Bunyip Chasm

‘You need to loosen up with your painting,’ my art teacher said.

So with a palette-knife, I did with…

The Way to Bunyip Chasm, Gammon Ranges, South Australia—acrylic on canvas with palette knife. © 1989

 

THE BIRTH OF “BUNYIP CHASM”—THE PAINTING

Over the Easter break in 1986, Dad took my boyfriend (future husband) and me to the Gammon Ranges. Dad had gone there the previously with his photographer friend and he was keen to show us some of the scenic secrets these ranges held.

We bumped and rolled in Dad’s four-wheel drive Dihatsu down the track into the Gammon Ranges. We camped near Grindell’s Hut, backpackers’ accommodation. A murder-mystery from the early Twentieth Century involving the hut’s owner, spiced our discussion around the campfire that night. Then we set up a tent, for boyfriend, on the ground above the bank of the creek. I placed my bedding also above the creek under the stars. Dad opted for his “trillion-star” site underneath a river gum. No tent for him, either.

The next day Dad guided us along the Balcanoona creek bed shaded by native pines to Bunyip Chasm. After an hour or two of hobbling over rounded river stones, we arrived at a dead-end of high cliffs.

‘Is this it?’ my boyfriend asked. ‘Is this Bunyip Chasm?’

‘I think so,’ Dad said as he squinted at the waterfall splashing over the cliffs. ‘It looks familiar.’

‘I don’t see any chasm,’ I said.

‘Just wait a minute,’ Dad said and then disappeared through some scraggly-looking bushes.

I waited and took photos of the water spattering over dark cliffs set against a cobalt blue sky.

Dad tramped back to us. ‘It’s over here. The water’s deeper than last year, so I don’t think we can go through.’

We trekked after Dad, pushing the bushes and then reeds aside. There, the split in the hillside, and a deep pool of water lurking in the shadows.

‘Do you think we can swim through?’ I asked. I had worn my bathers in the hope of swimming in a waterhole.

‘Nah, it’s too deep and cold,’ Dad said. ‘I wouldn’t risk it.’ Dad then scanned the surrounding cliffs and shook his head.

I took more photos of the cliffs, hillside and of course the chasm.

‘Come on, we better get back,’ Dad said and then started to hike back the way we came.

We trailed after Dad. Although native pine trees shaded our path, the hiking made me thirst for a waterhole in which to swim. I gazed up at the lacework of deep blue-green against the sky and then, my boot caught on a rock. I stumbled. My ankle rolled and twisted. I cried out. ‘Wait!’

‘What?’ the men said at the same time.

‘I hurt my ankle, I need to soak it in cold water.’

Dad stamped his foot. ‘Well, hurry up. We have to get back to camp before dark.’

I pulled off my jeans and t-shirt.

‘What are you doing?’ my boyfriend asked.

‘I’m soaking my ankle, I twisted it and I learnt in first aid that you need to apply a cold compress to it.’

Boyfriend put his hands on hips and sighed.

I gave him my camera. ‘Here, take a photo of me in the pool.’

Boyfriend swayed his head. But as I soaked my foot and the rest of me—any excuse for a swim—boyfriend took my photo.

After about ten minutes, with my ankle still swollen and sore, I hobbled after the men. We climbed down a short waterfall and at the base, I looked back. The weathered trunk of an old gum tree leaned over the stream, three saplings basked in the late-afternoon sunlight against the sienna-coloured rocks, and clear water rushed and frothed over the cascading boulders and into pond mirroring the trees and rocks above.

‘Stop! Wait!’ I called to the men.

‘We have to keep on going,’ Dad said and disappeared into the distance.

Boyfriend waited while I aimed my camera at the perfect scene and snapped several shots.

Then holding hands, we hiked along the creek leading to our campsite and Dad.

‘I’m going to paint that little waterfall,’ I said.

We walked in silence, enjoying the scenery painted just for us—the waves of pale river stones, the dappled sunlight through the pines, and a soft breeze kissing our skin.

 

…And in some other virtual world, a group of young people in a kombi van, terrorized by an alien cockroach, Boris. Want to know more? Go on a reading road trip with

The Hitch-hiker.

 

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

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