According to Bernadette, "picking the right track and following the camel shit" is a pretty easy way to track her and husband, Rob, as they travel with their 6 camels through Australia's most remote terrain.
Both Bernadette and Rob are pretty interesting and unique people. I met them back in 2010, whilst they were on their camel trek from Gympie (their home town) to Melbourne and back. Bernadette and Rob had the pleasure of sleeping in our hay shed in the middle of a Hunter valley winter. My Dad, Alan Stafford (self appointed Mayor of Segenhoe), proudly offered up his hay shed, with a few frothy tops that kept the un -likely group up chatting until the early hours.
Mainly the conversation centred around how and why two people pack their lives up and travel, via camel, over thousands of miles. As the conversation continued we realised that their was no particular reason why Rob and Bernadette did these trips, they just did them because they could and they found joy in them.
Once you get past the fact that they are riding camels across the country (covering approximately 25 kilometres each day) and you settle in for a chat, you realise that they infact don't think they are doing anything special at all. And I guess for me personally, thats what made them so special. Bernadette and Rob are more interested in other people's stories than they are about talking about their own unique experiences.
I decided I needed more time with them, and so that night I asked Rob if perhaps I could join him and Bernadette on the next leg of their adventure. They were to ride a further few kilometres to Gundy NSW, a ride that would take a day. I was surprised when Rob replied that he would be happy to have me ride with them. The next morning, I was directed to Black Jack, the biggest camel and the leader of the camel train. Once I was settled in, Rob gave the signal, black Jack and all the other camels rose and we headed north towards Gundy.
Fast forward to 2017. My partner, Charlie and I had just moved to a small opal mining town (Andamooka) in South Australia to run the Andamooka Yacht Club. We were 4 months in to our own little cafe adventure and we were loving the slow pace of outback living. One day a few of our regulars arrived in a very excited state. They explained that they had just come across a couple with 6 camels walking towards Roxby Downs. I instantly thought of Bernadette and Rob, but it had been 7 years since I had seen them and I wondered aloud if they were still travelling.
Australia is a big country, surely it could not be the same couple? Co-insedently our customers found the cameleers on their way home and re-told them that they had coffee out at the Andamooka Yacht Club that was run by Pip Stafford. Bernadette remembered my name and remembered that I had rode with them years ago. With the bush telegraph at its best, we ended up locating Bernadette and Rob's camp site at the Roxby Downs race track and that very night we sat around the fire with them marvelling at their journey and the fact that we had run into each other in the vast SA outback.
It was incredible meeting up with both Rob and Bernadette after having met them in such random circumstances all those years ago. They truely are an inspiration and by doing what they love they have given me the encouragement to push the boundaries of my own life. Thank you and we'll see you guys somewhere on the road. x
- Pip Stafford