Bush Trip 30th November 2023 with Sam and Sarah

Bush Trip 30th November 2023 with Sam and Sarah

Posted by Tim Jennings on 2024 Mar 01st

On the 30th November 2023 my son Sam and his partner Sarah, who were visiting from Germany, travelled with me on a bush trip to Utopia. Sam holds a doctorate in geophysics and is on a 3 year contract in Germany and Sarah is an emergency department doctor who works in a Berlin hospital. They were able to get away from their respective jobs for a 3 week period pre-Christmas and decided to take Sarah on her first trip to Australia, with a bush trip to Utopia high on the priority list. Sarah has spent most of her life in Germany and Europe so this bush trip was to be a real eye opener for her.

On my previous trip to Utopia I had spoken to lots of artists and they were enthusiastic for me to bring Sam and Sarah out for a visit in their homelands. In particular Katie Kemarre who remembered Sam from when I took him out as a 9 year old, way back in 1999. Katie had wanted to keep him at the time!

Photo taken back in 1999. From left: Mary Morton (dec), Audrey Morton, Lucky Morton, Sam and Katie Kemarre.

We got away at 8am with a fully loaded vehicle of new canvases, paints and brushes. I was somewhat concerned with the weather as there had been lots of rain recently and I know how wet and slippery the Sandover Highway can get after solid rain showers. As it turned out, the Sandover was relatively dry and temperatures ranged from 26°C to 32°C, so actually quite a pleasant day for mid-summer in Central Australia.

Our first planned stop was to be Camel Camp Outstation, some 230kms northeast of Alice Springs. I don’t believe Sarah asked one question enroute as the countryside was so completely new and mesmerising for her. There was plenty of commentary from me though about Mulga Trees, Bush Plums, Conkerberries, termites and plenty of other things. Credit to Sarah for finding and identifying them later in the trip!

About 50kms short of Camel Camp a very large perentie (a type of Monitor lizard) ran out onto the road about 15 metres in front of us. It was completely unexpected and unfortunately, I had run over it before I knew it. We stopped the car, did a U turn and went back to check him but he was dead. It was very sad as he was a magnificent specimen. I can honestly say that having driven the Northern Territory roads for nearly 50 years I have never ran over a perentie before. Goanna’s yes but a perentie, no!

I was faced with a choice, I could leave him there on the side of the road for the crows, wedgetail eagles and dingoes, or I could throw him in the back for our artists. So in the back of the Toyota he went because I know how much the artists love them as food! I gave Sarah the dubious honour of keeping her eye on it:

Sam on the Sandover Highway with the dead perentie and Sarah on “watching duties”!

For the next 50kms the perentie dominated our chatter (although not much from Sarah in the back for some reason?!). I don’t think Sarah was quite in sync with why a very large, dead reptile was on board and less than 1m from her!! My heart went out to her (sort of) but I felt with certainty that as the day unfolds so too will her understanding of why.

We finally got to Camel Camp and only Motorbike Paddy was there. He had a kangaroo tail and some other tucker so I didn’t leave the perentie with him. I gave him a couple of pairs of reading glasses and a new pair of slip on shoes, which he put on straight away and were a perfect fit!

I actually had in mind Katie Kemarre to give the perentie too however she lives in Rocket Range Outstation which is one of the last Outstations that I visit. So I rethought that and decided I would give it to the Hunter sisters at Atnwengerrp Outstation as that was our next scheduled stop. But as the fates would have it, we were waved down just west of the Arlparra Store – it sounds hard to believe but it was Katie Kemarre and her daughter Hazel Morton. They were ‘over the moon’ when I showed them the perentie and offered it to them! After introductions Katie remembered Sam from all those years ago, Sarah was enticed out of the car and we were able to take some lovely photos and had plenty of laughs! To add to the excitement both Katie and Hazel had some nice paintings completed. Only in the NT!

Sarah, Sam, Katie, Hazel and a little fella. After 24 years Sam and Katie were able to reconnect and say hello.

A very reluctant Sarah standing with a very happy Hazel holding the perentie.

A great photo of Katie and a lovely painting with the perentie in the background.

Then it was off to Noongi (Antwengerrp Outstation) where I introduced Sam and Sarah to all of the artists that live there. They were happy for photographs and general chatter while I looked after the business side of things. We were there for close on 2 hours before heading off to Rocket Range.

Myself taking a photo of Jessie Hunter with her great painting and Sarah helping Susan Hunter collect more paints with Annie Hunter and myself in the background.

Enroute to Rocket Range we called into the Heath Centre as Sarah was interested to learn more about it. I can assure you that it is very different to a large Hospital in the city of Berlin! Melissa Hinsen was the Centre Coordinator and very kindly gave us an excellent 30 minute briefing. Sarah, Sam and myself found it all very interesting and informative. Thanks Melissa.

Sarah and myself at the medical centre

We arrived at Rocket Range shortly after and Lily and Michelle Lion had a few completed paintings. Barbara Skinner, who I had chatted with at the Medical Centre, was also there and I gave her out some canvas and paints too. She painted for us a number of years ago and was keen to get involved again. There were also quite a few non-artists there and the big talk topic was the perentie!! Word had spread and they were all happy. ?

Next, we were off to Kurrajong Outstation to see Violet Payne. She said that she had a new job as an Aboriginal ranger and had been too busy to do any paintings. She was very enthusiastic to chat about the new job which was great to hear!

Five minutes after leaving Kurrajong, we were waved down on the side of the road by Ruby Morton and some others. Ruby had some lovely 30 x 30cm canvases completed and wanted some more.

From there we were intending to head back to Alice Springs but were again waved down on the side of the road – this time outside the Arlparra Store by Elizabeth Mbitjana and Angelina Ngale. They didn’t have any paintings and just wanted to chat! I introduced Sam and Sarah and asked them if I could take a picture of them at the car window with Sam. They were very happy with that!!

Elizabeth and Angelina giving Sam some worldly advice!

It was about 6pm by this stage and so it was time to return to Alice. I wanted to do a few ‘touristy’ things for Sarah on the way home though so we stopped and climbed ‘viewing hill’, where we get a great view of the Utopia landscape, and climber some large rocks on the opposite side of the road. Further down we stopped and did some closeup viewing of some Territory termite hills!

On top of viewing hill. Thunderstorms all around.

Sam and Sarah at 'Utopia' and the last picture for the day. Heading home!!

There was lightning and thunderstorms all about as we made our way home and plenty of rain had fallen over parts of the Sandover Highway. We were reduced down to speeds of 60kmph at times so it was a long drive home. We arrived back about 9pm, tired but with a feeling of having had a very rewarding day.

Take care.