I recently completed a seven-day camel trek in the beautiful Flinders Ranges in South Australia. It was a women’s only adventure group, with the only male being our cameleer Ryan.
It was the sort of trip that meant you were disconnected from the world, but at the same time more connected to the world. Social media and the news cycle were replaced with connection, conversation and companionship. Sitting around a campfire at night was an almost spiritual experience as the fire not only provided us with warmth, but also heat to cook our food. It also offered the perfect setting for honest and raw conversations that only a group of women could have!
Walking each day beside the camels that carried our gear was also meditative. We had to peel back our lives to the basics because we had to be mindful of how much a camel can carry. Food, water and warm bedding took precedence over personal items. It brought home how few items we really need.
I have camped out many times, but this journey had a different flavour to it. I felt connected to my female forebears who had gone on trips like this before me out of necessity. Their mode of transportation may have been horses or donkeys, and their purpose was not a ‘holiday’ but often a search for a better life. How frightening that must have been, and how exposed and exhausted they must have felt.
I was decked out in modern hiking gear and had just a small backpack to carry each day. My forebears completed their journeys that lasted much longer than seven days in button up boots and cumbersome long dresses. My own grandmother made a long trek up a range that took many weeks when she was a baby. Her parents placed her in a basket strapped onto a horse, and I can’t imagine caring for an infant in those conditions.
The interesting part of it all for me was that when we reached the edge of the town from where we started, the mobile phones of my fellow trekkers started pinging all around me. I had mine on flight-mode to preserve the battery for the trip, but I found myself not wanting to turn it. I wanted to stay connected through being disconnected and I wasn’t sure why. I’m sure if granny and great granny and those before them had access to this technology, they would have embraced it.
I think my hesitation was about wanting to stay connected to these amazing women who had no choice but to keep going each day in search of a better life. There wasn’t a cosy hotel waiting for them at the end with a hot shower and a three-course meal, but rather an unknown place where they would build their new life which meant more hard work. My journey was not the same as theirs, but it gave me a tiny glimpse into how truly remarkable they all were. I feel privileged to have had that peek into their lives, if only for one wonderful week.