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Trust your intuition

Wolga Rock-Camp — 2000-08-21

I roll from left to right and cannot sleep. I wake up over and over again and listen to the windmill turning shakily in the wind. It creaks constantly. The water tank in which water is pumped by the windmill, stands 15 metres high directly beside our tent and loses valuable water from a hole which has been shot by someone about half way up it’s side. A thin stream runs down onto the platform under the tank and then down onto the ground a few metres from our tent. It must be these noises that cause me to leave the tent every two hours for a pee. I feel like I’m in an aquarium, the sleeping bags are as moist as usual, my knee sends me messages asking when I’m going to cease this constant walking, and my thoughts turn uncontrollably to home. I am pressed by an urge to check the time every few minutes, but I ignore it until it finally overcomes me and I take a glance – 6:00 a.m. ‘Oh my God, it’s six o’clock.’ I wake Tanja up with a shake, ‘We’ve slept in! Damn!’ I swear and begin my early gymnastics while Tanja pulls her clothes on wearily. I quickly pack everything together and crawl out of our damp quarters into a cold, windy world covered by a thick blanket of cloud and the promise of rain.

The camels are nervous and make the loading difficult, and then Goola spits on my face and shirt again, just as I go to untie his leg ropes. This time the contents of his stomach have taken on an extremely stinking quality and I pick up a hand full of sand as he goes for a second attempt. I throw the sand in the direction of his gaping mouth, but miss and hit Tanja in the face instead. She spits and splutters, ‘I’m sorry Tanja, I didn’t mean it. I’m really, really sorry,’ I cry. ‘How is this to end, now I’m having sand thrown at me in the early hours of the morning!’ she laughs in a joking voice. We lead the camels out onto the dirt road at 10:00 a.m., carefully and patiently leading Sebastian around the bushes and glad that none of the animals breaks out. They fall into a walking trot quickly and the wind pushes the clouds away so that the sun’s rays warm the earth. A ute approaches and pulls up beside us, it’s the owners of Austin Down Station. I hold the camels as the gentleman inundates Tanja with questions, friendly enough but with a stern expression on his face. ‘Be careful of your camp fires. This region is covered with wind grass and it only takes one spark for a fire to explode out of control. Some tourists set us alight a while ago. A fire has catastrophic consequences out here,’ he warns. ‘We’ll take extra care and never leave the camp fire unattended,’ Tanja assures him before he says goodbye and takes off to the north.

In the early afternoon, a large, long, red-brown coloured rock suddenly appears in the bush. ‘That must be Walga Rock!’ I call joyfully, eager to view the first Aborigine paintings that are here to see. It may sound strange, but I turn the camels into the bush a few hundred metres before the rock, so as not to leave any prints. We don’t want any guests in our camp this time as we feel overwhelmed and unable to dedicate ourselves to our visitors in the evenings, even though we are usually happy to have guests. There’s just too much to do right now, with loading and unloading, setting up camp and just plain weariness, that we can’t answer all the questions that are usually asked. This area is a tourist attraction and our camels would ensure plenty of visitors and no peace. Our caravan winds itself carefully through the bushes and trees, heading for the impressive rock formation. It’s intense red colouring is a sharp contrast to the lush green of the bush and the straw coloured wind grass, making it look like a surreal painting. We set the camp up a few hundred metres before the age old rock, in the middle of the thick bush. The camels act as though there could be an Aboringinal hunter from times long ago hidden behind every bush, waiting to throw his spear at them. Unloading is a nightmare and we sometimes feel that the camel’s energies are directly linked to their surroundings. This time it’s Istan that takes off on three legs, and I race off after him in an attempt to loosen the dangling leg rope and prevent him from breaking any bones, despite my painful knee. As soon as the others have their saddles removed, they jump up and run off in a northerly direction. Tanja takes off in chase and I set the camp up, unable to hear the camel bells a short time later and starting to get worried. What if Tanja gets kicked by one of the camels? She could be lying on the ground unconscious and the camels flee in fright? My thoughts race and although we’ve been in this situation many times before and it’s nothing new for us, I drop everything and run off in pursuit of Tanja and the animals. I am relieved to see Tanja leading Goola and Sebastian. ‘Everything okay?’ I ask. ‘Not at all. It’s lucky you followed us, Jafar and Hardie have run off in this direction and I think Istan followed them. Quick, take Sebastian and Goola and I’ll chase the others!’ She calls and is already gone. Goola is terribly excited and pulls on the line like an Ox. I need all my strength to hold him in check and am glad as Tanja finally emerges from the bush with Jafar and Hardie in tow. Istan is close behind. We search desperately for some edible bushes for the camels and it takes a long time before all are tied to an appropriate tree and we return to camp. ‘Ahhh, it’s good that you arrived when you did. They were like a bag full of fleas and I lost sight of them in the thick bush.’ Tanja sighs. ‘I had a funny feeling all of a sudden and just had to see if everything was okay,’ I answer, and am glad to have trusted my intuition.


Not much later, we’re standing in front of a 15 metre high and approx. 60 metre long cave in the rock. The late afternoon sun throws it’s rays upon the west side of this interesting and lonely rock formation. Green plants and colourful flowers grow before the cave and we notice the primitive paintings as we approach the opening. I am fascinated by the hand prints left on the naked rock by people over 10.000 (ten thousand) years ago. We also see lizards and birds in white, red and ochre pigment that have lasted for many thousands of years. Tanja is tired and lies down on the ground before the cave, letting her eyes wander over the two to three metre deep indentations of the rock and her hands feel the stone beneath her. ‘Do you feel anything?’ I ask, busy filming and photographing. ‘It feels good. So peaceful and harmonious,’ she answers with a soft smile in her voice. I stand before the various paintings and allow their impressions to work on me. What kind of people must have lived here? Were they happy? What were they thinking as they painted this cave? How did they live? Many questions form in my mind and I would give anything to be able to live with this tribe for a few years. But they no longer exist and most of their descendants live in the towns nowadays, no-one lives out here anymore in the ways of their ancestors. A few years ago I made first contact with a cannibalistic tribe of west New Guinea. It was an impressive expedition and I ask myself if the Aboriginal people’s roots go back to New Guinea perhaps? I study each and every painting and at the end of the cave see a naive image of a sailing ship. I have read many different theories in books and this image just doesn’t fit in this cave, no matter who painted it there.

As the sun begins to work it’s way down to the horizon and it’s warm light heats the cave up, I lie down next to Tanja and enjoy this moment of our expedition from an interesting perspective. The red rock is striped with black and grey stone and looks stunning against the blue sky. Birds have attached their nests to the roof of the cave and flit to and fro. A majestic bird glides over the monolith and circles over our bodies slowly. The colourful flowers, the green, the ochre coloured paintings, the indescribably beautiful blue of the sky, the colours of the centuries old rock and the twitter of the birds, bring this fabulous place of our ancestors to life.
Tanja and I lie there for a long time and enjoy this time of peace amongst mother nature. Then we climb up the back of the rock before the fire ball sun disappears beneath the horizon, and are greeted by a blasting wind which almost knocks me over as we reach the topmost point. The endless sea of Australian bush reaches as far as the eye can see and we feel like we are stranded upon an ocean as we turn ourselves around. We notice for the first time how isolated and lonely this place around us is, then we sit down with crossed legs and watch the setting sun. It is as though we are breathing in all of the wonders around us and the top of the rock is covered in small indentations which have filled with crystal clear water and which sparkle in the light. We leave our elevated positions before darkness falls and climb back down to camp. The chewing camels greet us and because of the highly flammable wind grass, I light only a small fire tonight on which Tanja prepares our dinner.

Day: 102






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