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Incorrect information poses a threat

Cattle Camp — 2000-09-19

Our wrist watches beep at four in the morning and we jump up out of our sleeping bags to start the next hard day. Despite being still half asleep I don’t skip my back gymnastics, the fear of lying flat on my back again like at Heart Camp a few months ago is just too great. The extra hour is an advantage in loading the camels and for the first time we are on the track before 8:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later we arrive at the GPS marking number four, ‘No track in sight. We should have crossed it ages ago. Our best bet would be for you to walk about a hundred metres to the left of the caravan and keep your eyes peeled for any sign of a path, then give me a yell if you find anything,’ I tell Tanja and continue to zig zag the animals across the devil’s garden. The huge pressure that I am under and the growing fear of never finding a way out of this place makes me both aggressive and depressed at the same time. I feel like I’m losing control of my temper and can hardly keep a reign on my tumultuous thoughts. I wonder how Tanja is feeling? We speak to one other constantly but I still cannot know what goes on in her inner self. I have begun to feel like a volcano about to erupt at any moment and she has taken to walking behind the camel train during the day so as to retain her own peace as well as to make sure that the animals in the rear make it over difficult spots. ‘It looks like there was a track here once!’ Tanja calls. ‘Good, I’m coming!’ I call back in anticipation of finding a less dangerous path for the camels to take. We really do discover a path that was used by people a very long time ago and follow it as well as we can. Rusty tin cans and broken bottles are the evidence that humans have been this way before. Usually we are disgusted at the mess that people leave in the bush but this time we see it as a sign that we will survive. But our joy is short lived, the bush path disappears into nowhere just 15 minutes later and we struggle over another hill where the ground is, however, somewhat better. We head through thick bush land once more and find the vegetation getting more succulent with every metre until finally we reach a flowing river. ‘This is a dead end,’ I sigh. Rufus takes the opportunity to cool down by jumping into the water and I study the charts for a way out. ‘I think we’ll have to follow the river for a few kilometres until we find a ford at which to cross. Somehow we have to make it to the other side,’ I say and lead the camels back in the direction we just came, out of the impenetrable bush growing along the banks. We then follow along the outside of the bushy banks for a while before stumbling upon another promising path. I give Tanja the lead and take a short walk down the path, hoping that it will lead us to a ford. 500 metres later I turn around and head eagerly back to Tanja and the camels, the path hasn’t disappeared and on the way back I stop to break some low hanging branches that could be a problem for Sebastian’s high load and solar paddle. The cracking and snapping sets the camels into panic and they suddenly bolt. I see Tanja being pulled up into the air and dragged over a bush before disappearing from sight. As if bitten by a poisonous insect I take off in her direction, hoping to arrive in time. My lungs are bursting as I reach the spot to find Tanja standing still with the camels all under control. ‘I didn’t let go,’ she beams proudly. ‘Are you hurt?’ ‘No, I don’t think so. Sebastian pulled me over that bush there, he was frightened by something.’ ‘That was my fault, I broke some branches,’ I admit.

After this shock I lead the camels very slowly through the thick bush and find the going very difficult on the path that nature has reclaimed. We force ourselves through the bush for about thirty minutes until we suddenly find ourselves on the other side of the river. I study the map and come to the conclusion that we must have chanced upon a rammed earth crossing made by one of the farmers. The path vanishes once more and we find the functional Moore Well in the afternoon. ‘Finally we can water the camels and refill our drinking reserves.’ We are relieved to leave the stony labyrinth behind us and hurry toward the windmill. But as we come nearer we discover it overtaken by an enormous cattle herd. ‘Do you think they’ll leave our camels in peace?’ Tanja wonders. ‘I can only hope so,’ I reply unsteadily.

I pass the lead to Tanja about a hundred metres before the trough. ‘I’ll try and shoo the cattle away first,’ I say and walk toward them shouting. The cattle, however, make no attempt at leaving the trough and I begin to run and scream loudly at the beasts. Rufus’ hunting instinct is aroused and he takes off like a bullet into the middle of the herd, barking like mad. I am grateful as the big bellowing beasts shuffle off. I turn around and make my way back to the caravan, only to discover a couple of young bulls running toward me ready to attack. I bend down and pick up a few stones, then run toward the bulls yelling once more. They stand stock still and appear to consider whether to attack or not. I throw one of the stones which lands a little short of the nearest bull, this is enough for him and he makes a hundred and eighty degree turn before taking off after his comrades. ‘We’ve won,’ I pant to Rufus and we make our way back to the windmill. As soon as I turn my back a whole group of young bulls make a go at us, they have evidently called for reinforcement. Rufus pulls in his tail and makes a break for it. I pick up a few more stones and half run backwards. Our camels are getting more and more nervous and Tanja wants to make a wide circle around the windmill. ‘It’s only another 15 kilometres to Murphy Well. I think we can make it by tomorrow morning if we keep to this relatively good track,’ I say and so it comes about that we leave the well behind, without refilling our water bags and without letting the camels drink. Driven away by a herd of cattle we continue to march and hope that we can find water tomorrow. Dark clouds gather in the sky and rain threatens. The air is thick enough to cut with a knife. Flies swarm around us and the obviously well used track makes a bend to the south. We decide to leave it and walk directly toward Murphy Well. At 4:00 p.m. we find a spot to camp in another stony landscape and although the sun is hidden behind thick clouds the thermometer still shows 35°C. I set up our faithful Fjäll Räven tent this time with the outer skin too and make a small fire. We gobble down dinner in the dark, our plates lit by our head lamps. Heaps of moths and other insects swarm around the light and fall into our dinner as usual but this time I am so tired that I don’t bother taking them out but eat them instead. ‘Ouch! One just flew into my ear!’ Tanja cries. I take no notice at first as the insects have been fluttering around our ears for weeks now. ‘It’s still alive,’ Tanja moans. She continues to complain about the uncomfortable sounds in her ear and I shine my torch light into it, ‘I can’t see anything, it must be in pretty deep,’ I declare. Later, in the warmth of our sleeping bags, Tanja tells me she has an ear ache and I begin to get nervous. Who knows what kind of insect is stuck in her auditory passage. My experience tells me that it’s better to react sooner than later and so I force myself up and out of the tent in order to get some ear drops from the medical case. I carefully drop enough liquid into her ear to drown whatever is inside for sure. ‘Is it still moving?’ I ask. ‘No, it’s still now.’ Tanja then rolls over and lies on her good ear so that the critter is sure to drown.

Day: 131






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