John’s camels trek in

John’s camels trek in

In late 2017, John Elliott decided he wanted to head across Australia. There was only one problem, he didn’t know how.

“After careful consideration, I decided that I would take a motorbike across the Nullabor,” John said.

But John wanted to get off the beaten track as much as possible and the motorbike was surrounded by many obstacles, the biggest of which was his mother telling him that motorbikes are dangerous.

“I was at dinner with a friend and she mentioned a book about a girl who took camels across Australia,” John said.

“As I had had a few reds (wines) I immediately convinced myself that camels were the solution.”

Both John’s mother and his friend had steered John towards undertaking the biggest challenge of his life, a journey of 6000 kilometres across Australia.

“I retired from all aspects of my life as I knew it,” he said.

He resigned as chief executive officer of his own successful company in Perth, walked away from his house, a regular wage, his dream car and creature comforts and redefined success on his own terms.

Since February 2018 John has been travelling the country training for this expedition.

“I have been mentored by some of Australia’s leading cameleers including Russell Osborne, of Lakes Entrance,” John said.

John spent some weeks with Russell learning how to handle the camels and Russell has continued to him.

“When I first spoke to John, he was presenting an unrealistic time frame to learn everything needed to do such a trek,” Russell said.

“But he came and stayed a few weeks and soaked up every bit of information and training. He knew the value of a mentor.”

Finally, in mid April this year, John began his journey from Coonar Beach in Queensland and planned to cross Australia. He was to cross through six deserts and finish in Coral Bay, in Western Australia.

That original route is now a long way off with John deciding to head south.

He has walked across the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, dodged bushfires in Brindebella, then headed down through Mansfield and over the mountains to East Gippsland.

The trek has not been without its dramas, especially when three of his camels fell down a cliff near Jamieson.

Last Sunday, John and his faithful dog, Bruski, arrived in Lakes Entrance to crowds of interested people capturing selfies, asking many questions, showing their interest in his trek and donating to Beard Season.

John has signed up to the non profit charity, Beard Season, to champion the early detection of melanoma.

From June 1 to August 31 he will let his beard grow and hopefully inspire friends and those along his journey to get a skin check from a GP or dermatologist.

John is collecting donations along the way to raise much needed funds towards free educational skin check sessions and bringing skin specialists to where they are needed most.

Along the way John has realised that this trek is not so much about the destination but connecting with himself and people along the way.

He travels at an average four kilometres an hour and tries to stay mainly on rail trails or rail tracks.

“The camels aren’t afraid of trains, cars or trucks, but bicycles give them a fright. It’s because they can’t hear them approaching,” John said.

“I average about 25 kilometres a day and am looking forward to a couple of weeks break staying with Russell and Tara at their farm.”

He is looking forward to not having to load the camels each morning and unload them each night for a while.

He hopes to have a meet and greet out at the farm so everyone can visit the camels and find out about not just his journey, but Russell and Tara’s venture,

Russell and Tara are hoping to have their camels back on Lakes Entrance Main Beach for the long weekend, after a tough time with bushfires and now COVID-19 restrictions.

John enjoys the people side of the trek and tries to visit schools, aged care homes and disability services.

This was proven by his slow trip through Lakes Entrance where he stayed the night near the Kalimna Aged Care facility and then stopped many times along the Esplanade to let people pat the camels and answer every question asked.

So what next for the camel man? He is heading to Tasmania.

He will head down to Melbourne through South Gippsland and hopefully by then Tasmanian borders will be open and ready for a man and his five camels, Ted, Jackson, Arthur, Bill and Charlie, and faithfull dog, Bruski.

IMAGE: John Elliott, his five camels and his dog, Bruski, trekked in Lakes Entrance on Sunday as part of his epic journey across the country, which has faced numerous challenge with bushfires and coronavirus restrictions.