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Highly Dangerous Animal Transport / Loading the Camels

Coolgardie — 1999-12-04

Today’s the day we chose to drive the nearly 700 kilometres to the camel farm to collect Sebastian and Hardy. We borrow a trailer from Inspector Gadget and set out on this meanwhile familiar way. It’s been a long time since I last towed a trailer, so it takes some getting used to this way of driving. After an hour’s drive, we are glad to leave the hectic rush hour behind as we turn on to the Great Eastern Highway that will take us directly to Kalgoorlie. We spend the night with Toni, the gold-hunter, and his father Trent. They entertain us with wonderful Thai food and excellent wine. We talk about the events on the farm and learn that Diana was in hospital for a few days. She had run around the farm in circles singing confusedly until Tom called the emergency ambulance. Luckily the poor woman could be helped and was able to leave hospital after a new days of surveillance.

At sunrise we leave these two friendly people so we can get to Tom’s as early as possible. We want to avoid having to drive the long way back at night because we can imagine just how arduous the trip will be for man and animal.

Unfortunately, the loading of Sebastian and Hardy is delayed for two hours because they have to be examined first by in inspector for transportability. The authorities here in West-Australia are afraid that the camels’ fur could contain seeds of various weeds which could then proliferate near the coast. At the end of an extensive inspection of Sebastian’s and Hardy’s fur, the friendly official hands us the important transport approval document.

Tom is in bad spirit as usual, and the loading of the animals turns into a dangerous undertaking. He curses like an officer on duty about the allegedly inadequate ropes that Inspector Gadget has sent along to tie up the animals and refuses to let us have two of his own ropes. During the dangerous work with the animals, an ugly row develops and Sebastian is vehemently reluctant to enter the trailer. It takes Tom and me about an hour’s work to get the two camels seated on the trailer, where he then ties them up like parcels. For explanation I must mention that it is a precautionary measure and for their own convenience that camels are not transported in a standing, but in a sitting position. “Where’s my money?”, Tom asks in an irritated voice for the remaining 1000 dollars just as I am getting ready to pay him. When I suggest then that we share the fuel costs for the transport in the amount of $150 he virtually sees red. Luckily, Tanja is on the spot and holds me back or else I would have broken every bone in his body. Of course we pay him the 1000 dollars, and then we leave one of the worst and most inhospitable places I encountered in my 17 years of journey.

HIGHLY DANGEROUS ANIMAL TRANSPORT / THE WAY BACK

Before we start on our long way back, we find a petrol station. We have coffee and ice-cream, and as soon as our nerves have settled down, we drive off. Only a few kilometres later, Sebastian and Hardy incessantly attempt to stand up. Caused by this up-and-down motion, the trailer begins to skid, and I just about manage to divert a catastrophe by braking slowly. I steer our Holden to the roadside at once and have a breather before I am able to speak. “We were lucky there”, Tanja says and all I can do in response is nod to be on the safe side, we get out to check the lacing of the two animals.

“Look at that!”, I cry, horrified. I notice that Tom’s knots have already loosened. With another attempt of Sebastian to stand up, the knot keeping the rope around his upper and lower leg together would have come apart. Tanja and I look at each other knowing that in this case the trailer would have simply tipped over. White as a sheet I have no choice but to climb into the trailer to tie up the legs of our camels anew. “Do take care of yourself!”, Tanja warns me anxiously. She is aware that the extremely nervous animals could squash me with a single movement. While she holds Sebastian by the halter from outside, I climb into the trailer. “Go easy, don’t you worry”, I keep saying to Sebastian who is panting and sweating above me, while I hope not to pass my tenseness on to him. When I touch his feet he winces but I can manage to re-tie them properly. I leave the trailer unharmed and we resume our drive. To the annoyance of the gigantic roadtrains we meanwhile creep along at a speed of only 60 or 70 km/h. Time and again they overtake us or miss us so scarcely when passing that Sebastian and Hardy get frightened stiff and desperately try to stand up. After another hour I’m at the end of my tether, and Tanja takes over the steering wheel. She does her job very well and I take the liberty of closing my eyes a bit. I’m just dosing away when the highway opens up into another lane. Tanja takes a glance in the rear-view mirror, turns on the indicator and pulls from the right lane, which is now the overtaking lane, slowly to the left. All of a sudden I see, out of my passenger window, a huge tyre rolling past us with a deafening noise and extremely high speed. While I don’t even have a chance to utter a cry of fear, the next set of tyres are already racing by. Tanja reacts extremely well and carefully pulls the Holden with trailer to the right again, and when we notice that the roadtrain still tries to push us off the road and is still coming nearer despite Tanja’s evasive action, she has no alternative but to evade to the luckily free oncoming carriageway. The second trailer of the roadtrain misses our bonnet only by centimetres before it slowly disappears from our sight. “He wanted to push us off the road on purpose”, I say after a few moments of shock. “No doubt”, Tanja replies and continues in the direction of the sunset.

By 9:30 at night we reach the camel farm at Perth and are jolly glad to have survived this nightmare. Inspector Gadget and his wife help us to get Hardy and Sebastian off the trailer and lead them into their new enclosure.

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