Morning After through Ormiston
Sunday, August 16, 1981
[Extract from Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
The ‘morning after’ progressed from warm to sweltering and with each minute, energy drained from my recovering limbs that were lumps jelly. I plodded through the simple tasks of packing and eating breakfast.
The water sparkled fresh, cool and inviting. I’ll have a swim. While the rest of the T-Team bumbled around the campsite eating, sorting, and packing, I jumped into the water-hole. Ah! So refreshing! I sank my feet into the icy water and sat. Ah! Just like a hot summer’s day at the beach, except that the saltiness and waves were missing.
[The Complete Picture: The Other Side of Ormiston]
MB (my brother) hobbled past, toilet paper in hand. Then stillness. A parrot squawked. A gust of wind rustled leaves in the gum trees and sent ripples lapping against the pebbles on the shore. I absorbed the peace and coolness. My environment seemed calm and quiet, perhaps too quiet. Oh, well, time to get going, I guess. I dragged myself out of the pool, dressed and then loped up to the campsite.
‘Where’s Dad?’ I looked around at the packs in a neat pile and steam hissing above the coals of the extinguished fire.
MB shovelled a lump of sand on the campfire family friend, TR had made for us. ‘Dad ‘n TR’ve left already.’
‘Good, now I can take my revenge on those river-stones.’ I kicked at the ring of stones scattering them. ‘Don’t want anyone else blistering their feet.’
The T-guys shook their heads as they watched me vent my anger on the fire-blasted stones.
MB picked up his pack. ‘Finished?’
I spied a copper-coloured rock poking up through the course sand. ‘Just this last one.’ I ran up to the stone and slammed the toe of my boot into its side. Shockwaves juddered through the bones of my foot. The rock planted like Gibraltar in the sea of sand didn’t move. ‘Ow-wow-wow!’ I cried and hopped around the clearing holding my foot.
‘Told you not to kick the stones.’ MB stood there, his expression dead-pan. ‘They’re dangerous.’
‘Fine, then!’ I stopped hobbling, slung the heavy pack over my back and stomped towards the gorge.
Younger cousin, C2’s bandana-bound head bobbed up and down above the spinifex a few meters away. I left MB and C1 (older cousin) behind to finish packing and clearing the site, and raced after C2.
Before I’d even entered the gorge, the pack laden with what seemed rocks rather than sleeping bag and necessities for two nights of rough camping, weighed heavy on my back, slowing my pace to that of a tortoise. The nylon straps gouged into my shoulders. The sleeping bag slipped down from its secure hold underneath the pack. The straps stretched like elastic causing the bag to dangle below my bottom and bump and chafe at my thighs. Vowing not to stop, not even to pander to my discomfort, or rub my still sore toe, I plodded on, passing C2.
A cool raft of wind sprang up. I stopped to savour the sweet breath of air fanning my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw C2 bounding over the rocks ahead of me. He’d passed me. How did he manage to do that? I took a deep breath and stumbled after him.
C2 disappeared around the bend. Despite tramping over rocks and through sand refusing to stop, resisting the temptation to rest, I failed to catch up to C2. After dragging my heavy boots through half-a-kilometre of soft sand, I rewarded myself with a second rest. Under the shade of a river-gum, I emptied my boots of sand and wriggled my toes in the breeze.
At the sound of thudding, I looked. MB and C1 ran like two rabbits, with ease traversing the terrain on the other side of the river bed. How do they do that? Here am I feeling like the tortoise bogged down with this big burden on my back, and there they were hopping from rock to rock.
‘Hey!’ I waved at them. ‘Wait for me!’
They stopped under the bloodwood tree and waited.
As I approached, C1 frowned and said, ‘You must be slow.’
There’s no denying that.
MB attempted to stay with me at the tail of the trekking T-Team. Strong and silent, he stuck with me as we wound through the gorge. But his neck stretched forward, the tendons straining like a bridle on a horse champing at the bit to race ahead. After half-an-hour, the urge grew too much and he broke away galloping to C1, leaving me alone.
The wind in the gorge strengthened soothing me from the scorching heat of the sun. In the shade of the cliffs, I rambled through Ormiston Gorge musing in my own day-dreams and thoughts, content to arrive at the Land Rover last.
The lads lounged around the Rover as I approached them. TR sat on the bonnet. C2 circled the vehicle and kicked the dust beneath his boots. MB practised his bird calls using a gum leaf between his thumbs. C1 leaned up against the Rover’s door, his legs crossed. ‘There you are!’
‘Yep.’ I shrugged the pack off my aching back and enjoyed the sensation of floating.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Painting: The Other Side of Ormiston, Ormiston Gorge MacDonnell Ranges © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2015