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…

***

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

Click the link below:

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

To download your Amazon Kindle copy of the story…

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

T-Team Series–Bush Tucker Mr. T Style

[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) brews up an unusual “stew” by accident…]

Egg Soup

The sun lingered above the horizon as we returned from a hike to our campsite at the base of Mount Woodroffe.

‘Ah, an early tea,’ Dad said. ‘It’s always best to cook while there’s daylight. We can make an early start.’

*[Photo 1: The dream of a Waterhole; not to be in 1977 © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

‘Well, after that disappointing jaunt to find that damned waterhole you went on about David, I’m pooped. I’m going to have a lie down,’ Dad’s friend, Mr. B said as he slumped onto a nearby log. ‘I hope you’ve found us some nice soft sand to sleep on. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep yet on this trip.’

*[Photo 2: Up the Creek at base of Mt Woodroffe © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

‘Yes, well, um,’ Dad called after him, ‘I need some help stirring the pots.’

‘Get your daughter,’ Mr. B replied, ‘I dare say, she’s a girl, that’s what she ought to be doing—cooking, I mean.’

I stopped blowing up my mattress. Uh-oh, now I have to cook and miss out on all the fun, I thought as air slowly wheezed out of the mattress.

Dad coughed. ‘Er, um, actually, I’ve asked Lee-Anne to sort out the bedding and to pump up the mattresses. And the boys, Richard and your son, Matthew, have gone out shooting, getting us some roo to cook. I have it all organised. So I would like you to stir the pot, please.’

I breathed out and then started blowing up the mattress again. Phew! Dodged that bullet.

‘Oh, very well, then,’ Mr. B said as he negotiated his path through an obstacle course of billy cans, tucker boxes and tarpaulin back to the campfire.

I thought, there is always a danger being too early and organised. So it was this evening when Dad, who prided himself as “chef-extraordinaire”, prepared scrambled eggs and soup for dinner.

I hopped over to Dad. ‘Do you need some help with dinner?’

Dad patted his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. ‘No, I have Mr. B helping me. You go and pump up the mattresses.’

‘But my jaws are sore from all the blowing,’ I said. ‘I need a break.’

‘No, I have it all covered. It’s about time Mr. B does his fair share.’

I could see from Dad’s expression, the pursing of his lips, keeping the chuckle from bursting out, Dad thought he was being really clever asking Mr. B to help stir the soup pot.

As I shuffled around the campsite sorting out my bedding, I distinctly heard Mr. B mutter, ‘My goodness this soup is awfully thick.’

 [Photo 3: Gone hunting at the base of Mt Woodroffe © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Being the only female in the crew, Dad appointed me to call in the troops. I tramped through the scrub in search of the boys. My brother Richard and Matt loved to shoot with their .22 rifles. But neither were good at it. I could hear the rifles popping, but in the dimming light I failed to locate the lads. So I returned to camp.

There the men were, all of them (minus the roo for dinner), their spoons dipping in and out of their cups.

Mr. B grimaced as he put another spoonful of soup to his lips. ‘Ugh! This is awful! This is the worst feed yet!’

‘It’s alright,’ Dad said as he bustled around the campfire. His cup wobbled on a rock as he handed my portion to me. He gave the other billy a maddening stir.

‘What’s in there?’ I asked.

‘Egg, egg scramble,’ Dad said and handed me the ladle. ‘Go on, you can stir it.’

I peered in at the watery mist. ‘It’s awfully thin, are you sure?’

‘Just stir will you?’ Dad snapped. ‘I’ve got other things to do.’

‘Alright.’

I sipped my soup and stirred the pot.

Richard and Matt stood by the fire and stared at their metal mugs.

‘Come on, drink up,’ Dad commanded.

The boys dutifully slurped up their soup.

Mr. B raised his voice. ‘So what sort of soup do you call this? You know, it tastes awfully like egg. You’re sure that you didn’t mix up the billies?’

‘Oh, no, not at all!’ Dad replied.

I took another sip. The soup tasted nice. I quite liked it. Then again, anything tastes good when you are a starving teenager.

*[Photo 4: Dinner Time camping in the creek © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

As Dad settled himself by the fire, Mr. B slavishly gulped down the remainder of his soup. ‘Well, that is the worst soup, I’ve ever had in my life. Oh, for some decent food! And a decent night’s sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink last night and my back’s aching!’ He spied his son playing with his soup. ‘Eat up, boy! Look! Tha girl’s eating hers.’

Dad began to take a spoonful of soup. ‘Hang on. This’s not right.’ He pointed at a billy sitting on the ground to the side of the fire. ‘Lee-Anne, can you just check the other billy?’

‘What for?’

‘Don’t ask, just check, would you!’

‘Okay!’ I grumbled and hobbled over to the billy sitting in the cold, the contents supposedly waiting for the frypan. I lifted the brew onto the wooden spoon. In the fading twilight, I spied water, peas, carrots and corn, but not an ounce of egg. ‘Looks like soup to me.’

Dad pushed me out the way. He had to check for himself. ‘O-oh!’

‘So we did have egg soup!’ Mr. B said, ‘I knew it.’ Even after less than a week with this pompous friend of Dad’s, I suspected this fellow would never let Dad hear the end of it. I imagined, from now on, till the end of Mr. B’s days, Dad’s culinary skills would amount to egg soup.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Dad said. ‘My mistake.’

‘I knew we were just too well organised,’ I said.

‘I won’t forget this occasion,’ Mr. B said. ‘Egg soup, what next?’

Poor Dad.

Dad boiled the correct soup and dolled it out in the dark.

We drank our portions void of conversation until an awkward “Oops!” cut through the icy air. Matt had spilt soup all over the tarpaulin.

‘Oh, Matt, did you have to?’ Mr. B said. ‘Now, clean it up and be more careful next time.’

As Mr. B harangued his son to clean up, drink up and for-heaven’s-sake be careful, and where-on-earth did you put the cup, son, we don’t want another accident, Dad sighed and ushered my brother and me to retreat to our sleeping quarters and away from Mr. B’s ire.

In the sanctuary of space away from Mr. B and son, we washed our clothes and prepared for the climb up Mt. Woodroffe the next day.

‘We need to make an early start,’ Dad said.

I reckon Dad did not want to add any more disasters to his list.

 *[Photo 5 and feature: Sunset © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

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

***

Read more of Dad’s culinary disasters and successes…

Click here on

Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 

And escape in time and space to Central Australia 1981…

T-Team Series–Ernabella

Meandering in the Musgraves

[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 reaches Ernabella…]

Deserted

We stopped in at Fregon, another Indigenous settlement much like Mimili; a row of tin sheds and deserted. Then at about 2.30pm we arrived at Ernabella.

A teacher friend of Dad’s invited us into his home for refreshments and each of us had a hot shower. I enjoyed the warm cascade of water on me. My treat for the week. Below rivers of red mud spun into the drain hole of the bath. I scrubbed my hair with shampoo. The soap refused to lather. I scrubbed and scrubbed.

*[Photo 1: Dad’s fond memories of childhood holidays spent in Ernabella © M.E. Trudinger circa 1954]

‘Lee-Anne!’ Dad called. ‘Don’t take all day, the boys need a wash too.’

‘Oh, alright.’ I turned off the tap. I guess the boys did need to wash, probably more than me. They were getting quite ripe at close quarters in the Rover. After all, it had almost been a week since we had a proper wash.

All showered and smelling sweet again with soap and deodorant, we trailed after Dad who gave us a tour of the settlement, including the school. Ernabella lies at the foot of the Musgrave Ranges, south of the South Australian and Northern Territory border. The land belongs to the Pitjantjara people. The mostly prefabricated buildings were neatly arranged around a random collection of unsealed roads.

*[Photo 2: Ernabella School students, way back in the 1950’s. © M.E. Trudinger (nee Gross) circa 1954]

Dad guided us through the school grounds which appeared empty. We followed him circling the white building. ‘Must be closed,’ Dad said.

‘School holidays, I guess,’ I remarked.

Dad scanned the transportable blocks and then screwed up his nose. ‘We need to find someone to fix up the trailer.’

We walked across the settlement. The white buildings stood sentinel to the roads void of human activity and traffic. The crunching of stones under our feet was magnified by a town suffering from a bad case of abandonment.

‘Where are all the people?’ Mr. B asked.

‘Wow! The place is tidy and look how clean the streets, are,’ I said.

‘Except for the gravel,’ Rick mumbled.

Matt sniggered.

We wandered after Dad who was having a hard time finding someone to fix our trailer. Anyone…No one seemed to be around. I wondered if Ernabella was a ghost town.

*[Photo 3: Building in Ernabella © C.D. Trudinger circa 1992]

Mr. B suggested we wait by the store that seemed closed and suffering a severe case of neglect. This we did.

‘The reason the settlement is so tidy,’ Dad explained, ‘is because everybody, I mean the aborigines, have a job to do here. They don’t get their welfare payment unless they do their job. They probably have someone cleaning the streets of rubbish and all sorts of other jobs.’

‘Not the store, apparently,’ Mr. B said.

‘Ah, well, they have to get the stock from down south, from Adelaide. Perhaps they’ve run out.’ Dad coughed.

An Indigenous man, dressed in dusty loose-fitting trousers and shirt, sauntered up to us.

Dad strode to meet the man and he guided him to the trailer still perched on top of the Rover. He then led us to the “service station” (a lean-to hut with one petrol bowser out the front) and someone whose job it was as mechanic. Even so, I figured Rick with his practical mind and way with cars, and trailers, would be helping with repairs.

While the trailer was being operated upon, I climbed a hill. After all, in my estimation of all things mechanical, the trailer would take ages to be fixed, so I had time to sun bake. Such was my desire for a tan. Treading up the hill, I noticed Matt running after me.

*[Photo 4: On Trudinger Hill with the corrobboree stick © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

I stood and sighed. Great! Just when I wanted space to myself.

Matt held up a stick. ‘Look what I found!’

I examined the carved piece of wood. ‘Oh, yeah?’

‘What do you think it is?’

‘I dunno, a corroboree stick, I suppose.’

‘Oh, cool! Can you take a photo of me with it?’

‘Yeah, okay.’

I photographed Matt proudly holding a corroboree stick. The Musgrave Ranges behind were cast in hues of gold from the rays of the late afternoon sun. When we had descended the hill and found Dad, he told us that the “mountain” we had climbed was named “Mount Trudinger” after his brother who had been a teacher in Ernabella.

Near evening, we visited an Indigenous pastor. As the Musgrave Ranges is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara People, Dad and the pastor discussed the possibility of getting a couple of guides to be our companions as we climbed Mt. Woodroffe. From my fourteen-year-old perspective, I understood Dad to mean that the “sacred land” was an area that the Pitjantjatjara people owned much like we own our quarter acre block back in Adelaide.

‘It’s only fair to have our Indigenous hosts give permission and a guide while we explore their land,’ Dad said after his meeting with the pastor.

We all, including Mr. B, nodded in agreement.

*[Photo 5 and feature: Picnic in the creek near Ernabella with Dad’s brother Ron © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

For the night we camped in Two Mile Creek which is not far from Ernabella. Dad conceded to camp not alongside, but right in the dry creek bed on the soft sand. This arrangement made Mr. B very happy. ‘For once I get to sleep on soft sand,’ he said.

‘Just remember, if we have even a hint of rain, we pack up and go to higher ground,’ Dad answered.

Mr. B chuckled. ‘No chance of that, the weather’s been as dry as the bones of that deceased camel we saw on the side of the road.’

‘The water comes rushing down if there’s a storm,’ Dad said.

‘Oh, of course, Captain.’ Mr. B then turned over and snored.

Rick muttered, ‘The only storm will be if Mr. B doesn’t get a good night’s sleep.’

Matt sniggered.

© 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—Approaching Ernabella

Broken Cars, Broken Trailer

T-Team with Mr. B (6)

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

Here’s how it all began…]

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

In this episode, Dad shares his childhood adventures in the Musgrave Ranges and the trailer, tired of desert travel, has a tantrum …]

Dad pointed at the expanse of red sand dotted with spinifex. ‘This land belongs to the Pitjantjatjara people.’

I sat in the front seat while he negotiated the corrugations, bumps and lumps of the poor excuse for a graded road. Abandoned cars, just shells really, languished in the scrub each side of the road.

*[Photo 1: Abandoned Car local to area, Marla © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘They—’ Dad waved at the wrecks that were planted in crimson fields of wild hops. I knew he meant the owners of this land. ‘—run their cars to the ground. Anyway, normally you need a special permit to go onto their land.’

‘Then how did you get to go here?’ I asked.

Dad chuckled. ‘Well, I wrote a letter to their council of elders asking permission. I put at the end that if I didn’t hear from them, that meant they gave their approval. I didn’t hear from them.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘I have friends at Ernabella as well,’ Dad adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. ‘I used to come up to Ernabella when my older brother was teaching there. When I was ‘round your age.’

Dad went onto explain how he made good friends with the Pitjantjatjara lads about the same age as him and how they explored the Musgrave Ranges. ‘I even learnt the language,’ he boasted.

‘How long ago was that, Dad?’ I asked.

‘Oh, something like thirty-five years ago.’ 

‘And you were ma son’s age,’ Mr. B called out from the back seat.

*[Photo 2: Dad and brother Paul with Pitjantjatjara friends at Ernabella © Ron Trudinger circa 1940]

I glanced to the back of the Rover. Matt blushed and looked away. I’d been impressed by his silence on this trip. I was sure I hadn’t heard him utter more than a few words the four days we’d been travelling. He seemed an obedient little chap, especially in his father’s presence. I wondered what Dad was like when he was Matt’s age. I imagined Dad as more talkative, after all, he could speak the language of the Pitjantjatjara people.

‘I reckon, you must’ve been more adventurous than Matt to go camping in the Musgrave Ranges, Dad,’ I said, hoping to get a squeak of protest out of Matt.  ‘Anything could’ve happened to you.’

‘There was this one time,’ Dad said, ‘when I went exploring with my friends in the middle of summer. We forgot to take any water and it was hot. We got lost and had to search for a waterhole. I was so thirsty, I thought I was going to die. We found the waterhole just in time. But I learnt a valuable lesson to always take water and salt tablets.’

Matt’s only response, a smirk.

While his father said, ‘Who, in their right mind would go out into the desert without water? I ask you.’

*[Photo 3: “Just in time” waterhole in Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!

‘What’s that noise?’ Mr. B shouted.

‘Oh, no!’ Rick peered out the back window. ‘One of the trailer bars is broken.’

Dad sighed. ‘And we’ve only just started today.’

We stopped, jumped out of the Rover and then formed a circle around the trailer that leaned on its side.

‘Now what are we going to do?’ Mr. B asked.

Rick shrugged.

Dad bent down and examined the damage. ‘A part is missing.’

‘I’ll go look for it,’ Rick broke away from the circle and sauntered down the track.

The rest of us stood mesmerized by the leaning tower of trailer that seemed to be sinking in the sand.

*[Photo 4: Desert Travel takes its toll. Rugged terrain near Hermannsburg © S.O. Gross circa 1941]

A few minutes later, Rick returned. ‘It’s gone, I can’t seem to see it anywhere.’

‘So, what are we going to do?’ Mr. B asked again.

Dad kicked a tyre. ‘There’s only one thing we can do. We have to pile everything on top of the Land Rover.’

‘What? You are kidding, aren’t you?’ Mr. B laughed.

‘No, I’m serious. We have to get parts to fix the trailer, and we can’t leave it here,’ Dad said.

‘You—you mean the trailer too?’ Mr. B asked.

‘Yes.’

‘The trailer? How’s the Rover going to cope with that?’

‘It’ll just have to,’ Dad said. ‘I wouldn’t risk leaving it here in the bush.’

‘Yeah, not by the looks of those car wrecks,’ Rick muttered.

Mr. B scratched his head. ‘You mean to say, if we leave the trailer, someone will come along in this desert and take things?’

‘Yes, most likely,’ Dad replied.

‘Even if we hide it in the bush?’

‘Have you seen where the other car wrecks are, Mr. B?’ Rick asked. ‘They’re not exactly on the road.’

Mr. B put his hands on his hips and frowned.

*[Photo 5: Some people, like my grandpa, will do what it takes to move the immovable in the desert. Towing their broken-down truck by donkeys © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

‘Look,’ Dad said, ‘we’re not far from Ernabella. We can get the trailer fixed there. I’m sure we’ll be alright for a few miles.’

Mr. B grunted and then pointed at his son. ‘Well, come on boy, don’t just stand there, help us unload the trailer.’

We all helped pile the contents of the trailer and then the trailer on top of the Rover. While Rick tightened the last of the ropes over the trailer stack on the Rover’s roof, I stood back and said, ‘Now the Rover really does look overloaded.’

[Photo 6 : Comic Car Crush © from RAA magazine circa 1977]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo : Sunset on a rock, near Musgrave Ranges © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

***

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–Corrugations Camping, and Indulkana

T-Team with Mr. B (6)

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

Here’s how it all began…]

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

In this episode, Mr. B and Dad have a disagreement about lunch…]

Fruitless Foray

Again, we raced at 50 miles per hour along the highway boldly going where too many trucks had gone before. The graded road was a sea of corrugations. As we travelled along the road at high speed, our Land Rover juddered over the sand waves. Dad was on a mission to reach Ernabella and not even corrugations on the unsurfaced road were going to get in his way.

[Photo 1: Road Train at dawn © L.M. Kling 2013]

We paused at Indulkana, an Indigenous settlement, where we topped up the tank with petrol from one of the Gerry cans.

‘Only fifty miles or so to go to Ernabella,’ replied Dad with a sniff. He could smell his Holy Grail, and he was bent on reaching his destination. ‘Pity, there’s a school here I’d’ve liked to visit. Ah, well!’

Mr. B spread out the map on the bonnet of the Rover. He adjusted his glasses on his nose and then pointed at Indulkana. ‘Are you sure it’s only fifty miles, David?’

Dad cleared his throat and then glanced at the map. ‘Er, um, I think so.’

‘It looks a damn lot further to me. Are you sure we’ll get there? I mean to say, it’s past one o’clock and we still have to have lunch.’

‘We’ll eat when we get there.’

‘Really?’ Mr. B gazed at the fibro houses scattered like abandoned blocks in the red landscape. ‘Damn! No place to shop in this shanty town.’

I gazed at the mirage shimmering, reflecting the khaki bushes on the horizon of ochre. This tiny Indigenous settlement seemed more heat-affected and miserable than Oodnadatta. A dingo skulked across the road in search of shade. The town seemed empty—except for the flies.

[Photo 2: A future (to 1977) visit to the school at Indulkana © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981]

I swished several of the pests from my eyes and searched for a toilet block. We had stopped, so I considered it timely to make a comfort stop. ‘Where’s the loo?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Dad said.

As far as we could see, public toilets didn’t exist in Indulkana.

A kangaroo hopped through the spinifex. Rick grabbed his rifle and aimed.

‘Hoy!’ Dad said. ‘Stop! You can’t be shooting so close to the town.’

Rick lowered his gun.

‘I say,’ Mr. B said. ‘Why don’t we go down the road a bit. We can find a few accommodating bushes for our business and the boys can do a spot of shooting. Besides, we need a break and some lunch.’

Dad sighed. ‘Very well, then.’

We piled back into the Rover and trundled several miles down the road where some trees and bushes were clumped close to the road. We all made use of the improvised “bush” facilities. Then Dad pulled out the tucker box and made a simple lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.

[Photo 3: Tucking into some lunch. Rick always did like his food. © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

‘Do you want to have a go shooting?’ Rick asked me.

‘Okay,’ I replied.

My brother handed me the .22 rifle and we walked into the scrub.

Dad called after us. ‘Shoot away from the Rover, we don’t want anyone getting hurt.’

‘What do I shoot?’ I asked Rick.

‘Rabbits. Kangaroos. Birds.’

I looked at the lemon-coloured grasses dotting the red sands. ‘Where are they?’

Rick shrugged.

Matt aimed his rifle at a stump of a mulga tree. A galah had settled there. But not for long. Matt pulled the trigger and at the sound of the bullet hitting the sand, the bird fluttered into the air.

Some white cockatoos decorated the skeleton of a dead tree. I aimed and pulled the trigger. ‘Bang!’ The butt hit my shoulder and knocked me to the ground. ‘Ouch!’ I cried.

The flock of parrots squawked and scattered.

‘I wasn’t expecting that to happen,’ I said rubbing my bottom.

Rick grabbed the rifle off me. ‘Watch where you point that thing.’

‘Oh, sorry.’

Rick and Matt stalked further into the scrub in search of more prey. I was glad my hunting time was over as it was not as much fun as I thought it would be. At least no one was hurt.

[Photo 4: The Central Australian terrain. But where’s the game? © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

The break and the lads’ fruitless hunting foray caused the night to catch up with us. After a couple more hours of driving, we camped near Mimili. A hill close by served as adventure for us young ones in this otherwise flat desert. I climbed the small rise and explored, while the boys went shooting as usual. The hill was little more than an outcrop of rocks and I imagined, something of a smaller version of Uluru. From the top, I scanned the terrain. The setting sun’s rays caused the grasses in the plain to sparkle like gold glitter and a cool breeze hinted at the freezing night ahead. I climbed down from my vantage point and ambled back to camp. As darkness descended upon us and stars flooded the night sky, the boys returned empty-handed, except for their rifles.

While Dad stirred a billy can of stew, Mr. B warmed his idle hands by the fire, his mouth busy whining at the prospect of sleeping on a bed of stones.

Dad tapped the wooden spoon on the edge of the billy can and said, ‘We are camping in the desert, aboriginal style. What we do is make up one fire for cooking, and then have our individual fires.’

[Photo 5: Camping near mini-Uluru © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986]

So, we did in the nights to follow. Although we all had blow-up mattresses and cotton sleeping bags, we still hunted for the softer ground, and prepared it for the bedding by clearing the area of rocks. Each of us would scout around for sticks and logs in preparation for our personal fires. By bedtime, our fires were crackling away, and we only woke from our slumber to poke the coals to keep the small flame going. Still, I slept fully clothed, as the clear nights were freezing.

[Photo 6: Dreams of sleeping in the warmth and comfort on the river bed under kangaroo skin blankets © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]

But did this arrangement satisfy Mr. B? Apparently not. Every night he complained of his unsatisfactory sleeping arrangements. And his back, oh, the pain in his back. Oh, for a decent bed and a warm night’s sleep. And oh, the pain, oh, the discomfort! And then, just as he sank into a deep slumber, dawn broke with Dad clattering around the campsite preparing breakfast once again.

‘Why do we have to get up so early?’ Mr. B would ask each morning.

‘It’s my mission to get…somewhere,’ Dad would reply.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Mini “Uluru” at sunset © C.D. Trudinger circa 1986

***

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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 (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(3)

The Challenges–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…

But, in this episode, by the time we reached Lake Eyre, Dad faced a particular challenge with his camera…

Lake Eyre

Challenge Number 1: How to worship God in the desert?

The next day, warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but no Central Australian safari can qualify as a safari without challenges—especially at the beginning as the crew adjusted to the conditions and different personalities.

Dad, of course, being the good Christian man that he was, and the day being Sunday, gathered us around the campfire. He sat on the tucker box and with his trusty ukulele, strummed and sang the chorus This is the Day.

[Photo 1: Dad and grandson playing ukuleles © L.M. Kling 2007]
[Video: And here they are…The ukulele players © L.M. Kling 2007]

We followed Dad’s lead, although my brother yawned every second line.

When we finished that particular song, Mr. B muttered, ‘I dare say, choruses get a bit repetitive, what about a good ol’ hymn?’

Dad looked at the stony ground and then up at Mr. B. ‘Er, um, did you bring the black hymnal?’

‘Er—no.’

‘Do you know any hymns off by heart?’

‘Well, um…’

‘So I guess we’ll be singing choruses, then.’

‘Hmm.’

Phew! I thought wiping my brow. I preferred to sing choruses.

Dad gave a brief devotion. I can’t recall the details but probably ran along the lines this day was a special day God had made and we should thank Him for it…even if this day held challenges for us.

*[Photo 2 and feature: sunrise, this is the day that the Lord has made © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

Lake Eyre and challenge Number 2: How do you fix a camera?

We continued our journey, travelling north-north-west. Dazzling white in the distance, caught my attention.

‘What’s that?’ I shouted from the back cabin and pointed.

‘That’s lake Eyre?’ Dad said. ‘The southern tip of Lake Eyre.’

‘A lake? It looks awfully white for a lake,’ I said.

‘It’s a salt lake,’ Rick my brother explained. ‘No water in it. Just lots and lots of salt.’

‘Hmm, Daddy would like that,’ I laughed. ‘He likes loads of salt on his vegetables.’

‘Probably not that sort of salt,’ Rick snorted.

‘What do you mean? You said it was salt,’ I said. ‘Why call it salt if it’s not salt that you can put on your food?’

*[Photo 3: Salt lake from above © L.M. Kling 2021]

Mr. B interrupted our debate. ‘I dare say, old chap, can we get a bit closer so I can take a photo?’

‘Oh, but it’ll be nothing, I assure you,’ Dad said. ‘I want to get to William Creek before night falls.’

‘Look, my friend, I’ve never seen a salt lake before,’ Mr. B said. ‘Please. I need a break.’

‘Oh, alright.’

We lumbered up a track leading to Lake Eyre and then parked by the side of the road near a pan of cracked clay. In the distance the sea of white shimmered in the morning sun.

[Photo 4: Lake Eyre in the distance © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981]

Mr. B jumped out of the truck and trod over the clay surface. He stomped on it. He walked a few paces out towards the white horizon. A mirage made the lake appear to have water in it; water that floated above the salt.

‘I say, David,’ Mr. B said as he returned to the Land Rover, ‘you couldn’t drive to where the salt is, could you?’

‘No way,’ Dad said. ‘The clay pan looks solid, but it wouldn’t hold the truck. We could get bogged or worse, we could sink in it like quicksand. I wouldn’t even walk on it, if I were you.’

‘Oh, I see,’ Mr. B said and then pointed at Matt, Rick and me. ‘Now, kids, don’t you go walking on the clay pan. It’s dangerous, you understand?’

‘Yes, sir,’ my brother muttered.

Matt and I nodded.

I took a few paces up a small rise and then with my instamatic camera photographed the expanse of salt with our red land rover in the foreground. Mr. B also stalked up and down the track and clicked away with his camera.

*[Photo 5: Our trusty Land Rover parked near Lake Eyre © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Dad hovered behind Mr. B and aimed his lens at the salt-lake. He sighed and fiddled with the knobs and then the lens. He aimed again. ‘Oh, no!’ he cried and then retreated to the Rover to fiddle with his Konica SLR.

I’d taken my precious photo, so I jumped in the front seat with Dad.

Dad had pulled the lens off his camera body and was blowing into the cavity.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘My camera’s wrecked.’

‘Surely not.’

‘It won’t take a photo. When I push the button, nothing happens.’

‘That’s no good.’

‘No, and it’s only two years old.’

Mr. B poked his head through the window. ‘What? You’re not going to take any photos, David?’

‘No, my camera’s not working,’ Dad said.

‘Well, you would get a camera that’s made in Japan,’ Mr. B said.

*[Photo 6: More Salt lake from the air taken with my Nikon D7000, a Japanese Camera. © L.M. Kling 2021]

Dad reattached the lens and wiped the body with a cloth from his camera bag. ‘I’m sure it’s not serious, I’ll get it working.’

(He did get the camera working, but upon return to Adelaide and developing the photos, discovered that the dodgy light-meter had caused most of the photos to be underexposed. Thank God for computers in the 21st Century and Paint Shop Pro!)

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Sunrise, this is the day that the Lord has made © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981