[Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope?]
The Obligatory Wave
[The fifth episode of the prequel to my first travel memoir, Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.]
As we prepared to jump in the Rover, a battered old utility car (we Aussies call it a “ute”) roared up to us. The ute stopped, and two Indigenous men stepped out.
‘Do you need any help?’ one asked.
Dad waved at them. ‘It’s okay.’
The men jumped back in their ute and then waved at us. They drove away with dirt and dust from the road billowing behind their vehicle.
[Photo 1: Traffic is a rarity on outback roads © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]
After loading ourselves into the over-loaded Rover, we thundered down the road. A Holden sedan approached from the opposite direction. Dad slowed down as we prepared to pass on this narrow road and we prepared our hands for the obligatory wave. The thing about the outback, as the drivers of the cars passed each other, was the slow raising of the hand to the windscreen; a ritual greeting for the rare fellow traveller.
The car neared, and we lifted our right hands up and down. The Indigenous owners of the sedan did the same. Dad tracked the car as it passed us. Then he looked back.
‘Felix! (not his real name),’ Dad said. ‘It’s Felix, I would recognize him anywhere.’ He stopped the Rover in the middle of the road.
‘Oh, why are we stopping?’ Mr B whined. ‘We’re already late as it is.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I replied. ‘More time to admire the scenery. Look, that gum tree over there is flowering.’
[Photo 2: Flowering gum © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]
Felix had also parked mid-track. The two old men from their respective vehicles jumped out and paced to each other. They shook hands, laughed and babbled away. Dad really could speak their language.
We all climbed out and Dad introduced us to Felix who shook our hands. Dad continued to banter in Pitjantjatjara. I reckon he was showing off his linguistic skills for Mr. B’s benefit.
Some delicate yellow flowers caught my gaze. I shifted to them and plucked a couple. I’ll preserve them in my bible, I thought.
[Photo 3: Desert Rose © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955]
Mr B peered at the desert rose I had as a souvenir. ‘That’s a pretty ordinary looking flower, if you ask me. I say, where’s the Sturt Desert Pea when you want them? I thought we’d see them everywhere being in the desert and all.’
I shrugged. Dad and his Indigenous friend continued their banter, so couldn’t ask them.
[Photo 4: Sturt Desert Pea © S.O. Gross circa 1940 courtesy M.E. Trudinger (nee Gross)]
After some time chatting in Indigenous tongue to his friend, Dad shook Felix’s hand once more and then the men patted each other on the back before bidding each other goodbye. Then we jumped back into our respective vehicles and continued on our journeys; one to Ernabella and one away from Ernabella.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Painting: Cattle Country © L.M. Kling 2014
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