We had to operate a one night trek immediately before the next big one. In itself it was quite enjoyable, it just meant that we couldn’t pack the wagon in advance as we would need it for the small trek beforehand. The night before we were due to leave we heard that the group would not only be self-catering but would feed us as well as they had so much food left over! This was Roger’s birthday so rather than having to work we were being fed which was a nice bonus. I made him (and everyone else) a special chocolate pudding from an untried recipe with which he was delighted and seemed to be universally well received. Karen had chucked in a few bottles of wine to add to the occasion and even Trevor (now Farina!) joined in, even though she doesn’t lick the evidence off her lips!
Before we could leave, we went to the local elderly day care centre to give them a little talk about ourselves, our lives and how we came to be in Hawker. Jasmine should have been doing it but she was off on a break in Alice Springs so Karen asked us to step and promptly forgot that we were going, several times. There were still plenty of jobs needing to be done both for this overnighter and then the school camp. It was an ‘interesting’ session with a wide cross-section of older, less able in body or mind, women from the area, some of whom had quite a considerable history.
When we arrived at the yard Paul and Sam were already out with the 2 strings of camels to give them some exercise so they would be calm for the riders, not that they aren’t anyway but sometimes a little too pleased to be going out. This enabled us to say hello to those left behind who we don’t normally get to see much of, apart from Mission. He had been usurped to give Gandhi an outing and was unusually friendly from the other side of the fence. He is one of the rescues who had worked as a ‘Judas’ at an abattoir. This involved ‘befriending’ each herd of camels who were brought in and then leading them into the slaughter house with as little disturbance as possible. He wasn’t treated very nicely by the owners either as he was purely functional so is quite mistrusting of people, doesn’t like more than a couple of people around him but must have felt more secure with the fence between us.
Sabre was being less aggressive than normal, at least not attacking any of the others for a change and even came up to the fence to give us due consideration. She had been a little reluctant to come in earlier when Paul had mustered them all from their huge paddock on his motorbike. Definitely the essential equipment for outback farmers. It was quite strange to see them running in as, despite their apparent gawkiness, they look very smooth and efficient when going at speed. They can actually match a racehorse at about 40km/hr with additional stamina.
We have come to adore their mouths. They are so soft but almost dexterous like big floppy fingers. Their top lip is split in 2 vertically and can operate separately. One doesn’t need to hold your hand flat when feeding them as you might do a horse. When they are in repose this vertical split tends to present as a very worried ‘ooh’ look which contradicts their somewhat supercilious expression of looking down their noses.
That evening around the camp fire, before returning to the house to take a phone call from one of the helpers, Karen took a straw poll from those of us who happened to be there (including Paul) about whether he should be allowed to stay. It was ‘no’ from all but the one abstention. He returned the following day to join the school camp.
The following morning Tanami decided that we took too long to get ready so lay down and was very reluctant to move. Unfortunately this is not a good position for a camel to adopt for any length of time like many large animals but, the more he was persuaded to get up the more he put up passive resistance. It is very difficult to move a camel where it doesn’t want to go and he is a master at this inertia. He is however, quite remarkable in other respects. It took Karen only 6 hours to train him after they brought him in from the desert (no abuse!) at a mere 4-5 years old last year. He is a big softie and one of the petting camels so gets lots of treats. Even the riders, perched on top whilst he refuses to hoosh down – sit – and Paul wraps a rope round one leg which is lifted off the ground until he concedes, all love him to bits. We all enjoy his antics.
Tomorrow we start an 11 day school trek! 25 12-13 year olds for 10 nights, a different campsite each night. No flushing toilets or showers until we reach the 7th night! We will need to pack almost all of our luggage to see us through this period, if I don’t throw a wobbly and leave before the end. This could be my idea of hell! And no internet or telephone connection until 9th August!!