He Did It Again!
The morning warmed but the atmosphere between Dad and Mr B remained frosty.
‘I’ll drive us to the Olgas,’ Mr B said.
‘Are you sure that’s a good idea, if you’re tired and had no sleep?’ Dad asked as he chucked a bag of peanuts in the back of the Rover.
‘I’ll be fine.’ Mr B dismissed Dad with a flick of his wrist. ‘You go and enjoy yourselves.’
Dad sucked the icy air between the gap in his front teeth. ‘Very well, then.’
Mr B eased his weary body into the driver’s seat and Dad climbed into the passenger seat at the front. Us young ones scrounged for what was left of sitting-space in the back cabin.
As the Rover’s engine chugged under Mr B’s control, Dad said, ‘I’ll show you the way to Walpa Gorge. Then you can take the Rover to find, er, um, another camping spot. Oh, er and don’t forget the flour.’
Mr B grunted, pressed his foot down on the accelerator and scooted over the road edge, rapping the wheels as they met the gravel on the graded road. Dad stiffened and clutched the dashboard while Mr B raced along the dirt highway and grinned. In the back cabin, we bounced as the Rover hit each corrugation with speed.
‘Careful!’ Dad cried through the judder.
‘You need to tackle those humps by going fast,’ Mr B assured him. ‘The ride is better if you go fast over the bumps.’
‘Er, I’m not sure, about that.’
‘Believe me, I know. I’ve had plenty of experience, ol’ man. I know what I’m doing.’
‘It is a hire vehicle, though. We want to return it to the company in one piece.’
I reckon I saw the dollar signs and calculations going off in a bubble above Mr B’s head. His jaw tightened and he slowed down the vehicle and muttered, ‘Fine then.’
Glimpses of the boulders of Kata Tjuta, the Olga’s, flirted with the dunes. Tantalised by these clumps of rocks that appeared as if some giant alien force had dumped them in the middle of Australia, I leaned forward and peered through the gap between the front seat to gaze through the windscreen.
‘Dad,’ I asked, ‘How did the Olgas form?’
‘The Olgas are made of conglomerate rocks,’ Dad said. ‘They are different from the singular formation of Ayers Rock.’
‘Were they from outer space?’
‘No, more likely that in ages past, an inland sea helped form the various types of rocks to fuse together. You can actually find sea shells and sea shell fossils in the rocks in Central Australia.’
‘You’re an expert, are you?’ Mr B chimed in.
‘I’m not sure about The Olgas, but, um I’ve found shells in the dry bed of the Finke River, when I was here in the 1950’s,’ Dad said. ‘I’ve done some reading. And well, you can see it, the way the land and the mountains are. Had to be an inland sea.’
Mr B rolled his eyes. ‘If you say so.’
Dad pointed at a wooden sign post. ‘Walpa Gorge. Turn down here.’
The Rover lumbered down the narrow track until we reached a clearing. To our right, a river gum towered above us.
‘This’ll do,’ Dad said. ‘Nice place to set up our paints when we’re finished hiking, I reckon.’
The russet boulders that had looked like folds of skin from the highway, now appeared split into a gully begging to be explored.
‘How far are we from the gorge,’ I asked.
‘Oh, about half a mile,’ Dad replied.
‘I’ll leave you then,’ Mr B said. He marched back to the Rover, jumped in and rapping the wheels again, sped down the track. We watched while the plume of dust Mr B had left behind settled down to the red earth.
Dad rubbed his hands together. ‘Now, let’s get down to exploring.’
Matt stood staring at the track.
Dad patted him on the back. ‘Come on, Matt, don’t worry, your Dad’ll be fine.’
Matt shrugged. ‘Yeah, I know.’
We plucked up our back packs and began the walk towards Walpa Gorge.
Boots stumped behind us.
Dad grumbled. ‘Tourists.’
‘What have you left behind?’ I turned.
Mr B jogged up to us. ‘I need Richard’s help.’
‘What?’ Dad asked.
‘I need to change the petrol tanks.’
Dad nudged my brother. ‘Go on, Richard.’
As Richard followed Mr B down the track, he shook his head and mumbled, ‘He doesn’t even know how to change the petrol tanks.’
We stood guard by the big gum tree and waited. Dad put his hands in his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. ‘Ah, well, he won’t be long. Richard won’t be long.’
We sat around in suspended activity for thirty-five minutes. Flies danced around our heads. They converged on my eyes and nose. I sniffed and one zapped up my nostril. I snorted and the fly buzzed out and tumbled away. Matt became an expert in the Aussie salute.
Dad paced the clearing. Every few minutes, he’d stop, screw up his nose and peer down the track. No sign of my errant brother.
Morning, the heat, the flies, and the waiting made me weary. I slumped onto the sand under the tree and batted the halo of flies around my face. Matt with one hand stabbed at the ground with a stick, the other hand flicked flies from his eyes. ‘What’s taking him so long?’ I whined.
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake!’ Dad sighed. He stopped and with hands on hips glared into the bush.
‘It’s like yesterday. If anyone asks me, ‘How was my holiday?’ I’m telling them, ‘Alright, except my brother kept getting lost.’
‘Oh, for crying out loud!’ Dad’s cheeks grew red. He stalked the clearing and poked at the bushes.
‘My brother. Twice in two days, I ask you.’
‘You wait here,’ Dad said and then marched off down the track.
‘Dear Diary, last night Richard got lost,’ I said. ‘Dear diary, this morning, Richard got lost.’
Matt chuckled. ‘Do you believe in déjà vu?’
‘I don’t know, but my brother’s sure making a habit of losing himself.’
Boots thumped down the path and voices filtered through the air. Matt and I turned and watched Dad and Richard tramp down the path towards us.
I rushed towards them. ‘At last!’
‘The lost has been found,’ Dad sang.
Richard gazed at the ground and mumbled.
‘What was that?’
‘He got lost again,’ Dad said.
‘There’s so many tracks and they all look the same. How was I s’posed to know?’ Richard said.
Dad smiled and slung a pack over his shoulder. ‘Ah, well, you’re here now, let’s go and explore Walpa Gorge.’
I raised my camera. ‘First I take a photo.’
‘Hurry up!’ Richard snapped. I assumed after getting lost for the second time in as many days, he was in no mood to have his photo taken.
‘Come on, let’s get going,’ Dad said. ‘The view’ll be better closer up.’
I packed away my camera. ‘Oh, alright.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Kata Tjuta Conglomerate Close-up © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013