Archive for the 'How The Trek Began' Category

The Journeys Beginnings

June 22, 2007
 
 
I have had quite a number of people ask me how this project came about, so it’s probably time to describe how the Darwin To Melbourne Thank You Camel Expedition 2008-2009 eventuated.
 
Over ten years ago, my mother died. She was quite a remarkable lady and had worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for years. Her death was a great tragedy and a real shock to me. She was the most special woman a son could have ever asked for as a mum.
 
I retracted into myself, not wanting to see anyone, be anywhere, even go to the local shop for some milk during this time of great sadness. One thing that I was constantly thinking of was the number of people at mum’s funeral. I realised just how many lives she had touched during her time with us. It was then I decided that I too wanted to do something of worth for others and so the search was on of what to do.
 
I was always a person for the outdoors and my love of nature. Children had always played a large part of my life as the occupation I had chosen was teaching. I had taught Aboriginal children in Arnhem Land, children in Asia and various parts of Australia. The thoughts kept heading towards the outdoors and doing something for children in need. One evening whilst watching T.V. with my friend John, it hit me like a brick, do a trans-continental walk for a children’s fund.
 
That wat the very beginning of the Journey. How? where? when? and many other questions came to me. None of which I had an answer to.
 
Over the following years, the idea never left me. Infact it got stronger as time ticked by. At this stage, after having moved back to Victoria for a while to be with Dad and then into the Gibson Desert to teach again, I knew that it had to be camels for such a journey. I had even decided to leave from Darwin and make my way to Melbourne. I had no idea on camels, trekking, equipment needed etc, I just knew that I would be doing a fundraising trek with camels from Darwin to Melbourne. I didn’t at this stage know who I was going to do the trek for, but I was searching for a children’s foundation/charity that was honerable, global in thinking and had upmost integrity which help those most in need for a better life, if not life itself.
 
Whilst in Warakurna, in the Gibson Desert, a baby female camel was brought into the community and I bought her from the Aboriginal man who had captured her. She was very young, small and extremly scared. I named her Megs. I bought her food and milk and just loved this bundle of legs and fur. She was quite a character indeed. Cheeky but just totally lovable.
 
I got a transfer to the top of the Kimberley Region in Western Australia to an Aboriginal Community called Kalumburu, so Megs, in the back of the old Dodge ute, my dog and I set about the journey to Wyndham, where we caught the barge.Thirty six hours later, we were in Kalumburu. The whole community came out to see the camel and the kids just loved her.
 
I still had no idea about camels but we had a lot of fun, going for walks, camping, swimming in the creek but the time had came to leave Kalumburu. We caught the barge once again and made our way to Darwin where I adjisted her with a camelman called Ted. In the meanwhile, I had a change of career and became a tour guide in Kakadu National Park and around the Top End.
 
I had to move Megs from Ted’s Farm to another farm. The next day the owner of the new farm rang me to say he thinks Megs broke her leg the previous night. I went straight down to the farm to see her. Her front leg was so swollen I we couldn’t tell if it was broken or not. I rolled out my swag and camped next to her for a week for the swelling to go down. It was broken. I knew I had to put her down. I borrowed a gun from a local farmer and got back to Megs about midnight. She looked up at me and I broke down. I decided to shoot her the next day. I woke up to find her already dead.
 
Two more years passed but the idea of a trans-continental crossing for a children’s foundation hadn’t left me. Infact I became more determined to make it happen.
 
One day when surfing the net, I discovered Phil Gee’s Wild Camel Handling Course where you get to learn how to handle wild camels, train them and best of all, you get the camel you work with whilst on the course. I signed up immediately. First two camels, Taggles and Neddy came from that course. The following year, I couldn’t afford the course but the year later, Coco and Jack came from the course.
 
I had at this stage discovered Moira Kelly and the Children First Foundation and decided they fitted all of the criteria I needed to support such a foundation.
 
The following year Phil had already asked my partner Ros and I to work for him with the Camel Safaris in William Creek and to assist us with our venture by passing on his knowledge and skill for trekking. That year we trained our last two camels for the trans-continental, Bachi and Darcy. Later that year when mustering the camels, Darcy broke a shoulder when he went down a hole in the ground. To cut a sad story short, he died and once again, my heart was totally broken.
 
This year, we came back to William Creek to once again do the Safaris and we trained Euco from the wild as the sixth camel for the expedition.
 
So now, we have the skills needed for the expedition, have the camels, have some sponsorship (more is still required) but the expedition is a reality waiting to happen. Dates have been set, loads of people involved and everything is starting to fall neatly into place.
 
Of course there is so much more to this story than what I have written here but for the purposes of this blog, I have kept it brief.
 
23/3/08 we leave Darwin Parliament House and I am hoping most of Darwin will be there to walk with the camel expedition through Darwin showing Moira and her teams of fantastic volunteers that we care for her and her teams, that we’re proud of what they do to save children’s lives and we all wish to show our appreciation and thanks to these most remarkable members of our society. I’m hoping this is the case for all of the towns and cities we will be walking through.
 
I will be very interested to see what organisations, businesses, individuals, members of councils, members of parliament, celebrities, film industry members, music industry members, media organisations and corporations, Government Organisations, International organisations and media, International businesses and corporations, church groups, sporting clubs, clubs and societies and the general public will be willing to walk with the expedition through the towns and cities en-route, to show appreciation and thanks to Moira Kelly and the Children First Foundation for their selfless work they volunteer to undertake……………………….. Saving children’s lives.
 
Love you all
Russell