[1984, and Mr. B, once more, was happily holidaying in luxury resorts. Meanwhile, the younger of the T-Team with roughin’ it on their minds, venture closer to home and into the Flinders Ranges; their sights set on Chambers Gorge…]
By mid-morning, and a half-a-dozen or so beers later for Barney, my brother, Rick chauffeured us on the rough road to Chambers Gorge.
‘Are you sure you know where we’re going?’ Doris asked.
‘Sure I do,’ my brother said. ‘I’ve been there before.’
We bounced over the gravel road and its abundant potholes. Then came the roller-coaster—up and down, almost flying and then stomachs thudding to the floor in the dips.
‘Stop!’ Barney groaned. ‘I’m going to be sick.’
‘Oh, no!’ Doris and I cried.
‘Stop the—’ Barney gurgled, and he leaned forward, his hand cupped over his mouth.
My brother slammed on the brakes and stopped the car in the middle of the road. Too late! Liquid breakfast splattered every corner of the car’s interior.
We spent the next half an hour using dampened beach towels to flush out the worst of the mess, and then the next few hours driving to Chambers Gorge, doing our best to ignore the smell—windows open, nostrils filling with bull dust in preference to the smell.
‘I feel sick,’ Doris said.
My brother stopped the car and we all jumped out.
Doris leaned over a salt bush and then stood up. ‘Nah, it’s okay.’
‘Better safe than sorry,’ my brother said. ‘We don’t want another accident.’
So without a map, my brother found Chambers Gorge. We lumbered along the rugged road that followed the dry creek bed.
‘Where’s the water?’ Doris asked.
‘All underground, unless it rains,’ my brother said.
We glanced left and right, sighting tents and camper vans. Four o’clock and already all the best campsites had been taken. We ventured further into the gorge crawling along the creek bed of boulders. The rocky slopes of the low hills that defined Chambers Gorge were shrouded in grey tones of an over-cast sky.
I pointed to a clearing. ‘What about here?’
‘Too small,’ my brother said.
Doris indicated a site near a clump of twisted gum trees. ‘Hey, what about one over there?’
‘Nup, where would we park?’
‘There’s a spot,’ Barney said.
‘And how am I going to get up there?’
‘We have to camp somewhere, or we’ll be cooking tea in the dark,’ I said.
‘I don’t feel so well,’ Barney said. ‘I have a headache.’
‘You shouldn’t’ve had so many beers for breakfast,’ Doris snapped.
My brother stopped the car. ‘Here will do.’
We climbed out of the car and inspected the mound of gravel no larger than a small bedroom.
‘Bit small,’ Barney said.
‘You reckon you can find somewhere better?’ my brother answered.
‘Nah, I guess it’ll be alright.’
Rick and Barney unpacked the car and then set up Barney’s tent. Then my brother pumped up his blow-up mattress—no tent for him, he preferred to sleep under the stars. So did I. A billion-star accommodation for me. I persuaded Doris to also sleep under the stars. One problem, clouds covered our star-studded view.
Doris and I searched for firewood.
‘Seems like Chambers Gorge is well picked over,’ Doris remarked.
‘It’s like Rundle Mall,’ I replied. ‘Won’t be coming here again. Too many people.’
We found a few sticks, just enough for a fire to cook our canned spaghetti for tea. For dessert, we ate fruit cake.
As our thoughts drifted to bed and enjoying sleep under clouds as it seemed tonight, Rick said, ‘Oh, er, I did a bit of exploring. Found a better camping spot. Bigger, near a waterhole.’
‘Really?’ Doris sighed.
‘Can’t we just stay here?’ Barney asked.
Rick stroked the red mound upon which we sat. ‘Could be an ant hill.’
So again, we followed my brother’s leading, packed up and piled into the car. Once again, we crawled to Rick’s El Dorado of campsites.
There, in the dark, we set up our bedding. Barney abandoned the idea of a tent and settled down, content with the cloudy canopy to cover him like the rest of us.
As I began pumping up my mattress—Plop! I looked up. Another plop.
‘O-oh, rain,’ I said.
‘Nah, probably amount to nothing.’ Rick shrugged and continued to blow up his mattress.
Doris sat on a small mound and watched. Rick promised to pump up all our mattresses.
‘Ugh!’ Doris cried and then slapped her thigh.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘What do you mean, an ant?’
‘An ant bit me.’
‘What? Through jeans?’
‘Yeah, it was a big one—ugh! There’s another one,’ Doris jumped up, ‘and another.’
Doris danced and slapped herself.
Rick shone a torch where Doris did her “River Dance”.
‘Holy crud!’ Barney said, his eyes wide. ‘The place is full of them.’
Ants, two and a half centimetres long (an inch) and called “Inch Ants”, swarmed the ground, their pincers snapping. They streamed from a hole on the mound where Doris had been sitting; ants multiplying and invading our clearing.
We scrambled to the car and threw ourselves in. Doris and I sat in the back, Barney and my brother in the front.
‘Looks like we’ll be camping in the car tonight,’ I grumbled.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Photo: White Ant Hills © S.O. Gross circa 1946
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