Outback adventurer has emotional reunion with camel that crossed Australia on foot with him

Outback adventurer has emotional reunion with camel that crossed Australia on foot with him

Outback adventurer has emotional reunion with camel that crossed Australia on foot with him

Updated 4 June 2015, 20:05 AEST

An outback adventurer has an emotional reunion with the camel that accompanied him on the first solo on-foot crossing of Australia.

An outback adventurer has had an emotional reunion with the camel that accompanied him on the first solo on-foot crossing of the Australian continent.

In 1998, David Mason became the first person to walk solo across the country.

With him on the eight-month 5,500 kilometre journey were three camels that afterwards joined the camel trains on Cable Beach.

Seventeen years later, Mr Mason has flown to Broome to be reunited with the last remaining camel, a large male called Kabul.

Mr Mason said it was wonderful to see his old friend that helped him survive the desert sections of the gruelling trek.

"I haven't seen him for 17 years, and I'm beginning to tear up actually," he said as he spotted him along the beach.

"He looks very well. I think he's put on a kilo or two, probably a bit like me but he looks very relaxed and very well cared for."

As the reunion was planned, there had been speculation in Broome's camel circles as to whether the animal would recognise his road-trip buddy.

Onlookers had no doubt there was a flicker of recognition in Kabul's large, dark eyes as Mr Mason knelt next to him, feeding him chunks of chocolate chip muesli bar and blowing softly on his nose.

"Kabul hasn't seen David in 17 years so that's a very long time, but I'm sure he recognises him," said his current owner cameleer John Geappen.

"Camels get very attached, if you treat them well you develop a very strong bond with them."

Harebrained idea in Foreign Legion

Mr Mason's historic continent crossing has since been recorded in two books, but started off as a harebrained idea when he served with the French Foreign Legion in Africa.

"I was a foreign legionnaire and I was sitting on top of a hill looking over Ethiopia, thinking there's got to be a heck of a lot more to life than this," he said.

"I thought, why not catch some camels and walk across Australia? - it was pretty much as simple as that."

After months of preparation and planning, David and his trio of camels hit the road.

Kabul proved an invaluable travelling companion as they endured cold nights, hot days, and seemingly endless roads.

"He was, and is, phlegmatic, powerful and utterly trustworthy, and without him I couldn't have done the trip," Mr Mason said.

"Where else in the world can you catch a few camels and walk across the country with no-one bothering you?

"It was utterly extraordinary and I'm very grateful for the opportunity."

The trip raised thousands of dollars for the Fred Hollows Foundation, and earned Mr Mason the 1999 Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.

In the years since, he has barely stayed still, serving overseas with the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Mason has completed four tours of Iraq, and more recently been based in Canberra as a military lawyer.

But those 236 days on the road, with Kabul by his side, have stayed with him.

"I think about it all the time," he said.

"There's a sense of owning your own days and your own future that you can't get anywhere else and if you panic, you die.

"In that sense I think it's very similar to being a single-handed yachtsperson, if you aim to do that, there are great sacrifices and great rewards."

He has now left the Army and is contemplating what to do next with this life.

Kabul semi-retired and enjoying the sun

Meanwhile, Kabul is seeing out his days in the Kimberley sunshine.

"He's semi-retired now," Mr Geappen said.

"We only give him a walk once or twice a week now because he's closer to 30 than 20, but he's still a very happy and healthy boy.

"I'm glad he's seen David again because they walked the whole way, and this was his lead camel.

"David relied on this camel so much.

"It was one of those unique things that had never been done before, walking all the way around Australia with no machinery and no support team, and this camel was part of it."

Topics: