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A new system promises to save us from the heat

Dust Camp — 2000-09-26

We arise at 4:00 a.m. as on previous days. We have decided to try out a new system, after a lengthy phone call with Jo and Tom, whereby Tanja wont be going with the camels to feed in the morning but helping to take the camp down instead. After the camp is down then we intend on loading the camels at 6:00 a.m. already and eating lunch on the go instead of stopping for a break. In this way we hope to be marching before the heat arrives and be able to set up camp again at 2:00 p.m. If this new system works then we should be able to cover greater distances. If we want to reach our goal then we have to find a way around the heat and we know that we’ll never make it to the coast if we keep going the way we have been. We push ourselves to the limit but the caravan is not ready to go until 8:00 a.m.

It’s already warm by the time we set off and Geoff has gone ahead to tell the people at Three River Station to expect us. Nearby motorbikes and cars are belting through the bush herding cattle and the sudden tumult makes the camels nervous. A couple of hundred metres further on we see a tree by the side of the road from which at least ten dead cats hang. The kangaroo hunters must have had fun shooting the wild felines, considered a vermin here in the Australian bush. They reproduce extremely quickly and cause havoc stealing bird’s eggs and hunting lizards. Although they are without a doubt one of the biggest pests in the bush, the sight of their bodies rotting in the sun is unpleasant to say the least.

Geoff is waiting at the cross roads for us. ‘I couldn’t get any of the drovers on the radio. They must be out of reach or on another frequency,’ he says. I don’t think it will be a problem seeing as they are droving in the other direction. We shake hands goodbye and then set off towards Mingah Spring Station, about 80 kilometres away. We hope to receive a package with Medication for the animals in Mingah Spring. Jo has sent it there and the owners of the Station, Tracy and Peter, get their mail every Wednesday. The package is very important for us seeing as Goola Badoola’s anti-inflammatory medicine is almost finished. We also fear that he may go blind in his right eye. About two weeks ago he scratched himself on one of the thorny bushes and since then a grey film has covered the cornea and he pinches the lids closed. Our hands are tied at the moment unfortunately, but we hope to be able to help him with the new medicine. ‘I’m hungry’ Tanja says after three hours of hard walking. ‘Me too,’ I answer. ‘Camels udu!’ I bring the train to a halt. Tanja takes the lunch bag from Sebastian’s saddle and we head off again. Geoff gave us a couple of cans of Coca Cola, which I usually never drink, but which now has an amazing effect on us. We get a surge of energy from the sugary drink which helps us to cover another couple of kilometres at least. ‘Yuck, that’s terribly warm,’ I splutter, glad however to have the luxury drink for the first time on our expedition. I tilt my head back to get another gulp of coke as Sebastian suddenly bites right into the can I am holding. I manage to save it from his thirsty grip. ‘That would make a great add, a camel drinking coke,’ Tanja jokes and we both laugh heartily. ‘No Sebastian!’ I cry as he tries to take a chomp of my jam sandwich. Eating lunch turns out to be a bit of an obstacle course but we make excellent time and set up our next camp at 2:00 p.m. According to the GPS we have walked 25,8 kilometres. We unload the camels then lead them from the dirt road to a few bushes on which they can chew the whole afternoon.


We plonk ourselves down in the shade of a few bushes and take a couple of deep breaths before getting to work setting the camp up. After that we take time to study some of the poisonous plants. With every kilometre further north, we find ourselves amidst more and more poisonous plants which can kill a goat, sheep, cow or camel after just one mouthful. Before we left on this trip, a friend of ours offered to gather life saving information about the plants but the reading material has not reached us yet and so Jo and Tom have taken a huge amount of time to search for information with a friend of theirs and send it to Belele Station with the shoes. The plants are pictured in colour but we still have a hard time identifying them. They write about a Gyrostemon ramulosus bush, which caused the death of two of Ernest Giles camels on his 1875 to 1876 expedition as well as making the others very sick. It grows not far from the town of Newman and can survive even bush fires.

Northern Ironwood is deadly for camels too, as well as the native tobacco which grows splendidly after a bush fire. The Aborigines use these plants as a narcotic, mixing the dried leaves with ash and chewing them. If one of our camels eats one of these juicy green plants then it doesn’t have much chance of surviving. At the moment the most dangerous one for us is the Desert Poison Bush from which the poison 1080 is won. In Australia it is wrapped in meat and given to dingoes, foxes and wild dogs to get rid of them. They pose an enormous threat to Rufus and there is no antidote against this highly deadly bush. We are leaving the region of the Kite Leaf plant but this news is not very uplifting considering all the new dangers that lie before us.

Tanja and I sit in the camp and try to soak up all the information. We had thought that the expedition would get a bit easier as time goes by but quite the opposite is happening, it is getting more and more difficult. ‘Do you think there could be some poisonous plants here already?’ Tanja casts a worried glance at the camels. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised. We’re not far from the given zones and will have to be extremely vigilant from now on,’ I answer. Despite the unpleasant plant situation we are happy to have reached the camping spot by early afternoon. We now have time to concentrate on such problems as well as time to relax a little. The new system appears to be working already.

An enormous cattle truck thunders past at 5:00 p.m. and a huge dust cloud settles over our camp. A few other vehicles drive by on their way back from droving and our lungs burn, but otherwise we enjoy a useful afternoon. We intend on getting up at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow morning and so make our way into the mosquito tent from Fjäll Räven at 7:30 p.m. The nights are still relatively cool and we fall into a deep sleep.

Day: 138






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