Camping in Ormiston Creek
[Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.
The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 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?]
Dusk, and with the saltbush shrouded in shades of grey, Dad bumped the Rover carrying the T-Team (Mr. B and son Matt, my brother and me) along the rough track to Ormiston Gorge. Our two Indigenous guides (N and S) sat on the roof-rack of the Rover.
‘You need time to appreciate these places,’ Dad explained.
‘Bit rough if we only have two weeks for school holidays.’ Mr. B’s voice sounded like the robot from Lost in Space.
‘Ah, well, we’ll have a few hours at Ormiston tomorrow. It’s the best of the MacDonnell Gorges. You’ll see. And tomorrow is just a taste—I guarantee you’ll want to come back some day.’
We nodded, more from the rocks and potholes in the track than agreeing with Dad.
Dad adjusted his grip on the steering-wheel. ‘Right, now we must find a campsite.’
Squinting, I peered out the window. Red dust and darkness, clouded my view.
‘I say, ol’ chap, how far are you going to take us on this infernal track?’ An unimpressed Mr. B was not much help finding an accommodating clearing.
‘It’s too dark to see anything,’ my brother, Rick said.
Dad pulled the Rover by a clump of acacia bushes. ‘Grab a torch and go ahead of us and scout.’
With a torchlight scanning the road and bushes in front of him, Rick scouted for a spot by foot, while the Rover crawled not far behind.
Rick called out. ‘Yep, here’s one.’
Dad stopped the Rover, jumped out and with his son, disappeared into a knot of baby gum trees. His voice floated back to us waiting in the Rover. ‘Nup, too rocky.’
With a cough, Dad climbed back in the Rover and we continued our trundle behind Rick and his torch.
A hundred metres further, Rick stopped at a dip in the track and waved a torch light around. ‘This looks good.’
Mr. B grumbled, ‘I’m not camping in a creek bed. It’s not safe.’
Dad sighed. ‘Keep going.’
We inched along the poor excuse of a road.
Rick paused and shone his torch to the right on a small clearing. ‘What about this?’
After parking the Rover, Dad paced to the site. He then shook his head and snorted, ‘Oh, no, there’s ants. Big ones.’
‘It’s getting late, we better find somewhere soon,’ Mr. B shouted.
Heads bent as if hunting for an ant-free space, Dad and my brother returned to the Rover.
‘I’m hungry!’ I cried. My stomach gnawed at my insides.
‘Be patient, Lee-Anne.’ Dad snapped.
‘Behave yourself, Lee-Anne.’ Mr. B could not help but add his two cents worth.
‘What about this one?’ Rick waved his torch a few metres to the left.
Dad hopped out and then kicked at some stones. ‘This’ll do for the time being. Ah, well! Praise the Lord!’
‘At last!’ Mr. B said.
‘Hooray!’ I sang.
Our guides climbed from their lofty ride and silently began to collect sticks for the fire.
Mr. B ordered his son to make himself useful and help set up the bedding for the night. And Dad vowed that from that time on, we would find a place to camp by daylight.
Next morning the sun peeped over the hills cradling the valley in which we had slept. I dragged myself out of my frozen sleeping bag and shuffled to the fire. Yay! A fire to thaw myself out.
‘How did you sleep?’ Dad sounded too cheery.
‘Torture! It’s a wonder I didn’t freeze to death.’
‘Well, it’s the desert and you know it gets down to about zero at night.’
‘Don’t remind me. My fire kept going out and then just as I’d get comfortable, there was all this loud snoring going on.’
Dad sniffed. ‘Ah, well, I heard you snore too, Lee-Anne.’
‘Must’ve had some good sleep, then.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
*Feature Painting: Sunrise on Mt Sonder © L.M. Kling
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