Further information- Munga-Thirri Survey 6
A Typical Day
Routine, repetition and quietness is critical when working with trained animals and our daily routine is built around the requirements of the camels. The following is an example of a 'normal' day.
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.
We feel that the journey represents a balanced mix of healthy work, relaxation and personal discovery. Typical duties would include helping to saddle the camels, load and unload equipment (all under the supervision of the crew), collecting firewood or assisting with shepherding the camels at the end of the day.
The day begins at first light when the campfire is brought back to life and the billy boiled as the crew have their breakfast first. Half an hour later 'second breakfast' is served for the remainder of the group and whilst this is happening the crew untie the camels from their night tree, shepherd the camels whilst they feed, and begin packing up camp.
After breakfast, we finish packing up camp and the camels are brought in ready to be loaded with saddles and equipment. Everyone helps in this precision exercise, under the supervision of the crew. We usually break camp between 9.00 & 9.30 a.m. 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 desert silence. As you become involved in the day and adjust to 'desert time', your senses will soon become attuned to the surrounding desert.
During the morning we stop every hour to adjust loads and have a short break, before pulling up for lunch about midday for an hour. Lunch is laid out on the tables and this is a time to rest and relax a while.
And of course as this is a scientific survey, we will be stopping as we find interesting things to document. The whole point of walking country is to quietly observe the landscape through which we are walking.
The afternoon walk follows a similar pattern to that of the morning. Camp is usually struck sometime between 3 and 4.00 p.m. 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 relax, read, or write up the diary. The ecological team may ask for help in preparing and setting the pitfall traps, or perhaps help to collate and identify any botanical specimens collected during the day. 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 crew on the campfire in camp-ovens or woks and dinner is served before 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 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 dunes with their loads which may weigh as much as 250kg.
The actual day-to-day itinerary of any 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 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 Alliance service to Olympic Dam, then transfer to the WrightsAir charter to Birdsville. That night we stay in Birdsville. In the morning of day 2 we transfer by 4WD to the camel camp.
Upon arrival at the camel camp you will meet your crew and the camels. We will have food and other equipment to pack as we prepare for departure the next morning. 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 route and objectives, the camels and other important safety points.
Day 3 - This first day is also a 'learning day' as your crew will demonstrate how they 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 routine begins to take shape.
The following trekking days consist of the same daily routine. Depending on the weather conditions, wishes & capability of the trekking group and the duration of your survey, the leader may decide to call a half-day/s of trekking. There will be no strict water rationing of drinking water during the survey but please note that the water we carry is for drinking and not for washing bodies! On the last day of walking we will camp slightly earlier to allow for departure and the 4WD transfer vehicles will meet us that afternoon.
Around midday on day 14 the 4WDs arrive and we transfer to Birdsville. On day 15 you board the flights back to Adelaide.
Please note: IMPORTANT!
Most of the roads in Central Australia become impassable during prolonged wet weather. They may even be closed.
We strongly advise that if possible you should build in a 'buffer zone' at either end of your journey due to any delays caused by wet weather.
If we encounter wet weather, we will do our best to get you back to town on time and to join any connecting flights, however we cannot be held responsible for a late arrival.
The team. The trekking party comprises up to 12 trekkers, 4 to 5 cameleers, 2 or 3 scientists and up to 18 camels. Your fellow trekkers will come from many countries but during these Covid times they will almost certainly all be Australian. Most would have had no previous camel trekking experience, whilst others may have been enjoying our trips for many years.
The Trek Leader
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 the trip.