Cycling The Globe

A Cycle Touring Expedition Around The World

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Day 505: Working on an Australian Cattle Station

Posted by Thomas Andersen Posted on May - 30 - 2012

After less than 36 hours in Alice Springs I already had a job in hand – and what a job! I was going to a cattle station 260 km North East of town.

Instead of writing about my own first day at work I think my colleague Britt from Washington DC did such a good job that I will let him introduce the place. Britt arrived at the farm a couple of weeks after me.

Here we go, a day at the cattle station in Britt’s words:

Where to start? Well, i finally made it to the station for a start. Another worker here, Jesper, picked me up and three hours of beautiful scenery and dirt roads later i pulled up at the station. The only real way to describe the how remote i am right now is to say that the drive was like one of those five hour movies that you keep thinking you’ve reached the end but there is still another hour left. i kept thinking, ok we’re pretty far out by now we must be close. and then we reached the front gate of his property and i thought oh here we are.


from the edge of his property there is still another 52 kilometers to the station. and thats just going the short width of the property. on the drive i asked Jesper “so where is the edge of the property?” he pointed at a tiny faint purple mountain range on the horizon.

“its just on the other side of those.” he said.

the people im working with are really cool, there are three Danish guys Jesper, Tom and i can’t pronounce the other guys name . . . something with an m. and an american girl from wisconsin named megan.

And i can’t forget my best friend in the entire world.

Buster the cattle dog.

from the instant i got out of the truck he was all over me. he is so spoiled, even right now he is shoving himself up against my leg looking for some attention. but he is an awesome dog, today i went for a walk up the dried up creek that is next to the staff quarters and into the bush a bit and he walked the whole way with me and chased grasshoppers. i want a dog just like buster someday. also he eats the leftover spam from my sandwiches. yeah the food situation is complicated. but more on that later. buster is a good dog.

I had a first day of work like no other i’ll ever have im sure. i turned on a gas generator. watered plants. gessoed a canvas. sold canned corned beef and fanta to aboriginals and then drove 2 hours across the bush with a maniac in a truck to get some guys out of another truck with an engine fire. and that was all before 1:30.
the rest of the day consisted of me opening and closing gates for my boss to drive through, saying hello and good by to a dingo that Don promptly shot in the face, checking these big bore tanks and some dams for water levels, then watching Don shoot a cow and cut open its throat for an aboriginal kids coming of age ceremony.

just another day in the outback.

Did i mention that my boss is an initiated member of an aboriginal tribe? i bet you can’t say that about your boss. apparently there was a group of them that lived next to his grandfather and through droughts he helped keep the children alive by feeding them goats milk. His family has been a very important part of the goings on around here. he helps them out with things and they keep an eye out for him and shop at his store. of course its also the only store around for a hundred kilometers.

All the aboriginals i’ve met here are pretty nice although they don’t know much english and they sort of speak under their breath anyway so its kind of hard to understand them. They all seem to be addicted to various forms of sugar and they will come into the shop and buy candy, soda, and 1 kilo packets of raw sugar. Today mostly consisted of working the shop negotiating how much they could buy at once. They don’t have much concept of the saving of and use of money and in their culture if they’re brother or somebody asks for money they are obligated to accept so the station store also functions effectively as a bank for them where they can run up a tab or save money that comes in for them from the government and they can pay for things out of that. but they are VERY apt to come in and spend 400 dollars on just food soda and tobacco for their friends and it seems like they would just walk out with everything in the store if you didn’t tell them that they cant spend more than is in their account. According to Don they would never steal anything but they will just run up a tab and owe huge amounts of money if not reigned in.

Also two weeks before i got here the station got the same amount of rain that they get in 6 months in the space of 4 days. i can still see damage to lots of the “roads” and in the creeks which are all already dry. but after the rains there were massive floods and Don was away in Sydney selling paintings, so they had trouble restocking the food and supplies in the store. although it’s two weeks later i guess we are on some other sort of schedule out here because now that the aboriginals bought all the corned beef today we are basically down to a few cans of corn, beans, some sardines and bread and butter.

good times.

the internet connection is really bad so i have to post this a paragraph or two at a time and i can’t imagine what a picture would take. the country here is amazing. the dirt is bright red. the grass is bright green and the sky is a deep blue. although the sun is really intense i think it will cool of pretty soon. the land is pretty flat but every so often there will be a random craggy mountain made of these weird rounded red rocks. the trees are pretty short and are all filled with these loud white and red parrots and with hawks. there are several bats that fly around the INSIDE of the station store much like that episode of the office. i promised megan that i wouldn’t trap her in a bag with one. also i found a mummified bat in an outside bathroom of the station that i was cleaning out today. when things die out here if they are not carted away piece by piece by the giant ants that cover the ground, they just dry out right where they are. we keep finding freeze dried mice under furniture and various other places.

haha oh and last night i accidentally left the door to my room open and my light on. i wont be making that mistake again. i spent two grueling hours battling untold horrors trying to get at the flourescent light on my ceiling. my problem was that inorder to get them away from the light and out of the room i had to turn the light off. but then i would have no way of knowing whether they had left or to kill the big ones. and oh let me tell you. THERE WERE BIG ONES. i never though i would grow up to see a moth that would acctually crack the windshield of a car unfortunate enough to hit one but i have no doubt that these would do a number on even a suburban. i found a cockroach that could probably take off my toe if it wanted to grasshoppers could have given even the Mothras a run for their money. now i have to go out and find a broom to sweep out the carnage before the ants take over and claim all the bodies.

ill write more tomorrow i hope the stars just came out and the view is amazing even with the moon being full.

Check out Britt’s blog over at for more crazy stories from the Outback!

Categories: Australia
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