Lost on Liebig (2)
[While Mr. B and his son, Matt stayed back at camp, three of the T-Team faced the challenge of climbing Mt. Liebig. And finding their way down.
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 Lost
We heard a blood-curdling scream.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘Rick, I hope he’s alright.’
We scrambled down the last of the gully and ran along the ridge in the direction of Rick’s cries.
Rick rose above the mounds of spinifex rubbing his behind.
‘Are you okay?’ I fought my way through the prickly barbs to my brother.
‘I’m fine, except I fell, bottom first in the spinifex.’
‘Oh, so it’s just a false alarm then, we thought you were really hurt,’ I said. His scream was worse than the prickly bushes’ sting.
‘Well, I’m going to avoid any more painful encounters,’ he said and with that he stomped away from me and within minutes, drifted out of view.
We also diverged. Dad was confident that all gullies lead to the big one at the base of the slope. ‘Ah, well! We will meet Rick in the gully below,’ he assured me.
But contrary to Dad’s prediction, we did not meet Rick. I could not help thinking, this was not the first time as far as Rick was concerned. We’d already lost him in the sand dunes near Uluru. Almost.
Dad continued to search for his quart can. But that little friend Dad had cherished since the fifties, also eluded him.
We weaved our way down the main gully for about an hour. A huge spider in a web spanning the width of the gully confronted us. The spider, the size of a small bird, appeared uninviting, so we backtracked and decided to hike up and down the ridges.
For several hours, we struggled over ridges. Up and down, we tramped, yet seemed to make little progress; the rise and dips went on forever. The sun sank low, and so did our water supplies.
The heat drained me. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. But we had to ration water.
Dad slumped on a slab of rock at the bottom of a gully. ‘Drink?’
I took the canteen from him and filled my cup. Then I spooned in some Salvital. I chugged down the water as it fizzed. So refreshing!
‘Oh, Lee-Anne!’ Dad quibbled. ‘You didn’t leave much for me!’ He poured the last drops of water from his canteen into his mouth and gazed in despair at the lengthening shadows of the mountain.
‘Oh, but Dad! It’s not fair! We will never get out of this place! We are lost forever.’ I had visions of future hikers coming upon our dried-up old bones thirty years later. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘Well, um, perhaps we better pray God will help us.’ Dad bowed his head and clasped his hands. ‘Dear Lord, please help us find our way back to the truck. And forgive me for growling at Lee-Anne.’
‘Forgive me too. Help us not to run out of food and water, too.’
‘Bit late for that,’ Dad muttered. ‘Ah, well.’
We had barely finished praying, when an idea struck me. ‘Why don’t we climb up a ridge and walk along it. Surely if we go high enough, we’ll see the landmark and the Land Rover.’
‘Oh, I don’t know. We need to conserve our energy.’
‘Just one ridge won’t harm us.’
Dad sighed. ‘Okay, it’s worth a try.’
I raced up the hill and strode along the ridge. I climbed higher and higher. I glanced towards the east expecting, hoping, willing the Rover to appear. But with each stride, each hopeful gaze, nothing. I resolved to climb further up the slope before turning back.
After a few more steps, still nothing. With the heaviness of defeat, I turned to climb down. Then I saw it. The Land Rover sat at the base of the mountain, glistening in the last rays of the setting sun.
‘There it is!’ I jumped up and down over-reacting with excitement.
‘Praise the Lord!’ Dad’s shout echoed in the valley.
With renewed energy, we attacked the last mounds that lay between the vehicle and us.
‘Rick will probably be sitting there waiting for us wondering what has happened,’ Dad said puffing as we strode up to the land rover. ‘Can’t wait to have a few gallons of water.’
We rambled over to the Rover. Dad circled the vehicle and returned to me shaking his head. ‘He’s not here.’
I wandered around the clearing searching for Rick. I looked behind bushes and under some neighbouring bean trees. My brother was nowhere in sight.
But worse still, when Dad tried to fill his cup, only a few drops of water trickled from the Land Rover’s water tank.
Dad stared at the ground and tapped his pockets. ‘This is not good. This is not good,’ he said.
The sun had set and a cold chill cut through me. He’s lost. My brother is lost in this wilderness. ‘What if he’s had an accident?’
‘We need to pray,’ Dad said.
Dad prayed, ‘Father, bring Rick home and provide us with water too.’
We waited, watching the colours on the mountain fade and our hopes fade with them.
‘I guess we better get going,’ Dad said. He opened the door of the Land Rover.
Rick staggered around a nearby outcrop of rocks.
We ran to greet him.
‘Rick, you’re okay,’ Dad said hugging him.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘I took the long way and trekked around the base of the mountain. I thought it wouldn’t take that long, but it just went on and on.’
As we walked to the Land Rover, Dad studied the vehicle. ‘You know, it’s on a slope, if I get it to level ground, we might have enough water.’
Dad drove the Rover to where the ground flattened out. Water never tasted so sweet.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2019
Feature: Painting acrylic on canvas: Descent from Liebig © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2014
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