Archive for October, 2008

Departing Papunya today

October 29, 2008
The crew arrived safely at Papunya (NT) on Oct 27 and will depart today on Oct 29. All well but very hot!

They have attracted a nice cute young bull to their string who follows them everywhere. Apparantly he is to be left behind at the first gate but we’ll see. Either they’ll spend a day fixing a trashed fence as the bull scrambles through it to stay with them, or they go soft and add him to the string. This is a common occurrence for trekkers out in the desert, and hard to resist  🙂

Papunya is a small community about 240km north west of Alice and contains approximately 300 residents, many of whom are Lutheran. Pintupi and Luritja people were forced off their traditional country in the 1930s and moved into Hermannsburg and Haast’s Bluff where there were government ration depots. There were often tragic [and brutal] confrontations between these people, with their nomadic hunter-gathering lifestyle, and the cattlemen who were moving into the country and over-using the limited water supplies of the region for their cattle.

The Australian government built a water bore and some basic housing at Papunya in the 1950s to provide room for the increasing populations of people in the already-established Aboriginal communities and reserves. The community grew to over a thousand people in the early 1970s and was plagued by poor living conditions, health problems, and tensions between various tribal and linguistic groups. These festering problems led many people, especially the Pintupi, to move further west closer to their traditional country. After settling in a series of outstations, with little or no support from the government, the new community of Kintore was established about 250 km west of Papunya in the early 1980s.

It was during the 1970s that a striking and unique blend of ancient and modern art styles began to emerge in Papunya and by the 1980s had begun to attract national and then international attention, now commanding a proud place on world art markets (ref: Wikipedia 29 Oct 2008).


Now past Mt Liebig – the hot days have arrived

October 25, 2008
24 October
Russ and Ros and the happy camels arrived at Mt Liebig on October 20 and rested there for four days with terrific support and interest from the local community, and headed east again on the 24th. Once again they found themselves as guests in a small homeland about 3km south of the main settlement. A huge thank you to Paul and Noelene from the community, the legendary Les from Bush-Bus, and Russell and Christie for the terrific and welcome support and hospitality.
Mt Liebig is a small remote settlement with about 180-200 residents (apologies if this is incorrect but this is a best guestimate by our savy travellers).
Their guest quarters is a smorgasboard for the camels who are apparantly very happy with the luscious feed all around. Only trekkers can understand the huge relief it is on rest days when the camels are happy and not trying to walk off in their hobbles, whether to nick off or wander off in the hunt for sweet feed they can scent on the breeze.

Into the NT – closing in on Alice Springs (and a beer)

October 18, 2008
11 October
Russ and Ros departed Walungurru (also known as Kintore, NT) today enroute to Watiyawanu (Mt Liebig, NT) which is about 325km north west of Alice Springs. The crew will arrive at Watiyawanu on about October 20.
Reporting back from Walungurru, Ros couldn’t speak highly enough of the welcome and assistance offered to them and their camels by the local police and friends stationed there. When contacted they were "camping" (in the loosest sense of the word!) in one of the policeman’s houses as short term caretakers and had access to TV, airconditioning, hot showers, out-of-the-wind, kettles, water on tap, a phone (perhaps even a computer and internet), a toaster ……………… disgraceful. Spirits were extremely high and the camels were all healthy and contained, apparantly in a compound of some sort. They would like to extend their warmest thanks and appreciation to Murray, Pete and Lee, and Andrew in particular, and to the entire community for their friendship.
In terms of other news, we have to sadly report that their companion Esther Nunn lost her camel ("Sammy") to the poison bush Gyrostemon ramulosus south of Well 33 just after they parted ways. We knew Esther had a camel down with this cursed poison bush but we have only just learnt that he died. "Sammy" was a tremendous animal and highly respected by all that knew him. Only a cameleer can know just how utterly gut wrenching and devastating this sort of tragedy can be. Add to that the fact that Esther was alone with her three camels which had accompanied her on a previous trek (re-enacting Robin Davidson’s famous 1977 trek), in the middle of the desert, when the incident happened. It is difficult to imagine a greater sense of loneliness and sadness and anyone reading this cannot even begin to understand what Esther has  been through. We’re all so so sorry Esther!!!!
Esther wanted readers (particularly camel trekkers) to know just how dangerous this plant can be. Wild camels live in the area and many trekkers have passed through without their camels showing an interest in the tree. Obviously it is not something consistent. Camels may have a taste for the plant one day and apparently not the next. One camel’s preference isn’t necessarily anothers.
It is difficult to move away from this terrible news.
The days into Walungurru were very hot and Russ and Ros and camels are doing it very very tough at the moment with the heat of summer upon them and the searing and depressing October winds relentless and scalding. They manage to cover a good 15km before the heat begins at about 10am and then another 10-15km before they call it a day.
As they crossed the border the evidence of camel impacts to the environment are sadly prominent and very much in-your-face. It is so important that we do something about this problem which will soon become critical for some species of shrubs and trees that are impacted heavily by their unmanaged grazing. Camels are beautiful animals but they must be managed and if we don’t use commonsense and vision to resolve the issue the Government will be forced, with community support, to cull and lay-to-waste tens of thousands of these wild animals. So many issues to step-through to address this problem, but how many Australians know that camel meat tastes better than beef? How many Australians know that camels are softer on the country than traditional stock when managed properly? An opportunity exists to move feral camels from the unmanaged desert interiors and to place them into managed domestic herds. Huge markets exist for camel meat and here enlies a wonderful opportunity for enterprise for so many remote and languishing communities. It is not that simple of course but nothing ever is. Certainly, the cull and lay-to-waste option is difficult to justify in this age of global food shortage and climate instability. The South Australian government is making great strides to help turn the camel problem into an industry for remote communities and to resolve the environmental issues at the same time.
Back to Russ and Ros – Ros has lost 22kg (!!!!!) and that Rus is nearly invisible! 🙂    so don’t expect to recognise either of them when they appear back in town. Rus reckons he looks like Cliff Young did when he reached Melbourne in 1983. For those of you who don’t know who Cliff Young is – do a Google search, he was a legend in every Australian houshold for a while back in the mid-80s.
Next stop – Watiyawanu.

Now past Kiwirrkurra – toward the NT border

October 4, 2008
Russ and Ros arrived at Kiwirrkurra on Sept 26 after a long waterless section from Kunawarritji. All is well and the camels have all recovered after their respective bouts with poisoning from Gyrostemon ramulosus. The latest to succumb was "Coco" but he made a full recovery after a relatively minor bout lasting two days.
Russ and Ros departed Kiwirrkurra on about Sept 29 and are now well on their way toward Walungurru or Kintore as it is sometimes known.
The Kiwirrkurra Community was exceptionally welcoming and Russ and Ros were given the luxury of a house at the community where they were spoiled with a cooking stove, a hot water shower and a roof over their head. Presumably there was an airconditioner too!! Possibly we are lucky they chose to continue.
A very warm thankyou is extended to Mary Anne for such generous hospitality, Tom (the community nurse) for cooking delicious dinners and to the storekeepers, Tim and Karen for their friendship and assistance. The community itself has been extremely welcoming and our travellers are extremely grateful for the kindness shown.
The next section consists of 205km without water and this will indeed test the camels if the weather turns hot. The last waterless section from Kunawarritji was difficult but the number of hot days was limited. This next section could be quite troublesome if the weather turns hot as is forecast.
The Darwin To Melbourne Thank You Camel Expedition 2008-2009
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