Story Behind the Painting–Northern Flinders

Skint at Arkaroola

[This time, some of the T-K Team step back in time into the Mt. Painter Sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia; a land offering a glimpse of prehistory…]

Late 1980’s, and my husband and I planned a honeymoon stay in Arkaroola, the town within the Mt. Painter sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges. When we arrived, we rolled up to the motel and presented our VISA card for payment.

[Photo 1: Approaching Mt. Painter Sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges © L.M. Kling 1987]

‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ said the manager, ‘we don’t take VISA. Only MasterCard.’

‘What?’ But we were counting on our VISA to cover the costs.

We scraped together the cash amount for the three-nights of accommodation and emptied our wallets of all but a few notes. Romantic dinners in the restaurant, off our menu. The longed-for Ridge-Top Tour, off our track. Then cold hard panic struck, how were we to pay for petrol when we returned to Adelaide? The amount in our tank, Dad’s four-wheel-drive vehicle that he loaned us for the holiday, may not last the journey back to Hawker. All because the town in which we chose to spend our honeymoon, was so remote, they did not deal in VISA.

[Photo 2: Cornflakes for breakfast © L.M. Kling 1987]

We sat on our motel bed and counted our measly amount of cash. What were we going to do? It’s not like I hadn’t gone without before—on the T-Team with my Dad. Being like-minded and frugal, we dealt with the disappointment, and decided we’d cook our own meals using the barbecue facilities and not venture too far from the town. Besides, there were plenty of places to which we could hike.

[Photo 3: Hiking up Radium Creek searching for titanite © L.M. Kling 1987]

I took a deep breath and picked up the book our pastor had given us as a wedding gift. Inside the front cover I discovered an envelope. ‘I wonder what this says,’ I said to my husband.

I took out the card and opened it. An orange-coloured note fluttered onto the floor. I picked it up. ‘Hey, look! Twenty dollars.’ I waved the note in my husband’s face. ‘Twenty dollars! Pastor must’ve known we’d need the money.’

‘I think God did,’ my husband said. ‘Twenty dollars makes all the difference.’

‘Can we do the Ridge-Top Tour?’

‘Um, perhaps not that much difference.’

‘Dinner at the restaurant?’

‘Maybe, but we still need to watch our spending.’

I sighed. ‘I know.’

[Photo 4: Dinnertime Hill © L.M. Kling 1987]
[Photo 5: Towards sunset on Mt Painter Sanctuary mountains © L.M. Kling 1987]

In the restaurant, and eating the cheapest meal offered, I spied a photo adorning the wall behind my beloved. A waterhole with red cliffs on one side and cool but majestic eucalypt trees on the other side. ‘Echo Camp,’ I read. ‘I want to go there.’

‘Hmm, not sure, if we have to drive far.’

‘Oh, please.’

‘We’ll see.’

[Photo 6: Radium Creek © L.M. Kling 1987]
[Photo 7: Nooldoonooldoona © L.M. Kling 1987]

A couple of days passed, and we’d exhausted all the nearby scenic sites to which we could hike. We decided to drive up the road, but not too far.

I spotted a sign to Echo Camp, and not-too-many kilometres off the “main” road. My husband noted that the track was only for “authorised” vehicles.

‘That’s not fair,’ I said. ‘They shouldn’t tempt us with scenic places like that in the restaurant and then deny us because we’re not “authorised”.’

[Painting 1: Track to Echo Camp © L.M. Kling 1987]

He who was driving, turned into the track. ‘You’re quite right. Ready for some adventure?’

‘Okay, well, it says Echo Camp’s only a few kilometres down the track.’

My husband drove up and down the track. It soon became obvious why the track was meant for “authorised” vehicles. But we were committed, and the track became so narrow, with one side rocky cliffs and the other sheer drops, we had no choice but to lurch forward, upward, downward, sideways and every-which-way. While I clutched the bar on the dashboard, my husband had fun, relishing the roller-coaster ride to Echo Camp.

We reached a relatively flat area where we parked our four-wheel drive vehicle. The Painter Sanctuary mountains rose and dipped like waves before us. A feast for the eyes with shades of sienna, blue and mauve. I captured this beauty with my Nikon film camera.

[Painting 2: Vista of the Sanctuary © L.M. Kling 2019]

‘By the way, where’s Echo Camp from here?’ I asked.

‘Just around the corner, I think.’

‘How many kilometres have we travelled?’

‘More than the sign said, but it can’t be far.’

‘I get the feeling we missed it on the way here.’

My husband nodded. ‘I think we did. There was a fork back there, but I wasn’t sure. And the angle was too sharp to turn down.’

‘Better check out that track.’

[Photo 8: Sun fast sinking on secret sanctuary © L.M. Kling 1987]

We back tracked and found the way leading to Echo Camp. By this time, the sun hung low in the sky, so our time savouring Echo Camp was limited to no more than half an hour, wandering near the rock pool, taking photos, and enjoying the peace and silence of this land untouched by civilisation, and reserved for the “authorised” apparently.

Aspects of Echo Camp

[Photo 9: Our trusty Daihatsu Four-wheel drive © L.M. Kling 1987]
[Photo 10: Reflections in the billabong © L.M. Kling 1987]
[Photo 11: Echo Camp © L.M. Kling 1987]

Then, after braving the roller-coaster road again, we crept out from the contraband track, and back into town.

[Painting 3: Echo Camp © L.M. Kling 1990]

***

My most recent painting of Arkaroola landscape, Dinnertime Northern Flinders is for sale at the Marion Art Group exhibition at Brighton Central. You can also check out my work on the Gallery 247 website.

Marion Art Group’s exhibition (first in three years) is to be held from Monday October 17 to Sunday October 30, Brighton Central, 525 Brighton Road, Brighton, South Australia.

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

Feature Painting: Dinnertime Northern Flinders Ranges © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018

***

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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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T-Team the Younger Series–Rain in Chambers Gorge

Rain

[Unusually cold and rainy for November here in Adelaide. Reminds me of the younger of the T-Team with roughin’ it on their minds, exploring the Flinders Ranges; their sights set on Chambers Gorge…]

The rain followed the ants and began pelting down on the car roof.

‘Get to higher ground.’ Barney thumped his thighs. ‘Argh! An ant!’

‘Remember our friends from church?’ I said. ‘They got caught in a flood in the Flinders.’

[Photo 1: Just not Cricket…or even threatening rain in Parachilna Gorge © L.M. Kling 2000]

Barney nodded and nudged my brother. ‘Yeah, remember?’

‘It’s like raining cats and dogs—and all those ants. We’ll be caught in the flood if you don’t do something.’ Doris slapped her arm. ‘Yuk! Another one! They’ve invaded the car. Get a torch!’

Barney handed Doris a torch. My brother fired up the engine.

‘Where are they?’ Doris cried. Beams of light from the torch bounced around the cabin.

‘Get that light off!’ my brother said. ‘I’m trying to drive.’

‘I have to find the ants.’

‘You want me to get to higher ground?’

[Photo 2: You mean high like this? Mt Ohlsen Bagge © L.M. Kling 2007]

‘Oh, al-right!’ Doris snapped and extinguished the torch light.

My brother manoeuvred the car around and then retraced the track to the previous campsite which had been on higher ground.

As my brother leapt from the car, Doris said, ‘I hope there’s no ants.’

My brother took the torch from Doris. ‘I’ll see, then.’

‘You reckoned this site had ants,’ Doris said. ‘You reckoned we had to move because of ants. I’m not getting out if there’s ants.’

Using both the torch and the car’s head lights, my brother inspected the ground. ‘Nup, no ants.’

Rain hammered the roof and my brother’s image blurred with the rain.

[Photo 3: There are several reasons to refuse to get out of the car when it is raining; one being you get wet. Melrose Campsite © L.M. Kling 2005]

‘Don’t believe you,’ Doris murmured. ‘Anyway, it’s raining, I’m staying in the car.’

‘Are we high enough? Barney asked. ‘I don’t want us getting flushed down Chambers Gorge.’

‘Ha! Ha! Very funny,’ I said.

‘I’m serious,’ Barney said.

‘Yep, we went up a bit,’ my brother said. ‘We’re above the creek, now.’

‘Don’t trust you, get higher,’ Doris said. ‘I don’t want to be washed away.’

My brother mumbled, ‘Like that’ll happen.’ Then he sighed, ‘Oh, alright, if you insist.’ He revved up the car and mounted another small slope and then settled on a hill.

No one dared move from the car as the rain steadily fell and the fear of inch-ants crawling up and over our sleeping bodies. Plus, the bother of putting up the tent in the rain, kept us locked in the car all night. We made the best of sleeping sitting upright for another night.

***

[Photo 4: Rain-filled creek in Chambers Gorge © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1984]

Morning, we woke to blue skies and the creek transformed into a luxurious chain of ponds. Birds, big black ones called “butcher birds”, galahs, and parrots, converged on the edges of marsh. They searched for fish, poking around the lily pads scattered like floating pebbles on the water’s surface. White cockatoos congregated and chattered in the gum trees with leaves glistening in the early morning sun, washed clean by the rain.

[Photo 5: Taking a dip in Chambers Gorge creek © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1984]

Doris and I took the opportunity to take a dip in a nearby pool. I marvelled how this rain made reeds spring up overnight. ‘They weren’t there yesterday, I’m sure,’ I said.

‘Wow! All that rain, and we didn’t get washed away,’ Doris said.

‘No, we didn’t,’ I replied. ‘No, we didn’t.’

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; update 2021

Feature Photo: After Rain in the Flinders Ranges © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 2005

***

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T-Team (the younger) Series–Chambers Gorge

The Road-Trip of No Destination

[Watched the first two of the Mad Max series, lately. Memories of the younger of the T-Team (my brother and me with a couple of friends) surfaced. We piled into my brother’s Chrysler Charger or whatever, and with roughin’ it on our minds, we travel up north of Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges; our sights set on Chambers Gorge…]

Back in the mid-1980’s my brother rarely used a map, not a map I could see. The Adelaide Street Directory, all faded and lying on the back seat under the stiff-from-salt-beach towels, doesn’t cover way-out country areas such as the Flinders Ranges.

[Photo 1: A street directory much like this one, courtesy of L.M. Kling]

Every Easter, commencing Maundy Thursday, we’d pile into my brother’s latest Chrysler charger or whatever, and roll along to the car stereo-cassette player blasting out local South Australian band Red Gum. Up Port Wakefield Road we’d go, and if we were fortunate enough not the break down there, as one tends to do on Port Wakefield Road, we’d sally on forth to the Flinders Ranges, about four hundred kilometres north of Adelaide.

[Photo 2: Classic view of the Flinders Ranges from the highway © L.M. Kling 1999]

We’d start our journey late, usually after nine at night, as some of my brother’s friends had work and had to eat dinner, then finally pack before they were ready to leave.

[Photo 3: We probably took the trip in my brother’s red Chrysler Charger © courtesy of L.M. Kling]

One time, my brother and I took friends Barney and Doris (not their real names) on a planned trip to Chambers Gorge, situated in the north-eastern part of the Flinders Ranges. We must’ve left closer to midnight, and my brother and Barney shared the driving through the night. Dirt roads at that time, caused the driving to slow and by the time we neared our destination in the Flinders, the watery blue sky of dawn crept over low hills in the east. In the back seat, Doris and I rested our heads on our bags and slept, while my brother willed himself to keep awake rocking to British band, Dire Straits. There was a short stop as he then, too weary, swapped with Barney.

[Photo 4: Sunrise in the Flinders Ranges © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Doris and I kept on sleeping.

Then…Bang! The car skidded to a halt.

We spilled out of the car. I rubbed my eyes and looked around. The sun peeped over the horizon of flat desert plains, mountains to the west, jutted like pimples on the edge, still dark, untouched by the sun.

My brother checked the front of the car. ‘It’s all right, no damage. The bull bar took the brunt.’

Barney sauntered down the road, and then returned to us. ‘We hit a roo,’ he said.

‘So, we’ll have roo for breakfast?’ I asked, half-joking.

‘Why not? I’m hungry,’ Barney replied.

‘You can cook it, then,’ my brother said.

‘Okay.’

[Photo 5: Kangaroos in Onkaparinga Gorge; the descendants of ones that avoided having unhappy encounters with cars © L.M. Kling 2019]

So as the sun rose over the distant mountains capping the peaks in pink, we roasted the skinned roo-roadkill over the campfire. While we waited for the meat to cook, Barney swilled his breakfast beverage of choice—beer. My brother, a teetotaller and body builder, drank his concoction of protein powder mixed with water and raw egg. Doris and I boiled a billy of water and then brewed ourselves a cup of instant coffee and condensed milk.

[Photo 6: Campfire © L.M. Kling 1986]

Doris clutched her metal mug, then sipped her coffee and said, ‘Not sure about the kangaroo for breakfast.’

‘It’ll be alright,’ I said. ‘I’ve had kangaroo—not so bad. Although, not sure about eating after the way Barney’s cooked it. We fried it once like that on our Central Australian trip, and I had a terrible tummy ache and bad gas. Smelt like rotten eggs. My brother and his cousin had competitions rating the potency of their gas. They thought it was hilarious, but the stink was awful.’

Doris grimaced and put down her coffee mug. ‘I don’t want to know.’

‘You won’t have any choice when we’re stuck in the car driving to Chambers Gorge.’

‘Speaking of Chambers Gorge, where is it from here?’

‘Haven’t a clue. I guess my brother will just keep on driving until we see a sign to Chambers Gorge.’

‘Oh.’

Barney called, ‘Roo’s ready.’

Doris and I trooped over to the campfire and inspected Barney’s efforts. Barney waved away the smoke to reveal bone and sinew reduced to charcoal.

Doris screwed up her nose and said, ‘I’ll pass.’

‘Me too.’ I grimaced. ‘I don’t fancy the after-effects from that.’

‘Aw, bit over-cooked, but charcoal’s good for you,’ Barney said. He took a few bites and then frowned as he forced the hardened lumps of gristle down.

Barney then took the remnants of the roo behind a bush and gave the poor animal a good Christian burial in a shallow grave.

[Photo 7: Then onto Chambers Gorge © L.M. Kling 1985]

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2019; 2021

Photo: Lee-Anne on a Limb, Flinders Ranges © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 1984

***

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T-Team Series–Taxed (2)

Tuesday, September 8, 1981

[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]

Car hunt all sorted with a Toyota Corolla named Levin, the T-K Team Next Gen turn their attention to sorting out the annual tax return. So, keeping the theme of the attack of the tacks which the T-Team endured on the unsealed highway back to Adelaide almost 40 years ago to the day…]

Once more we all dismounted from the Rover and once more Richard shook his head at the pathetic sight of an airless tyre, this time, the Rover’s, squashed flat on the corrugated sand. Once more we stood guard while Richard jacked up the Rover, removed the flattened lump of rubber, soaked it in a bowl of water, found the leak and commenced the ritual of repairs. And once more he swore as he ripped off the first, then the second, then the third patch in the set that wouldn’t take. Finally, he hurled the remaining patches and glue into the spinifex.

*[Photo 1: Spinifex, can’t live with it, can’t live without it in the desert. Some enterprising Indigenous use the spinifex bush in times of the inevitable flat tyre. But not the T-Team. © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Dad gazed to the horizon and the sun fast sinking toward it. ‘What did you do that for?’

‘They’re a bunch of duds.’ Richard hunted through the tool kit for another packet of tyre patches. ‘How long did you have that set?’

‘Oh, er, um,’ Dad rubbed his moustache, and mumbled, ‘only a few years.’

‘Well, the glue was cactus.’ Richard pulled out a patch from a newer looking box, and then lighting a match, exposed the patch to the flame. After roughening the tube at the damage site, he sealed the patch over the puncture. He stuffed the tube back in the tyre. ‘Now, let’s see what we can do about the pump.’

After returning to the toolbox for some more tools, he fiddled with an electric pump, and then attached it to the Rover’s battery.

We all cheered as the pump chugged into action and filled the tyre with its much-needed air. Mission accomplished, we once again climbed back in the Rover and then raced towards Oodnadatta.

*[Photo 2: A road most tack-filled near the NT-SA border © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

***

Weariness from the constant stopping and starting, and tyre-changing meant that not much conversation happened between younger cousin (C2) and me. The current corrugations that filled the cabin with a sound like heavy machinery didn’t help. I knew Dad wanted to drive through the night to reach Adelaide. No stopping now. We’d suffered enough delays, and Dad intimated he just wanted to get home, or if not home, at least to the comforts of a creek bed filled with soft sand, like Algebuckina.

*[Photo 3: Dreams of soft sand and luxury in a creek bed near Ernabella © C.D. Trudinger 1992]

However, Dad’s dream of sleeping in cushioned comfort stalled. Ninety kilometres north of Oodnadatta, another trailer tyre blow-out brought us to a complete halt. By this time night had fallen and the diagnosis was grim. We had run out of spares for the trailer.

The men stood at the scene of the tyre carnage. Richard combed the area and shining light from a torch he gathered up shreds of evidence. Dad and his nephews stared with mouths downturned at the remains of the victim, the rim with a few bits of rubber hanging off it.

‘It made quite a few sparks,’ I said. ‘Better than fireworks.’

*[Photo 4: New Year’s Eve sparklers on the beach © L.M. Kling 2007]

‘This is not the time to be funny.’ Dad gazed at the gravel road languishing in darkness. ‘We’re in a lot of trouble and I’d appreciate if you could take this seriously.’ He clasped his hands and cleared his throat. I was sure he’d burst into prayer at any moment.

‘Sorry.’

Richard shone the torch in the direction of the Rover. I turned to look. The Rover listed to one side. Surely that can’t be the dip at the edge of the road.

‘Richard,’ I said walking over to the back-passenger side of the Rover. ‘What’s going on with the Rover?’

The torchlight landed on me. ‘Look, we’re—’ Dad began. The light fell on the tyre, a very flat-to-the-rim tyre. ‘Oh.’

I pointed at the tyre imitating a pancake. ‘See, I told you.’ I put my hands on my hips and sighed. ‘Just not our day. Four flat tyres in half a day. How can that be?’

*[Photo 5: Kings Canyon cliffs Reminding me of pancakes in happier times © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

Richard stood staring at the latest casualty. ‘Someone must’ve put tacks on the road.’

‘Does that mean we’re going to camp here tonight?’ my older cousin (C1) asked.

‘Looks like we’ll have to,’ Dad said. ‘And it won’t be very comfortable, it’s all stony.’

*[Photo 6: Our campground for the night © L.M. Kling 2013]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017; updated 2021

*Feature Photo: It could be worse… © S.O. Gross circa 1942

***

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T-Team Series–Outback Road Hazards

TAXED

Tuesday, September 8, 1981

[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]

As our personal car hunt takes a positive turn, Mum’s car, the one we are borrowing, suffers a devastating blow to its tyre—staked by a bolt. And so, I am reminded of the attack of the tacks as the T-Team drove the unsealed highway back to Adelaide almost 40 years ago…]

So for the first time in the entire two months of the Safari, Dad permitted my older cousin (C1) to drive. After reaching the South Australian border and the degradation of the road to dirt, he drove at a steady fifty-five kilometres per hour. Bull dust billowed on each side of the vehicle, and we kept the windows sealed.

[Photo 1: Red Centre from the sky © L.M. Kling 2021]

Richard sat in the middle and I sat on the passenger side nearest the window. My feet ached. Feeling faint with the heat magnified in the confined unventilated area, I peeled off my shoes and socks.

‘Pooh!’ Rich fanned his nose. ‘Do you have to?’

‘But it’s hot.’ I massaged my foot. ‘I can’t smell any foot odour.’

A smile grew between C1’s beard and moustache, then the cabin filled with fumes of sulphur dioxide.

‘Ugh!’ I exclaimed and then reached for the handle to wind down the window.

‘You can talk.’ C1 put a handkerchief to his nose. ‘When was the last time you washed your socks?’

‘Point taken,’ I gasped, and then picked up a book fanning the air to the back of the Rover causing my younger cousin (C2) to protest and Dad to cough.

[Photo 2: The Unsealed Road © M.E. Trudinger (nee Gross) circa 1956]

Ker-chunk! Ker-chunk! C1 eased the Rover to a shuddering stop.

I looked at the odometer. We’d travelled 180km from Alice Springs. ‘Oh, no! And we’ve only just left.’ I opened the door and dropped from the Rover.

Richard edged his way out and then paced around the vehicle. He bent down to inspect a back tyre. ‘We have a puncture.’

Dad and cousins piled out. Richard commenced his jacking up the Rover, and removing the tyre. He lifted the spare off the rear door of the Rover. He bounced it towards the axle, and then stopped.

He frowned and said, ‘The spare’s flat.’

While my brother repaired the puncture, we lingered by the roadside. Dad kicked the mound of graded dirt. C1 pulled out another book from his satchel and read. C2 stared at the long stretch of road, counting the cars that passed. I sat in a ditch and picked my nails. An hour passed. Richard continued working. He’d already used up two dud patches on the tube. The repairs seemed to be taking forever.

[Photo 3: The timeless hazards of outback roads © M.E. Trudinger (nee Gross) 1956]

‘Why don’t we have lunch?’ I said.

Dad, his hands in his pockets, shuffled over to Richard. ‘How long do you think you’ll be?’

Richard peeled off the third patch that didn’t take. ‘Oh, another half an hour.”

Half an hour times three. In real-time, one-and-a-half-hours.

Dad stroked his beard. ‘Yes, I think we’ll have lunch then.’

We gathered a few sticks together for a fire to boil the billy. With my cup of tea and cake, I deserted the group to sit under a shady mulga tree. Another half-hour dragged in the heat.

[Photo 4: Man’s solution to outback breakdown when there is no auto Assistance anywhere in sight © S.O. Gross circa 1942]

I returned to the men. They stood like statues in a semi-circle around Richard who now battled with a pump. No matter how hard or long he pumped, the tyre didn’t seem to be doing much.

Richard wiped drops of sweat from his temple and grunted. ‘Come on, you idiot, work!’ He resumed pushing the lever up and down, faster and faster. He stopped and checked the gauge. ‘Damn thing hasn’t moved.’ He kicked the pump. ‘Work!’

‘I don’t think that’ll help,’ Dad said.

‘The pump’s broken. The gauge hasn’t moved off twenty k-p-a.’

Dad kicked the tyre. ‘Is that enough?’

‘I s’pose it’ll have to do.’

Richard shook his head. He placed the half-inflated tyre on the Rover’s back axle, and then tightened the nuts.

[Photo 5: A more reliable mode of transport??? © S.O. Gross circa 1942]

C1 resumed his driver’s position with Richard and C2 in the front. I put up with Dad and the dust in the back cabin. My father decided to manicure his nails with his teeth. Drove me insane! Every few seconds, he puffed out a bitten nail onto the floor, the luggage, and the dirty laundry pile. I looked away as his nibbled his nail stumps, but the spitting sound grated on my senses setting my teeth on edge. I placed a pillow over my ears and rested my head on a soft bag. I began to doze.

Thudda! Thudda! Thudda!

The Rover rocked and jerked to a juddering halt. Again we piled out. This time a trailer tyre had been ripped to shreds. Bits of the tyre left a sorry trail down the highway.

[Photo 6: History repeats itself © L.M. Kling 2013]

Dad poked his toe at a fragment of rubber. ‘How did that happen?’

‘The rocks,’ Richard replied. Then removing the spare trailer tyre, he bounced it into position.

Again, we stood around and watched Richard change the tyre. Again, we piled back in the Rover and continued our journey. And yet again I had to sit in the rear of the Rover with Dad.

This time, Dad nodded off to sleep and snored. Richard who was driving, had barely driven ten minutes before Dad had fallen asleep. I watched Dad’s head loll from side to side, and with a snort, he’d jerk his head up, and then his head flopped followed by a deep rumble. Again, I covered my ears with a pillow and rested on my soft bag.

The rumbles penetrated my pillow. They grew louder and louder, sounding like an earthquake. I sat up and looked around. Dad wide-eyed and awake stared at me. The rumbling turned into a loud roar.

[Photo 7: The perils of the gibber plain © L.M. King 2013]

‘So, it wasn’t you snoring,’ Dad said.

‘I thought it was you.’ My voice vibrated with the jack-hammer effect. ‘Is it the corrugations?’

‘I don’t think so.’ Dad sounded like a Dalek. He leaned through the window connected to the front. ‘Richard, I think you better stop.’

‘Not again,’ I groaned.

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017; updated 2021

Feature Photo: Car-nage © L.M. Kling 2013

***

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