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Why the saddles have to fit like tailor-made

Cleary-Camp — 2000-06-15

After the horrible night, the weather clears up a little. It takes us an hours more than on previous days to pack up the wet camp. Still we manage to be underway by 11 a.m. The loamy path next to the railway tracks is no suitable walking ground for clumsy camel feet. They keep slipping until we decide to take the road nearby where there’s hardly any traffic. Jo and Tanja walk behind the caravan again to warn us from approaching vehicles. We make good progress and the animals seem to like the coarse asphalt. „Car! Car!“, I hear Tanja’s warning cry.

It is 2 p.m. when Tom and his friend Petro meet us. I stop the caravan to say hello to them. As usual it is a great pleasure to see each other again, and it seems like weeks since we last saw them. Tom walks alongside the camels for a while to scrutinize with his expert eye what is wrong with the saddle design. „There is no question! the bags hang down too low!“, he says after just a few minutes. We decide to talk about this in detail the next day at the camp. At this point we are but one and a half hours by car from Goomalling away and, should the saddles need to be reconstructed, this will be our last opportunity. It is very important to me at this point to explain just why the perfect fit of saddles for our camels is of such great significance.

If the heavy burden is not distributed absolutely evenly on the camel backs, it causes tender spots. And tender spots, no matter how small, have a tendency of developing into a real problem with time. Within a matter of days, they’ll become open sores. Flies will land on them and infest them with their eggs, maggots will hatch and eat their way into the animal flesh, and the wound will hardly have a chance to heal. Also, camels can suffer from all different kinds of strain, similar to people, that can develop into series back and joint problems. Of course, there are many more potential problems, but let this be enough to explain why we are so keen on getting the perfect equipment for our animals. Another point I should like to make here is that we have at least 6800 kilometres of outback ahead of us. Should only one of the camels fall ill because of our negligence at this early stage, and perhaps die, our own lives will be in danger as well in spite of the possibility to get in contact with the outside world. The saddles that Verne has built, have meanwhile been reworked several times already, and they still don’t fit perfectly. Unfortunately we have lost much precious time, but on the other hand we have learned a lot, too.


Tom and Petro drive ahead and find a wonderful camp site for us that meets all the criteria. It is sheltered from the road so we have privacy, there is plenty of feed for the camels, enough firewood and trees to hang up and align the radio antennas in southern direction, and on the other side an unobstructed view to north-east ensures good reception for our satellite phone.

At 5:15 p.m. we reach our week’s destination, Cleary. We are satisfied, because we have covered 111 walking kilometres in the past 5 days. If we keep up this pace, we are going to reach Broome on time. In view of the fact that in the past weeks and months so many things have intervened with our planning, we can only hope that all will go well in the future. In the evening, we sit by the campfire in the happiest of moods. Tom and Petro have brought lamb chops and Italian sausages which are now sizzling over the fire. We are having some beers that really taste delicious. Then Tom produces a very special surprise. He hands me a thick letter-sized parcel. All excited I hurry up to unwrap it and I can’t believe my eyes. It is our book about the preparations to the Red Earth Expedition. Radiant with happiness I hold it in my hands. It is entitled “7000 Kilometres through the Australian Outback on Foot”. So far, Tanja and I have seen only a copy of it and now, 6 weeks after it was published, and now a friend hands us the book by the campfire. In the glow of the full moon, the milky way and our camp fire, it is being passed around. It was certainly not easy to get a part of our experiences in book form while the expedition is still going on. I never though it possible to accomplish something like this at the time of the expedition, but the treasure in my hands proves the opposite.

When everyone else has gone to bed, Petro and I sit down another while and talk. He has given up his base at Perth and is going to spend the next few years cruising Australia with his faithful dog and a specially prepared Landcruiser. “I will always make money. As a plumber I’ll never be out of work here in Australia. I might also use my talent as a song writer and perform with my guitar in various pubs of the country.” he tells me with his pleasant deep voice. The flickering flames illuminate his zesty face, and it makes me happy to have met this extremely nice person.

Day: 35






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