From the comfort of my local cafe, I had stumbled across a camel trekking adventure in the Flinders Ranges while reading the Sunday travel section. My interest was immediately piqued, I rounded up some other intrepid adventurers, and before you knew it, the trip was booked. Months then passed.....then, finally it was April and I was Adelaide-bound, and quite apprehensive about the prospect of spending spending three days on a camel. What had I been thinking? I certainly wasn't having second thoughts about my travel companions, I was really looking forward to our girls' own adventure! Lucy and Stella had come over from NZ, and Lisa, a friend from Sydney, came too.
Our first happy discovery was that to get to the Flinders Ranges it is necessary to drive through the Clare Valley. Well in truth it might not be the fastest route, but it is definitely the most scenic, and who in their right mind would pass up a chance to meander through a very pretty part of Australia, which is also famous for gourmet food and fine wine?
We were not disappointed. We had lunch at Mr Mick
, finishing with the salted caramel semifreddo with caramel shards. This
was heaven. We were in agreement that this was almost the best thing we had ever eaten, and over the course of the weekend its legend only grew. Purely for research purposes, to confirm that our memories were not deceiving us, we needed a return visit on our way back to Adelaide before the trip was over. It was true, the finest desert in all the land.....we left satisfied.
The Flinders Ranges is a truly beautiful part of the country. The camels didn't go fast, so ambling along on a camel, enjoying the views, the peacefulness, and taking in the ambience and the environment was very relaxing. It was completely different from the hustle and bustle of our normal day, and the gentle rolling gait of the camel was a perfect antidote to the stresses of daily life. We could ride as little or long as we liked, so when we weren't sitting back and letting the camels do the work, we could walk, saving our bottoms, and simply enjoy the magical colours and the beauty of the landscape around us.
There had been a lot of rain the previous few days, so because the ground was so
wet, we trekked in a different place that they normally do. This worked to our advantage, as we were relocated to a base by the Mayo Hut, which although very basic, comes with a fireplace, and a tiny mezzanine sleeping area (you would certainly become very familiar with your travel companions) and - the true luxury - a long drop toilet. Who would've thought my idea of luxury would be redefined to include a long drop toilet? Yet without it, we would've been wandering into the bush with a spade at regular intervals, checking for snakes on the way.
We eschewed the mezzanine and decided to choose to sleep in our swags outside under the stars. Someone had made a joke about the redbacks in the hut, and while they were only joking, of course my imagination was off. Someone else made a joke about sleeping with snakes under the stars, but I had also been told that it was the wrong time of year for snakes and it was also too cold at night for them to wander about. So when weighing up the options between deadly redback spiders and deadly snakes, I chose the snakes. Who would've
If truth be known though, I was also pretty excited to finally have a true Aussie outback camping experience. I have to confess I didn't actually know what a swag was before this trip, despite having confidently told lots of people that I was sleeping in a swag under the stars. It turns out a swag is best described as a canvas cocoon with a very comfy thick mattress. Your sleeping bag is inside the thick canvas, so at night time I crawled in, zipped up, overcame the waves of claustrophobia, and slept like a baby....a baby bug in a rug. It was surprisingly comfortable, although I never got got over the vague feeling of claustrophobia. I have to confess that this was because I was still a little nervous about waking up with a snake so didn't unzip the swag at all!
At night times we gathered around the fire, telling tall tales and enjoying surprisingly tasty meals cooked on the campfire, while drinking some quite delicious wine purchased on our way up through the Clare Valley. One night we had toasted marshmallows, and to our surprise, one night we even had a singalong, including Lucy
who sang a solo waiata to the Aussie contingent. I have a feeling that the wine helped us all along in overcoming any performance anxiety. At least it wasn't kumbaya.
During the course of the weekend I celebrated my birthday, and everyone made quite a fuss. I'm pretty confident that this will be the first and last birthday with camels, however no one can say it wasn't memorable! I had a very happy day with friends, wine, gorgeous scenery....and some camels. I may never ride a camel again, but I can tick it off, with very happy memories. Hopefully I will get another opportunity to visit the beautiful Flinders Valley. I probably don't need to say that the Clare Valley will definitely see me again!
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