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On the road again

Peters Paddock-Camp — 2000-07-11

It’s that time again, our nerves are stretched once more almost to breaking point. Will our departure today be successful? Was it really the L-frames that made our life hell last week?

At 6:00 a.m. we crawl out of the tent and find that last night’s heavy rain has softened the earth even more, but just an hour later the first rays of sun appear on the ground. We inspect Istan’s hump once more while loading the camels and actually find a small wound under his coat, right there where the iron bar was removed. ‘That could have been the reason’ I say and Jo nods thoughtfully. We finish packing the newly distributed load onto the camels at 1:00 p.m. and manage to accommodate all of our equipment in the large bags, even though we have less load capacity now due to the loss of Istan’s and Jafar’s L-frames. These we hide in the bush for Jo and Tom to collect later.

‘Camels, walk up!’ Jo sounds once again and the jumpy camel train begins to move. I am crossing my fingers so hard that they begin to hurt and am so worked up that I feel I’m walking in remote control alongside the animals. Istan looks around nervously but remains under control, suddenly wanting to break out but then reconsidering it. Not one of the animals waver as Jo walks with them in zig zag through the mulga bushes. A shimmer of hope emerges but I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, we still have the gate before us where at the latest it’s gone wrong so far. I open the wire gate carefully as Jo brings the caravan to a halt. Jo calls ‘Camels, walk up!’ and they move off again. Tanja hurries up behind with film camera and I walk alongside the animals, speaking to them soothingly. I can’t believe it as the camels pass through the gate without incident and continue up the road to Paynes Find. Although the tension is obvious in each of the animals and they are walking more beside than behind one another, they remain together. Istan looks nervously to the left and right but appears completely changed compared to recent times. I still don’t want to believe it but it appears that those damn L-frames really were the cause of all our problems. The fact that the missing bar in Istan’s saddle doesn’t rub against his hump anymore brings a miraculous effect. As I described, we all remain very tense at the camels sides and prepare ourselves for a break out. Hardie actually does spring to the side but calms himself just seconds later and the best thing is that none of the others appear to react. An our later I begin to rejoice. ‘Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! It works! It works!’ We have solved the problem and it’s a big weight off all of our shoulders. After a while I allow myself to take a look around at the countryside and notice that about 1 km away in the distance the asphalt stops and unsealed road begins. It is a great moment for us as we leave the asphalt and cross over onto Australia’s red earth. Finally the expedition can rightfully be called Red Earth Expedition. We proudly take a couple of photos of the big moment before continuing on our journey. 11 kilometres and 2 ¾ hours later, at around 4:00 p.m., we reach a lovely camping spot in a fenced paddock. We open the gate and set up a new camp after our forced delay of 26 whole days! Food is in abundance for the camels and they jump merrily around the field as I find myself smiling for the first time in a long time. As the sun sets we are warmed by our fire of mallee roots, a very long lasting and hot burning wood.

Day: 61






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