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The first days by the campfire

First Campfire — 2000-05-13 - 2000-05-14

First thing in the morning we decide to prolong the intended day of rest to a weekend of rest. The spirits are at an absolute high. I use the time to lengthen some of Sebastian’s saddle straps, mend some seams of my shoes and fix some things, for which I didn’t have time in the hurly-burly of preparations. I enjoy the work and find it rather relaxing. Now and again, I put some dry branches on the fire and watch for minutes how the smoke trails rise and cover our entire camp like a veil. The smell of burning wood is so very pleasant. Particularly the burning stem of a grass tree, known here under the name of “Black Boy”, spreads a wonderful, almost seductive fragrance. It is a nearly cloudless day with high temperatures around 25 degrees C. Jo and Tanja are telling each other stories from their lives and look after the camels from time to time. The animals seem to enjoy life in the bush. They constantly eat from the various shrubs or nibble off the rind of the tall eucalyptus trees that provide us shade during the day.


A few hours ago, Tom dropped in at the camp to visit his wife and us. We are sitting around the crackling fire having tea when the ringing of our mobile phone disturbs the peaceful atmosphere. Let me explain at this point that, for the next two weeks, we’ll still be available over the mobile phone for some friends and our parents before this connection will be disrupted. Disturbing as this part of technology may be, I’m happy to still be able to exchange a few words with our intimate friends and family, and I expectantly answer the phone. “Hello, Denis, it’s me, Verne!” I hear the familiar voice with some minor atmospheric disturbances. At the first moment I’m speechless. “Good heavens, Verne, where are you?” I reply, excited and happy to hear from him after all. “I spent the last three weeks in the bush, working for a mining company. I now have half the money together, and if you still want me, I’ll join you soon.” he answers. This is a very awkward situation to me. First we have no word from him in three weeks, from which we concluded that he has disappeared from our lives, and then he emerges again. I search my mind feverishly for the right words to say without hurting his feelings too much? “Look, Verne, since we didn’t have a sign of life from you, we thought you had simply disappeared. You know how extremely difficult the very first weeks of the expedition are, and so Jo has taken over your job. I’m really terribly sorry!” I say with a heavy heart. “No problem, I wish you lots of luck.” I hear his voice, and suddenly the line is interrupted. I’m surprised at how lightly he took this farewell from us, and go back to sit by the fire with Jo, Tom and Tanja. The conversation is all about him for another while.

In the evening, Melinda, Phill and the kids stop by. They share our pleasure in the start of our adventure and a life the progress and outcome of which are absolutely uncertain at this point. We are having some of the beers Phill brought along and laugh and joke like exuberant children.

As soon as the sun withdraws its golden rays and the shadows get longer and longer, it turns cool. Before long, the moon casts the light of the night over the eucalyptus forest. Around 9 o’clock, the Rayns set out on their way home, and we cuddle up in our sleeping bags.

Day: 02-03

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