[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
We made the ten-minute hike to the water-hole that I had discovered, near Talipata. Dad, the expert in finding short-cuts, navigated a route over the ridge that halved the trekking time. While Dad busied himself with damper-making, my brother and I paddled through the shallows to the waterfall, and scaled the cliff to explore the gorge above.
At the top of the short falls, I hobbled bare-foot along the trickling stream. I slipped on some slime and landed bottom first in a mud puddle. The sound of naked feet slapped on wet stone. I leapt up, brushed my shorts, and then ducked behind the nearest bush. Nature called; no time to be selective. Brother trod, feet flip-flopping down the creek bed.
‘Geronimo!’ I yelled.
‘Wise guy!’ Brother remarked. I saw his curly top turn, making a slight detour.
The sharp stones, prickly twigs and slippery moss made exploration my foot’s worse nightmare, so I returned to the others negotiating the climb down the cliff. I discovered that climbing up seemed easier than climbing down. I began my descent, and bore the stabbing pain as my feet hung onto ragged footholds; my soft arches not used to the rough edges. Around the waterfall my toes clung onto slippery rocks, I held onto each hand-hold for dear life as my soft bare soles with no grip threatened to slip me into a free fall at any moment.
As I inched down the cliff-face, my brother and cousins giggled and laughed. Every time I moved, they chortled and giggled like canned laughter in a sit com.
What’s so funny? How I hate being the butt of jokes, especially when I don’t know why.
My older cousin, C1 called, ‘Had a little accident, Lee-Anne?’
All three lads fell on their backs and rolled on the sand laughing so hard their faces turned bright red and they wheezed after losing the ability to breathe.
I jumped the last metre from the cliff, sloshed through the shallows, and then stomped over to the three stooges. I pointed at my brother. ‘Is it because you nearly sprung me?’
C1 shook his head. He laughed so hard he’d been rendered speechless. Younger cousin, C2 held a hand to his mouth to stifle his mirth, but his eyes glistened with tears. Doubled up in the pain from too much humour, Brother continued to laugh and thrash on the grainy sand.
‘I can’t see what’s so funny.’ I grabbed my bathers and then stormed over to a clump of bushes to change. Pulling down my shorts, I discovered the source of comic entertainment. There, splashed on my shorts a patch of mud. I certainly had been the “butt” of jokes.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photo from slide: Exploring Hidden Valley in Mt. Palmer © C.D. Trudinger 1981