Australia’s Wild Northern Territory
Jackeroos & Droving
Nicola Hill is a guest of the Urban Rajah
It was too good to refuse. An impromptu invite had fallen into my lap from a local jackeroo (Aussie cowboy to you and I) to stay on a remote cattle station 200km south of Darwin in Australia’s Daly River region. My adventure senses tingled… this was going to be a good one.
With no idea of where we would sleep or whether food would be readily available in the middle of nowhere, two buddies and I rattled excitedly down the highway in a Wicked campervan that had definitely seen better days. Adelaide River was the nearest “civilisation”, comprising the sum total of gas station and pub, but it at least allowed us to load up with emergency calorie-laden servo snacks to see us through. Should you ever wish to call in and pay your respects, Charlie the buffalo (Crocodile Dundee) poor fellow, has been stuffed for posterity and plonked in the corner of the Adelaide River bar.
The clichéd dusty red roads soon gave way to mere dusty ruts, and with jarred brains and rattled jaws we finally pulled up at the gates of the cattle station. With “I’m a Believer” and some dodgy artwork emblazoned across the van, we greeted the surprised jack and jillaroos rounding up the cattle on the outskirts of the station. You couldn’t have planned a better first encounter – a herd of 1000+ Brahma cattle tore up what remained of the earth in front of us, making their way to a new grazing site. The camera came out at the speed of light, not to leave my hands for the next 3 days.
The colour you encounter in this region is simply phenomenal. The famous ‘red earth’ does not disappoint, and the clear blue skies in the dry season provide the idyllic complement. There is nothing to see for miles… yet strangely you never tire of the view. Time and pace of life slows down to meet the pace of the heat; yet I’m told that things were moving fast compared to the wet season, when, well – you simply wait for the dry again. There’s an unavoidable need to exist in tune with the elements. A humbling contrast to the world to which I’m accustomed, one where we strive to master and subdue the forces of nature, though granted usually to our peril.
The stay was much more luxurious than we could have wished for. Jackeroo quarters and camp kitchen food was generously shared with us - the outsiders from glamorous Sydney – and yes, the comfort made the lingering stares and sniggers worthwhile. It was when out on the land, however, that felt most captivating. The station covered an area of  square kilometres – almost incomprehensible in scale. The vast and barren landscape left me in a state of mesmerised calm, it was sheer raw beauty. Life had few complications. There was no 3G or mobile signal. Facebook no longer ruled my day. When hungry, we ate a 2 foot fresh barramundi caught by our host seconds before in the Daly River, watched listlessly by an 8 foot croc on the opposite bank. For fun, we trekked to uncover a mythical waterfall, rumoured to exist but that none of the present jackeroos had yet seen. We drank cheap wine under the stars and each day watched the droving and herding in wonder.
Trips like this don’t come along all that often, but when they do, it feels like a total re-calibration of the soul – a re-adjustment of what the world as you know it is all about, and the return to your old life is with a renewed sense of wonder; you’re the same, but somehow something has shifted.
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