Hiking Toward Heaven….. in Australia
Dedicated to my mother Alison who turned 92 recently, and accompanied us on this family adventure.
I was in Australia in August 2014. Ventured out on two hikes in the first two days I was there. In the Flinders Ranges of South Australia we encountered much natural beauty, but also a mysterious death.
We stayed at Gum Creek near Blinman, where from our beds we could watch the sun rise, eat breakfast on the deck overlooking the creek, and photograph the sunset colors on the nearby hills. We saw emus and kangaroos down toward the creek. To cap it off, we could slide the ceiling back and stare at the stars while lying in bed. All this was heaven enough, but there was more.
The normally dry Flinders were as green as I had ever seen them, and the kangaroos were plentiful….we must have seen 200 or more during the trip.
Mount Patawarta rises up like an Egyptian pyramid, and is quite a challenge to climb. We crawled up through a dramatic notch just before the top, where we rested for lunch.
On the second hike, in wild country, we came across a dead emu, and a nest containing seven eggs. Never seen such a thing before. The emu bones had been picked clean. Why would an emu, healthy enough to lay a batch of eggs, suddenly perish? No mountain lions in Aussie. We had no answer.
Later in the day, while returning to the car, we heard a dog barking. Except the barking ended with yips…..barks then yips….. over and over for ten minutes. It was a haunting sound originating not far from us, in isolated country with no human habitation anywhere near. It gave me the heebie-jeebies. We looked at each other. What would a dog be doing out here?
Could it be a dingo? Now there is a dingo fence stretching across the inland to keep the sheep-killing dingos out of South Australia. Been there for decades. Since this hike we have heard the fence has broken down in places. Further, the dingo may not be a true dingo, as there are now many dingo-dog half-breeds. It didn’t take long for us to realize the dingo probably killed the emu. It wouldn’t be hard for a dingo to pounce on the long thin neck of an emu sitting and warming her eggs. How sad! Nature can be beautiful and brutal.
Note: a dingo came into a tent near Alice Springs in 1980 and stole a baby. The mother was later charged and jailed for killing her baby, but eventually freed when the baby’s torn clothes were found. A film called Cry in the Dark with Meryl Streep was made of this story.
Three days at Gum Creek were like three days in heaven……a definite high for all of our family. But eventually we had to return to the daily challenges of life. God’s face was clear in the natural majesty of the Flinders Ranges, but sometimes it is not so clear when we come down from the mountains. But an alive faith helps to close the gap, as we recognize that God can help in the hardships and turmoil and difficult decisions.
When down in the valleys of life, it is good to keep an eye out to help someone to hope. In the glorious painting by Raphael (see last image), the apostles tried to heal the boy without success. But at least they tried, which can bring hope. Or maybe it can bring Jesus to provide full restoration.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
When they had come down from the mountain, a man from the crowd shouted ‘Master I implore you to look at my son, for he is my only child, and a spirit seizes him and convulses him so that he foams at the mouth. I implored your disciples to drive it out, but they could not’. Jesus answered ‘Oh unbelieving generation! Bring your son here to me’. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the child, and restored him to his father. (Luke chapter 9).
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