When rare water in the Todd turns it into a paradise



Good rains recharged Lhere Mparntwe (Todd River) drawing crowds to its banks for the infrequent spectacle.

When its rushing subsided waterholes became an unparalleled recreational attraction. In full rage it is perilous as friends, Johnathan Rodd and Rowley Hill, would discover, drowning near Wigleys Gorge.

In the 1980s and early 90s Atherreyurre (the Telegraph Station, euro dreaming) waterhole was full. Easily accessed from town, it was popular with families. Toilets and BBQ facilities dotted well kept lawns beneath generous shade. Like the C19 settlers operating the repeater station, I assumed the waterhole was permanent.

When it dried up Lyalthe (Wigleys, blowfly dreaming), five kilometres upstream in the headwaters, became our family’s favourite swimming hole.

The bitumen scabs of Stuart Highway built to quicken the journey of military convoys to Darwin in the 1940s was the shortest route despite the rocky crossing at Charles Creek. Well before the end of WW2 it had succumbed to the pounding of heavy army vehicles.

In the early 2000s the army opened its property north of the Geoff Moss bridge and the track passing its abandoned munition dump gave smoother access. Signage to Wigleys on the upgraded highway and a tempting 30 metre strip of bitumen invite revellers.

Foregrounded are Malcolm Hayes and my son, Raffi. Waist-deep Joseph Johnson is arguing with someone while fully clothed Ricky Ryder leaps from the bank. And Adrian Hayes senior is about to hurl Noelly Johnson’s hat into the drink.

PAINTING: Malcolm Hayes and Raffi at Wigleys Waterhole, 1994


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