Well, not really day 4 yet. I take
up the story from 11pm on day 3. It is Saturday night and, although I
am not aware of it, it is the Easter weekend. This will prove to be
I was woken up by
the crash and tinkle of a bottle crashing, breaking and spreading over
the rocks not far from my tent. As I awoke, I heard the sound of a car
receding and loud, excited voices, although I could not make out
anything that they said.
unzipped the tent opening and crawled out and, although I don't
remember, I was probably sleeping in my undies in the sleeping bag. I
doubt that it bothered me at the time. It was a bright, moonlit night
and within seconds I heard the car stopping along the road to Quorn to
my South, probably only 300 metres away. Again I could hear
excited voices but could not decipher what they were saying.
It must have been a minute or two that I stood there trying to work out
what was happening and then I heard the car start up again. It did a
U-turn and headed back towards my camp. I knew they would see me in the
moonlight, so I ducked down behind the tent as they approached.
heard the loud, excited voices again and also heard rocks hitting the
ground around me.
"I reckon I hit it that time" one of the raucous voices cried
"Nah. You missed again" yelled another as the car slowed as it headed
north past my camp.
Shit! I was
scared. I can't remember the last time I was scared like this. I have
a strong survival instinct and "conflict avoidance radar" and don't
even get close to "Trouble". I can even get through a long
drive in the city without getting my heckles up. If some nong overtakes
and squeezes into the space ahead of me, I just move back and make room
for the next one. True! Try it some time. It feels good to advance a
step up the "civilised" ladder.
the fear of being hit by a missile, though that did not carry much
appeal. They didn't have the unerring eye of an Andrew Symonds and I might even be able to dodge in the
moonlight. And they weren't deliberately aiming to injure me (I hope).
What I was scared of was the unknown. What was going on? What sort of
person does this for fun? Will they try to escalate the level of terror
they are causing me?
I figured they
would be turning around for at least one more straffing run so I
crawled into the tent and grabbed,,,,, What? What do you salvage when
the house is on fire? My radio, the most expensive item? My camera with
irreplaceable shots? My clothes? My wallet? Yes, the wallet. It has the
cards for money and driver's license to identify me??? What am I
thinking? The windup torch? Yep, thanks Evan, you knew that would come
in handy. That'll have to do.
The car has slowed to a crawl and I can see the headlights
swinging around to head south towards Quorn again. I clutched my hoard
to my chest and ran away from the road into the scrub. It was not very
thick, but I figured that if they did stop they would not spend too
much time searching for me. I didn't turn the torch on as it was light
enough and I figured they would be able to see its glow.
Cowering behind the biggest of the smallish trees, I watched
the ute pass while two guys in the back launched their
missiles at the tent, yelling encouragement and friendly abuse to each
other. They were laughing out loud and passing comments back and forth
with the occupants in the front. I couldn't tell how their aim was this
time but I breathed a great sigh when I heard them continuing South
towards Quorn with the sound disappearing into the faint outline of the
I have no idea how long I
stayed behind the bush or how long I stood outside the tent. I was in
shock! Will they come back? Will they throw a Molotov cocktail? Send
down a rain of arrows from their crossbows? Bring back a load of mates
and beat the living sh*t out of me?
In fact, will I continue with the walk? This is only the
third day and although I had thought about and discussed the possible
dangers I might encounter along the way I didn't expect having to
confront the question so early. I figured I wouldn't be coming across
any animals that were dangerous to humans, although I would avoid wild
camels and pigs. Dingos were on the list and more on these
fellers later. Snakes and spiders were a possibility but I was walking
in the clear on the roads and I knew that when I was gathering
firewood I had to be sure that "the stick I was picking up was a
The question of how
far to set up camp from the road each evening has been bandied back and
forth for ages. Too far from the road, out of sight, and should you
need assistance for any reason you would be hard to locate. Close to
the road and you might get bottles and rocks thrown at you. I have
always argued for and practised "close to the road" with a strong
belief in the good nature of my fellow man. Maybe it was time to think
about it again.
So, here I was,
sitting in my tent, contemplating my present and my future in the now
serene bush of the Aussie Outback still shaking from my encounter. What
do I do now? That part didn't take long. I'll pack up the tent and walk
the 10kms into Quorn and go to the caravan park. It was now about
midnight and I would get to Quorn about 2:30.
I had never considered traveling at night although it would be much
cooler on the warmer days. This was because of the difficulty of
setting up (or pulling down) the camp in the dark with the additional
risk gathering firewood and of leaving something behind.
So I set out, probably about 1am and actually enjoyed the moonlight
walk. I was still a bit upset though because of the scare and tossing
back and forth the ramifications of quitting or, indeed, of going
ahead. There was no concern about loss of face. I had told
everyone that I would quit if it ever got to the stage that I was not
having fun. And being the target was not fun. While walking I had
decided to "go bush" at the first sound of a car, from either
direction, and do my "cowering" trick behind whatever cover was
A memory from the
deep past came back to me. I had a small (tiny) air charter business in
Broome in the late '70s and there was a commercial pilot for the flying
bit. But I thought it would be a good idea (and fun) to get a basic
pilot's license. Part of the training was to keep a continuous lookout
for a place to land in the event of an engine failure. In such an event,
it is nice to remember seeing a suitable landing spot a few miles back.
While I was walking in the moonlight, listening for the sound of a
motor, I was scanning the sides of the road for a suitable place to
"land" and hide. As it turned out, there were no more cars on the
backcountry road at this time of night.
Before I even
saw any sign of civilisation a dog picked up my scent and started a
howling that sent a shiver up my spine. I hope that it is part of a
homestead. I scanned the bush in the direction of the barking and
eventually I saw a light, and now that I was looking for something at a
particular distance and in a particular direction, I picked out the
lights of several more dwellings. Soon I crested a small rise and there
in the distance were the unmistakable lights of a small, sleepy
I followed the signs
to the Quorn Caravan Park
and walked slowly and quietly past the office
to a small grassy area where there were a couple of tents
erected. I would check in in the morning 'coz I knew that van park
owners and/or managers do not like to be disturbed for someone
inconsiderate enough to book in after office closing hours. I set up my
tent as quietly as possible but still managed to wake up one of the
occupants of one of the tents. I apologised profusely and, when
prompted, gave a brief overview of my circumstances. We would
talk about it more in the morning over coffee.
It was a long day (and night) so I had no trouble getting to
sleep and probably "slept in" till 7:30 or so which is pretty late for
When I arrived here at the Quorn Caravan Park in the early hours
morning, I had walked 28kms including the trudge over the Flinders and
the moonlight bit into town. Mind you, I had 3 or 4 hours sleep in the
middle but, even so, it was the longest distance I had ever walked in a
(24hr) day. So I officially ended "day 3" at Quorn
which is at Lat 32:15.898
and Lon 138:00.970.
The tent neighbours were
John and Richard from Melbourne who were regular distance cyclists on a
three week trip to Wilpena and return as a short holiday from their
workaday lives. We chatted as they packed up their tents and re stacked
their bicycles and this reminded me of my decision to walk instead of
ride. It is much easier to put it all in the backpack and just "walk
off" And,,,, they had a fair bit to say about riding up and down the
hills on the Mawson
cycle trail which can be rocky and with fallen
branches and the downhill parts were the scary bits. To say nothing
about getting multiple punctures each day. But they were thrilled to be
riding their bikes on this trail and were loving every minute of it.
Talking about scary, they had no hesitation in encouraging me
to continue on my walk. "Don't let those bastards stop you" they said.
"The chances of this happening really are tiny and far less so the
further you get away from the big smoke." I was feeling more this way
myself after "sleeping on it". In fact, by the time I had brought it up
on the mobile phone with Bill an hour or so later, the idea of quitting
was already in past tense. And Bill was in agreement even though he was
one of those that favoured camping "far from the road".
The good thing about the "rocks" incident was the great "one
liner" that I am able to recite whenever this story is told.
I love to conclude "So that is how it came to be that I got "stoned" on
my first Saturday night on the walk!"
The "welcome mat" Gary and
Bronwyn; you're legends Safe
I spent the
day walking around Quorn which is a lovely town and an immense amount
of time, and I assume money, has been spent restoring the buildings and
the historic Pichi Richi railway
. It was much bigger than I expected
and the first item on the list in town was a big steak sandwich and
chips at the
. The cafe wasn't quite five star but the steak sandwich and chips
rated a good six and a half. Maybe it had something to do with my
meager fare over the last few days.
Quorn Railway Station Even the private houses
The IGA supermarket
looked inviting, so I dropped in there for a
around and came out with a loaf of sliced bread, some sausages, a small
tub of margarine and a small squeeze bottle of BBQ sauce.
The camp kitchen back at the
caravan park was going to earn its keep tonight and tomorrow morning.
Back at the caravan
park, I decided to stay for an extra day (and night) having spoken to
Gary and Bronwyn about finding something for me to repair or help with
around the park. They had already made a donation to the DeafBlind
Association an amount equal to my park fees so I felt obliged to "earn
my keep". Gary told me there was a Maytag commercial washing machine in
the laundry that needed looking at. And the "cordless" phone in the
office seemed to have lost a bit of range over the years. Both these
tasks were right up my alley. And I wanted to have another look around
town, to see if I could find a policeman to report the stoning and have
a serious look at my batteries and the solar panel to sort out that
All in all, at
last I am "having fun".