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Countless broken bottles spread over the whole area like land mines

Paynes Find-Camp — 2000-07-19

Today is the ninth day that we’ve been travelling without having a day of rest as we’re keen on reaching Paynes Find soon and spending some time there. After a few more grids, about midday, our path begins to widen and rough gravel replaces the gentle red earth beneath. Gold mines appear to our left and right and some of them seem to be still in use, while others have obviously been abandoned years ago. Rubbish and thousands of broken glass bottles mark the proximity of civilisation and we are in high spirits under the now cloudless sky. In just a few kilometres, we will reach the town which seemed so unreachable during all our saddle problems and of which we’ve been talking for many weeks.

We look forward to fish and chips, a sort of national dish, and decide to skip our lunch break, finally reaching Paynes Find at 2:00 p.m. We are surprised to discover that this ‘town’ is made up of only one roadhouse but are overwhelmed at the sight after just a few days without contact to civilisation. We cross the little used Great Northern Highway and make our way to the roadhouse’s large car park, drawing amazed stares from the few tourists there who whip their cameras out and photograph us from all angles. ‘I read about you fellas over in western Australia’ one friendly man exclaims with a laugh as he shakes our hands and buries us in questions. We try to answer all his queries, despite being way behind schedule, then I tie Rufus to one of the veranda posts and go inside, leaving Tanja to look after the camels. A jolly man greets me and I ask him if we may use his workshop to remove the hooks from Hardie’s saddle. The four metal hooks jut out dangerously and uselessly since the L-frame was removed. ‘No problem. You can bring your camels around the back to the workshop’ he says cheerfully. Our excited camels are soon sitting on the car park behind the roadhouse, a generator hums loudly in the background and the nervous animals seem to expect some monstrous beast will swallow them up any minute. Istan becomes so frightens that he slowly but surely shuffles up behind Jafar, not tormented by horses this time but by the many strange sounds of civilisation. Sebastian, too, comes into form and is soon bellowing like a wild lion, so much so that the neck hairs of a few onlookers stand on end.

The friendly man behind the counter serves us hot fish and chips while we unload our saddles, and gives us a cold bottle of Crown Lager beer on the house. ‘Enjoy your meal’ he laughs and disappears into the house once more. It’s already 2:30 p.m. and we still have to find a camping spot for tonight, so we scoff the fish and chips down – not exactly as we’d planned it but necessary considering how nervous the camels are in this car park with all it’s strange noises. The new owner of the roadhouse helps me carry the saddle to his workshop ’It’s all yours’ he says, pointing to the various machines ‘you can use anything you need’. The busy roadhouse keeper helps me cut the hooks off with a metal saw before leaving me alone to grind off the sharp corners. Time flies and Hardie is saddled up and reloaded just an hour later. I take the opportunity to fill a few of our Source water bags before heading off and am busy doing this as a man addresses me, he turns out to be the manager of Oudabunna Station. ‘You can camp on my station if you like, she’s just five kilometres down the road and I’m sure you’ll like it there’ he offers kindly. ‘Is there a grid on the way there?’ I ask. ‘Yes, but if that’s a problem for you I can lower the fence’ he suggests, and it doesn’t take long for me to accept his kind offer. Adrian tells us the way and explains that we only have to walk along the Great Northern Highway for about 500 metres. Before heading off, we get the camels together and march out in front of the roadhouse so that the owner can take a picture which he intends to print on stubby holders. After a short exchange of words we take our leave and begin following Adrian’s directions, coming to the disused highway after just 200 metres where we are horrified to find countless broken bottles spread over the whole area like land mines.

Tanja hurries ahead and clears a path along the old highway by bending constantly and throwing broken off bottle necks and bases to the side. We can’t believe that the people here have so little respect for their environment and obviously throw everything out the car window. Paynes Find is in the middle of a huge gold mining area so people have been bringing glass containers, with their various contents, out here into the bush since the time of the old gold diggers, a hundred years ago. The once magnificent natural beauty is greatly diminished by the sight of a century of human waste which lies scattered all around. It is dinner time by now and the camels are getting nervous, trying to nibble on the various bushes that we pass. This is disconcerting for the whole caravan and I have a hard time keeping everyone under control. We hit upon Adrian in his ute just a half an hour later, he’s waiting to show us the rest of the way. At about 4:30 p.m. we cross the lowered fence with our exhausted animals and sink thankfully to the ground. Whilst unloading, we discover yet another broken chain on Goola’s L-frame and wonder if we’ll have to relinquish the poor construction in the next few days. Tanja has great difficulty tending to the camels once they are unloaded. Sebastian is in a panic that he’ll miss out on something to eat and snaps his hobbles in his frenzy. With great pain in my back and hips, I prepare a fire place and get to work gathering branches and twigs which lie on the ground in abundance. Tanja finishes tending to the animals and prepares one last quick meal before we crawl into our sleeping bags at 8:00 p.m., dog tired.

Day: 69






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