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The nightmare is real

Peters Paddock-Camp — 2000-07-06

Again we rise at 6:00 a.m. Except for weighing the load, yesterday’s procedure is repeated. We work hand in hand and are ready to go by 11:00 a.m. ‘Camels, walk up!’ Jo calls, and the extremely nervous camel train sets itself in motion. We have decided not to hobble the camels today and wait for the caravan to fall apart at any time. Everything goes well the first hundred metres and I am exultant and thankful for the relatively easy begin. The gate of the enclosure is reached in a few minutes and Jo stops the camels while I open it. ‘Camels, walk up!’ Commands Jo and the animals move once again. I stand at the gate post and call each camel by name. ‘Hello Sebastian! Alright Hardie? Good boy Goola! That’s right Jaf…’ Before I can finish Jafar’s name he suddenly bolts forwards as though hit by lightning. This is quite alright with Istan, who explodes like a canon ball in the same direction. The following display makes my heart stand still and I wish I could awaken from this nightmare. Jafar and Istan slam into Goola with their L-frames, who then rises out of control too. A split second later they are shooting into the back of Hardie. Sebastian goes off like a rocket as well and poor Jo does her best to bring the concentrated camel charge around in a circle to avoid being run over. Suddenly I see shreds flying as the nose line of the bellowing Istan breaks, as though shot apart. The camels romp crazily and Jo leads them in a wide circle. The road to Paynes Find is not wide enough for this nonsense and the animals jump in and out of the ruts. The load thunders and cracks, our rubber bands stretch torturously then pull tight again a moment later. The heart-wrenching roars of the animals, the terrible crashing of the apparently crumbling load, the snorting and our soothing cries ‘Easy boys! Easy boys! Wuna! Wuna! Oh my God!’ join together in an indescribable symbiosis. Jo leads the animals in a circle again in a fight for her own life. She keeps her nerve through all this craziness and doesn’t let Sebastion go. ‘Easy boys! Easy boys!’ She calls breathlessly, but the spooky, destructive leap-frogging of the camels only appears to intensify itself. Suddenly one of the loaded sacks flies in a high arc from Istan’s L-frame and lands with a crack on the hard asphalt. My mind races as I consider what is in the sack and how much damage has been done. ‘Easy boys! Easy boys!’ Jo and I call together and before another load is catapulted through the air, only to be trampled into moos by the camels, the completely dissolved beasts pause for a moment. Tanja, who had volunteered to film and who was driving today, came running around the corner at this moment ‘My God, what happened?’ She asks breathlessly ‘You just missed the biggest caravan break out yet’ I say and inspect the animals and their load. Almost all of the luggage has shifted, bands have loosened and some of the saddles are not sitting correctly on the camels backs any more. Hardie’s saddle is hanging so far back that it looks like he’s losing his underpants! We let the camels down, bind their forefeet together and reload the complete outfit as it should be. Ten minutes later we are ready to go again. The camel train walks out onto the road again and it only takes a moment before Istan comes from behind and mixes everything up again. Jo brings the animals under control and the nightmare continues. The animals fall out at least ten times over a distance of just 500 metres, buck like crazy and shake our possessions so much that I am seriously concerned for the electronic equipment, the computer, satellite phone and the cameras.

By now it’s 12:00 midday and it has taken us one whole hour to cover the 500 metres. Right now it is a complete riddle to me, how we are supposed to make the rest of the 6800 kilometres through the Australian outback. Tired and beaten we decide to take a short midday rest. We let the camels down, bind their forefeet with the leg ropes, reset the load yet again, retighten the bands and eat an instant soup. Jo, Tanja and I puzzle as to the cause of this chaos and come to the conclusion that it must be due to the long rest, good food and rutting-season of the camels.

At 12:45 we continue. Tanja follows at a distance so that the Holden’s engine doesn’t make the animals even more nervous than they already are. Istan bangs into Jafar with his L-frame again, or was it Jafar this time that caused the jolt? I walk beside the animals and try to analyse them. This time it’s Hardie that nervously veers to the side and provokes the others. Sebastian races on at a speed of 6 km/hr. Jo can barely stop him. It’s no wonder, he’s scared that the whole pack will run him down from behind again. In this extremely difficult and exhausting fashion, we manage to cover another 7 km in two hours. Although it’s only 2:00 p.m. we turn into Peter Cookes fenced paddock, open the gate and find a wonderful camping spot. As I unload the camels, I discover that Jafar’s L-frame holder is bent. Clear, the metal couldn’t stand up to the leap-frogging. After a brief discussion with Jo and Tanja, we agree to stay here tomorrow too. ‘Maybe Peter can repair the frame?’ I say thoughtfully. ’It’s another 145 kilometres to Paynes Find and if Petro is correct then there’s no chance to repair the saddles between here and there. That means we have to make it to Paynes Find and Jafar’s saddle doesn’t look like it will.’ I add, Jo and Tanja nod. As we continue to unload, we find that at least four of the new plastic boxes in which Tanja keeps her kitchen utensils have been smattered. We are more than depressed and set up camp with heavy hearts. Jo sleeps in her car as the constant rain has caused mould to grow in the small tent we loaned her. ‘I have breathing problems and can’t sleep well anymore’ she says. After Jo and Tanja crawl into their sleeping bags, I arrange the camp fire into the form of a flower, hoping to bring them some joy in the morning.

Day: 56






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