On Track to Mt. Woodroffe
Saturday July 25, 1981
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: A Central Australian Safari 1981]
After breakfast, we bowed our heads, folded our hands, and prayed nothing would go wrong in our quest to conquer Mt. Woodroffe, the highest mountain in South Australia. Dad committed the day into the Lord’s hands, and prayed that no one went astray, especially my brother.
The Land Rover turned its motor without having to crank it. What’s more, no flat tyres to spoil our beginning of adventure.
The Musgrave Ranges awed us with blends of purples and blues of the distant mountains, while the plains leading us there wowed us with wild hops. The Rover grunted and groaned over the road eroded by recent floods. Four of us youth rode on the Rover’s roof-rack, spurning the safe but dusty comfort of the back cabin. Family friend, TR sat with Dad in the front of the Rover.
Wild Hops of the Musgraves
I sat on top at the front, to maximise my view of the magnificent countryside while my cousins (C1 and C2) and my brother sat behind to gain full advantage of melon throwing.
Our ride to the mountains halted every few minutes as Dad and I captured the views on film, and the boys collected their stock of melons.
We turned a corner in the range, and there stood Mitchell’s Knob. Two cars passed us after this corner. The first vehicle belonged to the Education Department and the other, a South Australian Police Patrol Car.
‘Round the corner—Mitchell’s Knob
The police stopped us. They wanted to know what we were doing there. Dad explained that we had friends in Ernabella who had given us permission to be on their land. Satisfied with Dad’s explanation, the police left us and went on their way.
When we came closer to Mitchell’s Knob, I requested to take a photo. My ears ached from the frigid wind blasts. TR offered to take my place up there on the roof-rack while I gave my cold-blasted ears a break in the front cabin with Dad.
The monotonous rumble and tumble of the drive rocked me to sleep, for a few minutes. Dad woke me as he brought the Rover to an abrupt halt. ‘Do you want to take another photo of Mitchell’s Knob?’ he asked. This time the Knob was cobalt blue from cloud covering the sun.
Dramatic Mitchell’s Knob
We met up with Dad’s friend Bob and a couple of his friends. They travelled this way to meet visitors who climbed Mt. Woodroffe the day before to place a plaque at the pinnacle.
We followed him, but soon regretted it. They lead us astray over rocks and tree stumps. Slowed to walking pace, the Rover galumphed and harrumphed along the uneven ground.
Dad stopped our tortured vehicle. He strode up to Bob. ‘Bob, think we’ll take the track.’
‘Yeah, okay,’ Bob said, ‘my mates are mad men to go over this stuff.’ He swept his hand over the rugged terrain, where in the middle, his friend’s Range Rover was parked. ‘I hope you find the track.’
‘Yeah, she’ll be right,’ Dad said.
We deviated from the mad men. My brother and C1 scouted in front of the Rover navigating our way out of the tangled mess of bush. Half an hour of bush-bashing later, we spotted the track. The boys continued to hike in front of us. I emerged from the Rover to walk with them, and to stretch my legs.
Back on Track
Before nightfall, we hobbled our Rover to the end of the road in search of a campsite, then camped by a dry creek bed lined with saltbush. Our long tiring drive left us too weary to contemplate disappointment that our goal to climb Mt. Woodroffe had gone astray.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Painting: Mitchells Knob—A study in watercolour © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2011
Photos from slides © C.D. Trudinger 1981