Day 15 - As Jenifer was leaving our van the previous night, she mentioned that the Mareeba Rodeo was on this weekend. So we got up early and spoke to Jenifer who kindly rang and confirmed the rodeo was on today and you simply bought a ticket when you showed up. So off we headed to the Rodeo. As we approached we saw a huge number of motor homes set up in a field together with amusement rides and a number of grandstands set up around the arena. It turns out that the Mareeba Rodeo is the second largesr in Queensland and competitors travel from all over the world to compete. The atmosphere is hard to explain as it is a cross between the air of fun and excitement associated with events such as Mardi Gras together with the testosterone laden feel of more gladiatorial sports such as Rugby. One thing is for certain these guys are tough as we experienced first hand. Within minutes of arriving at the Rodeo we were seated some 50 cms from the fence (yes ½ a metre from man and animal). You are probably asking why Wes the safety cat had his family so close to the action and I can only assume that the sheer magnetism of the event draws you in. The second event on the card was the final of the bull riding. We saw the first few thrown and lan awkwardly, the cowboys quickly getting back to their feet to save some pride but we were close enough to see the absolute pain on their faces. The next rider managed to stay the full time on the bull but the bull was not happy with this and so ran straight at the fence only metres from our seats and managed to squash the cowboy against the face like we swat a fly. It was truly disturbing to see another human being hurt so close to us and yet we could do nothing. Fortunately the safety crew arrived, another cowboy on horseback managed to reach down and extract him from his the vice like grip the bull had set with the fenceing rail and place him on his horse. The bull was ushered back into his pen to a round of applause and yes, the cowboy crushed cowboy leapt from the horse (or was he pushed), waved his hat in the air and wobbled to the waiting ambulance.
The other aspect of the day that was both surprising and leasing was how welcoming the locals were. We had managed to find a seat next to the arena however after an hour in the direct sun, it was starting to get unpleasant. Next to us a family had come ready for the whole weekend and had set u a huge tarp on roles to provide shade and had brung several lounge suites (yes that’s right… lounge suites) and set them u so they could see the event in comfort. One of the guys who also had a few young children asked us if we would like to join them under his tarp (this was very kind as it was obvious we were not locals as we were the only ones not in cowboy hats). So we sat watching the rodeo out of the sun sitting on a very nice brown and orange 3 piece lounge next to the main arena ( a very good choice of colour as it did not show the dust kicked onto in by the bulls in the arena. The guy explained that these sites were booked and pai for a year in advance and pointed to a series of sites on which, utes, trailers, and even a crane had been used to ingeniously construct various sheltered viewing platforms. The Rodeo was a marvellous event and something I can strongly recommend. I have no doubt that in years to come occupational health and safety will stop such open access for spectators but for the moment try and get along and experience it first hand. We left the rodeo and returned to Mt Carbine as Jenifer’s husband Robert, gives a complimentary mineral, wildlife and history tour every night at 6pm. It was very interesting and all of this for $16 a night (great showers, very clean). On to of this they offer free van storage in a dedicated area if you would like to leave your van while travelling onto Cape York. Jenifer was telling us about the many lovely people they meet (mainly Grey Nomads) but shared as story about one not so nice one. GN’s are renowned for their stinginess as can be heard in any shop, petrol station or restaurant as they complain how expensive things are out here (of course they expect supplies to be shipped thousands of kilometres in refrigerated containers and to be the same price as the local Woolworths store…. We thought most items were reasonable). Anyway, they had one GN arrive stay a night ($16 thank you) and then insist that the free van storage must be under cover. I know what I would have done with his undercover (be nice) but Jennifer and Robert being the generous couple they are, put is van in one of their powered undercover sites and charged him nothing for three months. Anyway, we loved our time at Mt Carbine and it is the only time we ever left a tip, however Jenifer insisted on giving the kids a polished gemstone. Thanks Jenifer and Robert for a great stay.