Day 20….all this walking is getting in the way of understanding the expedition…

Friday 22nd August 2008.

This morning was clear andbright but the wind was still blowing a hoolie. I stood on the top of the sandhill ready to resume my walking and it was windy enough to blow a dog offa chain. There are very few trees around here, just salt bush which grows knee high andso there is nothing to shelter you from the wind or to stop the air rushing across the plains. Head down, bum up, I started heading north. I reached the sand ridges mentioned by Wills which are still clothed with pines and continued on to their next camping spot.

This camp was close to a dam that was being constructed in 1860, but the name given to the place does not exist today. There is a station close by at the foot of a sandhill and the remains of the dam still exist, but the exact location of the camp is difficult to place with any degree of certainty. I spent some time with the station owners, Greg andLorraine, looking around the site and puzzling over the location of the original homestead. Although the time spent doing this was enjoyable it is a constantly recurring dilemma that I have had to face while planning and executing this walk – how accurate can an interpretation of the Burke and Wills track be ?

Working out where I wanted to walk meant working out the track taken by the expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf. Many people are currently investigating specific sections of the track of the expedition andone could spend a lifetime puzzling over where the expedition went. There is something quite appealing in identifying locations and camps described by Wills and the locations that Becker and Beckler sat to paint and sketch, but there is a danger that one can become too caught up in taking this to the nth degree and spend one’s time puzzling over minutiae and lose sight of the bigger picture.

I wanted to place myself in the same environment as the Expedition and see the landscape that Burke and Wills experienced andso the important thing was to identify the natural features that affected the decisions they made. I wanted to study the cultural landscape of the Expedition rather than spend my time trying to find blazed trees that may or may not date back to 1860, yet here I was wandering backwards and forwards puzzling over Wills’ description in the campsite. I had only done 24 kilometres today and the sun was about to disappear and here I was wandering up and down a creek line looking for a campsite. I decided to have a day off tomorrow and revisit this area with fresh eyes on Sunday.

Distance travelled today; 24.0 km.
Today Dave is at White Elephant Lake.
After twenty days of travel, Burke was at Balranald.
Dave has had two days off so far. Burke and the expedition have had seven days off by this stage.

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