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Exhausting day’s march

Pindathuna-Camp — 2000-08-09

We have decided to undertake the 30 km march to Pindathuna river today, in order to win a rest day. The animals behave well, as they have been doing these last few days, and we are able to set a good pace. Unfortunately, Tanja’s toes numb and she suffers from blisters. She had tested her shoes for weeks before beginning the journey, but nevertheless they appear not to fit properly after all. Sebastian requires pulling as we cross some hills in the afternoon and my shoulders begin tightening again. We are in a good mood nonetheless and talk merrily about the news we have received in the letters, we make jokes and try to forget our pains. At 1:00 p.m we are exhausted and take a short break, the GPS showing 13 km travelled. ‘My calculations show that we’ve at least another 18 km to walk before reaching Pindathuna river. Do you think we’ll make it?’ I ask Tanja ‘If not then we can always set up camp beforehand’ she replies wearily. Friday is interview day however, and I want to use the day for writing and for washing our clothes in the river, so if we don’t make it today then we will be forced to go through the four or five hour process of loading and unloading for a march of just a few kilometres. Tanja changes her shoes and slips into her comfortable Source sandals, then we give each others backs a quick wrench back into place and set off with new vigour. As usual, the march is easier after lunch than before and we hurry along the road. A cold wind blows into our backs from the south, and a bad weather front creeps over our heads. We pass through two gates beside grids number 34 and 35 and at 3:00 p.m. still have another 13 kilometres to Pindathuna. It is raining lightly and we see many holes in the earth to the left and right of the track, made by geologists testing the ground for it’s gold content. Neat mole mound like heaps of various colours are rowed across the ground. It looks like the palette of a painter who has succeeded in mixing the most beautiful of earth colours. We discover a wide range of yellow tones, from dark yellow to a soft ochre colour, beside which the earth from the depths of the holes looks very light, almost light grey or perhaps ivory. Reds such as vermilion and chimney red, blend into a warm orange. ‘There appears to be quite a bit of gold around here’ I comment with a sweeping gaze across the countryside. ‘What a shame that we have to race through so quickly’ says Tanja.

We pass grid 36 as Hardie’s saddle suddenly starts cracking loudly. ‘What’s that sound? Can you see anything?’ I ask Tanja. She falls back to where Hardie jaunts along and inspects the saddle on the move. ‘I can’t see anything!’ ‘Maybe it’s just one of the hemp lines’ I answer and we continue the march. The thought of being able to shower and have a rest after 20 days of grit and grime, spurs our pace up to 5,9 km/hour. In my minds eye I see a charming river surrounded by green meadows as suddenly a loud thump erupts behind me and Hardie tries to break out to the front. ‘What was that?’ Tanja asks. ‘I have no idea, it sounded like something fell down. Have we lost something?’ Tanja turns and studies the way behind us, but she can see nothing. We hurry on without taking too much notice of the strange noise, eager to reach our goal before nightfall. I pull the GPS out of my jacket pocket with increasing regularity and check the remaining distance. ‘Another 3,5 kilometres to go. 25,1 km behind us. Speed is 5,8… no 5,9 km/hr. Time 4:35 p.m.’ I report to Tanja every five minutes.

We reach the almost dried out river bed of Pindathuna creek at 5:10 p.m. and the few muddy puddles lying below tell us to forget about washing clothes. With great disappointment we leave the track and follow the river bed eastwards for a few hundred metres. I zig zag the camels along the bed, veering away from the yummy bushes lining the creek which the animals try to nibble while walking. In a sweeping bend of the Pindathuna river bed we stumble upon a beautiful piece of ground and like a flash sit the camels down, tying their forefeet together and scampering to get them unloaded. ‘Oh God, Denis. Take a look at this!’ I hear Tanja call and I feel my stomach lurch. I walk around Sebastian, from whom I have just unloaded the computer case, and approach Tanja. I can’t believe my eyes, the steel frame has snapped and one of the cross bars is weighted down with the entire load on Hardie’s back. ‘Oh my, the poor fellow. We must unload him immediately’ I say. Whilst removing the packs from his saddle my mind churns with thoughts of how to solve this new problem. I do my best to stay calm and an hour later, after tying the animals to one of the deliciously juicy trees nearby, we have come up with a solution. Tomorrow morning I will call Jo and Tom over the Flying Doctor radio and let them know our situation. They should be able to make contact with Yalgoo and send someone out here to pick up the frame and get it welded in the workshop, only 35 km away. Relieved to have come up with an answer, Tanja prepares a quick dinner and in just minutes the mashed potato from the packet is ready. Together with an instant mushroom sauce we have a fast, but tasty, meal over which I ravenously fall.

The bad weather front has moved off to the south, without having emptied itself over us, and the clear starry sky and strong wind bring the promise of a cold night. Absolutely exhausted after the long march and other events of the day, we fall thankfully into our sleeping bags.

Day: 90






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