On the verge of 29 years of marriage, I remember Echo Camp. The song “Echo Beach” comes to mind, but this billabong with its small strip of white sand, lies in the South Australian inland, the Mt Painter Sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges.
On our honeymoon, my husband and I stayed a few days in Arkaroola, the town within the sanctuary. When we arrived, we rolled up to the motel and presented our VISA card for payment.
‘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.
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.
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.’
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.’
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”.’
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.
‘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.’
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.
Then, after braving the roller-coaster road again, we crept out from the contraband track, and back into town.
I first painted Echo Camp in 1990 while being taught by artist Geoff Rogers in Melbourne. He encouraged me to loosen up with my style. That first painting still hangs in our dining room. I’ve since painted Echo Camp a couple more times, each time the end product is different as I perfect the technique of reflections, tones and colour-balance.
This most recent painting of Echo Camp is for sale at the Marion Art Group exhibition at Marion Shopping Centre, this week until Sunday, September 25.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Painting: Picnic at Echo Camp © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016