This story was published in the November 2015 edition of 4WD Touring Australia.
When touring it is useful to have a clear plan or itinerary on where you are going and what you plan to see. But sometimes, breaking that plan can be the best decision of all.
Take the time a mate and I were heading south from Mount Isa on the homeward leg of a trip. The car was packed and the last thing we needed to do before leaving the Isa was to fill up with fuel. Stopping at the service station I was distracted putting air in the tyres, while it appeared my travelling companion was also distracted talking to three fine young ladies. Later, inquiring the nature of the conversation (code for - were you chatting them up?) he replied that they had asked if we were going to Quamby? Unfortunately he was so distracted that he forgot to ask where Quamby was and what was there.
With the wonders of technology we did a quick search on the ipad. The good news was Quamby appeared to be only 150 km from the Isa. However the bad news - it was in the completely WRONG direction from where we were going! Searching a bit further it turned out the girls were heading to the "Quamby Rodeo"
Decision time. Do we stick to the plan and continue our journey south or break out of routine in search of a unique outback experience? Throwing caution to the wind we pointed the 4WD in the opposite direction and headed east.
45kms north of Cloncurry, Quamby was once a Cobb & Co staging post and stop over servicing the cattle and mining industries. The aboriginal meaning of Quamby is to 'stop, rest a while', which is fitting, as the only building that remains is the Quamby Pub built the 1860s. Not far past the Quamby Pub we reached a large paddock with the un-mistakeable gathering of Toyota utes, large horse floats and cattle trucks.
Rodeos may at first appear to be relegated to the hard men of the outback. However these events also bring together outback families from far and wide, to meet, share stories and escape some of the stresses of living on this harsh land. The Quamby rodeo started in 1997 and is run by the local Sports Association with all profits from the day being invested back into the local community.
We spent the next two days immersed in clouds of dust watching the amazing outback riders tackle the Bronc ride, steer wrestling and barrel race. But the pinnacle of the event is the brave (or some would say mad) cowboys that willingly hop on the back of 800 pounds of muscle with the likelihood of being thrown skyward before landing in the dirt before the 8 second bell sounds. The only thing protecting them from a hoof or bull horn ending their riding career is the bull fighters (don’t ever call them clowns) who risk their own life to allow the cowboy to ride another day.
While the events take centre stage the evening is filled with the sounds of Johnny Cash and Lee Kernaghan, dancing, drinking, stumbling and more drinking. It is a time for the dusty bush clothes to be replaced with blue jeans (absolutely compulsory), long sleeve checked shirt for the cowboys and paisley shirts and jewel bedazzled belts for the filly’s. The one essential part of the uniform is the personalised Akubra hat which range from pristine 20 Gallon monsters to the battle scared dusty felt remains that have seen cattle dog pups born in them. Chatting to a lady next to us it must have been obvious to her that we were not wearing the correct attire. Leaning over she quips, “If you ever want to meet a nice girl then this is the place. Although they would not go for a city bloke like you. She will only have a cowboy.”
To me the Quamby Rodeo defines this part of the country. Resilience, mateship, community. While there are bigger events such as the Mt Isa Rodeo where over 20,000 people watch man take on beast, Quamby is devoted to a small number of outback heroes coming together to support each other.
If it was not for the three young lasses at the service station, and a willingness to throw our plans out the window, we would not have been fortunate enough to experience a truly unique part of the Australian outback soul. This experience could not be summed up any better than a local we met on the night who said: "You wouldn't want to be anywhere else in Australia tonight.
To see some more photos from the rodeo go to Rodeo images