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The Camel Man of the Outback

• CATEGORIES: Features, Reader Stories

It was 25 years ago this winter … ouch .. has it really been that long ago … that I decided to join a small group on a bicycle journey of the South Island of New Zealand.  I was only 20, the youngest member of a troupe that ranged from little ol’ me all the way up to a couple who was 55 (and an adorable, long married, in-love couple they were).  Over a period of 3 weeks we hiked, biked, helicoptered, jet-boated, trained, vanned, laughed, talked and drank (well, some of us more than others) our way around the south island of New Zealand.  For a pretty sheltered kid of 20, it was an eye opening experience.

I certainly can’t forget New Years Night, 1985, in the tourist town of Queensland, where many people around my age gathered in the town square.  Everyone wandering around, hugging, kissing and meeting people from all over the world.  For a dorky geek like me, it was a temporary slice of heaven as I got to mack with some good looking women.  One beautiful young woman from Vancouver and I got along particularly well and …. ahem … back to our story ….

When the 3 week trip in New Zealand was over, and we were all stuffed with Ice Cream (best on the planet — but their cones sucked!), meat pies (these were soooo good), and stories, most of us adventurers returned home; however, the two ‘guides’ who organized the trip spent the next month or two wandering the Australian Outback in a vehicle they bought in Australia.  Several months later, one of the two guides, Brock, tracked me down in the San Juan Islands (I was working up there as a chef).  He told me that some day I HAD to go to the outback of Australia and see the stars.  He told me that the Outback was truly a unique experience and though we had seen many many stars in New Zealand (very little light pollution there), going to the Outback was even better.

To date, I haven’t made it back to New Zealand nor have I made it to Australia.  I haven’t even broken the southern hemisphere since that trip.  However, since then I’ve always lusted for Australia.

So, it was with great interest that I have cultivated a new friend from Australia named Hein who recently stumbled upon eWillys.  Hein is originally from South Africa and has lived, worked and traveled over much of Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia.  Recently, he took a 3 week jeep vacation into the Outback with his wife and daughter and took some photos for us (well, probably for themselves, too 🙂 ). I’ll be publishing the story of the trip in his jeep in the next couple days.  In the meantime, one the interesting side stories of the trip involved meeting the Camel Man.

The Camel Man

Hein writes, “I would have loved to spend more time with the Real Camel-man, but it was too early in the day and we were going in opposite directions.  Apparently he worked in the mines, oil and gas industry for many years, of which there is plenty out there believe it or not, and just got fed-up with the constant rat-race after money. That old fellow has been doing circuits of the desert for more than a decade with that contraption, at 20 km a day and no towns for up to 800 km in some stretches, can you imagine that life?

I suspect the little van might have had a motor in it initially. When that gave up the ghost he just reverted to a more reliable source of motivation.  In parting I actually told him that I might just come and join him in another decade perhaps? I am sure he has a few choice stories to tell and I could really enjoy listening to them while the camels plodded along or over a few camp-fires.”

Based on Hein’s description, I managed to find a couple blog websites which record other run-ins with the Camel Man. They noted he wore a special mosquito mask to keep the flies off and he also had one for his dog, though Hein never mentions seeing the dog.  So, on your next trek through the Outback, keep your eyes pealed for this one-of-a-kind traveler.  Thanks Hein!

Here’s Hein’s photo:

This photo is from Rod Thomas’s blog:

This image is from Flemming Bo Jensen’s blog:

 

One comment on “The Camel Man of the Outback

  1. Rikus Prinsloo

    It may not be easy….but is is always possible!!!!

    I long for the trips my and my brother (Hein in the story above) did when he still lived in SA. Noiw it’s just me and it ain’t quite the same….

    See you amongst the stars when next I’m in the bush boet (brother)

    Rikus Prinsloo
    Heidelberg, Gauteng, RSA

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