Trekking Tuesday–MacDonnell Gorges (1)

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

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

Ellery Creek and Serpentine Gorge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Ormiston Gorge
3. Glen Helen

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

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

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

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

Ellery Creek

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

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

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

4. Trees of Ellery Creek

5. Ellery Creek Big Hole

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

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

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

‘As many people, though,’ I replied.

Matt sniggered.

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

Dad joined his friend. ‘I warned you.’

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

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

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

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

Serpentine Gorge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Gorges for Another Day

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

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

11. Redbank
12. Ormiston

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022

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

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Series–T-Team with Mr. B (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…]

Beginning With Mr. B–Adelaide

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…

Our trip began in the grey dawn in the foothills south of Adelaide, where we collected our companions, Mr. B, and his son Matt.

[Photo 1: Foothills of Adelaide, near where the T-Team picked up Mr. B © L.M. Kling 2017]

August, two weeks before the September school holidays, and Dad eased the truck, as he called the red hired Land Rover, to a stop on the slope. He yanked up the handbrake and sighed.

‘I hope it holds,’ he said.

‘Is this where Mr. Banks and Matt live?’ I asked. Mr. B, as we nicknamed him was Dad’s friend and Matt, a few years younger than me was his son. Only fair as my dad had the nickname of Mr. T.

A tall man, about Dad’s age, dressed R.M. Williams trousers, checked shirt, and polished hiking boots, bowled up the steep driveway to meet us.  ‘Come into our humble abode,’ this man, Mr. B said gesturing to his home; hardly humble, as inside, it was more like a 1960’s style Swiss Chalet set on the hillside with a vista of the Adelaide plains.

We admired the view, through a large window spanning the wall, a panorama of Adelaide, lights winking as the city woke up.

[Photo 2: Adelaide lights © L.M. Kling 2018]

‘Nice view!’ I said observing Mrs. B fussing around her husband, her hair perfectly coiffured, even at this time of the morning.

‘The advantages of being a bank manager,’ Mr. B sniffed, then waved at his eleven-year-old son, Matt. ‘Come on boy, can’t be late.’

‘Wow,’ I said to Dad, ‘the B’s must be rich to have such a large home with a view. We’d never be able to afford this on your teacher’s salary.’

‘Lee-Anne!’ Dad muttered. ‘Keep your comments to yourself. Don’t embarrass your hosts.’ Or me for that matter, he implied.

‘Sorry.’ I was always putting the proverbial foot in my mouth.

[Photo 3: Dad the teacher © courtesy of L.M. Kling (photographer unknown) circa 1960]

My brother Rick nudged me and whispered, ‘I wonder how this bank manager is going to cope on one of Dad’s camping trips.’

I shrugged. ‘Who knows?’ At fourteen, I did not consider too deeply how a man of class would cope with a camping trip minus all the luxuries a well-to-do city slicker like him would be used to. ‘I wonder how I’m going to manage. I mean to say, this is my first time camping in the bush.’

[Photo 4: One son of mine not impressed with camping © L.M. Kling 2005]

Matt slung his sports bag over his shoulder and after reluctantly hugging his mother and older sister who made a brief appearance, followed us out to the Land Rover.

‘I say, girl,’ Mr. B strode to the truck, ‘you take a photo of me. We must mark the occasion.’

‘I’m not sure, it’ll work out, Mr. B,’ I said. ‘It’s still pretty dark.’

‘Go on, girl, there’s light enough.’

As Dad packed Mr. B’s and Matt’s baggage into the back cabin, I lined Mr. B with the road and, with my nameless brand instamatic camera, snapped a photo.

‘It won’t work out, Lee,’ my brother said as he passed me. ‘It’s too dark.’

‘I know,’ I mumbled.

Mr. B appeared in my photo to be keeling over, such was the slope of his street. Little did I know how prophetic that photo would be of Mr. B’s adaption to the ways of the bush.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Adelaide in Sea mist © L.M. Kling 2020

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981 

Story Behind the Painting–Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta Sunrise

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

Way before the sun had even thought about rising, we gulped down our porridge and then set off for the Eastern Side of Kata Tjuta. Dad was on a mission to capture the prehistoric boulders at sunrise. We arrived at the vantage point just as the sun spread out its first tentative rays, touching the spiky tips of spinifex and crowning the bald domes with a crimson hue as if they’d been sunburnt.

[Painting 1: Kata Tjuta Sunrise (watercolour) © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2015]

I dashed a hundred metres down the track to photograph the “Kangaroo Head” basking in the sun. We stood in awe as the glow of red on the rocks deepened.

Every few minutes Dad exclaimed, ‘Ah, well, that’s it, that’s as good as it’s going to get.’ He packed the camera away, only to remark, ‘Oh, it’s getting better,’ then retrieve the camera from the bag and snap Kata Tjuta flushed with a deeper, more stunning shade of red. The rest of the T-Team, waited, took a few shots, waited, mesmerised by the conglomerate mounds of beauty, before taking more snaps of the landscape.

[Painting 2: Soft Sunrise Glow of Kata Tjuta (pastel) © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021]

Family friend, TR patted Dad on the back. ‘Well, the early rise was worth it.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2021

Feature Painting: Sacred Sunrise, Kata Tjuta (acrylic on canvas) © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

T-Team Next Gen–Emily Gap

[In 2013, the T-Team, next generation embarked on their pilgrimage to Central Australia. Purpose: to scatter Dad’s ashes in his beloved Central Australia, in Ormiston Gorge.

Over the next few weeks, I will take you on a virtual trip to the Centre and memories of that unforgettable holiday in 2013, with my brother and his family; the T-Team Next Generation.

This time, the T-K Team visit Emily Gap.]

Lunch With the Ants

Our plans changed. Anthony decided we could take a risk with our fuel situation, and so, since we were in the vicinity of the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges, we would visit Emily Gap and have lunch first before getting the gas for the Ford.

[Photo 1: Emily Gap entrance © L.M. Kling 2013]

‘After all,’ I said to Anthony, ‘it is almost two o’clock, and I’m hungry.’

He just had to reply, ‘Hungry? Unlike you, I can wait till teatime.’

‘Hmm, yet another similarity you have to my father. Only he could fast from breakfast as well as lunch.’

As we rolled into the shady climes of the Emily Gap car park, I remarked, ‘But such a lovely place to sit and have picnic, don’t you think?’ I had already sourced some nuts and chocolate from my bag in case he disagreed with my suggestion.

‘We’ll go for a walk first to see the rock paintings and then have some lunch,’ Anthony grumbled. ‘I don’t want to walk on a full stomach.’

[Photo 2: Emily Gap Rock Formations © L.M. Kling 2013]

While Anthony marched ahead to find the rock paintings before they disappeared, I trailed behind and nibbled my nuts and chocolate. Needed reinforcements to do the walk.

Anthony vanished around a corner. A few minutes later, he appeared, jogging towards me. ‘They’re here! Come look!’

‘Oh, yeah,’ I replied, remembering 1981 when TR baited us with some significant discovery of Indigenous art. That art turned out to be less ancient and more modern.

I followed Anthony. Around the bend, he pointed. ‘Look! There they are.’

Gazing at the entrance to a shallow cave, I said, ‘Oh, yeah! So, there are. They look like giant caterpillars.’

[Photo 3: Rock paintings © L.M. Kling 2013]

We spent some time examining the array of caterpillar paintings and carvings; the totem of the Eastern Arrernte people, we assumed.

‘I think my dad took us to Jesse Gap,’ I said as we walked back to the picnic area. ‘I have never seen those paintings before. When he took us out to the Eastern MacDonnell’s all we saw was artwork of the Western kind, graffiti. When we suggested visiting Emily Gap, it was already nearly dark, and Dad thought there would only be graffiti there too.’

[Photo 4: Shade Creep, Emily Gaps later afternoon  © L.M. Kling 2013]

In the shade of the gum trees in the picnic area, we “shared” our lunch of canned tuna and buttered bread with some inch ants. Had to put our food on a rock and then move the picnic rug, but the inch ants followed us.

[Photo 5: Inch ants © L.M. Kling 2019]

After lunch, we found the BP petrol station that Richard had told us about. And finally, the Ford had its fill of LP Gas. Then on our way back to the Caravan park where we were staying for the night, we swung by the local IGA, where I bought mince, button mushrooms, two onions, shampoo and conditioner. Would you believe that the shampoo and conditioner I had brought from home, had not lasted the distance of our two-week Central Australian journey?

In the golden light of late afternoon, while I helped Anthony put up the tent, I watched another family, pitch theirs. The father sat in his director’s chair and directed the rest of the family, women, and children, how to put up their tent.

But, ah, what bliss to cook tea in the light of the common kitchen. Spag Bog, and plum pudding. Dessert, hot chocolate.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Emily Gap Rock Paintings © L.M. Kling 2013

***

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Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari. (Australia)

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Storm Over Musgrave Ranges

Our first 40-plus degrees Celsius day, and our hills of Adelaide are menaced by bushfire. Although our home was not threatened, the fire raged on roads familiar to us; roads that we take on the “scenic route” to Hahndorf, and people we know live in those particular towns that were in danger. Fortunately, the threat of fire has been eased by drenching rain—just in time.

Such is the plight of living in the driest state in the driest continent…

So, today, as the smell of smoke filled the air and a pall of brown smoke covered the city, I recalled a time when a storm and fire threatened the T-Team.

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

THE STORM

Monday 27 – Tuesday 28, July 1981

‘Oh! I give up!’ I hauled myself out of the sleeping bag, bundled up my bedding and parka, and blundered my way to the back of the Rover. I glanced at the men comatose in sleep and oblivious to the mini cyclone engulfing them. Our central campfire blazed, flames sweeping over the clearing. The smell of burnt plastic hit my nostrils. At my feet lay the remains of a little blue bowl, my bowl. I washed my face in that basin every morning. Now what was I to do?

[Photo 1: Ominous Sunset over Musgraves © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

I knew this wind meant business, dangerous business. I rushed to Dad and told him the whole story—the wind, the sparks, the wild fire, and my little blue bowl.

‘What campfire?’ Dad smacked his lips, yawned and turned over.

‘But Dad! The fires have to go out!’ I shook my father. ‘We’ll burn to death.’

‘Oh, all right!’ Dad squirmed his way out of his layers of blankets and bedding. ‘I don’t know why you have to disturb me. I was just getting to sleep.’ He picked up the shovel and tramped over to my fire. The coals had sprung to life and tongues of flame licked at my rumpled groundsheet.

Dad shovelled several heaps of dirt over my fire. I picked up a bucket and fought my way to the creek through a wall of wind. My bucket full of water, I marched back to camp. I tossed water on the coals and with the light of my torch watched them sizzle and steam. I put rocks in the bowls and buckets as insurance against being blown away in these gale-force conditions.

[Photo 2: The fog warning over Musgraves © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

I returned to my sleeping quarters with bucket half-full of water and found Dad disposing of the menacing flames of my fire. A few rebellious coals glowed with fresh gusts. So, I chucked water on these reheated stubs, quenching any urge for the embers to flare up.

Dad stepped forward and made a grab for my bucket. ‘Hey! What are you doing?’

‘All in the aid to save us from a bushfire,’ I replied.

On my trek back to the Rover, I checked the campfire. Coals glowed angry red, and blue-yellowy-green flames wobbled over the molten surface. I drowned the recalcitrant coals with water, killing any ability to resurrect with the wind once and for all, I hoped.

I carried the gas lantern with me and walking towards the Rover battled the surging torrents of wind. Dad called out, ‘Take care, Lee-Anne!’

‘Yes, Dad!’ I called back, my words getting sucked away in the storm. I put the lantern on the tucker box while sorting stuff to place under the protective weight of rocks. A fresh gust of wind whipped and roared. It cut right through me. Crash! The lantern smashed to the ground, slivers of glass smattered all over the ground. Woops! There goes the light for tonight.

[Photo 3: Dad in his ski mask should’ve known…© L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981]

I tramped back to Dad’s bed. ‘Um, Dad, I have some bad news.’

Dad sounded muffled through layers of blanket and his ski mask. ‘What now?’

‘I broke the lantern.’

‘Oh! Lee-Anne!’ Dad groaned in that tone of voice that made me feel ashamed for being so stupid as to put the lantern on a tucker box in the middle of a wild storm.

On my way back to the Rover, book bag slung over my shoulder and everyday bag in hand, I saw the flames reignite and spread their hot fingers over the tinder-dry site. I attacked the offending piece of wood, this time with a rock. The flames splayed under and around the stone with a blast of wind. Down the creek I ran, and returned with a bucket of water. I drowned the smouldering lump in a deep puddle.

Dusting my hands of residual ash, I returned to the Rover in which I’d set up my bed. Wind howled around the cabin, rocking the whole vehicle as I huddled in my layers of bedding. I looked out the window. Dad’s light from his undying campfire flickered and sent violent flames and sparks flying over his tarpaulin. I leapt out of the Rover and raced over to save Dad. There he lay, wrapped in comfort in a wad of blankets, fast asleep and unharmed. I smothered the glowing coals with a few heaps of sand.

[Photo 4: Better times sleeping around the campfire © C. D. Trudinger 1981]

I set my face against the wind and battled my way back to the Rover. Once more I settled into my nest of sleeping bag, blankets and parka on the narrow bench seat. I shut my eyes and tried to block out the howling winds and the Rover rocking from side to side.

Then that feeling began. I tried to ignore it. I have to pee. I crossed my legs and pretended it didn’t exist. I have to pee. The wind moaned. I’m not going out there, not in that weather. I’ve got to pee. I’ve done my dash; nature will just have to wait. This is urgent. I rocked with the Rover and tried to think of other things. I must pee, I’m busting! Once more I unwrapped myself out of mummification, forced open the Rover door against the wind and stumbled to the nearest bush down wind. I hoped I didn’t splatter my pants.

Relieved, I pushed my way back to the Rover. A faint alarm bell bleeped somewhere in the campsite. I stopped before getting into the Rover and watched Dad jerk up and out of his sleeping bag. He staggered towards Tony’s quarters. ‘Wake up!’ he yelled, his words getting sucked up by the wind.

[Photo 5: The morning after and hunting for TR’s missing socks © C.D. Trudinger 1981]

The pile of bedding remained lifeless and unresponsive.

‘Hoy!’ Dad shouted.

No answer.

Dad knelt, with his mouth close to the hood of the sleeping bag, he shouted, ‘What’s the time?’

His friend stuck his head out the sleeping bag. ‘What?’

‘Oh, never mind,’ Dad snapped and then stomped off to bed.

Safe from the atomic explosions of wind and chill, my head burrowed deep within my sleeping bag, I prayed. I was reminded that though the world may lash us with rage and storms, God keeps his children safe. God had kept us safe.

Finally, I dozed into the welcome peace of sleep.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018; updated 2021

Feature Photo: Calm before the storm, Musgrave Ranges, South Australia © C.D. Trudinger 1981

***

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Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981  

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