Robbers and life on a cattle ranch....

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
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Trip End May 27, 2008


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I checked out of the Youthshack and into Wilderness Lodge for my free night and after searching the help exchange website, I called up a butterfly and bird park out of Darwin to see if they needed help. I was told they had plenty of people but his friend owned a cattle ranch and needed a hand so I organised to visit them the following day and that was my week ahead sorted and the only money I'd spend was $39 on the bus getting there!  I arranged to meet Justin (travelmate from Litchfield Park) to exchange photos from our trip and we ended up chatting to a guy in my hostel who'd just arrived from Melbourne.  He was Liam, from Ireland but has lived in San Francisco.  We all spent the day together and went for a walk along the coast to East Point Reserve which seemed popular with runners and cyclists.  On the beach we got attached by a Plubber bird on numerous occassions and had a laugh watching it attack fellow tourists - I think it had babies nearby and was nosediving at anyone that came near - I haven't laughed so much in ages!

That night we went to the Vic Hotel, a crappy backpacker bar, but it has free meals so that was a good way of saving some cash.  The music was so cheesy but we had a good night.  I went back and repacked my bag as I had to hand most of my luggage in to the hostel so they could send it on Greyhound - there's a strict luggage limit on the Kimberleys tour.  In the middle of the night some guy was knocking on the door to be let in but unfortunately he didn't lock the door afterwards........

At 4am I woke up to see the dorm door wide open to outside and someone walking out. I got up and one of my bags had been picked through, although luckily he hadn't been in the bag with my valuables.  I popped outside and he was hiding around the corner so I tried to wake my dorm up and tell them to check their things and if anything was taken he was still outside but I only got one response from one person - be quiet, close the door, go to sleep!!  Can you believe it?  I was pretty shaken and couldn't sleep when I then saw him through the window going through a box of shoes and clothes outside the door, taking things that fit him.  I crept up to the door, quickly opened it and confronted him but he pretended he was looking for someone in my dorm.  I left and once again I was told to be quiet and close the door by my sleepy roommates!  I thought if I called the police he would be gone by the time they arrived so I made a mental note of what he looked like and I'd tried my best to let everyone know their stuff had been robbed but what the hell. 

2 hours later once it was light and the hostel was due to open I got up to get a shower and there he was walking towards the gate carrying a bunch of cameras so I stupidly told him he'd better put them back then he was gone.  A minute later I hear a guy shouting and swearing and the thief is running around the hostel, chased by an Irish lad shouting to stop him. He cornered him around the back of a building and I thought I'd stand the other side so he couldn't get past.  However, when he came running towards me at full speed I quickly realised that he wasn't going to stop or slow down even if it meant knocking a girl to the floor so I tried to jump out of the way and turned around to chase him but went flying and ended up on the floor covered in blood and pretty sore.  Luckily for the hostel he was caught and eventually other people woke up and helped restrain him - it took the police half and hour to show up!  People in my dorm had lost their cameras, wallets etc but got it all back as they found his stash.  I was pretty shaken and I did get an apology from the girl who kept telling me to shut up earlier. 

The police wanted me to make a statement but I was off to get an early bus to Batchelor where I would be working on the ranch so I organised to see the police there. I sat with a nice English girl on the bus who'd been in my hostel and she's luckily had the door locked all night.  The Canadians were on the bus too and couldn't believe what had happened - the guy was so ballsy to stick around for 2 hours when I'd been hassling him persistantly.

I was picked up on the main road by my host 'Plucker' and got the low down on what I'd be doing - feeding cattle and anything else that needed doing.  I admitted that I was in a bit of pain from the morning so may be limited with my assistance.  On the road to his place I pointed out a big dog and asked if it was a dingo - before I knew it he pulled out a gun and the dog was dead.  Apparently he'd been mauling the cattle and as much as I didn't like the dingo being dead, I saw the damage he did to a calf and heard that the dingos even chew off bull's testicles so they die painfully.  That afternoon we tore around the estate in his ute and this was serious off-road driving-through trees and bushes and very bumpy.  It was at this point that I realised something was wrong with my ribs as I was in excruitiating pain with the rough terrain and decided I should get myself checked out later.  That night I was introduced to the business partner, Jimbo, Bell the dog and the puppies Jock and Guzzler.  I then helped feed the calves and Plucker made us a good dinner, beef obviously.

Thursday was pretty much the same, feeding cattle hay and they also love drinking molasses, a by-product of cane sugar which is basically black treacle. We also had the job of searching out and destroying a plant which gives the cows rickets if they eat it.  That night I cooked and did some general housework as my duties have been pretty easy so far.

If you're vegetarian then don't read any further........Friday we had the job of cutting up the carcuses in the big fridge room - that was very educational as Plucker knows the anatomy of cows inside out and I didn't have a clue where the different cuts of meat come from.  I had to wrap each section up and we put aside all the crappy pieces that get cut into stewing steak or minced.  We drove into Batchelor town and I met the owner of the Butterfly and bird farm that I'd originally wanted to go to.  He was a pretty hyperactive and crazy guy but very friendly - in a town of 300 people everyone is treated like family.  I then got myself checked out by a nurse who put me on antibiotics as my cuts were infected and wants me to get an x-ray as I may have cracked a rib.  Problem is they usually can't do anything for cracked ribs and I can only get an x-ray at Darwin which I can't get to, and the next place will be Broome in 10 days time!  I guess I'l just have to be careful but it's making it hard to sleep at the moment and don't even make me laugh!  Plucker had bought a new car from the local garage so I had the task of driving his ute back to the house - it's a really old rattly thing and the last backpacker that drove one of his vehicles rolled it 3 times and it wasn't insured - $10k down the pan, so I was being extra cautious with this truck!  That night we went to the Butterfly farm for a few drinks since it's pretty much the only place in town - it's got a nice vibe and it's a cool little place and the owner showed me how to make a Paw Paw smoothie, although I don't think I'm a fan!  Batchelor is a small mining town so most of the crowd in the restaurant worked on the mines.  It was a bit weird being female there as I soon found myself faced with a few guys to chat to (that for some reason thought I'd just leave with them in their car after 5 minutes????) and if that wasn't enough the locals judge you like they're at a the cattle market - they're not rude comments, they just talk about you like you're not there, things like - she's got lovely strong legs, a good stomach, blue eyes and she's a real talker. 


Yesterday, a German backpacker, Stephanie arrived, a friend of Pluckers, and it was nice to have some female company.  We had the task of cutting the leftover beef into stewing steak and cuts to be minced and I was in charge of the mincer.  Pretty dirty work but that's life on a cattle ranch.  The dogs get a good feed out of it too!  In the afternoon we had a huge downpour of rain, a huge relief as the cattle are struggling to find their own food. Plucker has been telling me of his plans to re-manage the ranch by moving stock around, creating new areas with new types of grass that will survive in the dry season - all educating stuff.  In the evening I fed the calves on my own which was a task - first I had to heard them out of the field into the pen then get 'Lucky' to drink from a bottle, something which he seems to hate.  He sat down on the floor, refused to budge and clamped his mouth shut so it was challenging to say the least. 

As it was Stephanie's birthday we had a party here and other backpackers from the butterfly farm where she used to work came along.  I made her a birthday cake which was really yummy although I ate too much and felt pretty sick!  Plucker did a great BBQ including some big snapper that Jimbo had caught a while back.  Lots of cheesy music was played but I hit the sack around midnight. 

Today there's not much to do, hence me updating this.  Been trying to organise other stuff such as flights out of the country, work in Broome, what I'll be doing for christmas and new year (hopefully on top of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo if I can sort the climbing permit, guide and accommodation out soon).  I'm hoping the ribs don't cause me too many problems with hiking in the Kimerleys.  It's always the way on this trip that when I organise something active, I always get hurt or ill beforehand! I keep thinking back to the crazy religious dude in the hostel in Hobart when I was on crutches and he told me god was telling me to stop and have a look at my life and where I'm going!

Updated......my last day at the ranch (Monday) was pretty easy.  I was supposed to be giving a statement to the local police regarding the robbery in Darwin but the station was closed and I was told they'd left town for 2 days to deal with something else!  I spent the morning at the Butterfly Farm where I had a good look around at the animals there which was cool (apart from the annoying Galaah that kept flying at me and sitting on my shoulder).  I also had the best ever apple crumble and custard, courtesy of the crazy owner Chris.  The rest of the day was spent doing the usual - feeding the cows and calves, however we noticed that one of the Brahford cows had given birth to a gorgeous new calf and Plucker has named it Amanda!  I don't have any pics but hopefully I can get him to send me some and keep me posted on how it's doing (until it gets eaten in a couple of years time!).  Tomorrow I get picked up for the Kimberleys tour and I'm armed with painkillers to help me sleep and cope with the bumpy ride so I should be OK. 
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