Camooweal, NT, Australia
Barkly Homestead to Camooweal
Tried to get an early start on the first day of what will probably be the most desolate stretch of my walk in Australia, probably of the whole walk itself, but by the time I had filled all my water containers, packed the Mule, bought fresh sandwiches for my 2 lunches and the last cup of fresh brewed coffee for the coming week, it was already 7.30.
The Mule was fully loaded. 32 liters of water, food for a week and everything else, must have weighed close to 80 kg.
You would think that I would be starting out fresh after a day of rest, but all that generally just means is that I haven’t slept well the night before. Not walking does that to you when you are used to doing 40 km a day.
Nether the less, the day started out fine, with me walking in a new pair of thongs (flip-flops) that I had bought at Barkley. Less than 3 km down the road I had to stop to put on socks as I was already starting to get blisters…. Always the same problem with new shoes, they need to be broken in.
15 km later a couple stopped and offered me some cold water and it was time to stop for my first lunch break.
The day was pretty much cloudless and there was a slight wind blowing. Not enough to make the walking too hard, but still enough to cool me a bit and keep the worst of the flies of my face. The flies can be really bad when you stop!
There was really not much more to the day, I kept walking and before long the sun was setting and I had covered 52 km. A good first day and my feet were not too sore from the new thongs. Interesting to see what they feel like tomorrow.
I found a small site just off the road behind some scrubs and am going to finish writing now and hit the sack. The sun has gone down and it’s dark. Set the clock for 5 am tomorrow to see if I could walk a bit longer in the cool, calm morning air. Will have to see if I manage to get out of bed that early.
5 am was a bit to early… Just could not motivate myself to leave the warm snugness of my sleeping bag.
I used the snooze button a few times and got up at around 5.30. So I was more or less on my way by a little after 6.
I had wanted to start early to get some walking done before the wind started blowing but today it started almost straight away. It was like walking uphill all the time. It was time for a rest after just 5 km. And then every 5 km after that!
But there was not much else to do if I wanted to get some mileage done and get to Camooweal. I was just going to have to keep walking.
It got a bit better after about 25 km and the rest of the day was easier even though the morning had already tired me out a fair bit.
Almost everybody waves as they pass by and every now and then a car pulls over to check that I am ok. During the last 2 days I have been given cold water, apples and oranges, cookies and a cold can of coke. All very much welcome and appreciated. People remain kind and helpful here in Australia the way they have in all the countries I have walked to get here.
I struggled on through the afternoon and started looking for a place to camp as the sun started setting. Only found a small, hard, rocky clearing just off the road before it got dark, but that would do just fine.
I had walked 46 km for the day and, considering the wind, that seemed good enough for me.
It was a bit calmer when I pitched the tent but the wind picked up again during the night and I spent most of the night wondering if the tent was going to blow away!
I had changed the alarm to 5.30 and was already awake when it rang.It was windy and gusty and threatening to blow down the tent any minute. It wasn’t easy to pack down without having something blow away, but I managed to get going and was on the road by 6.
Then it was a repeat of the previous day. Walk 5 km into the wind and then have a break. Repeat.
I had done 25 km by 1 pm and stopped at a rest stop for lunch, had a bit of a longer break and then headed off into the wind again. It did not look like it was going to get easier during the afternoon like it had yesterday.
It proved to be a hard day. It did get a little bit easier as the day wore on but not much.
Late in the afternoon, 3 girls in a van pulled over to say hello. They had met Mattia below Tennant Creek and knew that I would be somewhere on the road. They asked me if I need anything but I was ok and was only longing for some flavored drink. So they left me with a can of Sprite that tasted very nice after all the warm water I had been drinking all day.
I had one last visitor, the guy working along the road who stopped to talk to me before I reached Barkley. This was the third time he had stopped and we had a longer chat. Turns out he drives between Darwin and Mt Isa, so he is going to see me a few times yet before I have finished with this stretch. He promised to try to bring me some fresh food and fruit. Looking forward to that!
As the sun was starting to set, I walked past the station at Sudan Bore, over the bridge and turned off the road to find a place to camp. I could not believe the amount of flies! There were thousands of them, crawling all over me. It was still quite windy and I chose to set up the hammock between 2 trees rather than try to pitch the tent on the stony ground. It just seemed a lot easier and I still want to get some more sleeping done in the hammock to truly decide what I think about it. I quickly set up the hammock and hid under the fly net until the sun had set and the flies started to disappear before I organized everything. Then sleep…
It had been a cold night and I packed up quickly and started walking to get warm. It was windy, like it had been all night, but not really a headwind, more of a crosswind. Much easier to walk in!
I had not got far before a 4wd pulled over and Mark hopped out to have a bit of a chat. He works for Alexandria Station, the biggest cattle station in Australia and that I was crossing at the moment, and was stationed at Sudan Bore. He drives around servicing and making sure the water pumps at dams are working and pumping up water for the cattle. Apparently they call them ”turkey farms” and some of the bore holes are 100 m deep. We had a nice long chat and Mark proved to be an expert on snakes and lizards and told me about some of the local specialties.
Then onwards, at least for a little while. Before I had done 10 km, a cyclist came up behind me and called out. He was surprised to see somebody out here walking. His name was Laurie, and he was cycling from Darwin to Townsville. We talked for a while and he left me with some jelly beans for quick energy.
After 15 km I came to a truck stop and decided it was time for something to eat. As I sat there, enjoying a tuna, crisp bread sandwich, a Harley with a camping trailer pulled in. The rider was a lady called Heather that was out trying to finish off a tour around Australia. We talked for a while and she offered to make some coffee. Talk about a great idea, I hadn’t had any coffee for 3 days! It took a while to boil the water due to the wind but it was finally done and I enjoyed a double strength cappuccino. It was great.
We had a long talk before it was time to head our separate ways and it was more than 11 am before I continued on. With all the socializing that I had been doing today, I was resigned to not getting a huge amount of mileage done.
But the coffee must have worked wonders because I motored along through the rest of the day and realized that there was a chance that I could make it to the Avon Downs rest area if I walked a little bit longer into the evening than I had been doing. Said and done. I walked the last hour in darkness but the traffic was almost nonexistent and arrived at the rest area having walked 50 km. Not bad considering that I had spent so much time meeting people!
I again set up the hammock between 2 trees as the ground was as rock hard and there was still some wind. I am getting the hang of sleeping in the hammock but I think it would suit somebody that does not move around as much as I do during the night a lot better. It is comfortable but a bit difficult to switch positions and as I do that several hundred times through the night, it gets a little complicated. If I could learn to sleep a bit more statically, then it would be great.
Day 5 started in a wonderful way. The police station across the road from the Avon Downs rest area has what they call a ”driver reviver”. What that means is that you can get coffee or tea and sometimes a biscuit. Guess what I did as soon as I had packed the hammock?
So, a great start, if a little bit later than usual because I had 3 cups of coffee before I set off!
Then it was like usual, into a slight headwind, slowly becoming more of a side wind as the day wore on.
As I was walking along, a Suzuki Jimmy packed full of stuff drove past and then turned around and stopped. Driving it was Claudia and she wanted to know if I was ok and if I needed something. I said I was ok and explained what I was doing. She then asked if I wanted something fresh, maybe some yogurt? Oh yeah! That just the sort of fresh food I can’t carry on the Mule and miss the most. So I had some fresh yogurt with a banana in it. Tasted great.
About halfway through the day I started looking for a place to have a bit of a break, somewhere with shade if possible. Let’s just say the options were not many…
Then a camper van pulled up alongside and the lady driving it asked if I would like a cup of coffee. It turned out that she had met Heather, the lady on the Harley, at Barkly Homestead and told her about me. Told her that if she saw me, then I would probably appreciate a cup of coffee. So she made a nice cuppa for me, with some cake, and we hid in the camper van from both the sun and all the flies and had a nice chat.
The flies had been getting very bad and it was almost difficult to decide what was worse, a strong headwind that kept the flies away or the flies. I had finally given up and started using the fly net I bought in Katherine, one that goes over your head and hat. So now I looked like a wandering bee keeper.
The rest of the day was one step after another and I was taking it easy. I only wanted to do 40 km or so and leave 30 for tomorrow and the last stretch into Camooweal. As the sun set, I found an area just of the road set up the tent on the hard ground. I had to use rocks as tent pegs but had plenty of time and before long the tent was ready for any wind that might come. The ground was hard, as I said, but it was nice to stretch out after a few days in the hammock, not used to sleeping that way yet. I sleep on a simple, thin foam sleeping pad and it is not the most extreme comfort that is available, but I have gotten used to it and it never develops a puncture like my earlier air mattress.
Day 6 was always going to be an easy day. Just 30 km into Camooweal and all day to do it.
I started with a walking breakfast and had a rest first when I reached the Queensland border, about halfway.
Once there I took a photo with the Mule on its’ rear wheel in front of the Queensland sign. This is in memory of the motorcycle trip I made with my friend Björn in 94/95. During that trip we took photos of each other riding our motorcycles on the rear wheel past all the typical Australian tourist signs and areas we could find. At least until our bikes started sounding a bit worse for wear and we started nursing them back to Sydney. One place we photographed was the Queensland border, but the sign has been changed since then.
As I sat enjoying some chicken on crisp bread, an older couple came over for a talk and finally left me with a large bag of apples and oranges. The generosity and helpfulness of all the people I meet!
Then I set off towards Camooweal, arriving around 1 pm. Not bad, Barkly Homestead to Camooweal in five and a half days, without stressing!
I got the cheapest room available at the Post Office Hotel and am looking forward to having a rest day tomorrow.
The longest stretch without services is now done, which feels great, but that does not mean there are not some challenging walks left to do. Leaving here, it’s 190 km to Mt Isa without much in between, and there will be other parts like that before I am done. But both the Mule and I seem to be able to handle it and I am looking forward to getting closer to the coast. Still have not decided if I will be heading towards Townsville or Rockhampton, I’ll leave that until I reach Mt Isa.
Now I am off to the so-called ”supermarket” to see if I can find some ice-cream….