25 October 2009 - Marriage Lines
(To Iga Warta and a G'night Story)
G'day. We left Blinmen out through the Parachina Gorge on rough roads, stopping for an hour to explore the dry creek bed, lined with tall Gum trees. Then on to Parachina itself, nowadays a ghost town, but in its heyday an important hub as the rail and road link between Port Augusta and Leigh Creek. The Prairie Hotel is the only substantial building and we took refuge there lunchtime as a fierce dust storm swept across the flat land around. I was taken by the menu, 'our signature dish' The Road Kill Grill (FMG - Feral mixed grill), Prairie Burgers (Kangaroo, Emu, Coorong Angus Beef), Hearty Kangaroo Tail soup or Emu Liver Pate.
Then up to Leigh Creek, a coal-mining town moved in 1982 from its original location to allow expansion of the mine, and at this point we took to the dirt road to Iga Warta. Most of the driving since leaving Adelaide had been on proper tarmac roads with just the occasional off-road excursions around Bunyeroo Gorge and Chambers Gorge. Now the driving was on dirt roads and Adrian was in his element. He'd study the maps with a magnifying glass, looking for a line of little dots which indicated a rough track across the bush, and plan the day's drive using them. He had a theory that you had to keep up a reasonable speed when on the roughest roads to skip across the top of the ridges rather than drive up and down every one. When George had a drive he took to this 'drive fast across the top of the ridges' theory with alacrity and even Adrian needed to caution his enthusiasm - at times we were shaking so much I thought the doors would fall off.
Iga Warta is a campsite in an Aboriginal community setting, run by an Aboriginal family, set amongst the northern Flinders Ranges. Iga Warta means place of the native orange tree in Yura Ngawarla, the language of the Adnyamathanha people. We'd arranged to eat at an evening 'Cookout' and watched a Kangaroo joint being wrapped in Tea-Tree bark and Eucalyptus leaves before being placed in the embers of a camp fire for a couple of hours. We duly returned just after the sun had gone down, gathered around the crackling fire to listen to Johnny Couthard, our host, and his campfire stories.
Johnny could tell a good yarn and this 'G'night story' concerned one of his mates:
". . . well you see also like, he drank a lot of whisky, and he used swags - ya know to sleep on the ground and that - he never used to roll it up. He went out with his gun, probably huntin', then came home, liked drinkin' whisky, and jumped straight into his swag with his shotgun by his side and there was a Mulga snake [King Brown] at the bottom of his swag. He started kickin' around and the snake bit him a couple of times.
And what happened was that the snake - a big snake - rose up and lifted up the bottom of his swag and he was still laying down so what he done was he shot the top of the swag and blew the top of the snake's head off. And it was summer time - that's when the King Brown snakes come out - and that's when we get all our floods and that. All the communications were out and Wilpena was probably 30-40ks away and they couldn't pick him up on the radio, but someone, way up in Northern Territory, sorta got his call and they got the message back to Wertaloona Station, said there was someone out there got bitten by a snake.
But he made it, he drove though the creeks which were coming down with water and that, like the creeks were down with floods, so he crossed those creeks and got to Wertaloona. They saved his life, they got him to Leigh Creek and I don't know where they took him, Adelaide I suppose and that. All the leg was just killed, all black and there was nothin' in it. And another mate was working with a Ranger and he went up to have a look at the snake with the head shot off, and it was like this long [arms wide]".
And the moral of this story? Always go to bed with a shotgun.
Phil the Pom