‘The Camel Man’, John Elliott, has celebrated Christmas and New Year in the Huon Valley, after being held up for a week at Willie Smith’s with a pulled muscle - in one of his camels.
Giving up the corporate life, a Google search on ‘how to buy a camel’ in 2019, eventually saw Elliott embark on a trek around the nation on behalf of Beard Season, a not-for-profit charity championing the early detection of melanoma.
Having had an early stage melanoma removed from his back just before starting his epic journey, John is acutely aware of how punishing the Australian sun can be, especially in Tasmania.
“Tasmania has got that killer UV, I reckon it feels about 10 degrees hotter here than it does on the mainland for the same temperature,” said John.
“We’ve managed to book out the majority of Hobart’s skin check clinics through to March, so we’re actually getting people through the door, which is good.”
It’s not just about raising awareness though, John is also looking to raise funds for Beard Season, which pay for free community skin checks for those who are most at risk.
Since setting out, Elliott has not only raised more than $60,000, he has also faced blizzards and bushfires, drought and a global pandemic, but nothing has been able to stop him, his five camels and Bruski, his faithful dingo cross red-heeler companion.
Setting a world record for the southern-most camel trek by hitting Cockle Creek on New Year’s Eve, John and his team then headed back to Recherche to celebrate, soaking up the local hospitality.
“Down at Recherche Bay I was on a lobster, abalone and salmon diet for the entire time,” he laughed.
“And I never threw one pot out or a line in the water.”
His pace has also slowed somewhat since arriving in our island paradise.
“As soon as I got to Tasmania I started slowing down,” said John.
“On the mainland I’d be averaging 27 or 28 kilometres a day, but here it’s 20 at best.
“And I used to have a rest day for every walk day, now for every walk day, there’s two rest days.”
Carrying 250 metres of electric fencing, John says it’s fairly easy to find a bit of camel food and fence it off, but he couldn’t resist an invitation from Geeveston local, Lindsey Cordwell, to stay for a couple of nights and graze the camels on some lush Huon Valley grass.
Not to mention, enjoy the eggs and bacon breakfast and hot showers on offer!
Heading north from Recherche via the logging roads, Johns says he and the camels enjoyed the peace of the backroads and the beauty of the forest.
“That’s one of the drawcards of traveling like this, it brings all the local information out, any
shortcuts, any hidden places,” said John.
“I’ve got an open invite, everyone can come out and see the camels, and I always become a little part of the community for the brief moment that I go through, so I am in on the little secrets, which is pretty cool.”
John will now head back north, looking to be in Alice Springs by the middle of the year.
“After Alice Springs, I just draw a straight line to the West Australian coast,” said John.
“That’s four deserts, Tanami, Gibson, Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts and, at the peak of isolation, the closest person to me will be the International Space Station every time it flies over my head.”
You can follow John’s trek on his Facebook page, @johnarthurelliott, or donate to Beard Season at my.beardseason.com/johnartelliott