Thursday, 18 July 2013

Life is a highway – Fitzroy Crossing

3 July for 5 nights

“I like sealed roads,” Hugo said when we were travelling on the sealed highway from Derby to Fitzroy Crossing. We all do!  We’ll never take them for granted again – until we’ve been back in the burbs for at least a month that is.

We decided to take the longer, but quicker route to Kununurra via the Great Northern Highway.  So we popped back in at Fitzroy Crossing to do our washing, see our friends and have a much needed rest.  Our two night stop became longer when we found out the rodeo and campdraft was on over the weekend.  How could we move on and miss out on something like that?

It turned out to be a big blessing in disguise. I didn’t realize how much R&R the family needed after our weeks of sickness along the Gibb River Road and Otto’s misadventure including a flying doc trip and another hospital stay. One day I can’t even recall what I did, so I must’ve just sat and rested.

The rodeo was fantastic fun.  We got there late on a Saturday afternoon and saw the finals of the campdraft (a bit underwhelming) and the first round of the open bull-riding.  Most of the crowd were Aboriginal with just a handful of white people. This is why we love Fitzroy Crossing.  All the locals knew to bring their cars around to the rodeo ring and to sit on the roof, in the boot, wherever to get a decent view. 

The kids started playing ‘gun gun’ with some local boys who had bought a show bag full of machine guns, grenades and other types of warfare.  So they were running around out the back having a ball while we watched the rodeo.

We found a gorgeous cowgirl hat for Isobel at a reasonable price so she was super happy.  We missed the final few bullrides as the sun had set and it immediately turns cold now and we didn’t have jumpers. But it was a real hoot!

Sunday morning was the start of NAIDOC week. The Crossing Inn had a market on and a flag raising ceremony set for 10am. The market was tiny so we went around the back to have a family pancake breakfast - $35 for all of us to get a stack of pancakes with berries and maple syrup while sitting next to a banana tree. Fitzroy Crossing was full of surprises! 

We caught up with Tom and Emma again and then again at the rodeo later that day.  There were lots more white people at the rodeo on Sunday (bit disappointing really) and this time they’d dragged two grandstands in so there were some seating options. 

I was sitting among a group of older and middle-aged Aboriginal women and felt so lucky to be sitting right next to a wonderfully fun woman called Cissy. I think she’s a Goondiyandi woman – at least she lives in their country at Mindi Caves.  She was a great spectator and oohed and ahhed at everything and would grab my hand or arm and laugh when the men jumped off their horse and completely missed the cow they were meant to be wrestling to the ground.  Her nephew was out their bull-riding too.  It was a perfect spot for me to sit! 

Behind Hugo and Simon sat a man with a real presence.  Our friend Tom told us he was Mervyn Street a well-known community leader and artist in Fitzroy Crossing.  I’ve got a book that includes some of his artwork and he was the chair of Mangkaja at the time they celebrated their 21st; and another book that shares some of his stories and shows an amazing mural he’d made that adorned the supermarket until it burnt down. 

Melko, Hugo’s new friend, found him quickly and asked if he wanted to play ‘gun gun’ again so off all three kids went with knives, guns and grenades.  Geez.

We saw bronc riding, more bull riding and steer wrestling.  It was a great day but marred when one of the clowns got injured.  We farewelled our friends Em and Tom as they were leaving town that afternoon to continue travelling, and we had an early night to head off the next morning.

Again, Fitzroy Crossing was a great experience because of the people we talked with and saw, our friends, the events on and just its very friendly community.  I wrote down all the paintings I love so I wouldn’t mind flying in to Broome just to go and buy some paintings from there when I’m working again.  I love them!

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