Coloured Stone - Wild Desert Rose would probably be a good sound-track for this writeup, but alas maybe you'll have to make do with Chasing Rainbows. See also waru.org for photos.

An incomprehensible rabble of mens voices, diesel engines, grunts, flies, the squeaking and slamming of gates, barking dogs, and many footsteps begins at sun-up, and drags on long into the afternoon. The midday midsummer Australian sun hurls its fiery wrath down on all those below, causing them to shrivel under its fingers and drip perspiration. An indescribable stench fills nostrils. It is the smell of BO, the smell of dust, the smell of diesel exhaust fumes, the smell oil or grease, the smell of dozens of various plants, the smell of animals, the smell of animal excrememnt, and the smell of camels. Clouds of red sand and dust swirl in the air, slowly grinding to a halt, but they stay there in the air, hanging, floating, refusing to settle back to Earth. The whooping, chopping, beating of rotor blades approaches, adding to the dust. An Ag-5 sets down unsteadily on a patch of not quite so granite covered ground, and a man slides out and drops to the ground, his boots leaving imprints like those left in snow.

"Palya." A dark-skinned man called from his position standing in a tray of a '78 loudly but in a gruff mumble to the newcomer who touched the front of the brim of his Barmah dead centre with his right index finger in return of the greeting.

"How's it goin', mate? Brett an' I are just back for fuel, then we'll shoot through to the gap and help Mike an' the boys bring the f***ers down." Catching, herding, and/or killing camels is almost trivial for real men, and these two had been in the business for years. They were cheap, fast, and effective, the most respected outfit for a thousand miles.

"Righto." He reached into an Esky, and handed his companion a Fourex.

The gold can, like everything else, dripped water, and half slipped awkardly from his hand before he resecured it and slipped his thumbnail under the ringpull. "Cheers." He lifted the beverage to his lips, accompanied with a gurgling sound. With a nod, he turned and strolled back to the heli where its pilot was busy with a 44 gallon drum and hand pump.

Fourty-five minutes later saw the ground party no bigger than the flies to Brett and Gary as they chased their own shadow two hundred k North at a thousand feet. A waterhole floated onto the Western horizon, and Gary yelled into his headset. "Hey Brett," he jabbed an outstretched finger at the waterhole. The pilot glanced in the direction indicated, nodded, and turned his aircraft.

"Idiot," Brett was referring to the object in the centre of the waterhole that had caught Gary's attention, "He's stuck, i'n' 'e?"

"Yeah, take me down, and I'll chuck a rope on." Gary eyed distastefully a light yellowish-brown fluffy head bobbing in the middle of the waterhole for a moment. "I wouldn't mind a swim, y'know." He laughed as he removed his headset.

Brett hovered his Bell ten feet from the surface of the murky water that was alive with yabbies, and not-so alive with one thrashing camel. The animal's tracks indicated where it had approached to drink, lost its footing, slipped, and fallen in. Camels will spit, defaecate, urinate, make babies, have babies, sit or die in waterholes, but there is one thing they cannot do in them: swim. Did I say die? Well, they don't die very easily. Camels are something like indestructible. If you hit one at 100 km/h, it will most quite likely walk away. This one had probably been in the waterhole for nearly a day, yet still it showed no signs of degraded strength. The aircraft served only to further the camel's distressed struggles as Gary leaned down from the skid with a noose in his hand. Hand over hand the rope extended down. It flicked back and forth, timing impossible to synchronise with that of the beast. A second rope swung down, a large hook on its end. A thumbs-up appeared in front of the cockpit windscreen, and the main rotor blades changed pitch. Camels aren't light, horses are light compared to camels. The water became choppier and choppier, but neither the position of the 47 nor its newly-slung payload changed.

"Come on, mate." Brett muttered into his headset regardless of the fact that no one could hear him. He looked at his fuel gauge, and shook his head, "Too much." The man on the skid was looking up now, waiting for an explanation of the delay. Brett jabbed his thumb at the fuel tanks above his head then pulled his finger across his neck in a sign of death.

After having just refuelled, the logical explanation was contamination, and Gary attempted to free the rope he'd finally managed to secure around the camels' neck. It took nearly as long to remove as it had done to attach, and his frustration with the animal increased until he began swearing at it. The hook under its belly slipped off easily as soon as tension was removed, and Gary scrambled back into the cockpit. His eyes looked questioningly at Brett as he donned his David Clark once more. "Bad fuel?"

"Nah, we can't sling that with full tanks and the gear in the back."

"Ah, 'kay." Gary reached above his head for a map, and jotted down their position on a pad stuffed under his seat. "I'll let Mike know, and he'll have to snatch it in the morning with the Toyota." In the Outback 'Toyota' is a generic term for vehicle, said vehicle generally being a Land Cruiser of some description.

Brett nodded, and the helicopter rose again into the monotony of landscape versus sky.

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