ANNA CREEK – WORLD’S LARGEST RANCH/CATTLE STATION
In my previous blog about Australia,I wrote about my short visit to the opal mining town of Coober Pedy. I spent three days there; two nights of which were sleeping underground.
On my second day, I met Peter who ran the mail/postal route to Anna Creek Cattle Station. I travelled with a retired Canadian teacher who slept for most of the drive. This enabled me to sit upfront and listen to an incredible man who talked about the geography, history and geology of the region, as well as entertaining me with colorful tales. One tale consisted of an early settler and his family who travelled the region for about a week. On the first day, the wife was aware of an aboriginal woman who kept pace with them and their horse drawn wagon. Her husband explained to his newly brought over English wife that aborigines liked to “Go Walkabout.” This enabled them to visit their sacred sites.
By about the sixth day, the wife stopped the wagon. She approached the woman, came back and slapped her husband. He had been having an affair with this woman!
Our first stop after leaving Coober Pedy was the “Dog Fence.” This apparently can be seen from space. It was built to keep the Dingos (wild Australian dogs) from attacking sheep. Evidently, cows can graze on one side without being attacked by Dingos. The fence took five years to put up from 1880-1885. It stretches 5,614 kilometres or 3,488 miles. The Canadian woman was awake at this point and all of us took pictures. At one point, I asked Peter to find me a “coolibar/coolibah tree” as in the song, “Waltzing Matilda.” He did.
Anna Creek Cattle Station
After we opened the gate of the Dog Fence, Peter entered the land owned by the world’s largest cattle ranch. In Australia they use the word ‘station’ instead of ranch.
Yes, this station at 6,000,000 (6 million acres) or 34,000 km2, beats the second largest ranch called Waggoner, near Vernon Texas. It is only 6,000 km2. Anna Creek Station is the size of Belgium.
It was during the drive towards the main house (called the homestead) that Peter shared his love of Australia and the area where he lived. He spoke about the mustering of cattle on Anna Creek Station.
Australia is a land settled by immigrants, although the aborigines are said to have lived there for over 60,000 years. Anna Creek Station was established in 1863, but it moved to its current location in 1872.
Anna Creek, like any cattle station in Australia is held captive by drought. During a bad dry season in 2007, only 1500 cattle were living there. In 2010 there were floods, but after they subsided, there were 10,000 head the following year.
The cattle are a mixed breed called Santa Gertrudis, which is a cross between the Indian Brahman bulls and Beef Shorthorn cow. This enables them to live in a very hot and dry climate. Light airplanes spot the cattle when it is mustering season. Because of its vastness, cattle are rounded up by trailbikes. Peter told me that this vast, barren and dry land was once under the ocean. I checked it out – as Aussies have a way of ‘telling tall tales.’ It was true!
Living at Anna Creek
When I was at the homestead, I was told by Peter that a governess was employed to look after the children’s education. They probably used the School of the Air to communicate with teachers in larger towns. Today, I found out that Anna Creek and other homesteads have telecommunications including television and internet.
If a medical emergency should occur, the famous Flying Doctor outfit will land at Anna Creek and, if necessary, transport a patient(s) to a hospital.
A Great Trip
This trip to Anna Creek was memorable for the scenery and company of Peter. In a pink road house (restaurant) the cool beer was ‘my shout’ which is an Aussie term for paying for a round. Some years later, I was watching an Aussie program on surviving in the Outback. I yelled out to Trish, “There’s Peter!” Yes, it was “Me Mate” from years ago. He had ventured forth to bringing tourists out to his part of Australia.
I intend to go back with Trish. I intend to find Peter.