More Adventures in the Lost City, Kings Canyon
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Sunday August 9, 1981
My bladder ached with cold. Unable to bear the urge any longer, I peeled off the layers of sleeping bag, pulled on my boots and braved the frosty air in search of a bush.
Snore! Phew! Pop! Snore! Phew! Pop!
Before leaving the campsite, I turned to appreciate the men’s symphony of snoring around the fire, then shuffled through the bush in the dim light of dawn to hide behind a gnarly shrub.
I pulled down my pants and eased into crouching position. Ouch! Something sharp bit into my bottom. I leapt two feet forward. Stiff shards of branches scratched my face. Rubbing both my rear end and face, I looked around to see what had pricked me. I knew it! A spinifex bush. Well, can’t be much of a Garden of Eden with prickle-bushes like that around. I moved out of the way of the spears and completed my pre-dawn mission.
Awake, I scrounged up some sticks and built up the fire. The navy sky grew lighter in the east and a frigid wind snaked through the gully. I huddled inches from the feeble flames leeching out what warmth I could. One by one the men of our party rose, sleeping bags fluttering over shoulders and they were drawn like moths to the flame.
But, by the time the first tourists popped their heads around nearby boulders, all of us stood dressed and respectable warming ourselves by the campfire. All of us, except my brother, Rick and older cousin (C1), had rolled up their sleeping gear, hiding the evidence.
Over breakfast we discussed our plan for adventure. Yesterday Rick discovered a waterhole twice the size of the one the tourists see, so he said. He described the waterhole surrounded by cliffs on three sides and a sandy beach on the forth. And he saw ducks swimming in the water.
‘We’ll have lunch at Rick’s Rockhole,’ Dad said.
After packing up our gear, then stowing it behind a dense prickle bush, we launched out in search of the waterhole. Rick carried his .22 rifle, and the rest of us carried billy cans and our packs.
We weaved through the labyrinth of the “Lost City”, and warmed by the exercise and rising sun, we soon found water embedded in a blanket of reeds.
Rick inspected the pool. ‘This is half the size of the one I saw yesterday.’
C1 stood beside my brother and asked, ‘Is it?’
Rick knelt and dug his hand into the wet sand. ‘Not the one.’
‘Not the one?’ C1’s voice rose an octave. ‘Not the one?’
‘Nup. I think we’ve gone too far.’
‘Don’t say we have to back-track!’ I dumped my pack on the sand near a boulder. Sitting, I gulped down some water from my canteen. I was already exhausted.
Younger cousin (C2) skimmed a stone across the water. ‘Yep.’
‘I can do better than that.’ C1 hurled his rock across the smooth surface, rippling the mirror image of beehive cliffs and shrubs.
Half-an-hour skimmed past as Dad, family friend (TR) and I watched the boys engage in a stone-skipping competition. C2’s stones made a valiant effort for two jumps then ran out of puff. Rick’s flew in a high arc and landed with a plop. C1’s stones hopped across the mini lake to the other side. I think C1 won.
After trooping back along the path from which we had come and then diverging at a fork in the trail along a ridge, we reached a ledge overlooking a valley of cycads.
‘Here we are,’ MB said. The steep slope leading to the waterhole was riddled with rocks, some loose.
TR paced the ledge. ‘How are we going to get down there?’
‘You just go down,’ my brother said.
‘Down there? Over all those sharp rocks?’ TR asked. ‘It looks a bit dangerous.’
‘I did it yesterday.’ Rick commenced picking his way down the hill.
We followed matching Rick’s steps, zigzagging and in places crab-walking down to the waterhole. At the base of the slope we perched ourselves on rocks and watched TR inch his way down shuffling on his bottom and using all hands and feet. As TR, beads of sweat glistening on his side burns, reached the waterhole, we cheered.
We rested at Rick’s Rockhole for lunch. Fortunate for the ducks and for us in hindsight, Rick failed to shoot anything that moved that day. He blamed the sighting of the rifle. He’d tried to shoot a pigeon and a kangaroo but missed them too. Surely it must be the sighting. Couldn’t possibly be his eye-sight.
While Dad bustled around, lighting a fire, preparing the damper and boiling the billy, I trotted behind a nearby bush to change into my bathers. The men lazed on the shore, watching me splash in the cool, refreshing water. What was the point of trekking all this way if we weren’t going to enjoy the offerings of the pool?
The T-Team feasted on soup, damper pasted with sardines and spiced camp pie, and for dessert, damper with strawberry jam. As we dined, swam and then reclined by the pool, the hours slipped away and all too soon the sun disappeared behind the cliffs immersing us in cold shadow.
‘Okay,’ Dad rose and stretched his legs. ‘Time to get back to Rover before dark.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017; updated 2019
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