Camels, Cowboys and Cockies Joy – Bedourie, Queensland
Cockroaches, cane toads and camels are generally considered physically and/or temperamentally unsuited to commercial racing. But here in OZ, the absence of animals traditionally raced, such as horses and dogs, is no hindrance to holding a race meet…
Although all these races are held in Australia, I’ve yet to experience the pleasures of cane toad or cockroach racing. But … camels are another story!
Bedourie – home of the eponymous camp-oven – on the edge of nowhere in Queensland’s far west may not have its own postcode or mobile phone access – but who cares? The trappings of civilization are SO not required at the Bedourie camel races!!
Despite being a virgin race-goer prior to this event, I’m more than betting the Bedourie camel races are unique in this respect – the major city races televised by the bookies for benefit of local punters seemed (and were!) a thousand miles away! And thereby dull by comparison…
That was a good thing.
Otherwise a blip on the radar between Birdsville and Boulia for travellers, this fantastic outback experience swells Bedourie’s population of ~150 considerably as tourists, workers from outlying stations and hell, anyone looking for a great day out join the locals at the track.
Generally held the weekend before Boulia’s more well known races (although in 2011, the Boulia races were a wash-out), it’s also a great opportunity for camel riders and handlers to fine-tune their skills, there being a dearth of official camel race meets where experience can be gained!
I’m not sure how common colour-blind race-callers are; or if other race programmes are suspended when the ambulance is called out on a real emergency. But I’m betting the ute* full of camel handlers following the racing camels to the finishing post doesn’t appear too often at Randwick!!
Hard to imagine as the dust billowed up around us that a few short months ago, this remote town was completely cut off by flood waters! But when the dust cleared? Coming from behind after an early tantrum to easily win her heat, my pick – Daisy – ultimately lost to the favourite from Boulia. Bummer.
Happily, there were other distractions on the programme to lessen the pain …
Even to seasoned bakery connoisseurs like Pilchard and I, the morning tea slices of fruit-studded damper*** were daunting. So large – yes, that IS a dinner plate they’re sitting on – we took so long to eat it that we missed a heat!! But a liberal addition of cockies joy, and mug of billy**** tea on the side takes this classic stockman’s standby from pretty damn fine to FAAAAABULOUS!! Ironic that cockies joy***** replaced sugar, honey or jam – being cheaper than all three – during the 1930s depression… no chance of that these days – it’s the first choice for ANY self respecting damper addict!!
And then, the amateur wood-chopping competition where the cream of the region’s young, hot, muscular, buff, fit men – many of them station workers (or cowboys, if you prefer the American vernacular) shed their Akubras and roll up their sleeves to hack through the log they’re standing on with an axe – and without cutting off major body parts.
How do you top that? With teams of two taking turns at the standing block, of course!! Sigh …
Be still my beating heart …
Not much left to do after that excitement but to retire to the spa … Thank god for Bedourie’s foresight in harnessing the Great Artesian Basin’s almost limitless supply of hot water bubbling from the subterranean depths into a public pool to relax those tired muscles. Bliss!!
Yes, you’ve missed the July 2011 Bedourie camel races. So yes, it sucks to be you! But don’t despair – there’s always another year!!
And the cockroach and cane toad races? I’ll save them for another day!
* ute = utility = pick-up truck.
*** damper = campfire bread. Traditionally made with flour and water, then thrown on the coals to cook, today’s damper is far more sophisticated. Using a camp-oven means no filling-cracker campfire detritus stuck to the crust, and flavourings such as bacon/cheese or fruit, lift it from its humble origins to the sublime!!
**** billy = metal container with lid used for campfire cooking. ‘Boiling the billy’ is an OZ euphemism for ‘smoko’, which in turn is a euphemism for having a tea break. To make ‘billy tea’ in the traditional way, boil the water in the billy, add tea leaves, replace the lid, then spin the billy the full 360º! This is said to improve the flavour, although the pyromaniacs among us (yes, Pilchard – that’s you!!!) are happy enough with the taste imparted by a real campfire.
***** cockies joy = golden syrup! Cockie = ‘cockatoo farmer’ – a phrase used to describe a farmer with more cockatoos than cattle (ie poor).