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Mingah Springs Camp — 2000-09-29 - 2000-09-30

The days here pass much too quickly and Tanja and I both wish that we could have made our summer camp here. The people on the farm are so nice and good to us, we are made to feel right at home. In between writing, I have the occasion to watch some of the Olympics or to chat with Peter and Tracy. We learn a lot about the Aborigines that live in this area and especially about which tracks lead from here to Mount Vernon. ‘There’s a short cut from here which will save you at least two days of marching. And besides that, the track is nowhere near as stony as the main road. We could drive over the stretch together if you like. I have to go and check on a windmill anyway and the drive wont be out of my way,’ Peter offers, pushing back his hat which looks like it could tell a tale or two of it’s own.

Tracy has been speaking to her father, Brian Rieck, at Mount Vernon Station. ‘He knows of an old track that leads to Turee Creek Station. He reckons it should be easy to find the way with the GPS. He’s even willing to fly you both over the area so you can make your own picture of the terrain. He also says you’re welcome to come to their place, he reckons you should just walk as far as the Branco crossing then wait for him or my mother to pick you up. Branco lies about 25 km this side of Mount Vernon Station and has a track leading straight to Turee Creek Station. So you would be saving yourselves another two days if you didn’t have to walk to Mount Vernon first then back around again. Dad says you could leave the camels in one of the cow paddocks. Mum will bring hay when she comes to pick you up.’ Our jaws drop as Tanja and I hear this fantastic news. If we can find the old track to Turee Creek Station then we will be saving ourselves a detour of hundreds of kilometres. Otherwise we would have to follow the main road to the small town of Paraburdoo, which lies to the north west of here whereas we need to go north east. All our hopes now lie in Brian Rieck. It would be a true blessing if we were spared weeks of detours as every day gets hotter and hotter. Anyway, we’ll be finding out soon enough if we can take the old track and follow it successfully through this difficult country. Brian’s offer is in any case a stroke of brilliance and really puts the icing on the cake of friendship and hospitality we’ve found here. Until now I have always considered the hospitality of the peasants in Pakistan to be the highest in the world, but I am pleased to find that the people of the Australian outback have taken over first place.

Peter and I drive his Toyota jeep along the short cut to Tangadee road in the afternoon. ‘Once you reach the dirt road to Tangadee you’ll have the worst part of the trip to my father-in-law’s station behind you. Then you just have to follow it to the connecting road to Mount Vernon,’ Peter explains over the loud engine noise. ‘It looks very stony,’ I notice with a sweep of my eyes across the track. ‘True, but compared to the main road it’s nothing. If I had to walk bare footed to Mount Vernon then I’d choose this way. The connecting road to Mount Vernon is considered one of the worst in the whole of Western Australia,’ Peter replies. ‘Oh my, I can only hope that the camels don’t walk their feet wound,’ I mutter as I enter another co-ordinate into the GPS.

The track stops about 20 kilometres further on and the jeep fights it’s way through dried creek beds. We pass a few windmills, natural water holes and thick bush. The sun burns through the windshield and I ask myself how we are to stand the ever hotter days. Branches, leaves and twigs fly through the open window and into the cabin. I am constantly surprised at just how much a Toyota can stand. It cracks and groans all around me and I have to jerk my head to the side every time we explode through a wall of green so as not to be whipped in the face by passing branches. The ride with Peter reminds me that it’s not only difficult to cross the country with camels, but just as hard going in this automobile. We’re shaken up like falling ripened fruit and the heater can’t be turned off which means my feet are tortured by hot blasts of air from the engine. We stop at a windmill and find it surrounded by a herd of cattle. ‘Hey look, there’s a horse! And a donkey!’ I cry in surprise. ‘Yes, that’s a brumby, a wild horse. The donkey has taken up with the brumby and is the last one on my property. A couple of months ago the APB, Agriculture Protection Board, went up in helicopters and shot all of the wild horses and donkeys they could find. As you know, brumbies and donkeys pose a real threat to the land and it is permitted to shoot them. I was in the helicopter too and saw the horse and the donkey running away but I didn’t tell the shooters, I think it’s important to have some heart and feelings too. What do you think?’ ‘No question about it, people without feelings are not real people for me,’ I answer solemnly.

We arrive at the Tangadee Road a good hour later. It is a narrow dirt road which winds from east to west through the bush. ‘From here you have to walk about 7 kilometres to the west, then you’ll come to the Mount Vernon Track,’ Peter explains, motioning toward the glowing sun. ‘A thousand thanks for the enormous help. I will never forget it.’ ‘No worries, glad I could help,’ he chuckles.

In the late afternoon we arrive back at the station and Peter goes to pick up some calves from the neighbouring farm with his truck. We try to put Rufus’ new shoes on which Jo sent to Mingah Springs Station with the camel medicine. Rufus isn’t keen on the idea of wearing shoes at all and his first attempts at walking in them send us into reels of laughter. The poor thing doesn’t know what’s going on and prances, springs and hops like a clown over the red earth. ‘It’s for your own good,’ I tell him with a reassuring pat on the head. We’re not sure how Rufus could survive the Australian summer with it’s oven-like ground and innumerable stones and spiky bushes, without the help of these shoes. We watch him sceptically and can only hope that he gets used to his new footwear soon.

Day: 141-142

Max. daytime temperature:
31°C, more than 47°C in the sun

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