WANDERER: John Elliott with camels Ted, Jackson, Arthur and Bill, in Gayndah.
WANDERER: John Elliott with camels Ted, Jackson, Arthur and Bill, in Gayndah. Alex Treacy

Camel caravan rolls into North Burnett

THE stereotypical sign of a mid-life crisis is buying a flashy new car.

Perth businessman John Elliott did the opposite: he traded his in.

He now has four camels, named Ted, Jackson, Arthur and Bill.

And the strange caravan, which includes dog Bruski, is walking from Elliott Heads, near Bundaberg, to Coral Bay in Western Australia.

They sleep rough each night and Mr Elliott lives off the supplies saddled to his camels.

The Times caught up with Mr Elliott in Gayndah, courtesy a GPS tracker he has activated so his journey can be followed.

"The trip started without a why, other than there's got to be something a little bit more to do in life,” he said.

In another life, Mr Elliott was the precocious young CEO of his own insurance brokerage in Perth and also owned a nightclub.

"The sanity of spending a few hours a day in peak hour traffic and nine hours a day in front of a computer screen didn't seem to match up with going out there and seeing what's around,” he said.

Mr Elliott purchased his camels in Millmerran on the Darling Downs and spent 15 months training them and himself for the road, including a stint at Camelot Camel Dairies in Gympie.

He said the friendship with his humped companions is "growing”.

"It's like any relationship, there's moments of friction and there's real moments of being close and that can change hour on hour,” Mr Elliott said.

"It's like every relationship I've ever had.”

Part of his journey will involve a "500km detour” to return to Millmerran so he can spend a week with Ted Heaton, now in his 80s, a doyenne of camel racing, whose crowning glory was victory in the 1978 British Airways Camel Cup in Alice Springs.

Mr Elliott expects the 6000km trip to take around 18 months, on the basis of an average 20km walking per day, plus rest days.

Mr Elliott knows his journey will take him through Mundubbera, but after that his time in the region will be determined by the vagaries of stock routes and the availability of feed and water.

He is spending a few days in Gayndah, as Bill has a saddle sore.

"I'm off to the Showgrounds (to stable the camels) and then to the pub,” Mr Elliott said.

"I've been dreaming about that steak.”

Follow Mr Elliott's journey here.


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