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Sebastian’s psycho game

Dalgaranga Station-Camp — 2000-08-15

As far as I can see, it did not rain in the night. The sun is not to be found today and dark clouds fly over our heads as we shiver in the dramatically fallen temperature. At 10:00 a.m. we are back on the dirt track and have barely begun the march before it begins to drizzle. It is a strange day and our moods are as gloomy as yesterday. Sebastian suddenly decides he doesn’t want to walk any further and lets me pull him along at a pace of barely 2 km/hour, a far cry from the hair-raising tempo he’s been keeping until now, causing my shoulders to ache. ‘Walk up Sebastian!’ I call and pull on his lead line. Sebastian takes no notice of my commands. ‘Walk up Sebastian! Walk up! Come on!’ I cry, pulling this time on his nose line. Sebastian begins to bellow and complain loudly, Tanja suffers from back pain and a cold wind blows from the south into our backs. I wind my way like a question mark and pull on Sebastian’s lead and nose lines, before losing all hope an hour later and whining ‘What should we do? He just doesn’t want to move!’ Tanja walks silently beside me ‘I have no idea’ she says and I can tell by the tone of her voice that her back pain is severe. I am at the end of my tether and yell ‘Walk up you bloody animal!’ Sebastian reacts with a constant noise of complaint and after two hours I am beginning to believe I’m in some sort of psycho torture chamber. Sebastian’s constant whining rings in my ears ‘Oohaaa! Oohaa! Oohaa!’
‘I think he’s limping’ Tanja says suddenly, and I stop the caravan to take a look at him. I glide my hand with the utmost care over Sebastian’s body and check every part of him, even the soles of his feet in case he stepped on something, but cannot find a thing. Tanja remains behind and a little to the left of Sebastian as we begin the march once more, giving him the occasional smack on the rump with the dog leash. Tanja barely touches him with the leash, but he sprints forward each time like a runner, throwing Hardie into panic and causing him to break out with the rest of the camels and buck all over the road. Camels, camels, camels, why do we have so many problems with you? And how long is it going to take before you all get used to the routine of things? ‘Oohaa! Oohaa! Oohaa!’ bellows Sebastian, as if he wants to tear the last shreds of my sanity to pieces. Tanja and I wonder if he’s just playing a game with us or if he really does have pain somewhere. ‘Walk beside me for a while, I want to see if he stops whinging then’ I suggest. Tanja leaves his side and ceases spurring him on, at the same time as I very slightly reduce my pull on his line. ‘Oohaa! Oohaa! Oohaa!’ he cries for another ten minutes or so, then his cries become fewer and further apart before stopping completely. We aren’t walking as quickly as before, but not as slowly as this morning either. ‘Come, fall back and pretend to give him a whack on the rump,’ I suggest to Tanja. As soon as she falls in behind him, Sebastian begins his annoying tone again and we know that he isn’t suffering but simply trying to get is own way.


We are completely knackered as we arrive at the main gate of the Dalgaranga Station at 4:00 p.m. A cattle grid bars the way, but Phill had told us that a gate can be found about 200 metres further along the fence. I walk up and down the fence a couple of times but can find no gate, ‘Do you really think it’s worth going to Dalgaranga?’ Tanja asks. ‘No idea. I’m not sure anymore if the invitation was for real. It would be a waste of energy to lay the fence down, just to arrive at the house and find no-one at home, or that we are not welcome,’ I answer wearily. ‘How far is it to the farm?’ Tanja asks. ‘My GPS shows another 1500 metres.’ ‘Oh no’ she sighs, and we are both so tired that we are unable to make a decision for some time. ‘I’m going to lower the fence!’ I cry angrily into the sky, beginning to pick at the hard earth. Once the post is removed, I weight the wires down with some stones I find lying around. We overcome the fence with surprising speed and are even more astonished to find the farm house just a few hundred metres further on. From a distance we can make out two women who are busy in the garden, they don’t notice us until we are almost beside them and jump up in surprise. They smile immediately and come to greet us with open arms. ‘Is this Dalgaranga Station?’ I ask suspiciously. ‘Yes, we’ve been waiting for you,’ says the young lady called Ingrid. Soon Andy emerges from the house and shakes our hands, saying jovially ‘You can sleep in the sheep shearing shed over there.’ I check the new quarters out while Tanja watches the camels and find a small, neat hut with two beds, a table, a television and a cupboard. With the joyful prospect of sleeping in a proper bed again after so many months, I readily accept Andy’s offer to stay at the farm for the night. ‘You can park the camels here in front of the hut,’ he offers kindly, so I go to Tanja straight away and help her bring the animals over. During the short walk, Istan suddenly becomes frightened by the windmill standing 20 metres before the hut and rattling away in the strong wind. As so often before, he flips out and brings the whole caravan in a dither, but we are able to bring them back under control and manage together to herd them to the front of the hut.

It begins raining heavily as we wearily unload and Sebastian resumes his annoying moan. We’ve removed the camels packs down to the saddles, as an inferno with new dimensions suddenly breaks lose. Istan throws himself in panic from his sitting position onto his side and begins kicking the packs with all his might. ‘Quick, we have to untie him!’ Tanja cries and we both run toward him. We manage to untie the ropes on his forefeet as he jumps up and takes off with ropes flying. Tanja tends to Jafar as I take off after Istan, grabbing hold of one of the lines. ‘Udu! Udu! Udu Istan!’ I roar with all my might, but he pulls on the rope in my hand and appears to have forgotten the lesson he learnt in a similar situation just a few seeks ago, whereby he took a terrible fall on the nose. Istan bolts off again and pulls me behind like a water skier, I know I should let go of the rope but I meet his challenge and decide to hold on, even though it may sound silly. I am pulled through the long grass and my knee begins to ache, it can’t be long before Istan yanks me into one of the surrounding bushes. But with the help of a strong rush of adrenaline, I overtake and stop him suddenly, he remains standing and snorts at me loudly, rolling his big eyes outwards and showing me the red under them. I quickly take hold of the nose line and run my right hand up over his nose, grasping the ring in it. With a flick of the hand I remove the ring and take the leg rope from around his neck. ‘Okay, my friend, now you can go,’ I say to him in a determined but soothing tone, knowing that I won this round. ‘Quickly Denis, help me! Goola is going crazy!’ Tanja’s cry reaches my ears and I race back to her aid with a stabbing pain in my knee. Goola has thrown himself onto his side too and fallen onto a supply sack. Immediately we open his leg rope, ‘Now!’ I call and loosen the knot on my side, but before Tanja can loosen the rope on the other side, Goola explodes upwards and we can only stand spring out of the way and watch helplessly as the massive beast gallops away on three legs. He falls after about ten metres, getting up again straight away and continuing his self destroying game. He falls again and it takes only a split second for us to awaken from our trance. ‘My God, he’ll break every bone in his body!’ I cry, adding ‘Go to him quickly, we must try to loosen the other leg rope!’ We race to him and Tanja jumps up and grabs the rope around his neck, ‘Easy Goola, easy!’ she speaks softly to him while I take hold of his raised upper leg. I press against his leg, loosening the rope and letting it drop to the ground, fearing all the time that he may kick me. Goola is freed and races after Istan, Jafar and Hardie don’t put on a performance but Sebastian puts the icing on the cake by throwing himself onto his side and doing his best to be allowed to join his mates on the loose. We quickly untie the girdles, the neck rope and the line that is wrapped around under his tail, so that the saddle doesn’t slip forwards when the camels sits down. As Tanja and I lift the heavy saddle from his back, he tries to lie down on his side again. ‘Now!’ we call together, removing the saddle in an opportune moment. Sebastian jumps up immediately and gallops off after his mates, despite the hobbles on his forefeet, eager to feed on the bushes. It is raining cats and dogs and we are wet to the bone, Tanja goes out to tend to the camels and I begin bringing the equipment into the hut. Completely exhausted, I find the raincoats and bring them to Tanja.

Before night falls, we have tied each of our boys to a tree and return to the hut. ‘Why do you think they behaved so badly?’ I ask. ‘No idea, maybe it has something to do with the weather change,’ Tanja answers. ‘Hmm, maybe. It could have been due to the rattling windmill too.’ ‘I don’t know what they are thinking sometimes,’ she returns and takes my hand. In the meantime, Andy has lit the fire under the water boiler so that we may take a hot shower. ‘We would like to invite you to dinner,’ he says in a welcome calm voice. ‘We’d love to come,’ I reply. Although we took a shower not three days ago, it is a wonderful feeling to have the hot water on our bodies again, like a massage it gives us new strength.

At 7:00 p.m. we are sitting in the tastefully decorated farmhouse or this kind and hospitable family. The atmosphere is pleasant and it smells great, a warm feeling is in the air and I soon feel as though I have known these people for ages. We chat pleasantly, telling of our adventures and listening to Andy and Ingrid’s story of how they met and fell in love. Ingrid’s parents are sitting with us at the big table, they are here for a few days in order to visit their newly married daughter. They are very friendly people too and give us a feeling of being welcome in this big family. Ingrid serves wine and beer with the roast dinner and I devour it hungrily, overwhelmed then by a desert of vanilla ice cream and plums. Large raindrops beat against the window and remind us of the world and our crazy camels outside. ‘May we stay another day if it’s still raining tomorrow?’ I ask Andy and Ingrid. ‘Of course, that would be nice. It would make us very happy,’ they answer. Later in the evening I take the rare opportunity to call my parents and friend, Mike, in Germany. It is nice to hear their voices but a shock to learn that one of our sponsors has cancelled his payments for no apparent reason. I am disappointed, as I have worked so hard for our partners, and frustrated that I can do so little about such sudden problems, out here in the Australian bush. ‘Don’t worry Denis, I’ll sort it out,’ Mike tries to calm me. Then I am almost blown over when he tells me about the financial situation of our web page, the translation costs have risen enormously since I gave the go ahead to publish my journal and expedition reports in full length. I do my best not to appear depressed or angered when I resume my seat at our host’s table.


Day: 96






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