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Really a day to celebrate

Half-way-Camp — 2000-10-02

It is a sweltering night and I hardly sleep. The intensive sunlight has warmed up the ground to such an extent that we feel we are resting on a heater, or more precisely we feel like we’re in a sauna. Unfortunately this sauna has no door through which one can escape to the outside. I turn around in my own juice from left to right and ask myself once again how we can solve this problem. The thermometer shows, at 12 midnight, a ground temperature of more than 40 degrees. Our isomats hardly help. Tracy from Mingah Springs told us a few days ago that her mother measured ground temperatures of 72 degrees some years ago. Every newly born calf died within a few hours. I am laying wide awake observing the stars in the clear sky through the mosquito netting. Tanja, the lucky one, is so exhausted that she sleeps despite the heat. I think of the cold nights during the weeks gone by and wish I was in the Antarctica. It is strange that one always wants which he cannot get at that moment. At 1:00 a.m. the temperature drops below 30 degrees and finally my body and spirit escapes into the land of dreams. Only two and a half hours later we force ourselves into the next day again. It is even somewhat cool which prevents our bodies from overheating straight away while loading the animals.

Because of the tricky lacing system of Rufus´ shoes we again can not depart before 7:30 a.m. The path leading to Tangadee Road is extremely rocky. I lead the camels slowly across the hard ground to enable them to gain a solid footing. “My god everywhere these confounded stones. I hope our boys endure this long stretch” I repeat myself turning around to Tanja who just came up to the front to report on the condition of the packsaddles. Meantime we check the stability of the load in the bags every hour. As soon as even one of the big bags starts to chafe the camels bodies I stop the trek and tighten the tension belts. This way we can prevent that any camel gets injured by his cargo. Relieved, we reach Tangadee Road 3 hours and 12 kilometers later. We follow it for about 7 kilometers until we reach the connecting road to Mount Vernon. The sun is burning down from a cloudless sky. The thermometer shows 38 degrees in the shade. Nevertheless we are making good progress on the cleared route. At some places the rough stony ground disappears for some hundred meters only to reappear again leading further to the northeast. The landscape shows sparse growth and looks scanty at these temperatures. As far as we can observe there is no food for the camels to be found. After 6 hours without a break our bodies are burned out but still the environment is void of food for the animals. We march on hoping to find something edible for our companions. “Only a few kilometers more and we can open a bottle of champagne” I say, panting heavily with the effort. “What do you mean?” “Then we are halfway between Wundowie and Broome” I exalt. “Oh that really is a motivating piece of news. The bottle of champagne we drink in Broome. Better two bottles, one for this day and one for reaching the first leg of our objective” Tanja cheers, speeding up so much that I have to slow her down.

For some time now large thunderstorm clouds are darkening the mountainous country south west from us. I wish for nothing more than a heavy rain shower, watching the slow build up of the clouds. At 14:45 after 7 hours I discover an overgrown dried up riverbed. I set the tired and sweating animals down. They are unloaded swiftly and like every day after unloading I check the bodies for pressure points or wounds. Goola Badoola´s hip still hurts. Although he has been marching without his load for weeks and the pussy fist size blister has opened some days ago he still jerks when I move my hand over this region. Above the right hip bone an equally large pocket of puss is located which I had punctured with a scalpel at Mingah Springs already. Unfortunately it was not matured then and nothing but blood emerged. Tracy, Tanja and I agreed to leave the blister alone until it bursts in it’s own due course. Goola has been receiving pain relieving medication for weeks now as well as anti-inflammatories and we can only hope that his condition is not worsening. His injured eye is still watering. We tried to rub in a special antibiotic ointment but during this treatment he put on such a performance that we feared for his life. All we can do now is keep away the annoying flies which sit around his eye and treat the open spots, caused by the watering, with Betaisadonna.

After thorough examination Tanja leads the camels to chew on a green tree. Suddenly a strong gust of wind blows across the riverbed swirling up dust. I look at the dark cloud covered sky. Is the thunderstorm coming? Slowly I move my sore body to and fro to erect the camp. Suddenly thunder splits the silence of the bush and only some kilometers away dazzling lightning flashes through the menacing cloud formation. ”Will it come down over us?” Tanja calls.” Could be! You’ve only got 10 minutes to tie down the camels!” I answer. Surprised by the intensity of the cloud cutting lightning I hurry, forgetting my pains completely, across the sandy riverbed looking for an elevated spot for the tent in case of a cloudburst. Another gust of wind tears the tent from my hand. I have trouble erecting our textile home and am glad to have tied the storm ropes with herrings in the ground for our little castle. Again thunder roars above our heads but this time from another direction. Tanja comes running from the camels to the camp to help store the equipment away from the storm. As we are finished the thunder of the interfering air turbulence withdraws and suddenly id does not look as if the sleuses above us would open. The gusts of wind stop abruptly and the cloud cover breaks up. “Strange weather” Tanja notes. “Yes really strange. The barometer didn’t even indicate a change of air pressure” I reply as I dig a little hole in the riverbed for a fireplace on which to boil the Billy. For some weeks now we have been extremely careful with or camp fires. Immediately after Tanja finishes boiling water or preparing food I cover the fireplace again for safety reasons. With all the highly flammable dry grass here, causing a bush fire would be the ultimate nightmare. In such a case we would have only a remote chance of leaving the area without being grilled. Although we are happy to have reached the half-way mark of our first leg of the journey, we just don’t have enough energy to celebrate accordingly. At 7:30 p.m. we crawl wearily into our private sauna and wait in vain for a drop in temperature.

Day: 144

 

Sunrise:
05:44

 

Sunset:
18:05

 

Linear distance:
25,1

 

Daily kilometres:
33

Max. daytime temperature:
35°C, more than 56°C in the sun

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