Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kroombit Life

We are all adapting well to life at Kroombit Park in Biloela, and we could give an account of it all, but you could be reading for a while, and our aim is not to bore you. We have been at Kroombit now for about 2 ½ months and things are progressing well.
We have been busy getting involved in local life as well as taking breaks away to explore.
We attended the local Biloela show/rodeo and were impressed, the rodeo was huge with bull riding, bronco horse, single and double roping events (where the cowboys jump from moving horses and wrestle horned steers to the ground). The bulls here are a lot meaner looking than the ones we have seen on the NZ circuit, so made for an exciting evening.
Cassandra got a chance to be a kid and drove Johnathan round on the dodgems, and then tried her luck on the rifle target shooting (complete with dodgy sights) she did really well, but unfortunately due to dodgy sights didn’t walk away with any of the tacky show prizes. Only thing missing was ‘hangi’ which has always been part of our NZ rodeo experience.

We have had a couple of occasions where we have had time off and taken road trips. One trip, we went to Gladstone on the coast, it rained for 3 days. Gladstone has very little going for it. It lacked some basic things for a big coastal town, for starters ‘atmosphere’, a bookstore (despite having a population of 20 000 people, apparently they are not readers so the bookshop closed down), an internet café and a host of things you would expect in smaller towns. Even the locals we met spoke disparagingly of it. We shouldn’t be too scathing though as we actually had a good time, we did an industry tour and visited the Aluminum Smelter and the Alumina plant. Cassandra later did a school project about them. Cassandra and Johnathan also had a go at archery at an indoor Archery café. It is quite interesting to watch the father daughter competitiveness.Other places we have visited were Cania Gorge, about 140 km away. The Cania dam is only at 5% water and the gorge was powder dry. We did a few of the walks through the rock escarpments and caves, the place is amazing. This weekend we have come to Emerald which is about 4 hours away to catch up with our friends Lyn and Gary. We were only 30 mins from Sapphire where you can fossick for real sapphires so we went for a look. We did a mine tour which was interesting, and then attempted to fossick but ran out of time, as we needed to dig a big hole to get to an old river bed, which is where the sapphires are if you get lucky. We will come back one day and have a real go at it.
It has been really cold here in Australia with temperatures dropping well below zero even in places where it is completely unusual. What’s news worthy is the death of thousands and thousands of barramundi (which can be as big as 1+ metre long). Barramundi are warm water fish so they died because of the extreme cold, and they have washed up on the banks of heaps of dams around Australia. At Emerald we saw them and it is such a sad sight to see all these gynormous fish just lying on the beach of the dam/lake. They reckon it will take up to 18 months for the dams to recover.

Sometimes when we have time off we just stay at the park and go horse riding and walking. Other times we work on the farm on our days off sometimes, (although it doesn’t feel like work because it is still all really new and we are having the opportunity to do things we didn’t at home.)We have watched Brumbies being drafted, wild horses which have been rounded up by helicopter from the station; they breed in the Kroombit National Park which borders the station. They were drafted into 3 lots; one lot to be re-released, one lot sold for dog meat and the rest will be broken in for guests to ride. We have watched branding and then Johnathan helped draft 400 odd Brahmin cows, Johnathan had the chance to jump in the yard with them and push a few at a time, into the drafting race. I had a “Claytons” job (you know the job you have when you’re not really working, that is I worked on the overflow gate, to stop those that accidentally get drafted the wrong way. Of the 400 cows I only worked once). Johnathan reassured me I did a very important job, even though I almost fell asleep just standing there. The next day Johnathan had the opportunity to muster the drafted cows into their new paddocks; they need to be lead to and shown the water source, the paddocks are so big they have been known to die of thirst without finding the water. Johnathan clocked up over 20km in the saddle. Johnathan says this was by far some of the coolest days he has had in Australia. He continues to say he is definitely retired and never going back to fulltime work like we did at home. He gave us a laugh one day when we were discussing the possibility of staying on in Australia longer than originally planned. He was reminiscing about school and the parents making a big point telling us to do well at school or you could end up cleaning toilets. Guess what, he is cleaning toilets, and absolutely loves our lifestyle and what opportunities are availed us as a result of his willingness to clean up after people (some of which are complete pigs).

Although Johnathan started at the park with less than 4 hours work a day he has now got his finger in almost all facets of the park life. He has been riding horses and taking guests out on goat musters and assists with the goat rodeo, clay bird shoot. He has been taking groups of American students for an ecological walk up the local hill, cooking their breakfasts at 5am, and teaching them how to throw boomerangs and use bullroarers. He has been learning to ride a motorbike. He is doing boy things with the owner’s son in law (30’s), like blowing up things. They put 4 small gas canisters together with a small fire within a couple of feet and then fired a shotgun at them. Apparently it was spectacular, heat wave, mushroom cloud and laughter as 20 backpackers witnessed the madness which is Kroombit. They also convince these backpackers that cattle prodders don’t really shock that much. Therefore they all grab hands and count to 3, aha, suckers, at Kroombit we only count to 1 so they are shocked before they have a chance to stress about it. The odd backpacker has got their arse out for the crowd to laugh at as he gets shocked. Johnathan and Cassandra are having lots of fun. Cassandra is a regular participant on the goat muster and rodeo circuit and has been brave enough to join in the shock circle. Cassandra went on a muster one day and during the ride riders have to yell at the goats to scare them into moving. We usually use “aye up up up” but one of the guides Joe decided to get everyone to yell “Wendy” at the goats, so they did. The goats mustered well that day and Cassandra thought it was a great joke. She has ridden the mechanical bull and did well; she hung on for 3 seconds. No photos yet unfortunately.

There are lots of animals here, Cassandra feeds the donkeys Ned and Kelly, and they can be a bit naughty sometimes. One day they got through the gate when they weren’t supposed to and other times they wander the park, licking breakfast dishes and knocking them off the tables. They visit our tent site during the middle of the night licking our fry pan and making lots of noise. Cassandra gets to play with different animals that are here, Monty the baby python, Harry a ring neck parrot and some newly born kids (goats), Trigger and Princess. She is doing really well with her schooling and recently sat some mid year tests and scored 83% in a Math, 68% in English & 74% in Science, we are very pleased with the results. She is reading Harry Potter at the moment, she gets very deaf and we need to yell at her to get her attention. She is trying to get it read without other people telling her what happens, 2 of the staff are reading it and can tease her a bit by giving away bits.

We are letting our presence be felt and want people to know we are he, so have placed a signpost atop the local hill. There is a tree up there that has signposts marking local places of interest. Our sign marks Lake Taupo NZ and a directional arrow with distance, and is the biggest and most colourful. Already tourists have curiously asked what a NZ sign is doing up there, so it is getting the desired effect. Well on a final note Johnathan turned 42 the other day and a couple of staff gave him a birthday present. Some “velcro gloves”, strange present you think, not really as it was only part one of his present. Johnathan then got presented part two, a dorper sheep, red party hat and ribbons included. She has since been added to the rodeo event as a novelty. Oh the sheep jokes can be very funny sometimes. What was even funnier though was that the sheep got out of the paddock overnight and wandered around the park the next day with her party hat and ribbons still attached, all the guests thought it was a great joke.

Betty the Sheep