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And they dance their Dance of Terror

Forest-aisle-Camp — 2000-07-24

Although it’s difficult to get going after a rest, I’m glad to be on our way again. Yesterday we organised the loads well and are ready to set off at 10:15 a.m. ‘Hopefully they don’t flip out again’ says Tanja ‘Hopefully’ I reply, trying to hide my strained nerves. So far, after each rest period the camels have resumed the journey with a fearful leap up into the air, which is often dangerous for both the animals and for us. We have been resting here for four days, four days in which they could fill their stomachs, relax, sleep and collect their energies. They should have been days of rest for us too but with our own wounds to heal, loads to reorganise, repairs to make, diaries to keep and all the other things, the word Rest is a joke.

Before I give the command to move out, I reach for my hat which is lying on the ground beside me. ‘WOW! Look at that!’ I cry and show Tanja a small scorpion which appears to be sleeping on the rim. ‘That was lucky… Do you think they are awakening from their winter sleep already?’ Tanja wonders, shaking her head. ‘I have no idea’ I answer and give the Camels their commando. ‘Camels walk up!’ Istan looks around nervously and begins by walking straight into Jafar’s load.

I’ve already described what happens next a dozen times, the only difference is that we now find ourselves in thick bush land and have tied the kitchen boxes to Goola’s saddle instead of the missing L-frame. Jafar races again into Goola, Goola presses into Hardie and he in turn breaks out to the side, while I put all my strength into holding Sebastian. I spin myself around in order to see where the train of camels is heading and take a couple of steps backwards, almost tripping over one of the many dead branches which are lying around. Hardie seizes the opportunity to take off, pulling Sebastian along with him and causing me to stumble once more. ‘Udu! Udu! Udu!’ I scream in desperation and give the lead line a good tug at the last minute, feeling Hardie’s saddle bags sailing by, not a hairs breadth from my body. I sprint around one of the hardier bushes, grasping Sebastian’s line as a drowning man does a life-ring and followed closely by the monster band. The equipment shakes and the saddle bags swing up like heavy, broken wings, banging back down against the camels bodies just seconds later.
The camels bellow loudly and Istan’s spring-hook breaks, nose lines snap and the kitchen boxes, filled with sauces, spices, pans, cutlery and lots of other goodies, threaten to high-jump off Goola’s saddle. The rubber bands stretch to the limit, only to spring back seconds later then stretch out again. How this inferno is to end amidst the thick brush is completely unknown. I sprint anew toward one of the big bushes, passing by in a close curve and ripping Sebastian around with a tight hook, finally able to lead the beasts in a circle around a tiny clearing.

‘Udu! Udu! Udu!’ I bellow and thank God that they listen, standing still and snorting loudly. ‘Did you see the kitchen boxes?’ I ask Tanja ‘Of course, that was damn close!’ she answers breathlessly. ‘Do you think the kitchen boxes scared Jafar so much?’ I ask thoughtfully. ‘Could have been’ Tanja thinks, and we use this break to set the camels down, bind their forefeet and remove the broken kitchen boxes from Goola’s saddle. We check out the saddle situation and find a new spot for the boxes in Jafar’s left and right bags, then we replace Istan’s spring-hook and Jafar’s torn nose line. ‘It looks good, should we try again?’ ‘Yeh, but watch out for yourself’ Tanja answers with a worried look on her face. We untie the leg binds and I cry ‘Epna!’ which causes the taught animals to explode up into the air like a live bomb. Slowly and carefully I lead the caravan out of the thick bush, at snail’s pace, and onto the dirt track to Yalgoo. The animals have barely set foot on the track when they begin showing off their strength once more and dancing their Dance of Terror another few meters before settling down for the journey.


About an hour later we arrive at grid number 16, relieved to find that we’re able to ply the fence open, only to have to swing the shovel once more another five kilometers down the track. Meanwhile, the red earth has become so hard and dry that the shovel alone is not enough to uproot the posts and we turn thankfully to the pick which we have for gold digging in the future. Even if we end up finding no gold nuggets whatsoever, the pick has paid it’s way already more than once. After I sweat my way through this hard work we bring the camels to their feet again and I’m greeted with a huge glob of partially digested stuff which Goola spits onto my shirt, and so we continue our journey north with the smell of sweat and fresh vomit in our noses.

Suddenly Tanja is struck by back ache and she obviously has great difficulty walking upright, which isn’t helped by our marching speed of 5,4 kilometers per hour. Sebastian sets this tempo and it’s not easy keeping him there! We are completely exhausted as we reach the next camping spot at 4:00 p.m. and more broken glass bottles across the man-made track. I get to work setting the tents up and Tanja inspects the area closely, removing broken glass and finding a safe place for the camels to feed.

Day: 74






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