[Extract from Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Late afternoon and the sun sank lower towards the horizon as we found the entry into the valley leading to Kings Canyon. The steep cliffs glowing golden in the afternoon sun looked like slabs of freshly fried pancakes soaked in maple syrup to me. Everything resembled food. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Whilst we’d travelled the corrugated highway, I’d scrounged the deep recesses of the Rover’s back cabin and collected a few nuggets of sultanas.
Then, during the time the men scouted for water, I wandered off by myself to squander those few precious relics of dried fruit and savour their shrivelled sugary taste. But the meagre morsels were not enough to satisfy my hunger and I cried. Now I had an inkling of how the starving millions felt. Didn’t make me feel any better, though.
Wiping tears from my eyes with the back of my dusty hand, I stiffened my trembling lip and then shuffled back to the Rover.
Family friend, TR also suffering the pangs of hunger, strummed on the Ukulele singing:
“You can skin me
And eat my bones
I don’t care.
Because I’m hungry.”
The T-lads and I tapped our toes and bobbed our heads to the beat.
Dad didn’t share our concern or need to feed. He was driven by the desire to find a camping spot before sunset and prepare tea (we hoped) before dark.
The sun edged closer to the horizon and soaked the Canyon cliffs in orange. Dad drove us around the valley in search of the perfect camping site, and as time ticked by, any campsite. The place was swarming with tourists. In the back of the Rover, TR shared his dreams of eating barbeque chicken, “Yiros” and lashings of ice-cream when he reached Alice Springs. His vocalised yearnings did not help stave the hunger pains.
As the sun set and the landscape transformed into shades of red, we found a campsite; a little pocket of land not invaded by tourists. The boys played baseball; not with ordinary balls and bats, but with soft drink cans and a stick. However, I had to help Dad prepare dinner.
To compensate for our day of enforced fasting, Dad served up a whopping big tea. For entrée soup, main course rice with carrots, peas, onion, camp meat and gravy, and to fill any gaps, damper. TR ate his fill of seconds and thirds before the damper while Dad and I offered our damper portions to my younger cousin who seemed to have hollow legs.
And when all was done and eaten, we lay down contented to sleep.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Photo: Lone Ghost © C.D. Trudinger 1981