That Gum You Like

In which Dave goes to the QLD

Posted in Queensland by Dave on September 20, 2009

Hey Guys,

I know it’s been a few days, but I’ve been crazy busy since the last time I updated this thing. Took the train from Sydney to Brisbane, a fourteen hour expedition in which I ended up falling asleep in the fetal position on the floor after trying every possible position on the seats themselves. The train was populated mostly by loud, drunk, crazy people, including one woman who kept insisting that “she knew me from somewhere”. Pro-Tip: if you’re going to try and pick up somebody at least thirty years younger than you, on a train at five in the morning, spitting on them as you talk is probably not going to help matters.

I got to Brisbane around 7:00am Thursday, and my Greyhound left at 7:30. So my impressions of the city were limited to the Transit Station, which was basically a dirty, garish mall. The Greyhound from Brisbane to Roma was pretty painless, including a meal stop at a gas station where the food choices were limited to either A.) Fried Chicken B.) Chicken Fingers or C.) Chicken-Flavored Chips (fries). Having had nothing to eat since I left Sydney the previous afternoon, I got a generous helping of all three, topped off with a big ‘ol bottle of Coke.

You guys. Coke in Australia is like Coke from Mexico. Anyone worth their salt when it comes to Cola knows that in Mexico they use Cane Sugar instead of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and also knows that yes, it makes a difference. In the states the only place you can find this ambrosia is in a select few bodegas scattered around the country. That or Texas. But here in Australia, the nectar is standard issue. Suffice to say I will be imbibing far more frequently than I ever would. Thus far, this is the only culinary item where the Aussie version is significantly superior to it’s US counterpart. Go Coke.

ANYWAY, Simon’s wife Katrina picked me up at the bus station in Roma, and took me out to the ranch, known as Tarrawonga, which is about a thirty minute drive outside town. Tarrawonga is an enormous property, and it’s one of three that Simon owns, along with Tallah and Kynoch, which he’s purchased since I arrived on Thursday. Altogether, I think the properties total at something like 15,000 acres, on which Simon raises his 1500 head of cattle. After an early dinner and sleep on Thursday evening, I woke up at about 630 with the Body family. Simon and Katrina’s two sons, Peter and Ted, ages 7 and 9 respectively, don’t let the family sleep much past 7, and Simon likes to be up early– before the heat kicks in.

We spent the morning checking the cattle in Simon’s “Ute” (AKA pickup truck), and taking a tour of the property. Raising 1500 cattle is an intense business, and I arrived at an interesting time for Simon. Along with buying Kynoch, he’s currently engaged in trying to sell 300 steers (at roughly $1.95/kg) and 300 heifers (at roughly $1.70/kg), which will be his big sale for the year. Usually he waits longer to sell, he says, but the drought that’s running train on the rest of Australia has struck here, and Tarrawonga has gotten about a third of it’s usual rainfall. This lack of rain has stunted the growth of the oats Simon uses to fatten the cattle, and he’s trying to close the sale before he runs out of oats to feed them.

Coming back from our foray into town (where Simon had to sign some papers regarding his property deal, and I took the opportunity to check out greater metropolitan Roma), we ran into one of Simon’s neighbors, Cossi, who pointed out we had a flat tire. After helping us fix it, Cossi shoved off, but not before Simon convinced him to come over for drinks later, or as Cossi put it, “tellin’ lies on the veranda”. As I would shortly learn, in Queensland the weekend is serious business.

Seriously, if there’s anybody out there who thinks they’re skilled in the art of consuming vast quantities of beer, I invite them to come try their hand in the flatlands of Queensland. After Cossi’s arrival that evening Simon got started, and as much as I tried to keep up, I quickly gave up at trying to match and just watched in awe…

Enter the Surat Races, the following day. We left the house Saturday morning at around 10:00 (not before Simon had warned me that shorts were not acceptable race-wear, despite the 80 degree heat) and went over to one of Simon and Katrina’s friends’ house, where they dropped off the kids and met the bus that was going to shuttle a crew from the neighboring area off to the Surat, about 45 minutes away. Before going to the house, I had thought the shuttle idea was simply to cut down on the number of cars going or something, but after Simon’s friend Warrick (probably spelled wrong, sorry) offered me a beer at 10:30 in the morning I figured out it was because the most important part of the Surat Races was most definitely not the horses.

My day at the races was excellent. Within ten minutes I had been nicknamed Clark Kent (I suppose it’s the glasses) and had lost fifty bucks (damn you Craiglea Tambo!), and begun trying valiantly to drown my sorrows in the delicious XXXX Bitter, the most popular option amongst the crew I had arrived with. Any moment where I wasn’t actively drinking a beer I was asked if I needed another one, and the one time I turned down the offer I was asked if I would like to henceforth be referred to as “Clark Cunt the Yank Bitch” and quickly learned my lesson. After a 8 hours of socializing, drinking, gambling, drinking, dancing, and more drinking, we loaded back on the bus and listened to the Rugby League game on the radio on the way back to Roma.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

The debatable greatness of Rugby, AKA “footy” is a subject for another post, after I’ve seen more than one complete game, but I will take this moment to offer a word of warning to any americans planning to come out here. Be prepared to defend American Football (AKA “gridiron”). As soon as the Rugby game came on the radio, everyone in the bus used the opportunity to rag on football, and thus americans, and thus me. Example exchange:

“Oy Clark? why are you americans such pussies when it comes to hitting each other?”
“**Awkward laugh** I dunno”
“You should play Rugby mate, make a man out of you”
“Yeah, I suppose”
“You suppose! You suppose! C’mon, gridiron is a game for kids. You americans are a bunch of cunts”

But seriously, Rugby is kinda stupid. It’s really repetitive and predictable and mostly pretty slow moving and futile. Not that I really like football either, but watching Rugby is kinda like watching somebody trying to knock down a tree with their head.

I got home Saturday night mostly unscathed, and spent most of today helping Simon and Katrina out in their yard. It turns out I’ll only be here for the rest of the week before I head to Melbourne, and hopefully this week will be a good chance to get a better feel for the cattle business, but so far, my visit to rural Queensland has been a blast.

Tagged with: , , ,