The Groans of Mr. B
[The T-Team with Mr B — 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 now that this intrepid adventure into the Australian outback is coming to an end, how did Mr. B cope?]
The final night in Central Australia, Hermannsburg, I lay awake, on the iron bed. Across the hallway, Dad’s snoring buzzed so loud it seemed to be right in my ear. He snored, and I replied snorting like a pig. Then, from the next room, Rick snorted three times before punctuating the simulated snoring with a “pop”. Unperturbed Dad continued to buzz like a bandsaw. Rick and I giggled. Then we proceeded to snort, snore and pop to Dad’s slumber tune. Eventually, we became tired of the snoring routine and we drifted off to sleep.
Clang! Clang! Clang! ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ Dad yelled.
I dragged myself out of the tangle of grey army blankets and shuffled to the door. The thin worn lino stung cold on my bare feet.
Dad marched past while hammering a saucepan with a wooden spoon. ‘Get up! We have to get an early start!’
Mr. B stumbled to the bathroom and grumbled, ‘It’s too early, surely we could’ve had an hour’s more sleep.’
‘No, we must get going! We have a lot of ground to cover.’
Mr. B muttered something incomprehensible and probably uncomplimentary under his breath as he entered the bathroom. When the water ran, Mr. B’s groans filled the house. He’d forgotten; no shower, just a bath, and that the water was cold and brown.
Rick walked like a zombie to the toilet.
‘I bet Mr. B is dreaming of the good ol’ days he could bathe in the cattle trough,’ I joked.
Rick snorted in response. ‘Or Ormiston Gorge.’
After breakfast and packing, the trip homeward began. Through the window of red dust, I watched Mount Hermannsburg retreat into the distance behind the red sandhills and I sniffed. ‘I’ll be sad to leave Central Australia and all the good times behind us.’
Rick blew into his handkerchief, now tinged pink with Central Australian dust.
‘All I had to look forward to is school, and there was no joy about that prospect,’ I sighed.
‘I know,’ Matt said.
Mr. B leaned forward in his seat at the front. ‘Can you go faster, mate? I want no time wasted to get back to Adelaide.’
The Rover was rumbling and juddering as it tends to do over the unsealed road from Hermannsburg to Alice Springs when Dad uttered, ‘O-oh!’ and brought the Rover to a stop.
Mr. B hit his forehead and groaned, ‘Oh! No!’
I peered through the front windscreen. Several indigenous men were drifting around a once-white utility. One of the men stood in the middle of the dirt road holding up a Gerry can.
Dad jumped out of the Rover, and after shaking their hands, he talked with them in Aranda. We emerged from our cramped conditions in the Rover’s cabin and Dad introduced us to his friends, one of whom was a student of his in the 1950’s.
Once more a groan escaped Mr. B as Dad and his former student caught up on the good ol’ times, for what seemed to Mr. B, “ages”.
After collecting the trailer and having filled up with petrol in Alice Springs, we travelled south on the Stuart Highway; the main road leading to South Australia, and ultimately Adelaide. The hum of the Rover on the smoother sealed road lulled me to doze…until Kulgera where Mr. B, Matt, Rick and I ate pies for a snack. Later Mr. B would regret eating his pie.
‘Now, at the border, I want to get a photo of us with our feet in both states,’ I said.
Dad tapped his pocket. ‘Alright, I think we can manage that.’
‘Not another stop!’ Mr. B groaned, yet again. ‘At this rate it’ll take forever to reach Adelaide.’
‘Ah, well, it’s always good to have a break,’ Dad replied. ‘What about we have a short stop and Mr. B, you drive for a bit.’
Mr. B sighed, ‘Very well. But not impressed I get South Australia’s rough road to drive on.’
‘Oh, well, you can drive now, if you like, Mr. B.’
‘What? For twenty miles?’
Rick shook his head and muttered, ‘He just can’t win.’
And so, Dad offered the privilege of first drive on South Australia’s highway to Rick.
At the actual border of Northern Territory and South Australia Dad took a photo with my camera of us spread over the border. I made sure that one of my feet was in Northern Territory and the other in South Australia.
With a satisfied smile across his face, Mr. B settled in the passenger seat of the Rover. ‘Now, this is what I call travelling,’ he purred.
Rick at the “helm” of the Rover, pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor causing the vehicle to leap and fly over the corrugations at a brisk speed of 60 miles per hour. ‘It’s the fastest we’ve travelled in the Land Rover,’ he replied.
‘Keep it up,’ Mr. B advised. ‘I’ll have you drive all the way to Adelaide.’
‘Er, um,’ from the depths of the back-cabin Dad coughed, ‘watch your speed, son. Safety first. And we’ve got to conserve fuel.’
Rick grunted, ‘Oh, all right.’
The Rover slowed to 50 miles per hour.
‘There’s hundreds of miles between us and the next town with a petrol station,’ Dad added.
Mr. B covered his mouth and whispered, ‘Wait till he falls asleep…’
‘What was that?’ Dad glared at Mr. B.
‘Nothing,’ Mr. B chimed.
By this time Mr. B had made his intentions clear; drive on, throughout the night, no stopping, definitely no camping, just keep on trekking until we reach Adelaide. But Dad had other plans.
Mr. B groaned as the sun sank below the horizon casting the red-golden landscape in darkness. Dad by this time, had taken over the driving and decided stop for the night and camp. Once settled in clearing by the side of the road, Dad served up a big tea of tinned beef and rice. Then we worshipped God, praising Him for the safe and incident-free journey. Being a glutton for torture by snoring, I slept near Dad.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Photo: Desert sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1955]
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