Now that we are settled in at The Barkley Highway Roadhouse, it is time to reconnect with all my followers as we head into the centre of Australia bound for Uluru (Ayers Rock). I’ll bring you up to date dear friends.
We left Mt. Isa on Monday. We laugh that we went to Mt. Isa to have a cuppa with my cousin on the way through and ended up staying four days because the Rodeo was on!
So here are some excerpts from my travel journal for you so you can enjoy the journey with us.
Sun 10th August 2014
My cousin Michael was having a ‘Great Big Rodeo Breakfast’ on Sunday for all his family and some friends. Well, the BBQ breakfast is done and dusted now. We’ve meet all my cousin’s children, husbands, wives and grandchildren plus some other old friends who happened to be in The Isa at this moment.
What a day it turned out to be! Words seem inadequate to describe such a day. And there, standing tall as head of the family, was Michael, my cousin known as ‘Mick’ to most people. Gregarious and friendly, with a deep booming laugh and dressed up as a cowboy for the day, he prepares to cook enough food to feed 30 people.
There are tables and chairs set up in the back yard. The morning’s preparation goes like clock-work. This is a well-oiled machine and Mick and Tina (his wife) have their allotted duties. Years of Rodeo Big Breakfasts have produced this efficiency and Geoff and I look on in awe.
Introductions all round … food kept warm in the pizza oven nearby… drinks …it’s all happening. The Great Big Rodeo Breakfast has begun for another year! Mick is in his glory, waxing lyrical as he drinks THE punch he made earlier. “Don’t you just love this?” says Mick as he waves his arms to indicate the family and friends that are gathered around him.
Mick is feeling magnanimous and gives me a great big bear hug and says “It’s so good to have you here Therese!”
What’s in that punch I wonder? It seems harmless enough as I sip on a glass. One of his adult kids tells me not to trust ‘Dad.’ I find out that there is white rum, Contreau and white wine topped up with orange juice in the punch!
In fact, I do not imagine that the punch is getting stronger with each jug he makes! One of the woman guests doesn’t realise this and tops hers up with wine. Oh no! It does look like orange juice but after my third glass I am feeling tipsy and compensate by switching to ginger beer.
We’re having so much fun and eaten so much food: heaps of bacon, thin slices of rib fillet steak, eggs, fried home-grown tomatoes, fried onions … and toast. All this is washed down with Micks (in) famous punch! The breakfast goes on all day ending with games (trivial pursuit type questions) under the shade of a tree for anyone left that can still stand up. What a day! Finally, last to leave are the old friends.We hug as if we have known each other forever!
It’s all over now and we must come back to earth so we can leave tomorrow.
Monday 11th August 2014
We are now staying at a little town overnight called Camooweal (pop 310). Mick laughed at us as we left Mt. Isa quite late (noon) saying, “Well, you’ll get there by 9 pm hopefully!” Considering it is only 200 ks away we know this worth a good laugh.
It is warm as we drive to Camooweal and we know we are very close to the Northern Territory (20 ks). This is dry dusty country – flat land as far as the eye can see – no sign of civilisation until we reach the town. There are caravans and campers everywhere! The grey nomads are keeping this tiny town going methinks.
When we’re settled we set out to ‘walk the town’ as we have been doing everywhere. There is nothing much to see: a large hotel almost falling down, one store that is a Post Office, a General Store and sells petrol … plus a BP Service Station; plenty of motels, caravan parks (2) and a hostel.
We’ve almost finished our uneventful walk when Geoff spots an old man in the yard of a backpacker’s hostel and asks his usual question: “What’s happening in Camooweal then?” Nothing much it seems although the Drovers Festival is on this weekend. We tell him if we stay we’ll never get to Uluru!
It turns out that Owen (88) has lived here since 1959 and spent his life droving cattle through Australia. Oh, he has some stories to tell and we can’t help talking for quite a while. He lives in a beat up bus in the yard of the hostel. We can tell Owen is loving having someone to chat to, besides the 310 residents that live here, although he assures us that only 24 of these are white people!
We head back to our van where the aroma of Chicken Korma cooking in the slow cooker greets us. Yummy! Tea should be good tonight after Rodeo food!
Tuesday 12th August 2014
Before leaving Camooweal for The Barkley Roadhouse stop 240 ks away, we decide to have a look at the Drover’s Camp Museum just out-of-town. Imagine our surprise when a pastel drawing of Owen the drover is on the wall with all the other pastels of well-known drovers who worked throughout this area.
We met some old drovers here – Paul and Jeff – giving tours and they regale us with such stories that we realise how lucky we are to get them first-hand from these men in their eighties. Hardly any drovers left it seems. Cattle are carried to market via road trains now. No one rides for months with the herd to market these days.
Once again, Geoff and I can hardly bear to leave but we must hasten ever onwards to the Barkley
Highway so we leave with a heavy heart. Yippee … Northern Territory here we come!