The Same Place, Chapter 6: On Private Land [Fixed]

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Published on 15.02.10 09:30 Age: 11 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 11810 Words : 2175

By: Cedar

Kylie found the second day of hiking to be quite a bit more difficult than the first. Although she did not want to admit it, she was actually a bit sore. Yet once she got on the trail, the soreness seemed to go away, a bit. She had to wonder if Mungo was sore as well. He was, after all, quite a bit older than her, and even though Kylie wasn't in the best shape, she would be surprised if he wasn't sore.

 If he was, he didn't act like it. His pace was as quick as it had been yesterday. She tried to keep with his pace, but felt it easy to fall behind. By now she was breathing quite heavily, and her shirt was soaked with sweat. Yet Mungo kept his pace. How was it possible for him to be in this good of shape? He wasn't sweating. He wasn't even breathing hard. 

 Finally it got to be too much for Kylie. "Hey Mungo!" she called. He was about 50m ahead of her on the trail.


 "Can we...can we slow down a bit?" she asked. "I...I need to get some shots for my report." She didn't want to admit that she was so tired. There was at least some truth in what she said. She hadn't gotten her camera out all morning. 

 "No worries," said Mungo. He looked a bit sheepish, as though he had temporarily forgotten his hiking companion. "Let's stop here for a while," he suggested.

 Kylie was more than happy to agree. She sat down on a rock, and began to take her camera out of her pack.

 "Are yer feet hot?" asked Mungo.


 "Put on another pair of socks," said Mungo. 

 "But that will make them even hotter," protested Kylie.

 "You've got a 'hot spot.' If you don't do somethin' about it, it will become a blister. Havin' two socks reduces friction. Prevents blisters."

 This was sage advice from someone who never wore socks. Despite her misgivings about the idea, Kylie did as suggested and put on a second pair of socks. She took out the camera, powered it on, and framed Mungo in the shot. "So where are we going?" she asked.

 She had decided to try things a little different. Trying to narrate the trip wasn't working out very well. So instead, she would try to take a more conversational tone. Hopefully, Mungo would be a bit more talkative. Then in editing, she could go back and edit out the parts of her talking, and dub over them with better narration.

 "We're goin' to Kurrajong Cattle Station," said Mungo.

 "A ranch?" asked Kylie incredulously. "We're going to a ranch?"

 "Yep," said Mungo.

 "But I thought we were going into the outback," said Kylie.

 "We are. We are."

 "But then why are we starting out in a National Park, and then going onto private land. Why didn't we just start in the outback?" asked Kylie. It was a legitimate question, and one that would have saved them two days of hiking (plus that whole encounter with the Kirbys).

 "There are still some places roads won't take ya," replied Mungo. 

 This was the kind of shot Kylie was hoping for. It had been a simple question, which had been given a poetic answer. He could have just as easily said 'you can't drive there,' or 'there aren't any roads.' Yet his answer was rich with natural symbolism. This was the side of Mungo that Kylie was trying to capture. It was that enigmatic spirituality that surrounded Mungo, which would make him a star. That would make her a star. 

 "But why are we going to a cattle station?" asked Kylie. That seemed a bit out of place for a walkabout.

 "The owner is a friend of mine. I ain't seen him in years."

 "Was his ranch here the first time you came through?" asked Kylie.

 "Yeah. It was..." he paused. His voice was full of reflection. "...We oughta get goin'. I want to get there before sunset."

 Kylie looked down at her watch. It was noon. Did they really have to get started now? Would they really be hiking until sunset? Groaning she got back to her feet. She decided to keep her camera at hand for the time being. 

 In hindsight, she wished she hadn't taken the break. Sure, it was great to get a few shots for her documentary. But it felt painful to get back to walking. Her stomach was rumbling. She wished she hadn't said 'no' to breakfast that morning. 

 As if on cue, Mungo added, "We'll stop for lunch soon," as he hiked on and motioned for her to follow him.

 She hated putting on the pack. Even though it had been adjusted for her, it was still heavy. Her shoulders were already sore from carrying it. She knew that most of the weight came from the camera supplies. If she could only get rid of those things, the pack would hardly weigh anything at all. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option. Maybe if she was lucky, she could get one of Mungo's fabulous massages.

 They hiked on. True to his word, they did stop for lunch. Just as yesterday, wild berries were the lunch for the day. While they had been appetizing yesterday, they were no where as filling today. The berries were sweet, but Kylie hoped for something a bit more...substantial. If offered fish again that evening, she would not say no this time.

 "This way," said Mungo, snapping Kylie out of her train of thought. He gestured away from the track.

 "But Mungo, the trail goes this way," Kylie protested. "There's no track in that direction."

 "Exactly," he said grinning. "C'mon!" He was clearly excited to get to their next destination. Kylie followed him.

 After hiking for what seemed like hours, they came to an area where the brush was not as thick. Kylie looked out at the surrounding landscape. The hills off in the distance were dotted with...cows?

 She squinted to try and focus on objects in the distance. Those WERE cows. Kylie's heart soared. Sure the cows were a ways off, but if there were cows, the station had to be close by. The sight of cattle, set her mind to steak. The thought of a nice slab of steak with a baked potato set her stomach rumbling. Sunset was not far off, and hopefully the same was true of dinner.

 They continued trekking, but were soon met by a man on horseback. He wore a wide brimmed hat that cast most of his face in shadow. The man had a gray mustache to match gray hair that stuck out from below the bottom of the hat. Kylie seemed to think that save for those tufts of hair, he was probably bald underneath his hat. His skin was taught and leathery. He looked quite old. Too old, Kylie thought to be out riding a horse, especially in this heat. 

 Yet the man leapt down off his horse with the grace of a man decades younger. He strode with a wide gait and a very upright, tall, posture, which seemed to defy his age. The man was quite tall; as tall as willow if not taller. He seemed to walk right by Kylie and up to Mungo. "Wirinun. It's good to see you again." He had striking blue eyes. They seemed a bit out of place on him. Kylie would have expected brown eyes.

 Mungo shook his hand briskly. "It's fantastic to see you too, Lars."

 Kylie watched the two men greet each other as friends. What had Lars called Mungo? Wir...Wirinun? What did that mean? Was that Mungo's last name? She always just called him Mungo.

 "So what brings you out this way?" asked Lars. He seemed so focused on Mungo that Kylie wondered if he could even see her. There was a chance that his vision had begun to fail him with age. So maybe, he really didn't see her.

 For that matter, he seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Mungo was naked. Everyone they had met so far, had looked at Mungo with darting and shifting eyes. Yet Lars stared Mungo directly in the eye (which was difficult given the height difference). If he had noticed Mungo's nudity, he did not find it out of the ordinary. 

 "Walkabout," replied Mungo.

 "On a walkabout? Here?" asked Lars incredulously. "Forgive me Wirinun, but I thought you never came the same way twice."

 "It's the same place," said Mungo. "But it ain't the same way."

 Kylie wished she had gotten that on camera. The emphasis on his voice was one of world-weariness. It was a tone of reflection on decades of change. It would have been a great shot for her documentary. Yet this was a solemn moment between friends. It didn't seem right to take advantage of the situation.

 "This is Kylie," said Mungo properly introducing her. "Kylie Burns."

 Lars stepped forward to shake her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Burns," he said amicably. He stared her directly in the eye, which allowed Kylie to appreciate how truly striking his blue eyes were.

So she was not invisible after all. She wondered if Lars would recognize her from the news. For that matter, she wondered if Channel 5 even got reception out here. If he did recognize her, he did not say anything. Kylie was actually thankful for that. After the reception she got by the Kirbys, it was nice to not be the center of attention.

 "How's Malena?" asked Mungo. 

 Malena? Who's Malena?

 "She...she's dead Wirinun," said Lars somberly. Kylie could see a tear running down Lars' cheek.

 "Dead?" replied Mungo shocked by the news. "When?" This was the first time Kylie had ever seen Mungo surprised. It was very disconcerting. He was usually so happy and cheerful, and yet at that moment he seemed so vulnerable.

 "It's been three years. I'm sorry, Wirinun. I thought you knew." 

Mungo said nothing in return. Kylie could see a tear running down his cheek as well. She had never seen Mungo cry before. It would have made a very "artsy" shot for her documentary, but she didn't dare film it. Some things were personal, and that was that.

"I'm sure you'll want to pay your respects," said Lars.

"Yeah... yeah, I do," replied Mungo.

"Well, follow me then," said Lars. Kylie wondered if she was supposed to just wait here in the clearing. Lars added. "You too, Miss Burns. You can have a shower, and some dinner at the farm house. We've also got a couple warm beds for you and Wirinun."

"I'll be sleepin' outside," said Mungo.

 Lars looked sheepish. "Yes, forgive me, Wirinun. I did not realize."

 "I...I think I'll also sleep outside," said Kylie. That seemed only fair. She did not want to impose on Lars, especially not on their first meeting. Besides, if Mungo was going to sleep outside, as an observer it was only fair to assume she do the same.

 "Nah, you oughta sleep in a bed tonight," said Mungo. 

 "Are...are you sure?" asked Kylie. A comfortable bed seemed nice. She didn't want to seem too eager to sleep in a bed rather than outside. But she would not put up much in the way of protest. 

 "The journey gets harder up ahead," said Mungo. "Much harder." He said it with such certainty that Kylie gulped nervously. 


 "Please follow me," said Lars as he climbed back up onto his horse. He turned the horse and slowly headed back towards a small white farmhouse in the distance. Mungo and Kylie followed walking on the left side of the horse. 

 They walked in silence until they got to the farmhouse. 



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