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Minding the camels is a responsible job

Clackline-Camp — 2000-05-20

At four in the afternoon we take the camels to feed in the bushes again. Tanja now has a chance to teach me what she learned from Jo. We have to make sure that none of the camels removes itself from the group, and I’m surprised to find out that even in this situation it is not easy to keep those big animals under control. Especially Hardie keeps going off on his own. Whenever we want Istan, Jafar and Hardie to follow us, we take the lead camels Sebastian and Gola. This works most of the time, but not always. Not far away from us, a young chap rides a cross-country motorcycle back and forth. The roaring sound of the engine seems to make the camels nervous. Suddenly they burst like an avalanche through the undergrowth. Tanja and I dodge so as not to get run over by them. In a sprint we circle them from ahead, and thank Goodness they lose their anxiety while we calm them down. Finally we taken them further into the forest, away from the awful noise. Each of the camels has the approximately 7 metre long rope around his neck. It is knotted at the upper part of the neck and passed through a round ring at the halter so that the camels always trail this rope behind them. This way we have a chance to catch them when they try to run away. Besides, their front feet are hobbled. Without the hobbles they would simply gallop away, which might mean our sure death later in the outback.

Fact is that without the camels we’d be in a fix because they carry everything we need to survive. Despite the hobbles and the trailing rope we must never stop to keep an eye on them. They can develop a considerable speed even when hobbled, and moreover they are very good at hiding. Because of their behaviour and the colour of their fur, they possess a perfect, natural camouflage. And with the camels not leaving any tracks, we would be unable to ever find them again. Therefore, it is a great responsibility to mind the camels, and every little inattentiveness may be of detrimental consequence. “How do you know they’ve had enough to eat?” I ask Tanja. “Jo explained to me that you can tell they’re full when they start nibbling at the shrubs listlessly or ignore the good food. As a rule, says Jo, a good hour in the morning and again in the evening should be absolutely sufficient.” Tanja replies. I’m happy at how much she’s learned in these past few days. At dusk we tie every single animal to a separate tree. It is important to keep them far enough apart so they cannot reach each other, especially now in the winter when their rutting season begins. Even though our animals are castrated, it makes them more aggressive than normal, and they might bite one another. Tanja also warns me against having a finger inside the knot while tying it. It easily happens that you are slipping a finger through an eye while at the same time the camel takes a step forward. According to Jo, many a camelman has lost his finger because he didn’t pay attention for one quick moment.

At the end, I tie Sebastian to a tree and glancing at his knee I’m shocked to see a skin flap the size of a 5-mark piece (or 50 Australian cents) hanging completely loose. On closer examination I find that the wound is relatively deep. You can see the raw flesh. Tanja and I disinfect the would at once and apply a dressing to protect it from more dirt.

Day: 09

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