2013 Diary of a Canning Walker

Day 2 - First camel encounters

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2, 1 June 2013
Photo's - Solo Walk - Billiluna to Kunawarritji 657km

The dingoes were noisy last night. Sounded like they were tracking a bellowing bovine bull near Lake Stretch about a kilometre away. Lying  nervously in my little tent I listening to the howls and 'yips', sleep being fitful. The tall man on my mind. Would he come out again? My camp was only 16km south of Billiluna. My hand reached for the hunting knife by my side, hoping I would not have to use it.

Day Two's walk begins just after sunrise at 6.30am. The weight of the backpack is a struggle. It is stupidly heavy. A convoy of travellers pull up beside me mid-morning, full of the joys of adventure. Turns out they had camped at Wolfe Creek with Dave and Helen and their Blue Heeler dog Missy. Andy and I had met the couple and their dog near Billiluna yesterday as they finished their CSR journey and I began my walk. This convoy now entering the desert knew all about ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Walker’ (as Pam and I became known respectively) walking the track, and of the pink ribbons marking my drops.

I am a little uneasy about Dave and Helen telling people how to spot my life sustaining supplies like they were part of a treasure hunt or geocache, but there is nothing I can do about that now. The members of the convoy promise to make a donation to the Walk 4 Wheels 2013 wheelchair fundraiser via the website, and are off. Too late I kick myself for neglecting to give them the excess food parcel I am carrying. I just can’t bear to throw the food away. I have all day to regret this mistake and my inability to be ruthless with regards to the weight I was carrying.

It is a mark of how relaxed I was about camels, that I did not make an entry in my diary of the first two camel encounters. Or perhaps I was just in survival mode those first days, my main concern being the weight of my pack and the heat. My first camel encounter was comical. Walking down the track, straight and corrugated, I spotted a lone camel walking towards me. He was ambling along, casually sampling the leaves off some of the trees, but mostly just walking slowly, oblivious to anything else on the track. I pulled my catapult out and loaded a lead weight. I did not think there would be any trouble but I felt more confident with some sort of weapon in my hands.

The camel was gawky, geeky, cute and hesitant, reminding me of ET. When it finally spotted me, I knew he was startled and could see him trying to figure out what I was whilst still walking towards me. His long neck swung out left, then slowly across to the right. He lifted his head and I swear he 'squinted' in my direction. Walking straight on I may have seemed like a possible camel to him ... I think. It is hard to imagine what a camel would think, but I could see it was confused, curious, wary and anxious all at the same time. I smiled; I had the upper hand.

But we had a dilemma. We were both on the same track and like Little John and Friar Tuck, someone had to give way. I respected the camel and accepted that I was a visitor in its domain. Ordinarily I would step off the track and walk around it through the bush, giving it space and right of passage. But one thing Africa has taught me, is that you cannot show fear. Show fear and all is lost. You cannot even feel fear, for they will smell it, man or beast. What to do?

By me giving way, the camel might misunderstand my mark of respect and think I feared it. What would happen then? There was only one course of action. I had to show disrespect. I had to own the track and pressure it to move off. Increasing my pace, exuding purpose, confidence and domination, I bore down relentlessly on the oncoming camel. We were close now, the camel squirming. Unable to take the pressure, uncertainty gave way to capitulation and the camel stepped off the track into the bushes, and continued walking, occasionally turning its long neck and head to look back. Still confused, I imagined.

The next camel encounter happened within a day or two. I cannot remember when exactly. It was a totally different experience to the one with the uncertain camel. This second camel was young, but a proud bull. It spotted me a lot sooner on the track and to my discomfort, immediately increased its pace towards me.

Who was the uncertain one now? Neck strained forward, the bull locked me in its sights, walking fast ... Oh boy. Was I the one to step off the path now? There were no trees to climb or hide behind, just spindly bush a camel could easily crash through. Pressure!

My life flashed before my eyes (as they say) to the time I visited an Aboriginal cattle station in the Kimberley. The manager had invited me into the pens with wild cattle that did not want to be there. He and the jack and jillaroos taught me to pressure the cattle into moving in the direction we wanted them to go, simply by putting our bodies in the cows personal space. Disliking the discomfort of our proximity, the cow would move away in the direction that was open for it to go. This was all done quietly, calmly and with respect for the beast. Of course it did not always go according to plan and cattle being savvy and wanting to break free would look for the weakest link in the line of men .... and invariably try run through me. All too often I would give way with very real fear, jumping onto the rails, swinging my bum out of the way of a tossing horn determined to impale me. I was always the weakest link .... and they always knew it!

Out in the open there was no rail for me to jump, no tree to climb, no car to hide behind or climb into and no-one to stand by me and tell me everything was going to be okay. It was just me and the camel. I loaded my catapult and increased my pace towards the oncoming bull. Every fibre in my being said I was coming on and I was not giving way. Raising my catapult I took aim. Two forces of nature, one about 500kg, the other 100kg (with the backpack) baring down on one another. Who was going to chicken out first?

Ten meters before collision the bull stepped off the track in disgust, wreaking of discontent, pissed offedness and disdain. But it gave way. Walking a few meters into the bush the camel stopped and turned its head to look balefully at me. I never looked back at the camel directly but kept walking at a steady fast pace, keeping it in my peripheral vision. No need to lord it over this king of the desert. I had been given a get out of jail free card and I was taking it.

CSR Survival Tips

Never show fear. 


Be aware that a map might have the words WELL or WATERHOLE. This does NOT mean that there is water at that location.
E.g. There is NO water at Bloodwood Well. It is in ruins and dry.

Sturt Creek water is impermanent, usually dry, infact there is a vehicle track along it. After recent rains water is likely, which is why the original CSR track was realigned away from minor flooding, with another diversion for major flooding.



Map Notes

This area is a web of tracks, including old seismic survey lines, from Well 51 to Billiluna, most of them not showing on any maps. Today they are used mostly by the Aboriginal people.


Last Updated on Saturday, 20 January 2018 22:13

Go to top