One man’s view about the
things that really matter….
Stories that may be strange, yet true, from the
Chaplain’s Travel Log …..
When people think you are crazy – do you care?
Let me tell you this true story and then draw a message from it….
It all began when I first saw the late Malcolm Douglas’ first film – one that he made with his friend David Oldmeadow. It was called “Across the Top” and was the story of 2 young Aussie blokes who took a 1954 Short wheel base Land Rover from Melbourne to Darwin and then ‘across the top’ to the tip of Cape York. (See Malcolm’s picture – right)
Now today, that’s not such a hard thing, but when the film was made (around 1963 I think) it was a real groundbreaker. So many people told them that it couldn’t be done (which of course made them all the more determined to do it), so they had a goal and something to be proved. So when I first saw the movie in about 1967 my appetite was whetted also. I was likewise determined to go and see this fantastic bit of Oz for myself.
Well, the chance finally came in August 1975. I wasn’t able to do the complete trip that Malcolm and David had done owing to time constraints – ministers only got 4 weeks holiday at a time, although I was able to save up and extra week from the previous year’s holiday – which meant that the old Land Rover Station Wagon was packed to the ‘Gunwales’ with self, wife, 3 children and food and gear for 5 weeks. So we were off! I was determined to enjoy this break and wasn’t going to let anything or anyone stop me!
And we did have a fantastic time as I have written about in previous ‘CROSSTRAX’ articles. But this time I want to tell about just incident on that trip to illustrate the point of this article.
…..We had been on the track (sorry, TRAX) for about 3 weeks and had seen a fair bit of the Cape York area when we went out to a small, almost deserted settlement called Albany on the East Coast of the Cape. We were interested in those who had been the early white explorers and settlers in the Cape York area especially the Jardine brothers and Edmund Kennedy. Kennedy while still a young man had led an ill-fated expedition (that was entirely unsuited to the terrain) with horses and wagons into the jungle country of Cape York. Nothing went right for him – food ran low, wagons bogged, men in his party became ill and had to be left behind. Finally, it was only Kennedy and a faithful Aboriginal guide and friend Jacky Jacky who were left. Then on the fateful day, within sight of his goal on the Escape River, Kennedy was speared by some of the local tribesmen and died. Much was written at the time and 100 years later in 1948 plaques and cairns were erected and every school child got to hear about the event. Well we wanted to see the area for ourselves and we did.
However, at the same time that we were there, there were 3 other groups wanting to do the same thing. One, was a private ‘investigative’ journalist with a BBC trained Cameraman, another was Captain (as he was then) Les Hiddens from the Australian Army doing a very overpublicised trip to find one of Kennedy’s depots (he didn’t make it to the depot but we actually got almost to it – and boy, didn’t that get up their noses with a rusty fork!), and finally there was a TV crew from the ABC’s ‘A Big Country’ program doing some filming re Kennedy and hoping to also film the Hiddens’ expedition.
It was the TV crew that inspired this article! So, all introductions now over, let me tell you the story of the Prim and Sophisticated TV Producer, and the Tarzan ‘look-alike’ Clergyman…..
It really all began when our party of 5 Land Rovers and 15 people (adults and children) arrived at the settlement (actually just 1 house) of Albany just down the coast a little on the eastern side of cape York. Lovely place, idyllic
actually. We made ourselves known to the old indigenous gentleman who lived there and whose job it was to inspect the permits of any whitefellas who happened to turn up. (Not a bad job really since only about 20 vehicles were expected to make it to ‘the top’ in any one year in those days and our party made up 5 of them, it wasn’t what you would call a strenuous occupation! (Ah well, nice work if you can get it – and someone’s got to do it I suppose). Well , having made ourselves known and paid our respects to the ‘Sergeant’ (and I do mean respect – because by being courteous and respectful – as we always ought to be – this same gentleman told me where to find
some very old indigenous rock paintings that few other visitors, including the TV crew were ever allowed to see.
Well, as I said, the formalities over we went down to the beach to watch this motorised Ketch trying to get away from the shore with a what appeared to be a fairly large crew for a vessel of that size. But it wasn’t going very far or very fast! Try as the skipper might he couldn’t get his boat to make headway against the very fast Cape York currents that make navigation in that part of the world a tricky business.
He tried repeatedly for over half an hour, but all to no avail. Meanwhile, our group were exploring the area, and taking photos of some remarkable things…. Then, we noticed that the Ketch had returned to the landing stage and most of his passengers (the ABC crew) had disembarked. The current was too strong and they couldn’t go to Thursday Island where they were headed for because of the tides and currents. H’mmm, what to do? So, it transpired that a very serious and business-minded producer came up to me and wanted to make a deal. They wanted to get back to Bamaga (the main (actually the only) town near the Cape) so that they could charter a flight back to Thursday Island and therefore they wanted to charter our Land Rovers to take them to
Bamaga – and they needed to go at once!
Well, our reply was, “We’ve waited and saved for about 3 years to get here and since this will be the only day that we might ever get to be here at this lovely spot” then we were loath to drop everything just to race straight back to Bamaga just for their convenience. “Name your price then” was the Producer’s reply.
“It’s got nothing to do with money and everything to do with our once in a lifetime holiday with our children” was my reply to that. “But tell you what” we said after conferring with our group, “If you want to wait for a couple of hours till we’ve seen the sights here then we will gladly take you back to Bamaga for no cost at all.”
Here was something that money couldn’t buy – precious family fun time. Grumpily, our offer was accepted. (Couldn’t do much else really.) So, about 4:00pm we set off on the return trip to Bamaga and our base camp. We had dispersed the ABC crew amongst our 5 vehicles and just fitted them all in – the Producer lady being in our vehicle. Her name? Well I don’t remember it now but Ms Grumpy would have fitted!
The road to Bamaga (in those days) was full of twists and turns as it wound around the butts of huge jungle trees: and growing from some of those trees were vines, quite long and thick ones too. So, it didn’t take long for an idea to develop – if Tarzan could swing on vines why couldn’t I, or at least Stephen my little 6 year old son? So, the next big vine we saw hanging down towards the track we stopped underneath it, climbed the roof rack ladder up to the top of the Landy, grabbed hold, took a bit of a run along the vehicle roof – and swung – right across the track and back again! “Can I have a go too, please Dad?” called Stephen. “Sure, why not, climb up the ladder and then onto my back and away we’ll go!” And away we did go! Most exhilarating and a lot of fun. Jane was down below taking photos of her husband swinging across the track with her
precious little first born clinging on like a Koala!. A lot of fun. But for Ms. Grumpy, well, she sat poker faced muttering – probably about these infantile 4WDrivers and their antics. But so what? It was our holiday and it was really great fun to see your little son having such a fabulous time.
“What fools and childish antics” probably thought Ms. ‘Big-Time-TV-Producer’. But so what? I didn’t mind being thought a fool. I was cementing a relationship and so I didn’t care what others thought. My relationship with my little boy was worth more than what some stranger (who I was really doing a favour for) thought.
Which brings me (at last! – I hear you say) to the point of this article. There are many people who are afraid of what ‘others may think of them’ if they were to become a Christian. Afraid that some mere human might laugh at them and call them foolish for repenting of their godless or sinful life in order to follow the Lord Jesus.
But so what? I ask again. It was Jesus who said “If any man is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory…” Mark 8:38
Besides, the cementing of a relationship – this time with Jesus, is the most important thing that anyone can do in this life – or the next. Yes, of course, others will think that you are foolish, but I am reminded here of a very wise saying – uttered by a young man who later allowed himself to be martyred for his faith and desire to bring the Gospel to a very savage tribe of Ecuadorian Indians….. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
So forget what others may say or think. They will have to give an account of their words one day. Concentrate on knowing that you are following Jesus. That’s the only thing that’s really important.
Well that’s it for this issue,
See you on the TRAX –
Neil Flower TRAX Chaplain.
PS. Quite some years after this incident occurred I happened to be talking with a fellow 4WD’er about our adventures that day and he admitted that he had been one of the camera crew for the ABC Big Country team. He lives not far from me now and is a member of the Range Rover Club of NSW. So, most of this story can be verified!