[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
As the morning progressed and plans for Glen Helen stalled in Dad’s indecision, I slouched on the lounge chair and watched him bustle about, walking back and forth, across the lounge room carpet, out to the Rover, back in with stuff in hand and stamping across the lounge room, through the kitchen, clunking around in the guest room, then back through kitchen, through the lounge room, out to the Rover and so he went to and fro’ for at least an hour. Goodness knows what he was doing, but it seemed important and he was not to be disturbed with trivial requests and pleas to go to Glen Helen.
I began to nod off. No hope of going, no hope at all. On the settee, MB (my brother) puzzled over the Rubik’s Cube.
I raised my head to see Dad standing over me. ‘I think we will go to Glen Helen.’ He patted his pockets and then turned to MB. ‘Can you come and help me detach the trailer? I want to go to the shops.’ Nup, he doesn’t pat his pockets for nothing. Has to make sure he has the all-important cash for spending.
MB put down his cube of many colours and followed Dad out to the trailer. No hesitation there. None at all. I picked up the cube and examined it. Now if I move that red square there, and the blue one up. No, I must be good. Do not disturb the cube. The cube is sacred. I put the puzzle down and resumed my nap.
I dozed off and on. M3, the R’s youngest daughter, wanted a story read. Did that. Cousins, C1 and C2 sat in the lounge room and chatted. Listened to them until they left. At 11am, alone, the room quiet, I closed my eyes and gave permission for my mind to drift.
‘Lee-Anne?’ Dad nudged my shoulder. ‘Are you ready to go to Glen Helen?’
I snapped awake. ‘When?”
‘We’re leaving right now,’ Dad strode to the entrance hall.
‘Just wait a minute.’ I scrambled to my bag and grabbed it. Too bad if I didn’t have everything.
‘Well, hurry up, or we’ll leave you behind.’
I paused. From the kitchen, I heard the animated discussion between Mrs. R and C1 planning their afternoon with the girls making fried ice-cream. Why the heck am I so desperate to go to Glen Helen and see walls on the side of the gorge? I shook my head to release those batty thoughts. Don’t even think about it. Let them and their fried ice-cream be. I slung my canvas pack over my back.
DR (our host) and his 3-year-old daughter, M3, accompanied us, minus C1, to Glen Helen. During the trip, C2 yakked non-stop about the Arunda and their culture. The young lad who travelled with him yesterday piqued his interest and C2 shared how they had a good discussion about his race, customs and life. While he chatted, he nursed a purplish welt on his cheek.
‘What happened to your face?’ I asked.
My younger cousin covered the mark with his hand. ‘Oh, just a fight with a low branch on top of the Rover.’
‘Yes, I think I know the one.’ I glanced towards the front of the Rover. ‘We went under this tree hanging over the road and it made this scraping sound on the roof. When we’d passed through, Dad and MB looked behind and said, ‘I hope C2 is looking where he’s going’.’
C2 stared off towards the line of gum trees marking the Finke River. ‘That’s comforting to know their concern.’
[Photo 1: Glen Helen Walls]
We parked in the middle of the Finke where we lugged our tucker box and billies to the sandy bank under the shade of river gums. We spent a pleasant hour building a fire, cooking and eating lunch. After lunch, we hiked along the four-kilometre track to Glen Helen. DR carried M3 all the way and MB carried the dog. The walls of rock jut out perpendicular to the slope, as if ancient stone ruins. One wall has a gap, like a window in it. The clouds blew away and the sun shone over the gorge painting these walls in bold reds and the sky reflected deep blue in the pools.
Upon arriving at the main water-hole Dad glanced at his watch and fidgeted. ‘Come on, we’ve seen it, now we can’t spend too long here.’ He trotted over the sand like a cat on a hot tin roof.
MB raced past Dad. ‘Just one swim.’
‘Just a dip,’ C2 pleaded and then charged along the sandy shore, following MB up the rocky outcrop.
Dad watched speechless as the boys leapt from the rocks and dived together into the pool. He chewed his moustache. ‘Oh, be careful.’ He marched towards the lads splashing in the cool deep water. ‘It could be dangerous.’
C2 and MB continued to swim and bomb dive, ignoring Dad’s gestures and pleas. Meanwhile the dog ran crazy in circles, and M3 and her Dad paddled in the shallows.
[Photo 2: Glen Helen end and swim for the boys.]
M3 gazed over at my Dad going berserk with arm-waving. ‘Are there crocodiles in the water, Daddy?’
DR’s focus lingered on the comical scene. ‘No, I don’t think so.’
Dad turned and beckoned to me. ‘Lee-Anne!’
‘What?’ Ah, it’s good to be allowed to say ‘what’ while sitting in the shade of the cliffs, enjoying the drama.
‘Get up and get the boys out of the water.’ Dad huffed and puffed. ‘We have to get going. Time’s running out.’
I noticed his Konica dangling about his neck. ‘Only if I can take some photos.’
Dad ripped off the camera. ‘Oh, alright, but hurry.’
I took the camera and ambled down to the rocks. Just a couple of photos of the boys diving won’t do any harm. Be over in a couple of clicks.
‘Oh, boys!’ I raised the camera to my eye. ‘Dad wants us to go.’
MB and C2 balanced on the edge of the rock.
‘What? But we only just got here,’ MB said and then crouched.
C2 put his hands together. ‘Just one more jump.’
Sheschuck! I caught them in mid-air. Sheschuck! Splash in the water.
‘Lee-Anne!’ Dad raced up behind me. ‘I told you to get the boys out!’ His eyes narrowed and he glared at the two young men bobbing in the brackish water. ‘Come on, you boys!’
He made chopping motions with his hand cutting the air. ‘Get out of here!’
With bold strokes MB swam to shore and emerged from the water. C2 paddled after him.
‘I don’t know what the rush is all about,’ my brother said.
‘I have dinner to prepare.’ Dad guided me to turn. ‘Come on, Lee-Anne, we better start heading back before it’s too late.’
I looked over my shoulder. MB stomped behind us while C2 ran over to DR, M3 and the puppy dog.
As Dad galloped ahead, MB fell in step with me as I trudged through the sand. He looked up at the sky. The sun shone above, nowhere near the western horizon. ‘It’s not even three o’clock.’ MB wiped his eyes. ‘What’s the hurry?’
I shook my head. ‘Have you never observed Dad preparing an Indonesian meal? It usually takes him all day.’
[Photo 3: Calm after Splashing Around, Glen Helen]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photos from slides: Feature—Mum in Window courtesy of M.Trudinger (circa 1957)
Photos 1,2 & 3 © C.D. Trudinger 1981