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Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 18

The weather in Australia has turned cooler again, and we’re set to start hunting down some more meteorites. To give you a taster of what that’s like, here’s some more of Luke’s blog from a recent trip … (the story started with On the Road Again)

Little did I know this would be one of the most grueling days of my life. It started off just like any other, which is when you know that something’s up! When writers say that phrase you know things are going to go downhill fast. No one says it was just another day and then describes a normal day that’s just not literature; unless you’re Jane Austin, that is …  wooooooh.

During breakfast we had a chat about safety after the snake incident yesterday. Phil said we should all wear long trousers and gaiters. I initially protested, thinking that walking around wearing jeans in the desert sun would be a major inconvenience. But then I thought about it a bit more and realised it would be significantly more inconvenient to be bitten by a brown snake in the middle of nowhere. We were splitting up into three ways: Rob was going to fly the UAV and test out its mapping capabilities, one group would search the high mass region while Phil and I budded off to try to access the low mass region on foot. The walk to the area was 7 km and it was already 38°C. I had forgotten to grab Phil’s camelback, but luckily I normally carry two so I gave him one of mine. I took a 5 L jerry can of water as well. We got about 1 km before we realised we were already thirsty and at the rate that we were drinking we would get to the low mass area and would have to come straight back.

Phil went back and grabbed another jerry with about 10 – 15 litres of water in it so we had a combined 30L. That should do. While he was away I had a little siesta, but not before a kangaroo calmly bounced past me. It didn’t notice me and was moving completely at ease. I realised then that I hadn’t seen a kangaroo not freaking out and hopping away from a car.  I’d never seen them just moving normally. It was an awesome sight. When Phil came back we took a long drink and set out. We walked in 20 minute bursts with 5 minute breaks, drinking almost half a litre each every time. This made Phil’s load gradually lighter. It took three hours to get in. Progress was really slow and we were breaking into the 40°C range.

I'll just wait somewhere under a tree ... a tree ...

I’ll just wait somewhere under a tree … a tree …

One tree we stopped at already had a monitor lizard lying under it. I think it was so hot that it couldn’t be bothered to run away! It was perfectly camouflaged in the undergrowth. This is a comforting sight. If I can see something that small which is, by process of natural selection, evolved to be perfectly camouflaged in this environment, then surely (surely!) I would be able to spot a meteorite which is about as contrasting as it is possible to be.

We were completely baking. We sat in some shade and had our wraps hastily made on site from mangled wraps and tinned tuna. It was surprisingly nice! The tuna came with spoons but the heat was such that it took us far too long to figure that we could use them to eat with (it’s not just trolls that become stupider with increasing temperatures)! Tummies sated for now, we started the search in the heat of the day. We had to stick together. We both had GPS but only one sat phone between us. It was really dense undergrowth. In places you could barely see 5m ahead. It would be so easy to lose your sense of direction and get lost. I still felt positive about finding the thing, but we were now looking for something the same size, and probably colour, as a kangaroo poo and this place was full of them. We had to find it! We just had to! We deserve to!

one of the locals

one of the locals

We still did the 20 minute, walk 5  minute drink system. That jerry, despite being emptied, was starting to get really heavy! We took stock of our water supply and realised we had plenty. Phil asked did I want a dump? Which I initially misinterpreted, but what he actually meant was a shower to cool off! This sounded like the best idea ever. We had plenty of water to get us back, it was blisteringly hot and jeans are better than snake bites, but still horrible! Phil poured some of the contents of the jerry over my head. It was hot. Now you may think that this is an exaggeration, but it’s no word of a lie. You know the temperature of tea that has cooled down just enough that it is possible to drink without burning yourself? Yes, it’s a very good temperature for tea … It was initially awful but then evaporation took over and I was in heaven! I upended some more over Phil and, much refreshed, we carried on!

... does that look real to you Phil? ...

… does that look real to you Phil? …

As the sun started to get low in the sky, we reluctantly gave up, gutted. We were both totally shredded with the heat and exertion of what we had done and we still had to get back to camp!

We had another outback shower of borderline-scalding water and then strapped the empty jerry to my backpack. I joked about telling the guys back home that Phil had made me carry everything like a pack mule. Phil gave me a look which made my mind up. We headed back, searching for the first kilometre or so, but then gave up and started searching for snakes instead. It would be silly now to step on one. We finally got back from a walk that would have probably have killed 99% of the population (not wanting to brag).

We were dead on our feet. We radioed the others. They had also been unsuccessful and, even worse, the drone had crashed into a tree and was broken. This thing was cursed even more than me and my companion raincloud! One final drive over the dune field and we were back at camp. Everyone was blitzed. We all just sat there with a cold one. I pointed to my bag and said have you seen that? I waited just long enough for the eyes to bulge in horror and Ellie to whisper why?! before telling them that actually, Phil had been carrying it around for most of the day. The girls made possibly the best meal I have ever eaten. It was the best ever Moroccan roast lamb. I had thirds. I would have been happy to eat that meal and pay $100 at a Michelin style restaurant for that! With the tiny amount of energy we had left, we loaded up everything except the swags for a quick get-away the following morning.

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, day 19


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