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Reconnaissance mission across wild country

Mount Vernon-Camp — 2000-10-05

Today we get up at 6:00 a.m. Brian wants to fly us along the old track to Turee Creek. We take in a nourishing breakfast and are ready to take off. Brian refuels the plane and pushes it out of the barn. We embark and take off from the nearby strip into the morning air. We fly to Branco first to pick up the spoor of the old trail there. For the first 15 kilometers it is quite evident because Brian uses it to keep a check on some of his windmills. We fly across some dried out riverbeds, dense undergrowth and bushes growing alongside their banks. The old track suddenly disappears here. ”That is the Ashburton river! You have to cross it! And here is another rock hole with water if you need some!” Brian shouts through the noise of the engine. I look highly concentrated out of the window and mark the locations with numbers into the GPS instrument. Tanja sits on the back seat, armed with pen and paper taking down everything I dictate to her: “Point 19 across the river and then hard to the left! 20, track briefly visible! 21 gets lost again! 22, Spinnafix country! 23 and 24 across mountain ruptures and through gorges! 30 across plateau!” The view of the wild country causes butterflies in our stomachs. The land converts into an elevated plateau. Uncountable gorges and little torn up valleys are eating into the plateau like the tentacles of an octopus. Only one connecting passage leads up through the maize of stones and cracks. Should we miss this connection one could run to and fro for weeks and never find the entrance. Our iron bird is gliding across a sea of Spinnafix grass. Many people in the Outback told us horror tales about this prickly plant. “The thorns even penetrate leather leggings, break at the top and stay in the skin until they fester out” says Lorraine. Finally we touch down on the strip next to the Turee Creek farm. We salute Bruce McGuire. He is known to talk as he thinks. Always straight, not mincing words. Yet inside he carries a good heart and is a friendly person. ”So you’re the mad Germans venturing through our country on foot.” He still has some other terms for us handy but partly I do not understand them. Then he chats with Brian. “I am wetting my pants because of the bush fire. It keeps on growing. At the moment it’s burning towards Juna Downs and Hamersley ranges but if the wind changes it will be our turn” Bruce says, visibly nervous. Without any further talk Bruce and Brian decide to take a closer look and view the fire from the air. “Make yourselves at home. Here is water, tea whatever you want. Please stay in the kitchen and if the phone rings please say that I will be back shortly”  Bruce announces in a for us hardly comprehensible dialect. Off they went. Tanja and I take the opportunity to look through some magazines laying on the table. It takes 20 minutes for them to get back. “How does it look?” I ask inquisitively. “It is a big fire. At the moment it is progressing slowly because of the low wind speed. I cannot advise you any longer to set out on the route to Juna Down Staion in the north. The land there is completely charred giving the impression that there may not be any food for your camels. But lets talk about this later. At the moment it is difficult to guess the development during the next days. Maybe it dies out and you are safe”, Brian says with his friendly voice. After a short chat we bid Bruce farewell and fly back to Mount Vernon Station.

Day: 147

Max. daytime temperature:
36°C, more than 56°C in the shade

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