19-Nov-2005 -- After succesfully doing four confluences in the area where I live, it was time to get down to some serious business. The self explanatory reason why the remaining confluences are more and more difficult to conquer was a challenge and was appealing to my sense of adventure. I talked to my wife about the idea and she was willing to look after the kids for a couple of days while I was gone. I am very thankful to her for the help and understanding.
After much preparation I left. It was nearly four in the afternoon and I had a long drive just to get close to my first of four confluences. Between Mildura (my home town) and Broken Hill to the North there was not much at all to see. I stopped a few minutes to refuel, stretch my legs and confirm the directions then I was on my way again. Passed Broken Hill the land was still very barren but there were a few interesting rocky formations and landscapes. Dusk set in and I nearly hit a sheep who got the fright of his life. That's when I turned on the spotlights I'm glad I had installed on the car a month or so prior to the trip.
I got to the last turn off I had to take, I was about 25 kilometres from the confluence then so I thought I should call it a day and set up camp. It was well and truly dark by then. I unrolled my swag on some very prickly plants. They were sticking to everyting. Sleep eluded me for a while but i didn't mind. Being in the outback, it was so peaceful. I heard some sheep walking around for a bit and it was my last memory until the morning when I realised I had slept in. I packed up everything in a hurry and had breakfast on the run. The last drive was no more than 20 kilometres and it came to a rather abrupt stop when I came to an unlocked albeit unhospitable sign: "Bugger off" I knew I could have gotten much closer to the confluence were I to keep going but the owners might not have appreciated. After debating the issue in my mind I doubled back, parked the car in the shade of a cluster of trees and took camera, GPS, water and food, knowing I was in for more than a 20 kilometres return trip on foot. I had driven 5 hours to get there, I wasn't about to let that little hike being an obstacle . Besides, I love bushwalking. The terrain was relatively flat, there were a few trees but easy to walk between them. Many beautiful parrots and kangaroos.
Once there, I took the photos and packed up ready to head back. I looked at my GPS and there was nothing on it, it was just blank. I thought I was stuffed. More than 10 kilometres in the middle of nowhere, there's no way I can find my way back just like that. I also remembered the skeletal remains of some animals I had passed and the thumbleweeds which reminded me that I was in a remote spot. I had spare batteries but what if I lost the information by changing the batteries. I gave it a go and all came back but for a while I saw my life flashing before my eyes. So I returned, very relieved. Half way back to the car I realised I had taken off my sunglasses at the conluences to take pictures and omitted to pick them up from the ground again. There was no way I was going to return and get them. I had barely a litre of water left, an extra 10 kilometres was out of the question. So if you do the confluence, you get a free pair of sunglasses, complements of yours truly. Back at the car, I noted that I had walked a grand total of 20.6 kilometres in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. I was spent but glad to have done a confluence that had never been attempted before. No time for celebrations, time to drive to the 2nd of 4: 30 degrees S. 144 degrees E.
Coordinator's Note: Stephan's story illustrates the utmost importance of carrying spares of everything - batteries, water, food. I'd add that another essential is a satellite phone or an EPIRB. Even with those items, you still have to last long enough to be rescued! The Australian outback is not a place to make mistakes.