DIARY OF FOUR "TRAMPS."
A Tour of Farming Areas on Southern Yorke's Peninsula.
By Munchausen de Rougemont in the " Register."
A winter camping holiday What madness! B-r-r-rh! Four men and all equipment in one motor car, is it possible? Needs must when the old gentleman is the chauffeur, for at no other time was a holiday possible, and specially equipped motor caravans are a diversion of the idle rich, and we were of the new poor, and we must go sight-seeing, and we must make use of the 1920 vintage Dodge. We had cold high tea at the Y.M.C.A., and talked over details and plans. Talking over plans is more than half the fun with these expeditions. It enables you to test out any mean spots in your future tent-mate, and with good road maps, and no knowledge on their part of your fishing and shooting skill, you can spin out your geographical knowledge by a little faking, and bring out all your reminiscences with such adornment that you hardly recognise them yourselves.
You can plan such a welter of equipment. You can pile up the rifles and the fishing rods, the changes of clothing, the blankets and folding stretchers, the tent-poles and pegs, the crockery and tins of petrol, groceries and stores, mountains high and the beauty of it is you don't need to lever yourself into a small corner of the car somewhere with a shoehorn, and sit like a crushed concertina amid mountains of luggage, as the hard reality of the thing would force you to do. Did we need condensed milk? A shovel and tackle for getting out of bogs? Fire kindlers? Solemnly we debated it, item by item, and, as the case might be, the ayes had it or the noes wiped the floor with the preposterous proposition. Perhaps I might introduce ourselves to the gentle reader. There was first and foremost all through, myself, Munchausen, chosen as scribe because of undeniable claims to verisimilitude in my chronicles, a man of splendid appetite, hardened to my fare, and a wonderful knack of making myself comfortable anywhere with my neighbour's bootlace, or a borrowed tie, or somebody else's blanket There was Walter as manager, whom we allowed to come because he had the car and was the only one who could drive it and knew all its tricks. There was Bob the sculptor, who supplied the lion's share of the comic relief, and besides was a most excellent cook, and there was. Laurie the artist who got in on the fact of having a camera and the rumour that he could paint wonderful sunsets, with pink suns and violet seas, and impossibly beautiful ships sailing about on them, and who lived up to bis reputation thoroughly. How many meals we went late for or missed through him, how many times we nearly left him behind just wanting to finish this little sketch, how many times he allowed the soup to spoil and the damper to burn, like King Alfred and the cakes, would take an American cash register permutator to calculate.
Was it a success? Let statistics speak for themselves. Treating ourselves like lords in the way of the larder, spending six days in the car cruising through all kinds of scenery, camping here and there, spending in all 12 days in the far corners of the State, driving in all in the neighbourhood of 500 miles, fishing, shooting, bathing, walking, boating, and allowing for our quota each of the car expenses at 6d. per mile running costs, we had the most wonderful and educational and health-giving fortnight the earth can afford at a total cost of £4 14/4 each, and even that might have been cut down, I could never quite make out what that 4d. was for.
—On the Road.—
Looking like the complete campers out, we left Adelaide from the vicinity of the City Baths—ominous spot— with Walter at the wheel on a Monday morning in a dense fog. Were we Don Quixotes and Sancho Panzas embarked on a folly of Utopian travels, calculated to end in the ravages of indigestion and the fatal throes of pneumonia? Who knows? We were in a fog, and wiped the windscreen with handkerchiefs clean for the last time for a whole fortnight. Each had a sworn by all the ashes of his sires neither to shave nor wear a collar again for two solid weeks. How frail is human resolution! Looking back it seems that the whole fortnight was dizzy succession of shaves in all kinds of impossible attitudes, attire, and conditions, the resurrection of innumerable collars, twisted and often soiled, for regal and State occasions, for mysteriously enough every Jack one of us found collars and shaving material in a kit which was to be cut to the utmost limits!
Let the reader mark and take note of our car. The running boards were packed with boxes, buckets, groceries, crockery, tent and fly, suitcases, poles, shovel,dietz lantern, &c., tied with abundance of rope. It was discovered too late that we should all have to climb in, to which I stoutly objected, owing to my being an outsize in avoirdupois, but in which I was overruled and compelled ignominiously to make use of myself by sitting on the stronger spring of the two at the back. We amused ourselves the first 12 miles by simple addition of our respective weights, adding the calculated weight article on calculation bringing the total in the vicinity of five tons, and stances I thought his speed of be 10 and 20 miles an hour, and indeed his petrol consumption (as we found afterwards) of about 19 miles to the gallon, remarkable for the car. Muffled to the eyes, and hooting through a dense fog, we steered northward and passed the Bolivar without stopping for mushrooms or refreshments, and came to the edge of the bitumen, and the beginnings of trouble, on the world's worst road. For the benefit of racing patrons. Little Para is out of heaven into hades, a tropical allusion to the edge of bitumen track at this point. Within a few miles we developed spring trouble, owing (it was alleged by Bob) to my excessive weight, but as I was over the spring which did not go wrong, I resented the allusion keenly. A roll of rubber from an old tire, a piece of cut, green mallee stick wherein our camp tomahawk was first called into service, and some farmer's fencing wire soon made an excellent and permanent buffer, and prevented the tire wearing itself out bumping the body work. It is hoped that the invention may later be patented, and I am claiming the royalties as having first thought of it, but, as Walter made it, he also is putting in a claim which may possibly occasion litigation and delay.
We were soon whizzing along again Windsor, Wild Horse Plains, with one half starved-looking white horse which looked too sad for sound or foam, Dublin, Inkerman, we reeled off the miles and camped at the roadside for coffee a la thermos and sandwiches a la packed by a loving wifey in the morning. Swinging along, we came to Port Wakefield, a fine town at the head of St. Vincent's Gulf, clear air, clean buildings, a railway centre, south of a big tract of marshy looking swamp country. We were adjured to keep off the beach track round the peninsula, and go through the Hummocks, sturdy big hills lifting out of the flat plain, if we desired to reach the peninsula without being bogged. After taking in tea and more supplies we rolled northward, still amid magnificent cloud effects and wonderful aeroplane scenery, looking back towards the gulf from the heights towards Kulpara. Along lovely limestone roads, through Melton, and on we pushed, still ambling at about 16 to 18, and brought up in warm, sheltered mallee scrub by the shores of the gulf on the other side on the peninsula at Port Clinton, which isn't much if you take away the sea and the wheat shed and the post office .
—A Busy Evening.—
What a hubbub and a to do! Water to beg water to cart! Fire place to make fire to billy to boil, frying pan to set sizzling! Holes to dig, masts to step, sails to spread, guys to fit tent pegs to hammer, stretchers to set up, beds to make, crockery to un-pack with darkness gathering aface. What peace, what joy the warm camp fire, eating camp fare! It was 8 o'clock when we rolled, tired and happy, into our bunks. Unfortunately Bob thought it necessary, to introduce some excitement, having a serious accident with his collapsible stretcher, which he said was lent to him by a pseudo-friend. It certainly was collapsible. At various unexpected moments throughout the whole tour it showed off its various methods of collapsing, horizontally, perpendicularly, silently, nosily, pancake fashion, and concertina fashion. I never saw a foot ruler fold up more neatly than Bob did. His cries rent the air, and murdered the peace of the stilly night. This reminded him of a long anecdote which he was still narrating when we all went to sleep and remained thus till freezing dawn, when, cold and rheumaticky, we wended our way after breakfast to the local post office, and sent wires to wives, telling the news that we had weathered the night successfully, and were happy and well, and had plenty of bedding and red flannel stomach protectors. What a hero man is!
—Lovely Coast Scenery.—
Leaving Port Clinton we shot a rabbit about 10 chains out. Bob dropped the gun, and the rabbit dropped dead, and the car stopped short, and all our mouths fell open with wonder. I pleaded with Laurie to paint the sacred scene and immortalise it. But he warmly accused the sheepish Bob of having aimed at another rabbit and let the gun off by accident, but magnanimously forgave him, as the rabbit was a big fat one, and would keep us going, fried with some onions, for lunch, provided he cleaned it and cooked it. Oh, that lunch! We steered south along the coast to Port Price, and running through prosperous farms and the busy port of Ardrossan, with its surprisingly large implement works and opulent homes, came through lovely coast scenery to a little short of Muloowurite, or Pine Point, and swerving away from a sea-fog coming up the coast, steered diagonally across the leg of the Peninsula for Minlaton. Some of the road was good, some of it rough limestone ridges, very bumpy: and we stayed on the road to cook the rabbit. Shades of Methuselah! Of all the tough old buck rabbits this was the toughest. The onions were good, anyway, and we hastened on, after interviewing the loneliest looking man on the Peninsula, who, in response to the query whether it wasn't a quiet sort of spot, us vehemently it was a very busy place, sometimes as many as six cars going along that very road in a day.
Yorke Peninsula has an individuality of its own. People may tell you as often as they please that there was a time when the whole of the people were bankrupt, and that "super made the Peninsula," and may spin yarns till further orders concerning the time when dad and mum and the girls went stump-picking in the paddocks, and now they drive a 69 horsepower Hissing-Spanisneeziola, a sort of reversion of the Gilbertian. "She told me her age was five-and-twenty, and of cash in the bank of course she had plenty, and now we live in a top back room!" All I can say is those days must have been a good long time ago. There seem to be more magpies, motor cars, tractors, ten-horse teams, palatial implement sheds, and young men with motor bikes to the square inch in Yorke Peninsula than anywhere else on the inhabited globe. Limestone, sheoak, mallee, and Methodist Churches seem to thrive in abundance. The people have hearts of gold, and from what I could see countenance of good of some of them good British oak.
We skimmed past Curramulka on our left, were passed by the motor mail with it's load of passengers and it's quaint little trailer carrying the mailbags, driving like Jehu, and capable by the looks of things of "doing fifty." And now we were on one of those peculiar and happy possessions of the Peninsula, a first-class limestone road, smooth as a billiard table stretching through a park-like avenue of plain fields and trees for miles. We warmed up the old tea kettle and set the engine sizzling, and Walter the driver, stood on the accelerator and our quaint Noah's Ark waltzed along into Minlaton like the latest thing on wheels, considerably startling the natives. 'Minlaton is a fine town. It is a sort of capital city of Yorke Peninsula, which has more contestants for the capital site than the Commonwealth of Australia. Bisecting the leg from the knee to the small of the foot you have, running south. Kadina, Maitland, Minlaton, and Yorketown all splendid centres. In one of the, large and commodious stores, Waller ad Bushranger was able to purchase for the ferocious-looking crew a firstclass newspaper, onions, trouser buttons, fish hookes, butter, bread, and other necessities of broken-down millionaires disguised as tramps. Still diagonalling across the Peninsula we steered from Brentwood through more wild and romantic country. There were hills and trees and sand and rabbits galore, and Bob now showed his true powers as a marksman by missing several of them by what I should describe as a record number of yards and points of the compass. I assured him he would do better if he shut his eyes, but he pointed out with superior disgust that lit thought the gun must have got the barrel bent when we put it under the case of petrol. It must have been a very bad bend.
In the late lovely afternoon light, with glorious clouds overhead, we pulled up at Minlacowie, on the instep of the Peninsula, a place for ever blest of dear memories. The port is a considerable one, 800 tons of super coming in for the season, the wheat-sheds being enormous and only yet half emptied. A fine little jetty, rolling sand dunes; and rock-circled bays and busy fishing boats afar, which immediately seduced Laurie into painting an impossibly beautiful evening sketch. I revelled in breasting the wide waters of the bay with powerful and tireless strokes for a 30 seconds swim in the cold waters. I like to be clean. Now, Laurie is a meticulous and fussy chap. He is always washing his hands or his paintbrushes, or else having a shave and cleaning his teeth. At odd intervals he appears with a clean shirt or a starch collar. He is not a fit subject for a camp. Bob cooked the tea. Our camp was a lovely, homely spot, a deserted shed. which we appropriated, containing a table and other unaccustomed luxuries. We should have been there yet, only the morning after the morning after, the Quorna steamed up to the deserted jetty and whistled and the harbour-master appeared in blinding rain, and several wharf workers appeared out of nowhere in a Ford car, and we were innominously bundled out in double-quick time to make room for 60 tons of super. What a wonderful time we had there! What rabbits Bob nearly shot and frightened! What lovely whiting we caught off the local fishermen with silver bait! What plunges from the jetty into the deep, icy waters! What glorious sketches! If one had to toss a penny, Heaven or Minlacowie, in such company, one wouldn't much care which way it fell.
—A Week's Camping Out.—
Imagine us next afternoon, having passed through the town of Warooka, and fallen grace to the extent of having lunch at the local hotel, savoury stewed steak and mushrooms, rolling smoothly along through enchanting vistas of tea-tree, on the long, 20-mile stretch to Corny Point. We were adjured in Warooka not to look forward to wild blackfellows, and trees full of gibbering monkeys, and jungles of wild tigers, it was not so far from civilisation as you might imagine! What a camp we had there! We stayed a week, and wished it were a month. We were surrounded with kindness on every side. It would take a book to describe it. Our headquarters was a one-time schoolhouse and chapel, now a wheat barn and camping cottage. It is true we had to put a tarpaulin over the thatch, mop up water from the floor with bags, and shoot at mice and rats with a rifle. What roaring mallee root fires we had! What lordly times rolling over the country in the car! What hospitality of the residents! What a sensation we cut at the local Saturday evening dance! And the sing-songs we gave! Bob was subject to a grave metamorphosis at this time. He acquired local fame as the sad balladist of the company. His predeliction for mournful and lugubrious ditties, sung in a soft and pitiful tenor, was something to wonder over. He chose themes like this:—
"O lather, dear lather, come home to us now,
We want your trousers to pawn?
You promised that you could come home to us all.
When all of your wages was gone!"
Or with his head on one side, like a dog accompanying a harmonium, he would narrate:—
"The boy stood on the railway track. The engine gave a squeal. The guard took out his pocket knife And scraped him off the wheel!"
Chorus: "It ain't gonna rain no more," &c.
But the tears stood in the bright eyes of the large congregation of local hearers when he sang "He is a Single man." accompanied by the inimitable Walter, his masterpiece, "Larboard Watch," technically known in camp as "Cardboard Watch." There was prospect of us all going home mournfully to bed and a sleepless night, when Bob began to regale the company with several immense jokes, all delivered with the same harrowed countenance, which sent us all into gales of laughter, with the startling result that whenever after any of the local inhabitants caught sight of him, they went almost helpless with hilarity at his mere gesture or saying. Bob is a character all right.
We set out homeward in the early morning, and steering back to Warooka replenished petrol and oil, and made eastward for Yorketown through some of the salt lake country. I will here describe the salt industry with apologies for the obscure technical terms involved in this complex industry. It seems that what you do is to have a nice tidy size lake tucked away in a corner of your estate. You then, in order to grow your crop, sit down and wait for the right season to come around, and when the water is quite dry you gather it in the peculiar manner of going out and scraping it up. After this you put it in a wagon and ship it away and collect your cheque. It is the lazy farmer's idea of paradise. Yorketown is a city of thriving and throbbing activity. By the look of it the residents have far more money than they know rightly what to do with, and we cut quite a pitiful figure, our equipment stained with mud and weather, and our weather-beaten appearance such that our own maternal relatives would cut us dead in the main street. We purchased souvenirs at the go-ahead offices The Yorketown Pioneer, and forwarded some execrable verses dealing with our trip to the poor harassed editor. We then thought it advisable to move on, and heading for the east coast ran through Stansbury in the early afternoon.
Here we come to one of the finest scenic drives in the treasure house of well-stored memory. Mile after mile of coastal scenery, on our left the great fields under the busy plough and drill, on our right sea, even and anon flashing up like a great burnished jewel. All alone the coast alternate the high cliffs and the quiet somnolent valleys, and here and there, notably at Port Vincent and Black Point, the sandbars run out at right angles a couple of miles into the sea, making splendid harbourage, and these points are favourite runs for the yachting enthusiasts from Port Adelaide, who run across the gulf for a spin. Bob further disgraced his well-known record with the gun by standing up in the car, held at the coat tails by the united company, and shooting a goodly hare about 80 yards off. The look in the eye of the hare of surprise and pathetic rebuke at Bob, the gay deceiver, was only equalled by that in his own eyes as he gathered up the carcase and gave expert directions as to how it should rightly he jugged.
All through the long afternoon we rolled on, through Ardrossan again, and northward for our first camp at Port Clinton, the gun banging furiously right and left galloping rabbits, with few casualties however.
That night we camped with practised efficiency, as to the manner born, in the warm, snug mallee nest we knew, and with the stars had breakfast in the cool dawn under the stars by the blazing camp fire, while Bob vainly peered in the north-west for the dawn, and announced finally that there wasn't going to be any sun that day. Back to Port Wakefield en route, driving down lovely dawnlit aisles of eucalipt fringed roads, and on the dunes and swamps, pausing a while to gather buckets of mushrooms for families at home. South, ever south, to the unfamiliar traffic of busy suburban streets and city life. Home again, healthier, happier, harder, browner, and more glad to sleep between sheets after a hot bath than ever before in one's life. A great fortnight, rejuvenescent, and littered with thronging memories of sights and scenes and experiences which memory will cherish for ever. The sun and the wind and the fields and the stars, our ultimate dearest friends! Go thou my gentle reader and do likewise. Re a tramp de luxe, and emulate your friend Munchausen.