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Reports

Saturday, 15 June 2002
--> Cloncurry, The Outback, Australia (2nd day)

You can say a lot of the people in the outback, but you can only say something about them when you have really met them and see what they are able to do. They are a bloody bunch of different people, but they all have a heart of gold!

I slept until 11am this morning. It was that Shawn woke me up, otherwise I might just have slept on. After a shower and corn flakes for breakfast, Shawn dropped me at Annette Chappell's place, where I met with her husband Alan, her parents and the two little boys.

Annette's parents came all the way from Roma, just west of Brisbane, where they have their cattle property, to see their kids and grandchildren in Cloncurry.

While Annette prepared dinner (lunch for the rest of the world), I connected my laptop to her phone line in her kitchen and we chatted as I downloaded my few emails.

"The real disadvantage of living in the Outback," Annette told me, "is that you have to buy your fruit and veggies on certain days of the week at the grocery shop. We have to order our meat ahead as we don't have a butcher. If you like shopping malls, you are at the wrong spot here."

Annette gets a lot of her fruit and veggies out of her vegetable garden in the back yard. How could that be in the dry outback? Well, she simple made a pile of fertile soil and stuck the seeds in. All it needs is extra water, because that doesn’t really fall out of the sky here.

As the use of water is currently under restrictions, so she has to use the so-called bore water from her neighbours. Just some 30 meters below the soil you can find enough salt water to raise the world's sea level even more. Unfortunately it is salt water, so if you clean your home windows with it, you get these funky stains.

"We are a breed on our own here," Annette told me after I told her about my first experience in the outback. Annette has three sisters and they all grey up the tough boys' way. At the age of five they were driving motorcycles on their parents property, to gather the cattle.

I think you can say anything about the people in the Outback, about their use of language or they fond of drinking, but "these people here make Australia." And she is all right about that. "Whatever the rest of Australia is using, most of the resources come out of the outback where people like us work hard to get it those minerals out of the mines, transport it and manufacture anything with it."

And the cattle, most of it is shipped to Indonesia!

"Even in draught we survive, something you can't say about other Australians. And we just keep on working, even when it's 47 degrees out there."

I joined the family in their lunch time dinner and after dinner Annette took me out for a tour through and around Cloncurry. We drove through the main streets, saw an enormous cemetery and just out of town Annette pointed out something at my left. "Do you see that?" I didn't see anything. "That is the local horse track, where we have our horse races." Oh. Aha.

Annette drove up to the lookout on the other side of the dry river that floated through town and I made some nice shots of the nothingness in the distance. This is Cloncurry, some 2,000 people live here in the middle of a bare red-coloured desert filled up with rocks and dirt.

"The worst thing in Cloncurry is that there is not much to do," Annette told me, as we had to stop on the main street and I had to take a photo of a sand storm passing through.

Annette told me another interesting fact that I don't want to forget to tell you: Cloncurry has two doctors from Nigeria. Why Nigeria? Because Australian doctors don't want to live in isolated places like this, so Cloncurry got their doctors from another country where they are used to live in hot and isolated places. Nigeria… "The only problem with these doctors is that you can't go there with women issues. If a woman wants to start some sort of birth control, the doctors will tell you to just have sex. A lot of sex." I had to laugh about that, I can already see my doctor at home tell me to have a lot of sex. "But you just get used to that. We have to live with it. If something is serious, you go to the doctor in Mt. Isa – only two hours up the road."

It seems that life is what you work for, in this town. "You can have your local family BBQ," but that is it. And life changes very fast too. One day your neighbours work at the mine and the next day they have moved to somewhere else.

But I was lucky, I can on a day when something wàs going on in Cloncurry, the Cloncurry Show 2002, which is, as Annette told me, a real town show. This is the place where all the locals gather together at the showgrounds and show their pride and joy. It can be their home-made art, or their new 4x4 truck.

Annette took me to the showgrounds and I was fascinated by the high amount of people. There they were, mostly from Cloncurry and the surrounding properties, all taking along their pride to the show.

Annette had to help out selling the elementary school cook book (with mother's recipes and their kids art) in a big hall which was one giant exhibition centre. Everybody had joined in contests for the best home-made cakes, the best paintings, the best photographs, the best self-grown flowers or fruits, the best quilts, the best pots, the best of anything! Annette had sent in some flowers from her garden and had won first price with her big sun flower.

As she had to sit there for a while, I explored the showgrounds. The local commercial shops were present with their tents, I learned more about the Ernest Henry Mine (50km up north), saw horse shows, wood cutting competitions and there was a big fair in the back. You know, with those sick-making things that not only spin you around, but also your stomach and whatever you ate last week.

It was quite entertaining. I very much enjoyed the kids magician that sliced one of the locals into two pieces and loved the Queensland State Champion stunt rider doing the most spectacular jumps on his motorcycle. Wooh, that was even scary!

In the afternoon Annette's parents and the kids joined in the party and I was treated on a Aussie styled hot dog for dinner, as we watched little kids do enormous jumps on their horses.

Alan had left as he had a very important mission for tonight. He joined the demolition derby tonight. So you have to imagine six old cars that can barely drive around, but driving is all they can do lately, and just smash into each other for as long as it takes. And the winner is the car that is driving around as the last one. What a spectacle was that! The crowd went mad with every bang that was made and Annette was screaming out her longs to cheer up her husband.

Alan became second as his brick gave up on the winner. There wasn't much left of the cars and Alan gave his hump of steel away to the fire department in exchange for two cartons of beer.

Now the fire department competition could take off, as two of those demolition units were lit up in fire and two fire departments had to compete with each other. First they had to stop the fire, then take off one door and the roof and drag it to the finish line. And that was an exciting show, the local Cloncurry against the Ernest Henry Fire department. As one had won within seven minutes, the other one was still sowing off one door. It was getting fun when the winning team started to put the water hose on the team that was still trying to get the job done.

As it was already dark on the showgrounds and the party was almost over, the final gig was the fireworks. Like every year they end up the Cloncurry Show with a brilliant fire works show by the state-famous Ian Riedel and I have to tell you that I haven't seen fireworks like this in a long time.

It was banging and lightning and splashing and twirling and it seemed to go on for over half an hour! It was a blast.

Good night Cloncurry!

Ramon