Wilderness Expeditions conducts short and extended walking and camping treks into little known and isolated parts of North Queensland and Cape York using teams of pack donkeys to carry food and camping equipment. Use of pack donkeys extends the duration and range of the treks, reduces reliance on motor vehicles and provides for the carriage of luxuries not generally expected on standard bushwalks.
Wilderness Expeditions has developed from our interest and knowledge of the Australian bush, animals and the history of Northern Australia, gained by Jane Harte and Tim Daniel, during years of exploring the region during bushwalking, sea kayaking and 4WD trips.
Aim. Our aim is to provide challenging bushwalking treks into scenic, lesser visited parts of North Queensland, in order to provide a unique experience with opportunities to see wildlife, learn about history, pioneer skills, and the surrounding environment, live in reasonable comfort, and at a reasonable price.
Our objectives are simply to:
- Fulfil customers needs for something new and challenging;
- That customers enjoy living in the bush in a safe manner;
- That surrounding eco-systems are treated with respect;
- For customers to have enjoyed working with a large draught animal;
- Have fun; and
- That they have a unique experience to take away and cherish.
Secondary objectives are to provide general education:
- About donkeys and working animal care,
- Environment issues, and
- Pioneer skills.
Method. We apply Eco-Tourism principles to our treks, and adhere to conventions for the employment of working donkeys as developed by the British Donkey Protection Society.
Many treks are based on historical or scenic themes to provide purpose and additional significance.
History. Wilderness Expeditions was initiated in 1998 when we purchased our first donkey. Since then we have:
- 1998/99 Designed and manufactured 9 pack saddles and associated equipment;
- December 1999 - imported 10 feral donkeys from the Northern Territory;
- July 2000 - organised camps for Channel Nine's 60 Minutes film crew;
- August - October 2000 - retraced Leichhardt's journey by 4WD, from Toowoomba to Port Victoria for Kerry and Ben Williamson, direct descendants of the Leichhardt family,;
- October 2000 - set up and conducted a camp for Les Hiddins, The BushTuckerman;
- 2001 - commenced pack donkey operations - hundreds of people have enjoyed a pack donkey trek experience since;
- May 2004 - retraced part of Leichhardt's tracks from Reedy Creek to Queens Birthday Camp (three weeks duration);
- August / September 2005 - retraced part of Edmund Kennedy's track from Mount Garnet to north of Chillagoe over three weeks; and
- August / September 2006 - capitalised on the successful 2005 Kennedy Retrace Expedition, to conducted a second three week expedition with Richard Boyle, a direct descendant of the Kennedy family, that pinpointed eight out of 14 of Kennedy's campsites.
The Pack Donkey Idea. The pack donkey concept was gained from an army adventurous exercise conducted by the Royal Military College (RMC, Duntroon) in 1991, when a party of staff and cadets re-enacted OPERATION MUNJA, a WWII patrol into the rugged Artesian Ranges of the Kimberley in the north west of Western Australia.
Due to a lack of horses, the original patrol used donkeys from Mount House Station to carry equipment, ammunition and food for 65 men over three months, in a region with no roads. The patrol was mounted to investigate suspected Japanese submarine operations in the vicinity of Wallcott Inlet, in the far North-Western corner of Western Australia.
The RMC exercise replicated the use of donkeys, catching 15 feral animals and training them to carry improvised pack saddles, then attempting to penetrate the Artesian Ranges. The adventure included losing radio communication for three weeks and living off the land when they ran out of rations.
The exercise was commanded by Captain (Now Colonel) Paddy Halllinan. Fifteen Officer Cadets participated. Warrant Offer Class 2 Rick Clifford, survival school instructor, joined the exercise from Darwin as a survival and bushcraft advisor.
Paddy later donated one of the saddles used during the Munja Exercise to Wilderness Expeditions thereby maintaining a link between the two donkey activities.
The donkeys were to have been destroyed at the conclusion of the exercise to comply with Western Australian Law concerning feral animals. Fortunately they had become such loved companions that they were all found homes. Most were taken in by the serum laboratories near Perth to produce snake bite antivenin.
Tim considered that the donkey packing adventure concept would have application in North Queensland thus bringing about Wilderness Expeditions.
Development. We have developed a number of trek itineraries and built donkey pack saddlery, learnt the art of handling donkeys and packing since owning our first donkey in 1998. We use traditional Australian packing methods which evolved during Australia's early exploring and pioneer eras.
Trip and background information is thoroughly researched to enable accurate interpretation and guide notes.
We have trialled many items of camping gear before accepting equipment into service. Consequently our camping gear is chosen for comfort and suitability, reliability, ruggedness and portability by donkeys. Our camps include beds, chairs, insect and rain proof tents designed for the tropics, electric lights and many other comforts not possible when manpacking.
Consistent with Eco-tourism principles, we attempt to source equipment locally.
Meals and Menus.
Our meals are cooked on open camp fires, using traditional camp ovens and authentic pack billy cans.Tasty and nutritious menus have evolved over years of outdoor living experience. We boast that we do not repeat a main course during a trek, even up to 28 days!
Donkeys. We own 33 donkeys (as at 21 December 2006), including the pack team, rescued donkeys and foals that have been born on Kalinvale Farm, a property we purchased for agistment of the donkeys.
We commenced acquiring donkeys in 1998 when we purchased Joseph.
See links to learn more about our donkeys or about donkey care.
Kalinvale Farm is a 33 hectare or 85 acre property that doubles as a base for operations. Some treks that utilise the farm's proximity to pioneer coaching and pack mule roads in the Herberton district start from Kalinvale.
We have hosted camp oven cooking courses and dinners, school cadet survival camps, management technique improvement weekends and high rope courses on "The Farm".
Kalinvale is approximately 10 kilometres south-west of Herberton; a part of the hamlet of Kalunga, a whistle stop along the disused Herberton to Ravenshoe railway. The well known Australian journalist and writer Ion Idreiss was one of many tin miners who lived in the district prior to WW1. His mine shaft is not far from the Kalinvale front gate.
Visitors. We welcome visitors that wish to meet the donkeys, but only by prior arrangement. The administration and care for thirty plus donkeys is time consuming and we may be away collecting hay or reconnoitring for a future trek. Please telephone, fax or E-mail to arrange a visit. (See contact details link).
Kalinvale is a working farm and visitors are required to report to the office on arrival FOR SAFETY REASONS.
Support to Local Community. We have fun with our donkeys and attempt to support local festivals and occasions by supplying donkeys with appropriate costumes that represent the district's dependence on pack animals, before the development of roads and railways.
The most popular request is for a Simpson and donkey representation. Joseph is very experienced now, but took some training to gain the confidence required to lead street marches with brass or pipe bands and Navy contingents with ceremonial white uniforms (swinging white sleeves were threatening whirligigs at first). Now he even poses for photographs!
Tim gained over 20 years experience of field operations in Northern Australia as an Infantry Officer in Australia’s Defence Force.
For 3 years, Tim was Chief Instructor Of The Australian Army’s Survival School based in Darwin.
Tim started bushwalking as a teenager on the West coast of Tasmania. He has enjoyed caving, climbing, white water canoeing and sea kayaking. He has also led six significant science-based expeditions in North Queensland.
DR JANE HARTE
Jane has cycled around Scotland, bushwalked in Tasmania and Queensland, participated in sea kayaking voyages, and studied and lived in Scandinavia.
Jane conducts experiential management improvement courses as part of her organisational psychology consultancy practice.
She has worked for mining companies in deepest, darkest Borneo, Indonesia, and as a visiting lecturer at Aberdeen University; yet can serve up a delicious leg of lamb cooked in a camp oven with ease.
We appreciate your feed back and comments regarding this web page. please Email, telephone or write to Tim, Jane or the donkeys, see contact us.
We do not trade or sell any contact details provided to Wilderness Expeditions.