Talk to Toowoomba English teachers … Part 2

So lets us jump to part 2 of Cave Hill.
Why do these characters in my story:
a Sydney Morning Herald journalist,
a female doctor who works for Doctors Without Borders,
a Regional Education Director based in Roma,
a helicopter pilot and Vietnam vet who grew up near Roma,
a celebrity sportswoman, cyclist and triathalete
plus a Geography professor from Adelaide….
why do they arrange to visit Cave Hill in the heart of the Carnarvon Rangers during the month before the Sydney Olympics in the year2000?
The answer is they were participants in a demanding 15 day 1967 expedition, called Project Carnarvon, led by the Professor, then geography master at Toowoomba State High. And also there is another bond as they all were past students from Toowoomba schools. Do the calculations, 67-2000, it is 33 years since the expedition ends with a chance tragic happening at Cave Hill.

In Part 1, as written by the journalist thinking back to the events, the reader is told how the expedition was conceived, funded, students recruited, and how their adventure unfolds and ends.
There are many stories told along the way that figure in the memoir…. Leichhardt and Major Mitchell expeditions, The Hornet Bank massacre, the Kenniff Brothers outlaws, the 1962 excavation of Kenniff Cave led by Prof John Mulvaney, the story of the highly decorated Aboriginal soldier Reg Saunders, the history of Carnarvon Station, all retold in the memoir.

We learn to know landscape through stories, either told or untold. Our personal constructs and perceptions and the stories passed on in families and in myths legend, art and song. Our indigenous people know this and demonstrate it in their dreamtime stories, art and songlines. Our modern culture is so much more materialistic. We forget what the land and its history can teach us.

Part 2 is the reunion told in 3rd person. It is the authorial voice, a contrast to the personal memoir, and as such breaks the genre rules, a habit of mine.
If you are old enough to look back to the year 1967 it was the year that a Referendum was held and passed to recognize Aboriginals as citizens. It was the year the public reacted to the flooding of Lake Peddar and began the movement which led to the formation of the Wilderness Society. It was also the year that the Vietnam moratorium gained momentum. These are all relevant to and developed in the multi-layered themes that run through the novel.

The 10 young expeditioners were aware that young Australians were becoming more outspoken on these issues and other matters of civil rights. Many wanted nothing to do with that war but there was the dreaded birthday ballot. The five boys were potential draftees. In Part 2 it is revealed four of them go and one of the girls. What bad luck you might say?
The reunion, then as 50 years olds, gives those present the opportunity to reflect back on that era but also how the drama of the expedition has had serious implications for how their individual lives worked out including for those of the 12 on the trip, who were unable to join them. The one victim of the accident, 2 deceased and 2 bearing the scars of that war.
Part 2 not only covers this reflection and revelation but also events that lead to another tragic death in an ending that is horrifying and unexpected.
My publisher called the novel a thriller. I and my editor would prefer to call it speculative fiction. Like my other self-published novel, I break the genre rules, there is no recognised market for my work. And there is another aspect to this novel that is innovative and speculative, the inclusion of Quick Response Codes through the text. How ridiculous? Well this is the era of the E-book, self-publishing platforms, experimentation in communal writing, the era where the web opens an enormous knowledge bank to all your students at their fingertips.

About rpsimson1936

Retired geography and outdoor education teacher who loves orienteering and writes novels.
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