Watti Watti / Southern Mikiri-Koomarinna Survey
A Typical Day
Please note: Routine is critical when working with trained animals and our daily survey routine is primarily built around the camels day. The following is an example of what would be a 'normal' day, however any survey trekking day revolves around a concept of flexibility.
Remembering that the success of the survey depends on the active participation of all survey members, we ask that you participate to the best of your ability without over doing it. Working together as a team, assisting the crew in the daily routine of running the survey, is an important factor in enjoying our time in the desert. Typical duties would include helping to saddle the camels, load and unload equipment, collecting firewood, helping ecologists to dig pitfall traps or assisting with shepherding the camels at the end of the day. We feel that the survey represents a balanced mix of healthy work, relaxation and personal discovery...
The day begins at first light when the crew untie the camels from their night trees and shepherd the camels (perhaps with your help!) whilst they feed. The crew will have their breakfast first whilst the campfire is brought back to life, the billy boiled and breakfast is then served for the rest of the trekking group at breakfast "part two."
After breakfast, we finish packing up camp and whilst the ecologists may be checking pitfall traps or other duties, the camels are brought in ready to be loaded with saddles and equipment. Everyone helps in this precision exercise. We usually break camp between 8.00 & 9.30am and our pace of travel is based around that of the camels. They normally walk at about 4 kilometres per hour on flat country and 3 kilometres per hour over dunes.
We are not in a rush and one of the first things that you will notice as you walk along is the sheer immensity of the landscape. As you become involved in the day, your senses will soon become attuned to the surrounding desert and you will start to notice the minute desert detail - such as tiny tracks in the sand - which helps our ecologists with their mammal/marsupial/reptile documentation. Many pairs of eyes surveying the landscape is one of the great strengths of our surveys.
During the morning we stop every hour to adjust loads and have a break, before pulling up for lunch about midday for an hour or so. Lunch is laid out on the tables and this is a time to rest and relax a while. The afternoon walk follows a similar pattern to that of the morning.
We will of course be stopping as required throughout the day to enable the ecologists to conduct their field research and documentation, or as unexpected discoveries reveal themselves.
Camp is usually struck anytime between 2.30pm and 4.30pm at a suitable place where there is feed for the camels - this is the most critical factor in selecting a campsite. Again, everyone helps to unsaddle the camels and collect firewood etc. The camp is run like a traditional 'stock camp', similar to those that you would find on any large Australian cattle station and is well equipped but not overloaded with the clutter that seems to accompany modern day camping. We carry the essentials - water, food, shelter & swags (bedrolls).
Whilst the camels are grazing, this is a time for you to collect your swag & personal gear and set up your own camp. You may choose to relax, read, or write up the diary. The ecologists will be preparing pitfall traps or exploring the immediate area on bird or tree transects, and your help assisting them would be greatly appreciated. The crew will be preparing dinner and may need some help shepherding camels to make sure that they don't stray too far from camp. All meals are cooked by the cameleers on the campfire in camp-ovens or woks and dinner is served soon after nightfall.
At the end of the day, sitting around a campfire in the Australian Outback, surrounded by the desert night, is one of life's great pleasures. It's time to discuss the day's events or just sit back on your swag and absorb the brilliant glow of the stars and the thunderous silence that thousands of square kilometres of desert produces. The camels inevitably become a talking point as our day completely revolves around their day and their ability to negotiate the landscape with their loads which may weigh as much as 250kg.
The actual day-to-day itinerary of any ADE survey is, to a large degree, unplanned - that is the beauty of travelling with camels and exploring the desert.
As the survey is self-sufficient and the camels can travel virtually anywhere, the only definite objective is our final destination. For instance, it is seldom known in the morning exactly where that nights camp will be, as the route taken, weather conditions, availability of camel feed and 'unexpected ecological discoveries' all determine the position of camp.
The one constant however, is the daily routine of loading and unloading the equipment onto and off the camels, as well as the general camp duties.
On day 1, you depart Adelaide on the scheduled domestic service to Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs). From here you will be met by crew from WrightsAir who will fly you via charter aircraft to an airstrip in the southern desert, passing over Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, the Warburton River, the great salt lakes and Poeppel Corner itself.
Upon landing you will be met by the ADE crew and transfer via 4WD to a nearby bush camp. So there is quite a lot of travelling on Day 1 but remember that we are now on 'desert time' and there is no point in rushing!
Day 2 is spent on a 4WD transfer from the bush camp to the camel camp further into the Regional Reserve.
Upon arrival at the camel camp you will meet your survey crew and the camels. We will have food and other equipment to pack as we prepare for departure the next day. Your help with this important task is welcome! You will have time to acclimatise to your new surroundings and organise your personal gear. That evening, your survey leader will talk about the proposed survey route, the camels and other important safety points. The ecologists will brief you on the survey objectives and how you can assist them in their field work.
Day 3 - This first trekking day is also a 'learning day' as the cameleers will demonstrate how to handle the camels and how the tonnes of saddles & equipment are carried. As the days pass and you become more familiar with the daily activities, the loading/unloading time decreases and the daily survey routine begins to take shape.
There will be water rationing during the survey. This means that you will not go thirsty, as common sense will prevail, but as we will be in the driest part of Australia, we will not be using water for washing bodies.
Days 4 to 9 follow the same daily routine. During these days, the ecologists will be conducting their various field research and your help in assisting them would be greatly appreciated. There will be pitfall traps to dig and set up, as well as general flora/fauna surveys to conduct as we walk along, and also after we make camp.
The foci of this survey is to visit the area near one mikiri (native well). Whilst the wells in this area are seldom visited on a regular basis, they have been visited before, including one that the Outback Camel Company rediscovered in 2006. The most important element of our survey will be to explore and document the area around the wells and the country between the wells. This is where having dozens of pairs of eyes scanning the landscape shows the strengths of our walking surveys.
During this period, your survey leader, in consultation with the ecologists, may decide to call a/several half days(s), when we will make camp at lunch time, so as to allow more time to document an area. It all depends on what we find...
We will endeavour to camp earlier on day 10 to allow for preparations to depart the next morning. The 4WD transfer vehicles will meet us that night.
Day 11 is a return flight transfer back to Adelaide, in the reverse order of your arrival - charter flight, then scheduled domestic service to Adelaide. All these flights are included in the survey price.
Arrival time in Adelaide will be confirmed with your booking, but it is expected that the service will arrive by 7pm.
The survey party comprises up to 12 trekkers, 5 cameleers, 2 to 3 ecologists/scientists and 18 camels. Your fellow trekkers will come from many countries. Most of our clients are from Australia and New Zealand however you can expect people from the UK, North America and Europe to be in your group. Most would have had no previous camel trekking experience, whilst others may have been enjoying our surveys since we began in 2007.
Our leaders are experienced cameleers, each with a love and respect for the camels and the desert and are happy to share their knowledge with you. All are trained in First Aid, as is at least one other crew member.
ADE provides all the camping equipment. You do not need to bring tents or swags. We carry tents in the event of rain - yes, it does rain in the desert during winter! We carry kitchen tables and a kitchen tent for when it rains. Your swag doubles as a comfortable ‘chair’ at night around the campfire in the evenings, however we also carry small fold-up stools.
Before departure we will send you a comprehensive Survey Information Guide which will contain everything you need to know about preparations for your journey.
We strongly advise that you DO NOT BOOK any connecting flights out of Adelaide
on the evening of day 11, as the connecting flight from Olympic Dam may be delayed!