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Futile departure attempt

Cleary-Camp — 2000-07-05

Our alarm clock peeps at 6:00 a.m. It is pitch black. I wearily turn over onto my back and stare up into the darkness for a while. I slowly move my stiff bones and am aware of a vague nervousness in me. Will be succeed in leaving Cleary this time? We’ve been here 20 days already and as such are way behind in our schedule. Hopefully we wont get caught in the tornado season of north western Australia due to our delay. As usual it takes a lot of effort to make myself perform my daily back exercises. Tanja groans beside me and complains. ‘The batteries in my head lamp are dead. There’s no way I’m getting out of my sleeping bag in this rainy darkness’ ‘Then take my lamp, but please get up now. We have a busy day ahead of us. Come on, up you get’ I try to convince her in gasps while performing my muscle training. A couple of minutes later Tanja is getting dressed beside me. After my gymnastic I push the sleeping bags into their sacks, roll the mats up and put everything into a water-tight oil bag, then I pack the tent up. In the meantime Tanja has started the fire and made breakfast. Everything goes hand in hand and rarely does one or the other of us have nothing to do.

After breakfast, Jo takes some straw out of some of the saddle bags so that they sit better on the camels backs. We had noticed that some of the saddles were overstuffed and weren’t sitting right. We had wanted to do this yesterday but due to the heavy rain it had not been possible. As Jo busies herself with the saddles, I take her tent down as well as the dome under which I write and give interviews. Then we begin weighing everything precisely. Because of the changes to the L-frames, we are forced to repeat this time consuming and annoying procedure from the beginning. It is 3:30 p.m. before all five camels are loaded and although we have been working like crazy, with no breaks, we are faced with the frustrating fact that it is too late to set out today. We don’t know when we would find another camping spot as fences run along either side of the road for the next 20 km, making camping impossible. Besides that, the animals need their evening meal and that’s why it’s always best to set up camp by 4:00 p.m.

Jo and I look at each other ‘Okay, let’s make a test run out in the field at least, before we unload all the camels and I set up all the tents again.’ ‘Good idea’ she says, laughing ‘Camels…epna!’ she commands and they all spring up onto their feet. Of course they are all fairly nervous after the long rest and for safety reasons they are hobbled. Their legs move quickly backwards and forwards and the rattling of the hobbles sounds like a group of fifty prisoners walking. My gut aches as I watch the L-frames swaying and to be truthful I don’t have much confidence in them. But unfortunately we have no alternative and have to live with our new idea from now on. 20 minutes later we return to our former camping place, unload the animals and put the tents up for the umpteenth time.

We start the fire again and fight against a growing sense of depression. The raindrops hiss on the embers and we discuss our departure tomorrow. After Tanja and Jo have gone to bed I stare into the camp fire for a while and pray that everything will go well tomorrow. Rufus sits next to me and watches the mouse brigade which has been making our life difficult for weeks. So far they have managed to nibble their way through more than one food sack and have destroyed quite a bit of food. Since eating their way into Rufus’ dry food bag, he has declared war on them and I don’t try to stop him from chasing them, even though they are cute little things. At least they are held at bay as long as we are camping here.

Day: 55

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