It wasn’t as hot as we had hoped it would be. The temperature didn’t exceed 40°C which is strange for this part of the world this time of year. But that’s not all: it also rained. It rained on us while camping in the desert where the average rainfall is a scant 230mm a year. Go figure.
My friend Carl, who was heading the trip, invited me to join the five-day backpacking trip in the semi-arid Australian Outback as a wilderness guide. The trip is organized by a private school near Melbourne for their Year 11 (11th Grade) class. It is the last installment and the most rigorous of their Outdoor Education program. In previous years these students have visited mountain, marine and forest environments and now they must face the most famous, and harsh of Australian environments – the desert.
We drove over 1000 km north from Melbourne past the town of Broken Hill to cross the border into South Australia and onto Plumbago Station. From here the kids, nearly sixty of them, split into two groups to walk the loop trail in opposite directions.
I was assigned to the clockwise group and once we had picked our navigators for the half-day trek to our first camp we were off. The red dirt, of the Australian Outback, soon coated our boots and legs. (Over the week that red dirt would lodge itself in various unexpected places on our bodies and in our packs).