The T-Team with Mr. B (29)
[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? And would my brother survive?]
We continued our trek to Talipata Gorge where we planned to camp for a couple of days. On the way our two guides sat on the bonnet of the Land Rover and picked out the ancient track amongst the desert bushes and erosion.
One of our guides, H rapped his hand on the bonnet.
‘O-oh,’ Dad murmured, then eased the Rover to a stop.
N raised his rifle and fired one shot into the bush. After climbing down from the Rover, our guides disappeared into the scrub. Moments later they returned, N carrying a large, obviously dead bird.
Mr. B asked. ‘I say, what is that creature?’
‘Wild turkey,’ N replied.
‘What’s that?’ I peered at the carcass of brown feathers hanging from H’s fingers. ‘Doesn’t look much like a turkey.’ I’d seen turkeys on my cousin’s farm and this bird was not what I’d call a turkey. ‘It looks more like an over-sized chook.’
‘A chook?’ my brother, Rick snorted. ‘More like a duck.’
‘Is it wild ‘cos it escaped from Hermannsburg?’ I was confused.
‘Bush turkey,’ H laughed. ‘Good bush tucker.’
Mr. B screwed up his nose. ‘Oh, is this our dinner for tonight?’
‘Yes, well, hold your horses, mate, we’ll be having wild turkey for dinner tomorrow,’ Dad said. ‘Takes a while to prepare.’
‘So, you mean, we’re going to have to suffer eating dehydrated vegetables,’ Mr. B remarked.
‘No, steak, we have steak that I bought at Haasts Bluff station that must be eaten,’ Dad replied.
‘Now you’re talking.’ Mr. B patted his son on the back. ‘And tomorrow we’ll have a cultural experience eating bush turkey. Won’t we Matt, ma boy.’
Again, the Rover lumbered along, bush-bashing riding along an invisible track that only our indigenous guides with their keen eyes could see. Bored and our bottoms sore from the bumping and jolting in the Rover, we hopped out and walked; moving faster than the vehicle.
We paused briefly to check out Blanches Tower for a second time. This time from a different perspective as we travelled towards Talipata Spring. On our travels, we saw wild animals, but not all were native to Australia. We spotted wild camels introduced by the Afghans, and wild horses called “brumbies”.
Cattle also roam the desert. Dad explained that this part of the Centre was like one big cattle ranch. ‘Quite an industry, you know,’ he said. ‘Beef was our staple diet when I was teaching here in the 1950’s. And the steaks you’re having tonight, is from the cattle around here. Best beef you’ll ever taste.’
Mr. B pouted. ‘I thought you said the beef from Curtain Springs was.’
‘Oh, no, this beef is better,’ Dad answered with an air of authority.
I pointed. ‘Hey, look! An emu.’
‘At least that’s Australian,’ Rick said.
‘Well, so’s the bush turkey, tomorrow’s dinner,’ I answered.
‘It’s not alive, though.’
‘Trust you, to think of that, Rick.’
The sun edged towards the horizon bathing the spinifex strewn plain in a golden hue. Dad sighed and Mr. B grumbled as we resigned ourselves to the reality that we must camp in a random creek bed for the night. Despite our valiant efforts, we could not reach Talipata Gorge this day. For tea we cooked our own steaks over the fire. Meanwhile S prepared the turkey and cooked it in some hot coals. I slept near Rick. Mr. B had company, too. He had two frogs under his bed. I guess as well as being his friendly pets for the night, they were native to Australia. Not that that fact impressed Mr. B.
Next day we drove the remaining distance to Talipata Gorge. Red cliffs towered above a grove of eucalypt trees. Dad parked the Rover in the clearing and then raced up to a cattle trough.
He ran his hand along the metal and announced, ‘It’s dry. We need to get the pump working.’
Mr. B who is always full of enterprising ideas, suggested, ‘I dare say, we could have a bath in it, when you do.’
‘Oh, I don’t know about that, it’s for the cattle,’ Dad said.
Mr. B sniffed. ‘I’m sure they could survive a few human bodies and their germs.’
Dad shook his head and then directed the T-Team to climb the gorge.
As we trekked up the narrow gorge, I noticed ferns peeking through crags and heard water trickling underneath the boulders over which we had to climb. The trickle became a rush, and the ferns multiplied and thickened…until a pool clear as crystal lay before us, and a steady stream of water dripped through cracks in the rocky wall. Ferns framed the rock-hole from every corner, nook and cranny.
While we were up there, the men tried to get the pipe unblocked and the water flowing. They took ages. I sat around and initially enjoyed the ambience. Then I became bored and annoyed at just sitting around doing nothing. At last they had success and filled up the trough.
For lunch we had wild turkey. To my surprise the turkey was delicious; it tasted like chicken.
After lunch Dad had some time on his own, exploring the terrain by himself. With Dad absent, this gave the rest of us the opportunity to take turns to have a bath in the cattle trough. Even S and H had a bath.
Dad returned as the setting sun’s orange rays streamed through the grove of trees. Concerned that the cattle might invade the area, we moved onwards to find another camping spot. We bedded down for the night in a creek bed. Dad was not concerned about flash flooding, although, for some strange reason, Mr. B was.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Photo: Talipata Spring © C.D. Trudinger 1981
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