Life for us on a working cattle station was very structured and repetitive. Everyday we would be up ready to start feeding the livestock at 7am.
First would be the poddy calves – these are calves that have been separated from their mothers – and they needed milk twice a day.
Next, I would start my cleaning and Dale would get on with his various gardening jobs and feeding the rest of the animals.
We would both be on shop duty twice a day (Dale would come and help out if it got too busy) and we would finish after serving dinner at around 8pm.
The days were long, but it was hard to get over the novelty of being on a vast cattle station in the middle of nowhere with so much going on. A lot of the time, often just walking around the homestead, I would pinch myself and think ‘look at where you are!’
I got excited every time I saw any animals – which was fairly often – the outback is full of life! My favourites were the kangaroos and the thorny devils.
We also saw some truly spectacular sunsets on Napperby. Because the area is so flat, you can see the horizon – and open sky – for miles around.
The night sky was also impressive, complete with the background howls of a lonely dingo.
On our days off, we would go for bush walks…
…and sometimes we got to visit Alice Springs if anyone was going that way.
Something I had been worried about while working in the outback was the creepy crawlies. Knowing that so many nasty things can kill you, I was a little scared of what we might come across. Aside from the time I almost stepped on a brown snake – one of the most deadly snakes in the world – we actually encountered more nasties in soggy New South Wales than in the outback.
Because we were there just as winter was coming, it was surprising how cold it got in the nights. The lowest temperature we saw in the morning was around -4 degrees Celsius (24 Fahrenheit) and we had to smash the thick ice that covered the poor calves water trough.
By the middle of the day it was normally back to comfortable temperatures though, so layering clothes was key because after a few hours you’d be taking everything off!
One day I was lucky enough to join Roy – the station owner – for a ride in his helicopter. They use the chopper for mustering (rounding up) the cattle because they are spread out over such huge areas and we were going to find the naughty pet horses that had escaped!
We happened to be on the station during the busiest time of year – the annual cattle muster. All of the cattle across the whole station (that’s all 15,000) needed to be rounded up and drafted (sorted).
Those that needed castrating were castrated, and all the males were ‘de-horned’. Thankfully I never saw that side of the work, but Dale ended up going along to help with the draft at one point and I almost didn’t recognise him when he came back – he was covered in so much dust!
Visitors often came and went on the station, but my favourite by far was Ruby – a red kangaroo joey who appeared on the homestead one day and decided to stick around!
It was hard work on the station, it certainly needed a ‘can-do’ attitude and a lot of enthusiasm, but the experiences that we had in return were amazing. Not long left until we leave here for our adventures in Indonesia now though. I will miss our outback family, little Ruby… and the constant supply of steak!