We’d like to share with you a very special guest post – a real, modern day adventurer who trained her own camels and then walked solo across the NSW outback.
My life has always revolved around animals…I’ve worked with them for over 20 years. My dream was always to do a packing trek with horses, but that never eventuated.
A very generous offer from Chris Hill at Uluru Camel Tours to stay and volunteer at his camel operation was too good to pass up.
After fumbling with various knots and turning beetroot red from the searing summer sun, my idea was solidified that camels were now the focus for a newly inspired trip.
I have never come across such a different species… such an intelligent, stubborn, loving, stoic creature… immediately I felt ‘this seems right’.
Upon my return from Uluru I picked up my new puppy from the airport…son of ‘Tigon’ who travelled with Australian adventurer Tim Cope on his three years of trekking from Mongolia to Hungary (‘On the Trail of Genghis Khan’). I named him Matong (Aboriginal for powerful).
An email to local camel men John Hardy and Ken Towle found me volunteering at Port Macquarie Camel Safaris and gaining a wealth of knowledge from them.
When I heard that camels were being mustered in from Queensland and being trucked to Newcastle, I jumped at the chance to go and see them.
Ken and I drove to Oakfield Ranch where I met Rod Sansom and bought two wild camels I named Gili and Yurra.
Over the course of a year, John and Ken helped me break them in and train them.
Every spare moment I had I would visit to train them, emerging covered in mud and camel poo. I was sunburned and sweaty, sometimes frustrated, with rope burn and covered in flies. But I always had a smile on my face.
The commitment involved in preparation, research, buying and testing gear and training the animals on top of work commitments, was physically and financially draining.
Peter Towle from Tamworth showed me how to make camel saddles. I proved a terrible pad-stuffer but I came out with a lot of useable gear and lots of things he graciously allowed me to borrow.
The Adventure Begins:
The day finally came…
The truck generously loaned to me by Rod, and driven by Peter, arrived. Rod had also loaned me Skeeter, an experienced camel who would lead my team. The three ‘humps’, along with Matong, Peter and I, begun the drive to Narrabri… the beginning of my journey.
No sooner had we arrived at the stock route and tied the camels to the side of the truck than the heavens opened and the dry dusty ground turned into a quagmire of black sticky mud! I was going nowhere.
After two days of rain and living in the back of the manure-encrusted, leaky truck, we had broken hobble straps and unsettled camels… it was a surreal experience.
Finally the sun came out, and I was loaded up and on the move. Peter drove ahead to find a good camping spot and I began walking.
The freedom of walking with the wind in my face and the sun on my skin… just being present with my animals… was so uplifting.
The next day I felt quietly confident so Peter returned with the truck to Tamworth. My first night alone went well but the next morning as I was sorting out the animals I was accidentally kneed in the face by Gili.
With a split lip and a blown up face, I called for help. Blood poured all over my phone and clothes but I still needed to secure the animals.
The ambulance officers were a little bemused, they had never dealt with a camel kick before. I was so lucky Peter still had the truck, and also a friend in Narrabri came immediately to watch my animals until Peter could return from Tamworth – I was also fortunate to have no concussion or breaks whatsoever.
As the truck was needed back in Newcastle and I had no way of getting my two boys back to the stock route, it was again fortuitous Rod was sending camels a week later out to Narrabri for agistment and he loaned me two very experienced humps: Skeeter and Chester.
My trip had begun again! I was really doing this!
The journey involved encounters with mobs of cattle and sheep, farmers, people wanting to stop me, chat and take pictures. Passers-by brought me bottles of water and food.
There were flies, ticks, foxes, emus, snakes, spiders, roos, traffic, heat, cold, prickles, hardships of land and water and wonderful families who took us all in.
The bonds and trust I developed with my animals were strengthened by all we went through together… never a moment passed that I felt alone or scared.
The experience was invaluable, and even though I did not end up using my own camels, I know that the experience I have gained will benefit them too in the future in many ways.
I put my all into this, and I wasn’t going to give up that easily.
Almost two weeks and almost 200km in all, most of it on my own.
I think I wanted to shock myself out of the numbness of society, to reawaken the life I had when I was little on the farm.
I wanted my journey to be long and dangerous, I knew all too well how things could go wrong, but I just had to deal with every moment as it came.
My starting date changed, the location changed, the length of my trip and my camels also changed… but the daily burden I carried was like the gear I packed on and off the camels every day and that didn’t change. I couldn’t escape that.
I remained the same but my faith in humanity was restored. I had experienced the real world – my country.
Even after all the trials and challenges I had, I came away with a profound sense of belonging, happiness and peace. Yes, I will be out there again soon… ideas of my next adventure fill my mind every day like ripples in the water, radiating in and out, spreading and evolving.
Next year will tell… The journey lies ahead…
Follow my page ‘Camel Katie‘ on Facebook for updates on my progress
Thanks to wonderful friends, family and Narrabri area locals.
I’m forever indebted to Port Macquarie Camel Safaris, Oakfield Ranch and Peter Towle for all their patience, time and generosity.