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Published February 2nd 2019
Pack free travel with your own personal camel train
It was Day Eight and we'd reached the dunes alongside Lake Torrens, a salty mirage that had taken an eternity to reach. The choice of camping at 'Nilpena Heights' versus 'Nilpena Woodpile' was easy – we were all tired of dragging firewood long distances, so rolling the swags out nearby made pre-eminent sense. And like it had been for the previous seven evenings, our camels had been unloaded and had promptly been dispatched into the dunes to find something green to eat while the rest of us lay claim to our patch of sand, prepped the fire and set ourselves up for another evening of campfire food and conversations.
Our trek with the team from Flinders and Beyond Camel Treks had taken us 110km from Blinman, the highest town in South Australia, across the pastoral properties of the northern Flinders Ranges following stunning gorges and dry creek beds through to the wide open plains that often see service as backdrops to many movies or commercials. Along the way we'd been spoilt with an abundance of fauna, birdlife, geological artefacts, the rarely seen ruins of a copper mine, the Milky Way, unbelievable outback sunsets and the absence of mobile reception for the majority of the trek. For me this was part of the Flinders Ranges that I had never seen before.
But as we settled into the routine of a campfire dinner, a glass of wine and stories that would put fishermen to shame, reality struck. For most of us, there were only two more days of walking, and one more night with a dozen friends who had stolen our attention and affection over the trek. And that there would only be one more night where we would no doubt host a conversation centred around those dozen camels, all of whom ventured forth on this Trek with agendas of their own that were shared with us walkers whether we liked it or not.
The prima-donnas amongst them believed that their starring role in the 2013 film adaptation of the book 'Tracks' gave them justification for a preciousness that continued unerringly. Meanwhile, the big boys at the rear subjected us to a daily 'hard done by' cry as they were loaded every morning while the younger camels carrying saddles for the first time were confused as they contemplated whether to adopt the behaviours of their mother or father.
Add in Roly who found the only piece of mud en-route and decided that a roll on his back was good form, the oft-missing gone-walkabout leader of the herd being Miss Polly and the adorable and special Timmy, and we had a collection of camels that more than adequately demonstrated that life is like a box of chocolates.
As I reflected on the last eight days, I had started the trek with visions of hundreds of photos of gorges, creeks and a dry salt lake. But as I left the campfire that night and retired to my swag, I realised that I had spent more time photographing, talking to, talking about, negotiating with, coercing, laughing at and laughing with a bunch of camels whose approach to life ensured that this Trek created memories that will be everlasting. And add the generous helpings of campfire roasts, pancakes and apple crumble, and it was clear that this Trek, like many I seem to succumb to, was not one where weight loss was a priority.
Finally, a herd of camels absent of a good cameleer is nothing but a rabble. Our trek and the herd was made all the more special by the efforts of Ryan who managed to steer the camel train from trouble (most of the time), and lead the walkers in a generally west to north-west direction through those gorges and creek beds, and to our temporary homes under the stars each evening.
Flinders and Beyond Camel Treks operate guided tours in the Northern Flinders Ranges between April and October each year. Tours often have a destination in mind, but the exact route will vary upon weather and landscapes. For further details refer to their website, like their Facebook page, or give Ryan and Nat a call on 08 8648 3713.