge. He finished a mouthful and added, ‘I dare say, ol’ chap, what’s all this running around?’

‘I want us to get to Ernabella today,’ Dad said.

‘Can’t we just take it easy? I’m still adjusting to the inferior sleeping arrangements.’ Mr. B massaged his back as if emphasising the pains that he endured.

‘We only have two and a half weeks and a full schedule,’ Dad replied. ‘We have to keep moving if we want to fit everything in.’

‘I mean to say, when you invited us on this camp, I didn’t think it’d be a boot camp.’

Dad ignored Mr. B’s comment and continued to collect the plates and utensils on the tarpaulin.

With Dad’s urging, we packed up, piled into the Rover and then flew out onto the bumpy road by 7.20am. Back then in 1977, in that part of the outback of South Australia, all roads were unsealed, and just wide ruts in the red sand. Even the main highway, the Stuart Highway, was yet to be bituminised in South Australia.

*[Photo 2: Unsealed roads of the outback © M.E. Trudinger circa 1956]

As we approached Oodnadatta, Dad said, ‘I think we’ll get petrol here. It’s a long way still to Ernabella, and then when we go to Mt. Woodroffe, so we need supplies. We don’t know if we can get petrol at Ernabella or how much it’ll cost.’

We rolled into Oodnadatta, a town where its handful of houses and the hotel lined the main road.

Dad pointed at the trainline running parallel to the road. ‘See that railway track? That’s the Ghan Railway.’

‘Was that the train Mum took to go to college as a boarder in Adelaide?’ I asked.

‘That’s the one, although, there’s no train on it at present.’ Rick always had to correct me.

‘It looks ancient.’ I replied and then added the escape clause to avoid the shame of being wrong. ‘Sort of.’

‘Been there for almost 100 years.’ Dad said with authority. ‘The trains used to only go as far as Oodnadatta until 1929, when they extended the line to Alice Springs.’

*[Photo 3: Mum (3rd from left), her mother and sisters first trip on the Ghan © S.O. Gross 1939]

Matt pointed. ‘What are those stobie poles doing so far out bush?’

‘That’s the telegraph, ma boy,’ Mr. B said. ‘Before they had these poles and wires here, people in Australia could only communicate by post.’

‘When did that happen?’

‘Er, um…’ Dad said. ‘Just over a hundred years ago, I think.’

‘The telegraph started operating in 1972, and the railway track, known then as the Great Northern Railway, was opened in 1878, to be precise.’ Holding open the strip map and guide, Rick sniffed and continued reading. ‘It got called the Ghan later after the Afghan Cameleers who used to trek up north before the trainline was built.’

 ‘Trust Rick to have to be so exact.’ I rolled my eyes. ‘Pity we missed the 100th anniversary of the Ghan, or whatever it was called back then.’

*[Photo 4: Telegraph Station © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

Dad parked the Rover by the petrol pumps, near the hotel, where we climbed out of our vehicle’s comfort zone and into the heat. I blew my nose. Red dirt stained my handkerchief. I stretched my legs that ached from sitting cramped in the rear cabin of the Rover.

Dad pumped petrol into the Rover’s tank, and Jerry Cans. Dad wisely carried extra petrol in Jerry Cans to ensure that we didn’t run out of petrol; such were the long stretches of desolate land where towns and petrol stations are scarce.

*[Photo 5: The Ghan at a distance © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

Rick and I walked across the road. The few people we saw loitered in the shade. An emaciated dog sauntered out of the bushes.

‘I really feel like we’re out in the desert here,’ I said.

‘Yeah, the people look exhausted,’ Rick said.

Dad yelled, ‘We’re ready to go!’

‘Can’t we get a drink?’ Rick asked.

‘It’ll be dear, here,’ Dad said. ‘We have cordial.’

As Dad, Rick and I sipped cordial from our plastic cups, Mr. B and his son stepped out from the hotel. They each clutched a can of soft drink. They slurped their drinks with relish.

‘I finalised the bill,’ Mr. B said.

‘Thank you,’ Dad replied.

*[Photo 6 and Feature: Camel Train © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

***

Want more?

More than before?

Join the adventure with the T-Team, click on the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 

T-Team Series–Gibber Plains

T-Team With Mr. B (4)

The Challenges

Part 2

[The last few months I have revisited The T-Team with Mr. B: Central Australian Safari 1977 which is a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981. In preparation for its release later this year, I will be sharing posts of this adventure.

Here’s how it all began…]

 1977, August, mid-winter and I was excited. Dad had never taken me camping. Then, when I turned 14, he decided to take the risk and allowed me to join the T-Team on a Central Australian safari. Dad’s friend Mr. Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I had gathered from Dad’s reluctance to invite me on previous adventures out bush, that he had some reservations how I would cope…

In this episode, the stony plains of the desert, called Gibber Plains, posed their own problems from finding a comfort station (toilet) to comfortable sleeping arrangements…

Challenge Number 3: Where do you go when you have to go?

We travelled constantly for most of the day, stopping to stretch our cramped legs or go to the loo. The road was hot and dusty, and it was hell to sit in the back. I must add that dunnies were scarce in the desert and mostly a bush in the distance had to do. On such occasions, when a toilet stop was necessary, the boys took advantage of the opportunity to stretch their legs and do some shooting. The general rule was that shooting must be done in the opposite direction to avoid any rude shocks during someone’s quiet contemplation.

[Photo 1: Return from the bush loo © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

William Creek—Challenge Number 4: Finding a Campsite

Having taken the Oodnadatta Track, we rolled through William Creek with one and a half hours remaining until sunset.

‘It’ll be getting dark soon,’ Dad said, ‘we have to find a campsite.’

No easy task, I soon realized. Our heads swung left and right as we scanned the gibber plains for a clear patch of ground for camping. The land was barren except for stones; dots of umber that spanned in every direction to the horizon.

[Photo 2: Gibber Plains © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

‘We’ll camp near a creek,’ Dad said. ‘So that we have firewood.’

‘Surely we can camp in the creek,’ Mr. B said. ‘The sand is soft in the creek. I want a decent night’s sleep. I mean, the sky is clear, so I doubt we’ll get flooded out.’

‘The rain and floods could be hundreds of miles away and then come on us without warning.’

‘I doubt it,’ Mr. B said. ‘I think we can take the risk.’

‘Where are these creeks?’ I asked.

‘You’ll see,’ Dad said. ‘The highway is crisscrossed with dry creeks. You see a row of trees, that’s where the creeks are.’

Sure enough, I saw them in the distance. ‘Hey, there’s a creek, we can camp there.’

Dad slowed the Rover down as we crossed the dry creek—as dry and rocky as the gibber plains surrounding it.

‘Not this one,’ Dad said. ‘Maybe the next one.’

For the next half an hour we passed a parade of promising treelines, only to be disappointed when we passed them. Some had a few stagnant puddles, but mostly these riverbeds were filled with rocks and not much sand. Dad explained that the water was underground, and the roots of the gum trees drank from a subterranean supply.

[Photo 3: Tree lines of promise as seen from above © L.M. Kling 2021]

The sun sank like an orange squashed at the edge of the world.

‘I guess we’ll just have to take what we can find,’ Dad mumbled as we approached a thick row of gum trees.

Dad drove the rover parallel to the trees, and when far enough from the highway, parked. We hopped out and all helped to clear the area of stones.

As the light faded, Dad raced around the site as if hyped up with coffee, lighting the fire, ordering me to chop the vegetables, getting Matt to fill billy cans with water, and then boiling the water. Dad then stirred the pot with much huffing and puffing as he cooked up the stew.

While Rick organized the bedding for the night, Mr. B scrambled down to the creek-bed to set up his own bedding. Half an hour later, a disappointed Mr. B reappeared complaining. ‘It’s too stony. How can a man get a good night’s sleep around here?’

‘Oh, no!’ my brother moaned. ‘A puncture!’

Matt with his rifle, hopped over to Rick. ‘You ready to go shooting?’

‘In a minute,’ Rick replied. ‘I’ll just fix the puncture while there’s still some light.’

[Photo 4 and feature: Desert sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1950]

By the time my brother had repaired the blow-up mattress, the land of stones was shrouded in dusk. However, nightfall did not stop Rick, Matt, and Mr. B from venturing out for some shooting again. I guess they had plenty of rocks to aim at.

I stood up to follow the shooting party.

Dad called out. ‘Lee-Anne, you stay here and stir the custard.’

‘Oh, but…’

‘Be thankful,’ Dad said. ‘This is the day the Lord made.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Desert Sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1950

***

Want more?

More than before?

Join the adventure with the T-Team, click on the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 

T-Team Series–T-Team With Mr. B (2)

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

The Beginning

Part 2

[The last few months I have revisited The T-Team with Mr. B: Central Australian Safari 1977 which is a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981. In preparation for its release later this year, I will be sharing posts of this adventure.

Here’s how it all began…]

 1977, August, mid-winter and I was excited. Dad had never taken me camping. Then, when I turned 14, he decided to take the risk and allowed me to join the T-Team on a Central Australian safari. Dad’s friend Mr. Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I had gathered from Dad’s reluctance to invite me on previous adventures out bush, that he had some reservations how I would cope…

But, in this episode, by the time we reached our first campsite, it became clear, I was not the one that Dad should be concerned about.

On Our Way 

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You might need some newspaper,’ Dad said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad sighed.

Rick grunted.

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

‘I say, David. David?’

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

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

My first night camping…

***

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

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

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

***

Want more?

More than before?

Join the adventure with the T-Team, click on the link below:

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981