We headed west and west again to get to the Drovers’ Muster Festival in Camooweal on the Queensland / Northern Territory border after the Bowen market. It got flatter and dustier and so much warmer. Wonderful changes. Towing our new caravan felt really good. A strange thing this, that we seem to feel better, more relaxed and more content the less we have. Even the nature of the traffic changed, more road trains and bigger road trains and fewer ordinary vehicles except caravans… more of them and mostly heading south. The ‘Mexicans’ from the southerly states heading home for the summer having enjoyed the sunshine and warmth of the North. The pictures do show something of this; https://picasaweb.google.com/105183160149035139526/Walkabout44AyrToCamoowealToKatherine?authuser=0&feat=directlink.
Camooweal Drovers’ Muster was a wonderful experience. Camooweal has only 300 inhabitants and they all came to the Festival which also drew support from neighbouring stations, Mt Isa and other small towns. The caravan park was full and the pub was open more than usual. I enjoyed the warmth (although still cold at night), and the nice people. Welcoming and interested in what we are doing. The calf branding was interesting at first but as I didn’t know anyone competing I lost interest after about an hour. The next day it was more interesting as I saw a very attractive young woman compete. She was beautifully turned out complete with earrings and diamond studded belt she did a good job of roping her calves as well. The calves didn’t seem to present much challenge once roped. But marks were awarded for a range of things; time being important, tying the legs correctly, and applying the paint brand correctly as well. The calves had already been branded properly, so we were spared the smell of burning hide! They competed in teams so that was fun too but I had other things to do, like attend to the customers.
The Australian books, especially those of Bush Poetry were very popular as were the general reading which sell at $3 each, less than some op shops! Alan sold lots of tools as well and we ran out of wrapping paper and plastic bags so we must have done well. We were able to put some money into the credit cards which was pleasing as we have ransacked them!
We had some interesting conversations with our fellow stall holders, especially Trevina, the photographer. I loved being able to share about that hobby of mine and learn a bit as well. She makes Bush Medicine which we have been applying to our cracked heels and it is doing a good job! Always good to hear about life as an Aboriginal Australian, especially a person who had such a healthy sense of humour and sense of her own power. She and an Aunty of hers are currently engaged in battle with the authorities Federal and Indigenous to have something recognised… thinking about what it was… She had a huge heart and tolerance for people who had wronged her people over the years.
We crossed into the Northern Territory (NT) and left Queensland behind us. A big divide for me I have never been in the NT before and there was a real sense of heading into the unknown leaving behind friends and family and encountering strange and wonderful things. Perhaps not so mystical, just hugely long stretches of straight flat roads with road signs that I am certain are put there to keep drivers awake!! The colours and shapes of the trees change as does the earth and also the termite nests which are frequently dressed in T shirts or other funny clothes and make one smile. We spent the night at (Pebbles) Kunjarra – just a space made for overnight stops, with toilets and trees. It is a sacred place for the Aboriginal people and has been the subject of controversy. The Indigenous voice won that one. The picasa pics illustrate all of the above.
Onwards to Tennant Creek which was a depressing experience capped by the only public toilet in the town being out of commission and the shops not having one which I could have used. One wondered what the shop staff did!! Not!! anyway I found Alan and he drove me to a servo at the end of town where the people were very nice. But Tennant Creek was not redeemed by their niceness. The people in the streets were mostly Aboriginal who looked poor and unwell. I was pleased to leave. Then on to a beautiful spot on the old main road for the night. The pictures tell the story beautifully. I loved the Telegraph Memorial, which we came to early next morning. It was mind-blowing to think of those men all those years ago, 1890s, travelling those many miles on horseback to lay telegraph cable and then linking to cables that carried messages to Europe! There too the pictures do a better job.
It was another one of those things, like the Snowy Mountain electricity generating scheme, that demonstrates the ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and determination of those pioneers. The landscape places demands on people, who in their determination to survive and maintain links and standards, created answers that cause me wonder and respect, to seemingly intractable problems. While all the time I am mindful that the Indigenous people didn’t have such problems because of their simple lifestyle and living in harmony with the land, creating their stories and songs and art to celebrate life and living and who were brutally treated by the same pioneers. Lots of history there to be discovered yet and appreciated by me.