28th January 1933 cont. - passing Blanche's Towers and finding a rock pool and women with duplicate nipples
We got an early start on the last day's travel to Mount Liebig, The jaw abscess chap walked along with us, emerging quietly from behind a rock as we started off. His name was quite beyond my tongue or phonetics and although he made no demands I thought that he might have expected food. We passed along a sandy creek up a valley between stone mountains and passed a characteristic rocky pinnacle called Blanche's Towers and then crossed stoney ridge after stoney ridge up the rapidly decreasing valley now about three miles wide. We gradually gained height on the scree of the northern spur, as the going to the south became too rough for the camels and was wooded.
I took a snap of Murch and the valley here. It was very hot again and Hezekiel stopped and pointed out a crack in the face of the southern spur, about a mile across the narrowing valley. He said that that was where there was the best water anywhere. We left the camels with him and scrambled across with the water bags to find a most unexpected feature. The narrow crack widened out after a few yards into a rounded chamber about ten feet in diameter. In the middle was a rock pool with a few stalegtites and stalegmites of a dull colour both in and around the pool. The air was quite cool and so was the perfectly clear fresh water. A steady drip was coming down from hundreds of feet above, where the roof narrowed onto a crack. There were no signs of native drawings, or any presence in this remarkable place. We enjoyed a sort of shower but soon started to shiver in the cold. The contrast of the heat outside was shocking and our wet clothes dried almost instantly.
I walked half a mile to the west, and Larnach about the same to the east, looking for native drawings on the cliffs but without success. When we got back to the camels I asked Hezekiel about this and he put on his evasive mood. So I persisted and he showed the typical signs of the clash between missionary doctrines and his native instincts, but he disclosed that there was a legend of a Keditcha man in the dream time long ago, centered on the rock pool. Black men only went there if they were very thirsty and had company. They always left quickly.
Hezekiel was very uncomfortable when two superstitions clashed. I went to much trouble to explain that I was not a god-man and certainly would not tell the mission people about any back sliding. He seemed relieved and happy to explain about Keditcha men and the long distances they could cover to bring trouble to an enemy, without leaving any tracks because they wore Keditcha boots made of emu feathers that left no trace. This probably explained why he and Titus were so evasive about the corroboree and went to such obvious trouble to avoid getting involved. I suspected that there was a considerable confusion in the aboriginal mind between the Holy Ghost and the Keditcha man. I tried with uncertain success to convince him that I felt the same confusion about the Holy Ghost but was prepared to treat the Keditcha man with proper respect.
Mt. Liebig loomed up closer and closer until crossing a pass over one range we came in full view of its south side and made camp at a big waterhole (75 yards long and 30 feet wide) about three miles from its base. We camped on the sandy bed of Emu Creek about a hundred yards from the water hole, under the sparse shade of a young gum tree.
During one days trip when about five miles behind the tribe we passed an old woman limping along on her own, who, according to our guide, might or might not make the next camp. She was stumbling along with the use of a long stick she held half way up, she was crying and bewailing but would accept nothing, not even water. She was emaciated, half out of her mind and Hezekiel advocated leaving her alone. He looked on it as a natural way for her to go. I suppose it is, but the indifference of the tribe seemed hard. It emphasized how narrow the margin of survival was for the blacks and how they could not afford to waste efforts to ward off the inevitable. It was obviously harder for the women as one saw lots and lots of girls and young women, and lots of old women, but there seemed to be few in between.
Premature age seemed to be universal in these tribes, whereas the men seemed to wear much better. They all had many keloid-like scars, particularly the men. Many of these were deliberate and ran to quite extensive patterns across the chests and down the upper arms. They were produced by cuts kept open by clay or dirt perhaps as part of the initiation process, but varying a lot in extent and pattern. The rest were due mainly to burns. In the bitterly cold winter they slept between fires to survive, and rolled into them or were burned by ashes or coals when a sudden wind came up. The average life must have been very short.
The native camp at Mount Liebig was about fifty yards from us consisting mainly of a smallish Pintupi tribe. There seemed about equal numbers of man and women and innumerable children. They had a curious genetic trait in that many of the women had duplicate nipples on one or both breasts and mothers with this frequently had daughters with some variation. I never saw a man or boy with it, so it seems to be sex linked.
In the afternoon I went out a few miles along the hills to the east of Emu Creek. I found the going terribly rough in the porcupine grass and stones and did not see a wallaby or a kangaroo. There are no rabbits out here, so all fresh meat has to be wallaby, euro or emu.