STAGE 4 - Flat & Straight
Sandy Blight Junction Road to Amburla Station - Northern Territory
July 31st - Day 88
This morning I gave the camels a bale of lucerne and 22 litres of water each which didn't even touch the sides and it disappeared in about 2 minutes flat. In the afternoon I gave them another 20 litres and they were satisfied. Trevor and I went into Kintore (population about 400) to fetch water for my next stage and fuel for the vehicle. The well-stocked store was a treat but I resisted temptation and all I bought was a tin of Pal for Mac and some Orange Juice for me. It was a busy day repacking the stores, and getting everything organised for the next stage of the journey (stage 4) which is simple enough - approx 256km cross-country to Haasts Bluff then about 160km on minor roads & station tracks. I have now entered the Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Reserve and the Pintupi language area which actually extends further west into the Gibson Desert.
Took the day off today and remembered to have a wash! Well, sort of. You get used to not washing and it took some effort to get around to it. It was an overcast day which didn't help charge the 12 volt batteries much, however I decided to give the camels another day off and it gave me an opportunity to do the chores - oil the leather & saddle gear, repair some ropes - and read the newspapers.
Away we go again towards Alice Springs. We walked 26km today in 6.5 hours. It is taking a bit to get used to the new time zone - getting up at 6.45am seems awfully late - but after the short break the camels seem to have a bit more bounce in their step and Mac certainly has more energy. He spent nearly all day chasing lizards. There must have been a very good storm here about 3-4 weeks ago as the parakeelya is everywhere and, although now beginning to dry out, the camels are enjoying it.
It actually feels like I am in the Northern Territory now as I am surrounded by rocky hills to the north and low ranges to the south and this makes a pleasant change from looking at sand ridges all day. And it's good to be out in the open. I mean, I've been out in the open 24 hours a day for 118 days , but I love walking across wide open flats and looking at the hills & ranges in the distance. Travelling through the dunes can feel slightly cramped at times.
I have just been listening to the evening show on ABC radio and heard Mark from the Origin Expedition talking about their trip which they have now completed. He said that at the end of July they came across a rock-face where there were two caves which showed evidence of aboriginal occupation and that it was unlikely that anyone had been there for many, many years. What an exciting 'discovery' for them. I had been talking to Mark via the satphone and I know that I was travelling slightly to the south of where the caves are, but I would certainly agree that very few, if any, non-indiginous Australians had been to that area before.
Mark also said that they had crossed my tracks and had determined that I was now travelling with only two camels. Mmmmm. It was strange hearing this on national radio and I called out to my three camels tied up nearby and informed them that one of them was now reported missing so there was no point turning up for work in the morning. Speaking of camels, all three are doing well as is Mac who tells me he wants to be the first kelpie to walk across the NT. Because of the rain here about 2 months ago, there is a good crop of burrs & prickles, so Mac is wearing his boots again to prevent his pads from becoming sore.
Three days out from Haasts Bluff we hit a minor track and we will now travel on tracks & roads until we reach the Simpson Desert. We came across a small dam where the camels drank and the next day we walked 29.5km - after a drink the camels move into overdrive and it was interesting to see how their diet would change. Immediately after drinking they would eat the driest feed they could find.
Walking into the small community of Haasts Bluff, the kids & teachers from the school, the nurse from the clinic, the locals, and some building contractors, all came to say hello. I talked to the kids about my trip and found that the thing that intrigued them most was the fact that I was walking & not riding. As I was leaving the outskirts of town, one young man drove up and gave me a coke and a bottle of mineral water. Good on him!
I am now in cattle country and have passed through Glen Helen & Narwietooma Stations. It is very picturesque country here and a delight to walk through, particularly around Mount Heuglin and Mount Chapple. To the south we could see Mount Zeil which at 1531 metres is the highest point in the Northern Territory. Technically I guess we are in the northern foothills of the MacDonnell Ranges.
Cattle also means flies, and they are back in droves. We would have been lucky to see a dozen during the last two months but they were thick today. We came onto the Tanami Road this afternoon and this was the first time in this journey that we have walked within coo-ee of a road. And wasn't it terrific to be back in amongst it! There was so much to see - two car bodies, four thousand empty cans of VB beer, a pink thong, a set of broken headphones, old tyres, numerous rubbish, a red thong, rusty oil drums and other such things from our modern world that I didn't realise I had missed until today. Tomorrow we reach Amburla Station and this will be our home for a week. This marks the half-way point of my journey and the camels and Mac will have a rest while I spend some time in Alice Springs preparing for the next stage of the trip across the Simpson Desert.