Sprung a Leak
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Circumstances out of our control, such as Dad shopping for last minute supplies meant we left Areyonga at 11am. I sat on top of the Rover with our guide (DR) and my brother (MB).
We passed the mysterious Gosses Bluff. Did a meteorite that big hit the earth? No wonder we entered the Ice Age tens of thousands of years ago. I banged on the window. ‘Stop!’
Dad slowed down. ‘What?’
‘I want to take some photos.’
Dad stopped the Rover and I snapped a shot of the stunted spikes of this meteoric crater.
As we drive closer, I knocked on the Rover’s side. ‘Stop!’
Dad’s voice had a sharpness to it. ‘What?’
‘I want to take a photo.’
He pulled the Rover to the side. ‘Didn’t you just take one of the Gosses?’
MB exhaled. ‘Hurry up.’
Again, I snapped the Gosses.
[Photo 1: Haasts Bluff]
Haasts Bluff came into view. I waited this time till the mountains would be more than a blip on the horizon. As we swung to the left and the mountains shrank into the distance, I tapped on the window. ‘Stop!’
Dad screeched to a halt. ‘What?’
‘I want to take a photo of Haasts Bluff.’
‘Haven’t we got enough slides of Haasts Bluff?’
‘But they’re not from this time.’
‘Why do you have to take so many photos?’ MB asked.
‘Hurry up!’ Dad raised his voice. ‘We don’t want to be finding Mount Liebig in the dark.’
‘But it’s just such beautiful country, how can I not take photos.’ I pointed the camera and captured Haasts Bluff a blue silhouette in the afternoon sun.
[Photo 2: Blanches Tower]
The next stunner, Blanches Tower loomed on the scene. I knew I’d tested the men’s patience to the limit. I hoped they’d slow down so I could take a decent photo. I lifted my camera to capture the landscape. Just as I aimed, the Rover slowed to a stop, and I pressed the shutter. Click! Without having to ask.
After a break for a lunch, I shifted to the back of the Rover and slept amongst the dust. Mid-afternoon at Papunya, my nostrils clogged full of gritty dust, I transferred to the front seat with Dad and DR. The Rover stumbled along a rough road pitted with washouts, soft loose sand, and jagged rocks. With the most detailed map available spread across his legs, DR gave Dad precise instructions. Even then, with about fifty-six kilometres to reach Mount Liebig, Dad veered off the track, and had to back-track to get on the right road. The correct road was obscured by over-grown grasses, and more washouts. Every so often the duel red sandy tracks appeared guiding us on, encouraging us to keep on going.
Dad ran over a stone. He leaned forward, then looked around as we passed, ‘Hey, what was that?’
‘What?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t see anything.’
‘Back there, didn’t you see it?’
‘What?’ Ah, bliss to be able to say ‘what’ without correction.
Dad stopped the Rover and then stepped out. ‘I think I saw something.’
MB leaned over the edge of the roof. ‘What’s he doing?’
I shrugged. ‘Beat’s me.’
Dad trundled down the patchy road.
My older cousin (C1) jumped down from the roof rack. ‘Oh, he’s got something in his hands.’
We all climbed out of the Rover and walked towards the now jogging Dad. He cupped something in his hands. ‘Look!’ He leaned forward with praying hands as he approached us. ‘A mountain devil.’ He opened his hands. There no larger than his palm, a small yellow-ochre-coloured reptile with sienna coloured spikes on its back. We studied the creature for a few minutes. When Dad placed it down on the red sand, it lay motionless. Dad took a photo. The mountain devil lay still, basking in the fame.
‘Are you sure it’s alive?’ C1 asked.
Dad gave it a nudge and it scuttled a few inches. ‘Ah, well, we better go.’
We left the devil to its life of inertia and sun-ray absorption. C1 was concerned about its precarious position on the road. Dad assured him no one else would be coming along this road any time soon. The way the road looked, I doubted if anyone had driven along it since we travelled on it four years earlier.
[Photo 3: Mountain Devil]
We set up camp in a sandy clearing east of Mount Liebig. With the sun setting on the slopes brushing them with pinks and reds, we ate Mary’s precooked meat for tea.
Dad held up a fresh loaf. ‘Who’s for damper?’
‘Not for me, I’m full,’ I answered and then slunk off to my mattress.
‘O-oh!’ Dad’s voice spelt some sort of doom from the vicinity of the Rover.
‘I wonder what it is this time?’ I muttered while crawling into my sleeping bag.
‘O-oh, the Rover’s water tank has sprung a leak.’ Dad stumped on wet sand back to the campfire, shoes clumped with wet sand. ‘Come on everybody, grab a bucket and fill them with water from the tank.’
I peeled off my sleeping bag. Just another disaster to fix. So, before I could sleep, I had to pitch in with our water-conservation effort. As the clouds glowed mauve and pink, behind the shadow of Mount Liebig, we collected buckets, pots and containers, trekked to the Rover, and filled as many buckets as possible with water released from the tank.
[Photo 4: Mount Liebig sunset]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Photo: Gosses Bluff © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013
Photos 1,2, 3 & 4 from slides © C.D. Trudinger 1981