droving

The outback goes on forever

Barkly Highway, the outback way

As we drive along this Outback way I look out across the plains that stretch to the horizon. I look ahead at the bitumen strip and look in the rear vision mirror as the road unfurls behind us. For many of the miles we are on our own. Mile after mile with no other vehicle in sight. Then a small dot appears on the horizon. It seems to float as though it is a mirage till it flashes passed then disappears in a heat haze behind us. A quick wave of acknowledgement then gone.

I think about the explorers, those brave and driven men, that had a passion to find out what was in the centre of this huge and forbidding land. No track to follow, not knowing what lay ahead, where the next water-hole was. They blazed a trail, then went back to tell of the vast grassland plains they had seen.

I think of the pioneers, full of hope and ambition to carve a living from this alien land. The struggle to bring their stock and possessions into this wilderness of unknown plants and animals and indigenous people who lived such a different lifestyle. How brave they were.

Information boards put up at rest areas tell the stories of the pioneers struggle to survive. We are following the drovers way and do a detour into Newcastle Waters. This was a major meeting point of 3 main droving routes during this period of Australian history. The sweet waters of this place never dried up and a bustling settlement developed.

The large watering hole at Newcastle Waters

The drovers could relax for a day, visit the pubs, meet up with buddies, before moving on with the stock, well watered and ready for the next stage of the perilous journey..

Now it is almost a ghost town. The pub, Junction Hotel, is an empty, dusty barn of a place, but something is happening here. There are signs of work going on around it. The power is on. A fridge is standing in a corner, in the kitchen remnants of a meal lie around. Last time we came through in 2010, it was derelict. No signs of life. We look around to find some one we can question about the changes. But no one is here, just tents behind in the dusty back yard. We can only speculate. Are they changing it into a camp-ground? Are they going to “do-up” the hotel? We wander over to Jones’ Store. It is a museum but not your pristine state of the art place, this has been left as it was. Dust has settled every where, saddle bags with the stuffing hanging out are placed around the walls, and old wood burning stove has rusty saucepans sitting on it. Old, disintegrating lace curtains flutter at the open windows. It has character and a sadness about it. Information boards are around the walls telling the history of the building and stories of the people who owned and operated it. It is heritage listed. Amazingly it seemed exactly the same as 2 years ago. Although it is open and no one lives around it all the old artifacts still seem to be there and no destruction or graffiti apart from the ravages of time.

Jones store now a museum

Living area back of Jones Store

Jones store

Old saddle bags

It is lunchtime and across from the small school-house (that seems to be in use, there is a working cattle station along the road so we assume they will be the children from those workers and managers of the station) is a grassed area with an eight foot tall bronze sculpture of a horse-tailer. We were told at the Drovers shed in Camooweal that he is depicted with the saddle bags that are to be put on a pack-horse and they must be both even weight with 50 pound in each and that is an essential part of the drovers life to take care of the horses.

So we make a sandwich, have a cuppa from the thermos and travel on, with my head full of stories from the droving days…

8 foot tall sculpture, monument to the drovers

 

 

Categories: australian travel, droving, Ghost town, old derelict buildings, out back, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The Drovers Shed

Ride ’em cowboy…

Two years ago almost to the day we passed through Camooweal. The highlight back then was the Drovers Shed. So we went to visit it again.

This is a wonderful achievement of a group of dedicated and passionate people who could see the legend and stories of the drovers and their life-style disappearing as the men and women that lived that legend died. So in 2002 they started tracing the people still left from that era, recording their stories, collecting the equipment they used and raising money to preserve it all.

Their creation is “The Drovers Shed”, a large corrugated iron barn, 1 kilometre east of Camooweal, set in the heart of droving territory, among the huge cattle stations.

They do not charge admission, a donation is all they suggest and a donation box is located at the entrance door.

Battered and sweat stained Akubras

 

It is like entering another world and era. There are well-worn saddles scattered about. The pack saddles and camp ovens are around the imitation camp fire. Hanging on a branch are battered, sweat-soaked Akubras and raw hide whips. The swags and camp cart stand waiting to be used. Along the walls are large information boards with photos, diagrams and history of the droving era.

A life-size mural is around another wall and it shows a mob of cattle settled for the night with the cook preparing the meal. In front is the imitation fire and pack saddles laid ready for the morning.

Mural of the mob settled for the night and the cook preparing the evening meal

 

Along another wall is a large as life photo of a crowd watching a rodeo, and the life-size bull you can climb on, if you dare…

But the real highlight, what makes this so special, is you are given a one hour tour of the exhibits and shed by a genuine living legend, a man who started droving when he was 18 and lived the life of a drover for more than 20 years. He explained what the equipment was and told stories and anecdotes of the men and women he drove the huge mobs of cattle with. Average number of cattle would be 1200 to 1500 in one mob. 8 people would move that number over huge distances averaging 14 kilometres a day. Old style droving finished in the 1960’s when the roads were improved through the outback, and road trains took over the job of moving cattle.

The last place we go is into a separate room that is the gallery. This is a very special art gallery of portraits of all the drovers that are still living. Beautifully drawn in pastel. Some have since died but their stories have been recorded. Also many news paper articles of relevance.

This is a very special place and is made that way by the passion and dedication of the people who have spent many hours tracking down all these objects and telling the stories of an era that is uniquely Australian and that shaped our nation.

Eric telling us stories about droving

 

 

Categories: australian travel, drovers shed, droving, out back, travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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