Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Western Downs- "Glengarry"

 Well, no faithful followers, we haven’t actually started camping yet but continue to mooch off parents- not even our own but the future in-laws of my brother. The best kind really as there’s none of the pressure of making a good impression but all the great times of having someone in common to gossip about and make fun of the only way family can. Anyway, we left Newrybar after the looooooongest breaking of camp ever- my husband is quite the pedantic packer-uper-er which negates my just-chuck-it-iner-er tendencies quite nicely. Anyhoo, we both had butterflies as we drove over the Great Dividing Range, through Toowoomba and onto “Glengarry”, a cattle property between Bowenville and Dalby (a two and a half hour drive west of Brisbane).
Ready for cows.

Steve and Andrea run a property for the Department of Primary Industries, raising cattle which are used to generate tick vaccines for tick prone areas around Australia. To say their work is invaluable is a bit of an understatement, which is exactly the way to describe these lovely, welcoming people. It was quite obvious that they had taken our stay at their property as a pseudo-holiday and I must admit I felt quite guilty knowing they had tonnes of work to do but instead were happy to play tourist guides to us coasties/townies.

Dogs, 4WD bikes, chickens, cows... does it get any better?
Caesar almost had a fit when he saw their airconditioned tractor, even more fitting when he found the horn button and – paradise found - they also had a 4WD bike to be driven around on. Marguerite ‘fed’ the cows, talked to the dogs and harassed the chickens, perplexed at their inability to produce eggs on demand. The poor things, I’m sure they’ll be too stressed to give eggs anytime soon.
Andrea, Marguerite and some egg collecting fun.
Unfortunately out of the 8 or so eggs she
managed to coax out of the chickens, only 3 made
it back to the house intact.                            
 The drought out here is distressing though; there are cracks in the earth, the 2000+ trees just planted are on the brink of dying and whilst the cows are the picture of health, this is clearly due to the feed they are given on a daily basis. Even more heartbreaking are the stories of people further west who have made peace with the drought and are preparing to sell up their family farms for a more secure, if less personally rewarding  life closer to the coast and regular water. I feel like I’m simply making light of the situation when I suggest the mythology of the Queensland Outback, those vast Cattle Stations and the ubiquitous farmer icon of our Australian Identity are under threat like never before. I’ve watched the news clips, seen politicians talk and heard the numbers of new districts added to the tally of those in drought in Central QLD… but witnessed first hand (and really even in a fairly mild form), the idea that adding $1 to every meat purchase as a way of raising funds for these courageous and most humble of people seems the very least this coastal chick can do.

Awful tiger pear.
 But to more pressing concerns ( ;) ) the tiger pear!? What the..? Apparently this (ob)noxious cactus ‘jumps’ out at you, especially if you are a metre tall and answer to the name of ‘Caesar’. I could hear the boy crying from the house, thinking he had fallen over and was therefore in a little ‘I’m just too annoyed to get up unassisted’ moment, I didn’t rush over, until I could see Marguerite hovering over him, pointing and clearly also a little distressed. This awful plant is cactus like to look at, full of barbs and was full of Caesar by the time I got there. Then I was full of it (and still am at time of print) as I tried to work his shoes, pants and nappy off. Luckily these three items copped the worst of the prickles, but we had to use pliers to get the rest out of his hands and feet (and mine later on). I always wondered why country people coated their children in denim. Now I know.

We are off to the Bunya Mountains tomorrow for a respite from the dusty wind and then it’s more unchartered territory. I’m still feeling the comfort of parental arms and have done nothing more in the van than boiled some water, but I’m almost ready to embark on a full time camping experience without any safety nets. Almost.

Tractors and cows. Exciting.

These two working dogs are eyeing off some cattle around 20 metres away.
Steven communicates with them mostly via whistles and participates in lots of competitions.

Steve in action with his one of his working dogs, mustering some cattle.
His favourite dog, Annie, is the Australian champion.
Clay pigeon shooting at "Glengarry".
All in an evening's entertainment.
.. And there goes the clay pigeon ;) He did hit a couple!
Steve and some tiger pear he 'picked up' retrieving a plastic bag. 
A beautiful Western Downs sunset.

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