THE CURTAIN OF SPRINGS
The sun sparkled through the gold-green leaves of the river gums, and a flock of white cockatoos chattered in the branches. The air hinted warmth and enticed me out of my sleeping bag to explore. Dad had mentioned we’d be probably camping near Curtain Springs on our journey to Ayers Rock (now called Uluru). But this morning I wanted to check out a spring closer to camp.
I ambled down the soft sands of the creek bed, past Mr. B wrapped up in his sleeping bag of superior fibres for warmth. He smacked his lips and snored as I trod to the side of him. Matt and Richard stood like the risen dead warming the cold blood in their veins by the fire, offering no help to Dad who stirred the porridge.
‘You sure that’s porridge?’ I asked Dad.
‘Of course it is!’ Dad snapped and then peered into the billy to be sure.
‘Can never be too sure, after egg soup last night,’ I said and kept on walking.
Richard and Matt laughed. First sign of actual life from the boys I’d seen that morning.
Dad called after me. ‘Er, Lee-Anne, where are you going?’
‘For a nature walk.’
‘Oh, don’t be too long, breakfast is almost ready.’
I patted my camera bag. ‘Yes, Dad.’ Just after I’ve checked out the spring to see if the scene was worthy to be photographed. No need to tell Dad that information. He’d just try to persuade me to have breakfast first and then I’d miss the not so early morning photo opportunity.
The creek narrowed and I scrambled over rocks, pushed through reeds to the spring. Anticipating a pretty pond, with waterlilies, ducks and a kangaroo or two drinking the fresh clear water, I was disappointed. The spring, if you could call it a spring was little more than a pit of slime. A puddle at the end of our driveway at home was more photogenic than this hole filled with muddy water.
After a glance at the so-called spring, I tramped back to camp and ate cold porridge for breakfast.
After our “business trip” to civilisation, Ernabella, where we collected the trailer, had a shower, filled up with petrol, water and replenished our supplies from the store, we began our travels to Uluru.
On the way a large flat-topped mountain emerged through the red sand dunes.
‘Is that Uluru?’ I asked Dad.
‘It’s Mt. Conner. Remember we saw it from Mt. Woodroffe?’
‘How come it’s higher than the land around it?’
‘In Central Australia’s prehistoric past,’ Dad explained, ‘this piece of land kept its integrity while the surrounding area had eroded away. It’s called a mesa.’
I was fascinated by this monolithic plateau. ‘Can we stop and get a photo of it?’
‘When I find a good place to stop,’ Dad said.
He kept on driving up and down the red waves of sand hills, winding left and right, the mesa appearing and disappearing, never quite the perfect view or park for our Rover. We rolled onto the plain and in the distance, Mt. Conner rose above the dunes. Dad parked the Rover at the side of the road and we jumped out. I hiked further up the road. The flat-topped mountain looked so small in the viewer of my instamatic camera.
I heard Dad groan.
‘What?’ Mr. B asked.
‘The trailer’s cracked up again.’
‘Not again!’ Richard muttered.
‘I’m afraid so,’ Dad said. ‘Can you fix it, Richard?’
The men gathered around the trailer, once again sinking into the ochre sand and leaning on its side.
‘It’s the springs,’ Dad said as he circled it like a shark. ‘Can’t take the rough track.’
‘Hmmm,’ Mr. B grunted, his hands on hips and elbows akimbo.
Richard lay down on the ground and peered up into the trailer’s underside.
Dad sighed. ‘We better unload the trailer, I suppose.’
While the men relieved the ailing trailer of its load and bound up the fissure with some rope, I scaled a small rise and took several shots of Mt. Conner. Then as the males in the T-Team stuffed most of the luggage into the back of the Rover and then with the light left-overs, reloaded the trailer, I gazed at the mesa, this small sliced mountain in an expanse of yellow grass and sienna dunes. Boring! My photos needed a human figure to add interest. Richard and Matt, having completed their trailer-duties, wandered up the road.
I ran down the hill and chased after Richard. ‘Take a photo of me.’
Richard gazed up at the cobalt blue sky. ‘Oh, alright.’
Positioning myself on the side of the road, I looked at Richard. ‘Come on, I’m ready.’
‘Just wait, move to the right,’ Richard said.
I did and then noticed Richard’s finger hovering over the camera lens. ‘Move your finger.’
He shifted it, but as he snapped the photo, I thought his digit remained too close for comfort to the lens.
To ensure I acquired at least one good shot, I photographed Matt, then Dad and Richard as my humans in the foreground of my mesa muse.
‘Careful you don’t waste your film,’ Dad warned.
‘I won’t,’ I replied without telling him I’d already “wasted” several frames on the wonder of Mt. Conner. How could I resist?
I climbed in the Rover and asked Dad, ‘Can we visit Mt. Conner?’
‘Er, um, not this time.’ Dad had places to be and trailers to properly fix. So the next vital destination on his agenda was Curtain Springs.
To be continued next week…
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Mt. Conner by Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013