Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Boulia to Gold Coast

Yellow route: Boulia to Gold Coast - 2490 km
White route: Total so far - 37'180 km

The third weekend of the Simpson Desert Carnival, held in Bedourie, was our place of interest two weeks ago. We travelled roughly 1500 km to attend this event and made it on time to the Rodeo on Friday night. For both of us it was the first time we watched these courageous cowboys fighting and falling off the bullocks or broncos. Many of the participants, most of which locals, didn’t score as the animal bucked them off in less than the required eight seconds. As an outsider it is hard to understand why someone would put himself in such a risky situation.

 Tension is high, everything ready to go

 Very brave cowboys. No matter whether riding a bullock....

 ... or a horse

Ouch – the landing is hard

We were very pleased that Kate and Lindsay (the two Sydnesiders we met several times on this trip, last time in Cairns) joined us on time for this special weekend (they had driven 750km that day!). As always we really enjoyed their company, we loved the chats around the campfire and they got us into playing cards the Australian way….

Exchange travel highlights at the campfire with Kate and Lindsay

While the Friday evening event was rather small, short and with fewer spectators, the horse races on Saturday attracted a much bigger crowd. The women were dressed up in fancy clothing, broad-brimmed hats and high heels. Wearing pink was a must, not only for women, in order to support the breast-cancer organisation. 
There are different motives to attend this event: social gathering, see and be seen, betting and winning money or having fun and drink lots of beer. We tried to make money too, but were unsuccessful with our bets although we took Lindsay’s advices to heart. We could have won the „furthest from home“-category in the Ute-Master, had we only participated. The whole weekend was a real true-blue event and we absolutely enjoyed being there, arguably the only overseas visitors.

Competition everywhere – also for the nicest dress, but we didn't see men line up for a dress competition

Good luck with the bet...

On Sunday we had a dip in the artesian spa in town (still Bedourie) where we met Anne and Juerg, two travellers from Melbourne who met another Bremach with Swiss number plates (friends of ours) just over 2 years ago in Birdsville, 170km away. We got along really well and they spontaneously decided to join us on our short Simpson Desert trip. We drove 70 kms into the QAA line, which, according to our guide book, offers the most challenging sand-dune crossings of the whole iconic Simpson Desert track. We had a lot of fun, great camping and excellent company in the two days. Even though we always chose the most challenging option – if there was a choice at all – we only needed a second attempt once- Except for the Big Red, where we pushed Kasbah to its limit. He did well and managed the second most difficult ascent. After another curried camel pie from the famous Birdsville Bakery and a drink in the pub, we went East whereas Anne and Juerg went South. Hopefully we will meet them again in Melbourne.

 On the way to the Simpson Desert

 Legendary Birdsville pub

Camping in the desert is particularly nice....

...not to mention sunrise and sunset

 Kasbah on the "Big Red"

Last drink at the pub with Anne and Juerg

The next outback event was about to follow shortly in Roma. Driving the 1100km took us only two days but we still got to see a few outback towns like Betoota (population zero!), laid-back Windorah, friendly Quilpie, charming Charleville and sleepy Mitchell. We were warned that Campdraft is not a spectator sport but still wanted to attend this unique Australian sport in Roma. For the readers which might not know what it is all about, here is an explanation. 
A rider on horseback must „cut-out“ one beast from a mob of cattle in the yard (= the camp) and block and turn the beast at least two or three times, to prove to the judge that he or she have the beast under control. They then drive the beast out of the camp and through a course around pegs involving right-hand and left-hand turns in a figure of eight, before guiding it through two pegs known as „the gate“. The outside course must be completed in less than 40 seconds. The judges give scores for the cut-out, the horse work and the completion of the course. Disqualification (time up or lost control of beast) is signalled by a crack of the judge’s stockwhip. We were lucky enough that an elderly gentleman, who was competing in campdrafting most of his life, explained everything to us and made this another unforgettable experience for us. But it is true, that it gets boring after a few hours if one doesn’t know neither horses nor riders, which are mostly young Jackeroos and Jilaroos (i.e. station workers). 

 The cut-out

Course around the pegs

We found the very pleasant farmstay „Ups n Downs“ a few kilometres out of Roma, where we enjoyed our time until the „show“ in the Roma saleyards was on on Tuesday morning. During our stay we also cycled around the area and visited the most impressive, modern displays of the Santos office, where they allow visitors to find out more about their operations on gas exploitation on a very, very big touch screen. They are currently running the Santos GLNG project, which is a pioneering venture that will produce natural gas from Queensland’s coal seams and convert it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for sale to world markets. This is economically important for the region but environmentally critical as they use the frakking method to extract the gas. The readers with more interest can check their website.
Attending the auctions on the saleyards in Roma (the largest cattle-selling centre in Australia) was an absolute highlight. The two knowledgable guides (retired cattle farmers) were good as gold with their explanations about the process and the history. Everyone could feel their passion about this industry. Through these saleyards an annual head of cattle of 300’000 - 400’000 are sold. Cattle are usually sold by cents per kilogram of their live weight. The auctions are conducted twice weekly with store sales on Tuesday and prime sales on Thursday. The store sale is comprised of cattle purchased for fattening or to breed from. It attracts usually around 7000 head of cattle. The prime sale is comprised of cattle fattened on grass, fodder crops or grain and are ready to be sold for meat production.

 Cattle in one yard is auctioned in one go

 The head auctioner is also an incredibly fast speaker. Counting up is like the rattling of a machine-gun

 Brahmen cattle is easy going and has a soft nature

The buyers

We left the outback for the Gold Coast to meet Adrian an Anna (two Swiss who came to Australia in 1969 by boat for a two-year working commitment, but never felt like going back. We met this lovely couple in 2010 on the Great Ocean Road and kept in loose contact. By coincidence we were in Alice at the same time in June this year, and not surprisingly they spotted us.) For three days, Adrian lent us not only his fully equipped workshop but also his expertise, he drove us around and together with Oliver did a full service on Kasbah. Apart from that we were able to fix many bits and pieces which needed to be sorted. Our fridge, which refused cooling since Bedourie, was repaired at the Waeco headquarters and we are all set now for the final countdown. 

 Adrian's workshop was our home for three days

 Kasbah got his well deserved service

Adrian's well equipped workshop – heaven for Oliver

Being so close we had a look at Surfers Paradise which was packed with people because of the school holidays. We don’t envy those holiday makers. Definitely not our cup of tea but Burleigh Heads, only 10km South is a gem. It not only offers an excellent surfing beach with a perfectly set up lawn to sit and watch the surfing cracks, but also a national park with pleasant walks in a small rainforest. 

We are already in the second to last week on the road and the title of the next post will not be a surprise. Gold Coast to Melbourne!

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