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A stifling hot day

Front Camp Pindathuna — 2000-08-14

We force our way out of the sleeping bags as per usual on a march day and find the work to be a drudgery despite the days of rest. Rolling the Isomats and sleeping bags together, stuffing them into the water tight Ortlieb bags, pulling the tent down and dragging the heavy pieces of equipment to the saddles, gathering wood, starting the fire, making breakfast, washing the dishes, packing lunch, tending to the camels and then loading the 1000 kg of equipment onto the camels is a massive job and makes us wonder sometimes if we’re ever going to make it to the other side of Australia. Today we are exceptionally slow and spirits are low. Although no clouds are to be seen, a strange depression hangs in the air and makes every movement difficult. We only speak as much as necessary this morning, Sebastian bellows like a bull whilst being loaded and Hardie finds his imitation of an African sloth extremely funny. Goola is in such a state that we fear he may get diarrhoea again and spray us with the foul liquid with each swipe of his tail. Seeing as we don’t take any notice of him, he makes our job of loading him even harder by bouncing into Hardie’s rear end. Once he reaches his hind legs, he tries to overtake him on his knees, but Hardie doesn’t appear to find it amusing in the least and shuffles forward too. Sebastian, who has his forefeet tied as all the others, sits on the sandy ground and watches his companions nervously, finally infested by their spirit and managing to cover a distance of 15 metres in just 20 minutes. That means we have to pull all the equipment from it’s original position next to the respective saddles, to the new one fifteen metres away. Jafar follows Goola’s example and tries to nudge the heavy beast before him to the side, whereas Istan is spooked by something and looks all around him. We have to take utmost care not to let the camels destroy any of the expensive equipment with their fits and starts. They seem to be under a spell and have forgotten everything we have so painstakingly taught them in the recent past.

At 10:45 a.m. we’re ready to go ‘Camels walk up!’ I give the commando to begin and the caravan comes into movement. I reckon with the beasts exploding any minute and walk backwards through the thick bush, keeping a keen eye on Sebastian. ‘Careful Denis, there’s a tree trunk behind you!’ Tanja warns me, she is walking a few metres ahead in order to check the way for broken glass which is to be found in the vicinity of the track. Finally we reach the road to Dalgaranga Station and the animals quieten with each step, deciding not to dance any wild jigs this time. The suns rays soon become uncomfortably hot and we wonder if the rain and lovely cool days are things of the past. In any case, if all goes well we’ll be in Dalgaranga in just two days. Dalgaranga belongs to Pindathuna and is run by Bill’s brother, Andy. Just two days ago he had visited us at our camp and invited us for tea (evening meal in Australia). He also offered to weld Hardie’s saddle again if need be.

Around midday we stop at a windmill for a rest and to water the camels. We carry 20 buckets of water to them in all, giving each camel one bucket before starting at the front of the line again so as not to make them too nervous. Jafar is the wildest and craziest and would like nothing better than to bust his bindings and race around as he sees us carrying the bucket of water to Goola. His nose line is stretched to breaking point and we barely manage to quieten him by supplying him with another three 10 litre buckets of water, even though it’s not fair on the others. Sweating and dog tired, we let ourselves fall to the ground and slurp on an instant soup. Clouds appear in the afternoon and the barometer falls suddenly. It is very clammy and the march is more difficult than usual. At 4:45 p.m. after another 5 cattle grids, all of which had gates thank goodness, we arrive at a very nice bush camping spot. A dangerous looking weather front comes in from the south and the air is so thick we could cut it with a knife. The sun disappears in a magnificent display of colour and the forest is dipped in an eerie light. The trunks of the eucalyptus trees glow a strange gold colour and seem to burn with an unseen fire within. The grotesque branches begin to dance in the newly arrived wind and colourful birds sing their strange songs in the dead limbs above our camp. Tanja and I use the last of our strength to set the tents up before the weather breaks around us.

Day: 95


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