via Daily Prompt: Delivery
[ Travelling With the T-Team: 1977 Central Australian Safari Series]
August 22, 1977
After breakfast, our guides, N and S joined my brother (MB), Mr. B’s son Matt, and I in the back cabin of the Rover. They sat opposite us grinning. I was fascinated by the gap in their teeth with one of their front pegs missing; a sign in their culture that they had been initiated into adulthood. Must be painful, I thought. Dad’s friend, Mr. B kept Dad company in the front as we drove the short distance to Ormiston Gorge.
[Photo 1: Our walk through Ormiston begins]
In the car-park, tall eucalypt trees spread their blue-green canopy over the clearing and a growing population of four-wheel drive vehicles, cars, buses and tourists. ‘Wow! It’s only 9am and look at all the tourists!’ I exclaimed.
‘I thought you said this was the best gorge of the lot.’ Mr. B grimaced. ‘What’s all these tourists doing here?’
‘They must know it’s the best gorge,’ MB replied.
‘I guess that’s why there’s so many people around.’ Dad shrugged on his pack. ‘There’s some tremendous water-holes to swim in.’
‘Why didn’t you say, Mr. T,’ Mr. B smiled, ‘Just hold on while I fish out my togs. Matt, my boy, be a good lad and get us our togs. Our bags are in the back of the truck.’
I smoothed down my T-shirt and checked my bather-strap. I never miss an opportunity to swim in a Central Australian rock-hole. The cliffs glowing pink through the gum leaves, to me, promised plenty of water for swimming. ‘It’s so warm already.’ I hinted my desire to swim rather than hike.
Dad shifted his weight from one leg to the other and watched Mr. B and son hide behind the Rover door and do a hasty donning of bathers under their trousers and shirts. He cleared his throat. ‘Er, um, we’ll hike, before swimming, Lee-Anne.’
‘But it’s so hot!’
‘You were complaining how cold it was only an hour ago.’
‘You said yourself, it’s the desert and it heats up very quickly.’ I wiped my barely-perspiring brow. ‘And I’m hot. I want to swim.’
‘There’ll be too many tourists at the start, we’ll find a quieter water-hole further down.’
Leaving behind our guides who preferred to rest near the Rover, the T-Team trooped into the gorge. Sure enough, the first water-hole teemed with people. I guess Dad was right. We’d find somewhere more secluded to swim.
On we hiked. The gorge snaked through a number of bends, the view around each corner, a parade of rugged red cliffs, perfect reflections, the water like glass, and mystery—what next will we see around that corner?
[Photo 2: Amazing reflections]
We’d been hiking an hour when we approached a bend in the gorge where the water rested in the cool of the shade. The number of tourists had thinned into non-existence. ‘What about this water-hole?’ I asked. Not the first time I’d seen a promising rock-hole and asked.
‘Nah, nah, not big enough,’ Dad answered. Not the first time he’d answered in the negative. ‘There’s one further on. Won’t be long now.’ Was he stringing us along?
‘You better be right,’ MB muttered.
[Photo 3: View of Mt. Giles at end of gorge.]
We hiked through to the end. The view of Mt. Giles peeking through the jagged walls of the gorge, tantalised our imagination. Dad made a promise. ‘Next time, we will climb Mt. Giles.’
I gazed at Mt. Giles bathed in mauve above a sea of golden spinifex. ‘Where’s this water-hole you promised?’
‘Um, well,’ Dad swivelled around, ‘it must be that one back in the gorge just around the corner.’ He took a few steps and then stopped. He then raised his camera and snapped.
[Photo 4: Back through the Gorge]
‘I say,’ Mr. B just had to say, ‘don’t go wasting all your shots, mate.’
Dad turned the camera around in his hand. ‘I think Ormiston is worth it, don’t you?’
‘Your favourite, eh?’
‘Yes, my favourite.’
‘Now, my ‘ol friend, let’s find that pool and have a swim. You know, someone could make quite a mint, what with those iron-red cliffs, the water-holes—all they’d need is a kiosk, or motel nearby for the tourists.’
Following Dad, we marched through the twists and turns, over silky sand and rocks. An hour drifted by and the sun hovered overhead radiating heat onto our weary limbs. MB had stripped to his tank-top. My T-shirt, damp with perspiration, was a party-attraction for the flies. However, some sticky little pests gathered for a conference in my eyes and up my nose. My mouth, though grew dry and parched.
[Photo 5: The promised water-hole.]
I strode up to Dad. ‘We need to swim, now!’
‘All good things come to those who wait,’ Dad replied. ‘I reckon it’s just around the next corner.’
‘You said that before!’ I whined.
We dragged our feet around the next bend and there, the water-hole glistened, beckoning us to swim. Mr. B and Matt peeled off their shirts and trousers, then waded in. Dad raised his camera to his eye and snapped Mr. B lily-white in his togs next to his boy, Matt. MB leapt in and carved his way to a rock. Bomb-dive, must bomb-dive. I paddled into the pool and then with the water up to my waist I submerged with a shiver, relishing the cool after the heat. Refreshed, I glided out of the water-hole, and finding a warm sun-soaked patch of sand, I lay down and sun-baked.
After a quick dip, Dad sat near me and munched on his personal supply of chocolate and nuts.
Mr. B lumbered up to us. ‘When are we having lunch, mate? It’s way past midday. We need to eat.’
‘We’ll have some lunch when we get back to the Rover, okay?’ Dad said.
‘Well, then hurry, I’ll perish from starvation if we don’t go soon,’ Mr. B snapped.
We pulled on our clothes and hiked back to the gorge’s entrance. While Dad prepared sandwiches, MB, Matt and I splashed around in the pool nearby. The horde of tourists had moved on to other gorges and we had the water-hole to ourselves.
[Photo 6: And another swim.]
On the sandy bank, with the view of the cliffs dusky mauve in afternoon shade framed by river-gums, we ate our sandwich-lunch.
‘That swim was better than the previous one,’ I said.
‘We were hotter—it’s been getting hotter all day,’ MB explained.
‘And we got hot from all that hiking,’ added Matt.
‘You know them pools have snakes in them,’ H chuckled.
‘And crocodiles, you lucky crocodile don’t get you,’ S laughed.
‘Crocodiles?’ Mr. B gulped. ‘Mr. T! You didn’t tell me we were swimming with crocodiles?’
‘Crocodiles?’ Dad said with a straight face. ‘Oh, yes, Mr. B, I forgot to tell you about the crocodiles.’
MB and I exchanged glances. I noticed Dad purse his lips in that well-known cat-with-canary-in-his-mouth expression.
Mr. B wagged a finger at Matt. ‘Now, my boy, don’t go in the water. There’s crocodiles.’
Behind Mr. B, H and S bent over, slapped their knees and wheezed, supressing their laughter.
Matt caught their eye and then smiled. ‘No, Dad.’
‘Oh, well,’ I giggled, ‘all that swimming and we survived.’
Pouting, Mr. B grabbed another sandwich and climbed up some rocks further from the water-hole. ‘You can never be too sure,’ he beckoned to Matt, ‘come on, son, get away from the shore.’
Dad gestured. ‘It’s okay, Mr. B, crocodiles don’t live this far south. I’ve never seen them at Ormiston. H and B are pulling your leg.’
Mr. B jutted out his lower lip. ‘But what about the snakes? I tell you, what about the snakes?’
‘He won’t be making it a tourist-resort any time soon,’ MB muttered with a snort.
[Photo 7: Parting Reflections—No crocs here.]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature: Ormiston Gorge (Painting in Acrylic) © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photos, 1—7, from slides © C.D. Trudinger 1977