Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Birtes vs Australia
Marree to Flinders Ranges
In which we get Wind, become Pregnant, disturb a Burial,
lose Sleep over Hermione, see a Gum Tree.
During the night the wind picks up, coming in ever sharper squalls until it almost
pulls the tent over. The guy in a tent close by gives up and gets a room. His now
unballasted tent pops its pegs and makes a bit for freedom, blowing around the
camp area like a tumbleweed. There’s an early start under a sky loaded with clouds.
If it rains the road will turn into a skating rink and we will be stuck here - or stuck
there, if we still decide to leave. The weather starts badly, then, praise Soichiro,
the sun breaks through and the sky clears.
The monument to John McDouall Stuart is not a very good likeness of him at all,
looking more like Robert O’Hara Burke on 27th June, 1861.
As I circle the structure it looks more and more like a megalithic site, where
the forces of Nature may be tapped; the cusp of universes where any with the
key may soar into the fifth dimension and beyond, freed from the surly shackles
of mere physical existence. As this dawns on me, the urge to climb and paint
a smiley face on the head fades - now all I want to do is unlock its power.
The usual things are tried: lining up the stones with the mid-winter sun; passing
my hand through a hole; cracking an egg on the statue’s knee; blowing three
times on a daisy while standing on one leg and pressing on the statue’s right
leg with my left thumb. None of these well known and usually sure-fire methods
has any effect. I remain three dimensional and earth-bound.
There are no clues to how to make all my wishes come true. In desperation I take
a punt and crawl between the statue’s sturdy legs … and instantly feel much better!
Even before we leave, the ulcer has gone, thinning hair is growing back, the
warts have dropped off, and I am pregnant with twins.
We pass a solo emu. It acts wisely and runs away from the road. It keeps
on running into the distance, straight through a group of kangaroo who also
start fleeing. They are last seen disappearing behind their own cloud of dust.
Maybe they are like people - sensible on their own, a wee bit silly in a group.
Farina ruins are close by the Old Ghan line, which has been turned into a
walking trail, but as the sign shows, it is exceeding short.
Farina camp ground - better than it looks in the photograph. If I rode the
Track again, Farina and Coward Springs would replace Marree and WC
as stopping points.
Approaching the Upper Flinders Ranges.
How can anyone say Rural Australia is empty - it’s full of
contradictions for a start.
Off the main road at Parachilna, heading to Blinman where I plan to stay the night.
The folk at Blinman pub have tent sites. Despite carefully straightening my
hair before entering, they do their best to discourage me - the ground is
too hard and not level, facilities are not as good as they could be, the camp
is very exposed. Nothing is right about their camp area according to them,
yet I had already taken a peek and think it would be fine. When they start
suggesting that I would be better off (and safer, too) staying at Wilpena Pound,
I take the hint and do just that.
Better to stay clear - give them time to clean up the bloodstains and bury the body.
At Wilpena I book in for three days and choose a camp site as far as possible
from centres of population, close by the boundary fence and right by the
place where the Heysen Trail passes through. Nice and quiet.
And so it was … until two buses sign-written St Aloysius pull up and girls of
assorted and sometimes eye-catching proportions spew out, yammering and
shrieking. They set up a score of tents, considerately far from most others,
inconsiderately close to my doorstep. The noise grows louder at meal times
with the clattering of dishes adding to the verbal mayhem that continues until
well after I should have been asleep. When the row settles a bit, it is possible
to discern individual voices - "Jacinta, have you got my nail file?"
There is no lie-in the next morning. The bereft one is continuing her quest -
"Cordellia! Wake up! Did you borrow my nail file?" I have to get away from
the confusion of voices that is winding up for another day of multi-tasked babble.
Follow the signs to peace and quiet ….
Walking a couple of solitary kilometers on the Heysen Trail where all is
calm and soothing I decide that co-existing within earshot of the girls of
St Trinians is not possible - the tent will have to be moved. Then, lo, back
at camp, the world brightens and the birds sing sweeter. Their tent city
is being dismantled. Camp Mother does her best to squeeze helpfulness
from her charges, but seems to be doing all the work herself, in between
which she quizzes lounging individuals - “Now, Victoriana, tell me, you
haven’t got Hermione’s nail file, now have you? She’s really upset.”
Within an hour the St Aloysius busses lumber off and their trails of dust,
shrieks and squeals evaporate into the distance. All disruptions gone, peace
returns. It gets even better that evening when, in the dirt, I find a small nail
file engraved with the letter “H”.
The roads through Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges are shockers, and this is
after I had promised Birtles that the Marree to Lyndhurst stretch would be the
last of the rough stuff. Bush flies are thick in places so on goes the Bushman's
80% DET, an invitation for a dozen more flies to join the un-repelled long-term
residents who are walking on my face, climbing up my nose, spelunking in my
ears and skating on my eyeballs. They really love that Bushman’s.
You will have seen this one before …
… maybe not with a CT, though.
As I leave to climb to a viewpoint over the Pound, a mother kangaroo and her
independent joey squeeze through the boundary fence and head into the camp.
Dad is too big to get through the fence so he watches them until they are out of
his sight, then moves away from the fence. He stays close and periodically scans
the camp for signs of their return. His actions are those of a concerned human
parent yet human conceit prohibits granting such a parallel. Besides, wouldn’t
the road train industry slow right down if we acknowledged Skippy had feelings
similar to those of Marge, Davo, and Aunty Becca?
On the way to the lookout I get ahead of other climbers so that when I reach
the top I can have a private photography session with the boys on the edge of
the cliff. The flies are not bothering me anymore. I have learned my lesson and
avoid the Bushman’s, but others are suffering: "Give me the Bushman’s, dear,
I'll have to put a third lot on, the flies seem to be getting thicker".
The Cazneaux Tree just outside the Pound is certainly a big old beauty, but
no grander than many other eucalypts in the area. This one just got lucky.
Cazneaux's photograph of the tree became his most famous, dragging the
gum with it, far enough into fame for the tree to get its own roadway in from
the highway and a couple of explanatory signs.
All trees should be so lucky!
To be continued ………….
BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"