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Jo barely escapes

Cleary-Camp — 2000-06-24

After eight days of forced delay we are on the move again. I can barely sleep, I am so excited. Before us lie 140 kilometres of dusty road with unending fences and many cattle grids, as well as the still unanswered question of whether our saddles are finally right.

At 10.00 a.m. we hang the L-frames on the camel saddles. The new sounds that the frames make clicking onto the saddles frightens the camels and sends them into a nervous state. Goola opens his eyes wide and is so scared he lets a huge one drop. Hardie reacts in panic too, he slides this way and that on his bound knees and tries to jump up. This of course sends Sebastian into a state and he begins bellowing as if he was being sent to the scaffold! It takes a lot of patience and a lot of nerves to finish packing the camels. I’m busy with Sebastion as all of a sudden Jo calls me. ‘Coming!’ I answer her, fasten one last strap and walk toward her. ‘Have a feel of Istans shoulder’ Jo says and shows me where. Slowly and carefully with the smallest of pressure I let my hand glide through Istans thick hair. Suddenly I come across a hard spot about the size of a childs hand. Istan reacts immediately, opens his mouth and gives a loud bellow of pain. ‘My god, that doesn’t look good at all!’ I exclaim, while Jo nods silently. ‘I can’t believe it! This damn bomber !’ (steel saddle basket) I cry, falling to my knees and taking my face in both hands.

My thoughts race and I am aware that I must make a decision. This injury could develop into a major problem if we continue to march and possibly put Istan permanently out of action. Especially if he still has such pain after an eight day rest and then is reladen with the same saddle and pack as before. The saddle would press against his wound and his shoulder wouldn’t have a hope of healing. I know now that the saddle made by Verne has been tossing to and fro like a storm tossed ship on Istans back and causing this injury. ‘We can’t go, on the contrary Istan needs special attention. He requires an antiinflammitory medication three times a day from now on and his saddle will have to be renovated and furnished with an L-frame too.’ I say, sad and depressed. ‘You’re right, Denis. I would have made the same decision’ Jo says reasuringly.

Decisions are made quickly. Petro will take Jo back to Goomalling. While she finishes sewing the missing saddle pockets, he will get on with welding the L-frames. But before they go we decide to try out the frames we already have on the camels. ‘Let’s see how the beasts handle them!’ I say. The moment of truth arrives. We remove the hobbles and leg binds and, as expected, our ships of the desert jump up explosively. After a few moments Jo gives the commando ‘Camel – walk up!’ The camel train sets off nervously, with Sebastion pushing forward like a locomotive. Jo has difficulty holding him and the new frames jingle uncomfortably. Suddenly Hardie breaks out, he can’t handle the stress any longer and tries to take off to the side. In doing so he pushes his neck into Sebastians backside and gets a few wild kicks in return. All hell breaks loose in the camel train! Chaos reigns and Sabastian throws his front feet up into the air like swinging anvils. Jo barely escapes his dangerous kicks by centimetres. Like a sprinter she takes off, still holding Sebastian on the line and leading him forwards. Sebastian and the other camels are like a tornedo in her wake. ‘Wuna! Wuna! Wuna!’, I call in an attempt to quieten the camels and am forced to watch as Jo is almost run down. Like a weasel, Jo makes a sharp turn and brings Sebastian round in a circle. The other wild camels follow in leaps and bounds. Hardie slams into a tree with his full load, manages to right himself and the hellish dance continues.

Moments later, after another of Jo’s circles, the nervous animals begin to quieten. ‘At least we know the loads hold out well!’ laughs Jo. Tanja and I are glad, as always, to have her on our side, then Jo maintains her invigorating sense of humour even in situations like these. After a couple of minutes breathing time for us all, man and beast, we make our way to a nearby open field. Jo and I take turns leading the animals, in order to check the frames once again. After a couple of rounds we realise that some are too short and swing unsoundly to and fro across the camels shoulders.

Once we return to the camp we let the train settle down. Ponderously I inspect the frames from Hardie, Goola and Jafar and realise that all of them, depending on the size of the camel, have to be extended by 10 to 25 centimetres. ‘No worries mate!’ Petro says with a friendly laugh. Within the hour all of the frames as well as Istan’s saddle are loaded onto the back of Petro’s jeep. ‘See ya later!’ calls Petro and drives away in the direction of Goomalling, with Jo waving from the passenger seat.


Tanja and I sit ourselves down next to the camp fire. We can’t believe how much trouble we are having due to the wrong advice from unknowledgeble camel men. Jo and Tom had been telling us from the beginning to use afganistan pack saddles. In their vast experience these are the best pack saddles to use on a camel expedition. We decided against these saddles because each one weighs 40kg, and were advised by previously mentioned camel men to do so too. Unfortunately we didn’t know at that time that these people have not the slightest idea about expeditions and the associated problems. We were obviously misinformed and have to suffer the painful consequences now. But feeling sorry for ourselves doesn’t help anything, in every expedition there are hurdles to overcome, otherwise they wouldn’t be expeditions! Everything we are doing here is mostly new for us and that’s what makes life so interesting. We choose not to become angry, sad, aggressive or nervous, but to accept the hardships as they come. We can’t change the facts anyway, so why not enjoy our extended stay here at Cleary’s and live life in the australian bush. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Day: 44

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