And here’s the third and final, based in Kakadu after my recent incredible off-track bush adventure:
Their palms scraped skin across branches and boulders as they launched into the dark ravine. Down, down, down they slithered, heaving their bags ahead of them, legs protesting at the speed and brutality of the descent. A spiky pandanus drew blood across Kelly’s cheek, and Sam’s ankle twisted hard in the scrabbling, but at last they burst through the scrub to touch the smooth rock edges of the river again.
Kelly’s whole body trembled as she stripped naked and jumped into the creek, gulping mouthfuls of water as she cooled down and almost cried with relief.
‘This is better than any Christmas ever, even as a kid,’ she yelled.
Sam paused, then went on ahead to check the way forward, barely stopping to refill her bottle and guzzle.
She returned with heavy steps.
‘I don’t wanna say this, but there’s another overhang coming up, so we can’t continue. We can either go back up and across, or…’
‘No. Not a chance. I’d rather camp here on these hot rocks for a week than go back up to that stony hell!’
‘I thought you’d say that. But you’re not going to like our only other option: to inflate a sleeping mat, unpack both bags, then float everything to the other side and start again over there. Can you handle it?’
The words hung in the air like smoke from the grass fires they’d driven through earlier. They both sighed, as if seeking strength from their bone marrow. Sam watched the other woman, who pulled herself from the stream, water sliding down her battered legs, standing like a witchetty grub against the grey granite. It felt as though the earth was waiting for Kelly’s answer as well. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects, tail streamers reflected in the pristine waters.
‘Let’s do it,’ she said. ‘You swim, I’ll load and unload.’
The eucalypts, rocks, and native shrubs stood sentinel while the women toiled back and forth. They felt the sting go out of the sun as their bodies cooled and shivered. They repacked, gobbled sticky dried bananas, then dragged themselves round the next river bend.
And there they saw it: silver gum trees fringing a white sand beach, gently sloping to a clear blue pool, sheltered by cream sandstone walls, with a natural campsite marked out by flat sitting rocks. Scratched rock paintings showed fat kangaroos and fish. Palm prints outlined in splattered ochre dotted the caves, as if protecting the site. In exhausted silence, they stood before the art, and held hands for a moment. Then they sparked a fire and made billy tea. They took turns adding wood, slumped side by side, staring into the flames, or over at the sharp cliffs they’d just battled.
It had been a close call. They both knew it.
Kelly looked up at the sacred paintings, imagining the ceremonies that had taken place for millennia right where they sat. The land waited again for her to speak. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects.
She slipped to one knee on the dirt, and reached for Sam’s hand.
‘Will you marry me?’ she whispered, ‘Now that we’re allowed at last. Can you handle it?’
Grass trees leaned in. And Country waited once more.
THE END (C) GG 2019
So what did you think? Kinda cute hey? Obviously the end isn’t real, but everything else is pretty much exact!
I’d love to get your comments, and thank you so much if you clicked on all 3 parts.
In gratitude for Readers, G x0