Call me naïve or uneducated, but I wasn’t aware of the camel population in Australia – over one million FYI – and I certainly wasn’t aware that you can ride them along the beach at sunset. That was until I arrived in Broome.

With our road trip from Darwin to Perth in full swing, we stopped in Broome to recharge our batteries. With four girls in the trusty station wagon, we rolled into Broome with high expectations of sunsets, BBQs and chilled cider. Camels were certainly not on the agenda. Maybe we should have kept it that way.

Grunts and groans
After a day of hanging out on Cable Beach topping up our tans and playing frisbee, we decided a sunset camel ride may be the perfect way to end a lazy day, so we wandered along the beach to check it out. We found a row of about 20 camels and an English guy called CJ who introduced us to them. I decided on a camel called Diesel, he was the youngest and still “in training”, but I was assured he was one of the better ones.

Once we were on the camels they slowly stood up, looking bored and unimpressed at the thought of walking along the beach again for the fourth time that day. Diesel, on the other hand, didn’t even give me enough time to get into the saddle properly before he sprung up onto all fours. At this point alarm bells were beginning to ring in my head, but a wink from CJ put me slightly at ease.

Then we were off, slowly meandering along Cable Beach, learning facts about our camels from the trainers, waving to lazy sunbathers, laughing at the old couple walking hand-in-hand along the beach as naked as the day they were born – turns out sections of Cable Beach is a nudist colony!

After an hour or so, the sun began to set and colours of red and orange lit up the sky, making the beach look beautiful. Unfortunately, the tranquil surroundings had no calming effect on Diesel who at this point had started to snort and trot in an uneasy fashion. A few trainers ran over assuring me,“don’t worry, he’s young and a bit excitable!” Before I had time to respond with “now you tell me”, Diesel had reared up on to his back legs making a low grunting noise, and then he unleashed the fury! He started bucking his back legs, with lots of grunting and spitting, meanwhile I am screaming like a woman possessed and hanging on for dear life.

This was the first time in my life I have ever contemplated death – death by camel no less. The trainers were frantically running around Diesel, calling his name and trying to calm him down – to no avail I may add.

Meanwhile I’m still screaming for what felt like an eternity. Then all of a sudden Diesel stopped as quickly as he had started. “Get me off this camel now!” echoed downwind and the panicked expression on CJ’s face said it all.

The aftermath
One by one the other camels sat down, all with a kind of “what has Diesel been up to this time?” expression on their long faces, and when it came to Diesel’s turn, he dropped down as quickly as he had got up.

I jumped off feeling lucky to be alive and was met with lots of “He has never done that before” and “I can’t believe you managed to stay on!”
My hands shaking, I sat down on the sand, in disbelief of what had just happened. I think it’s safe to say that my relationship with camels is over.

Next time the sun sets over Cable Beach I will be sitting with a cold cider in hand, letting those unsuspecting fools get into Diesel’s saddle. Should I pre-warn them? Nah, lets just see what happens.

December 24th, 2009

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

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