Ringers from the top end
On the map Borroloola appears to be somewhat isolated sitting way up in the Gulf but it's only a 7 hour drive to Katherine or about 10 hours to Mount Isa. Most of the every day items required to stay alive can be purchased locally, the quality and choice may be laking especially in fruit and veg but you soon get used to that. The hard part is getting used to the prices they charge, especially for beer and the winter temperature sitting on 35 degrees tends to make one consume more beer than ever. Just north of Borroloola towards Bing Bong there is a turn of to the popular fishing retreat called the King Ash Bay Resort on the banks of the McAuthor River, another barra mecca that draws fisherman from the deep south each winter. Here you find areas reserved for fishing clubs as far away as Tennant Creek and Alice Springs and further along the river is a pub or club of sorts that serves ice cold beer to its members who sign up during their stay. It's also a meeting place where the days catch can grow longer and heavier by the hour.
Escaping the fire. Having a weekend spare prior the Camooweal Drovers Reunion I cut across from the Highway Inn on the Stuart Highway to Cape Crawford, better known as the Heartbreak Hotel then on up to Borroloola for their camp draft and rodeo. This is well supported by the locals of which ninety percent are Aboriginal. They pretty much own and run all the businesses in town. Also people from surrounding stations in the Gulf and from the Barkly load up their trucks, trailers and road trains and arrive for the three days of competition ensuring the weekend is a roaring success. I met people from Seven Emus Station, Brunette Downs, Walhallow and McAuthor River stations; although events in the top end are mostly a thousand k's apart many make the effort to attend and support each other.
Waiting for the poddy calf rideNote the black cockatoo featherRinger from the top end. The judge, Mick Ward was imported from around Dubbo to oversee the weekends events. I can remember Mick at camp drafts down south thirty years ago; he was one of the top drafters then and apparently still is. There was one event that didn't require a judge. This is where they tape $50 notes to a cows horns then cut her loose in the arena. Anybody between the age of eleven and twenty-one may enter and try their luck removing the notes as the cow gallops around. It's probably a bit on the dangerous side for the competitors and fortunately no one was badly injured and the money remained fixed so I think the cow won. To see something like this you need to find a road less travelled, target an isolated spot where people from the bush have gathered for a weekend of fun and join them, you'll never regret it or forget it.
Ben Halls outfitEvening skies in the gulfLocal stockmanThe Aboriginal community really look forward to their rodeo, extended families arrive and set up camp then the kids take off running and playing all over the place. Nearly all the kids are dressed as cowboys having no regard for what size boots they wore, those who didn't arrive with the full kit were soon decked out by Steve and Bernise Arney of Circle B; being their ninth year at this rodeo they knew exactly what stock was needed for the kids and adult competitors.
I asked the Mallapunyah kids where they came from and excitedly they announced, oh just down the road. Maybe not far to them but still 147 k's and not the best track on which to travel I can assure you.
Bare back final.
Stumpy Adams, an old territory mate turned up for the weekend, he competed at this rodeo back in the late 60's as a jockey and in buckjump events. Why I ever left the territory and chose to work on stations down south I'll never know. It's a decision I've regretted all my life and being back up here each year for the last four years makes me ask the question over and over again. Until next time my friends. Steve and Sass.