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Reconnaissance, cattle grids and fences

Cleary-Camp — 2000-06-23

Seeing as today is my interview day, we postpone our departure one more day. I use my time between calls to weigh the load with our hand scales and to distribute the equipment into heaps next to the saddle frames. Petro has headed off north in the direction of Paynes Find, 140 km away, in order to check out the possibilities of our welding the saddles there. We are satisfied that the saddles will perform well but it’s always good to have the chance to change the L-frames if necessary. Petro does not return until 9.00 pm. ‘I have some good news’ he grins apon reaching our burning camp fire. ‘The new folks at the Roadhouse in Paynes Find are really nice people. If something goes wrong with the new saddles, they said you are more than welcome to use their workshop, no charge. The people there are very helpful and are happy to give you a hand’ We are relieved to hear the good news, then with every stretch we are innevitably moving further and further away from Goomalling. It becomes more and more time consuming for Jo and Tom to help us. But then, it’s about time for us to start standing on our own feet anyway, and for the damn ‘saddle drama’ to end!

I take a sip of my hot tea as Petro hits us with another piece of news, this time not so good. “From here to Paynes Find there are still fences running left and right beside the road, it will remain difficult for you to find a camping spot. Additionally, I counted at least ten of the dangerous cattle grids which run from fence to fence across the road” ‘What?!’ I yell, spluttering and choking on my tea.

I will take this oppurtunity to give a quick run-down on these so-called cattle grids: Long, mostly rounded, pipes, rails or logs are embedded into the ground parallel to one another so that they are level with the road, path or track that the animals should not cross. Gaps between the pipes prevent the cattle, sheep or other animal from walking across them. Any animal that tries to pass over such a grid, can very easily break a leg, and whole heards are effectively stopped by this simple contraption. We have no chance of crossing these grids with our camels, they too could very easily slip down between the pipes and probably break a foot or leg. We were warned of these cattle grids during our initial preparations, but I did not expect to be confronted with them so early in the expedition.

My dream of reaching open station land is once again dashed. We have been following train tracks and fences for the last 280 km and still the situation is to remain unchanged. How we are to conquer these grids we do not know, one possibility is to pass through one of the gates with our camels into the fenced area beside the road, whereby we must take care to heed the iron rule of the bush concerning gates. This rule says that if the gate is open, it stays open, and if it is shut it must be closed shut again. The problem with this course of action is that we never know if we will find another gate back out of the fenced area once we reach the other end. If worst comes to worst, we must backtrack to the original point of entry or even follow the fence indefinitely until we find another way out. Cutting through the fence is something we would only do if our lives were endangered by a bush fire and we had no other way of saving ourselves. If we were to cut through a fence it would mean returning it to it’s original condition afterwards, that requires the correct tools, wire and time. No farmer likes to see his fence damaged, a weak spot in the boundary could mean the escape of whole heards of sheep or cattle. Such an event would be catastrophic for the farmer and of course for the person who damaged the fence. The best way to solve a fence problem is to dig out two or three posts and to lay the fence flat down on the ground, enabling one to cross over the fence without causing it to slacken or to weaken in any way when the posts are stood up and driven into the ground again. We could exit a fenced area with our camels in this way if necessary without causing harm. In any case, let’s hope we are able to make the right decision when and where it counts.

Day: 43

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