Host: Noreena Downs Station
Written by – Jenny Jones, Camp Cook, Noreena Downs Station.
Arriving at Noreena I was welcomed by Tex, Niffy, Joe, and the dog gang Major, Ding, and Bruce, and shown to my new digs. For those that don’t know what a donga is, it’s best described as a long tin can split up into bedrooms and would be my room for the next few nights before I moved into the cook’s room, down at their eldest daughter Kate’s place.
That night as I sat and watched my first stunning Pilbara sunset sipping on an ice cold XXXX as Niffy and Joe regaled stories of life on a station and past cooks, saying that as long as I can put a meal on the table each night and not poison anyone that would be a great start. Tub cooked dinner on my first night and it was my first taste of Pilbara beef, for those that don’t know living on a Cattle Station means that the main source of meat you will eat is beef and in the words of Noreena ‘Yum Yum Beef for my Tum Tum’. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I truly understood how we got the beef!
My first few days were filled with preparing the station for the arrival of the musterers, helping Tubby, learning the ropes, and getting settled in. I also got a full run down of what my average day would entail when at the home stead.
- 4.30 am – wake and get ready for work.
- 5.00 am – cook and serve breakfast, generally a full fry up and a cuppa.
- 5.00 am ’til 6.00am – finish up breakfast and sort out that day’s smoko* and lunch, pack it into an esky, and send it off with the crew for the day^.
- 6.00am ’til 7.00am – have my breakfast and a coffee, generally I would catch up on what was going on back in the UK via Facebook.
- 7.00am ’til 13.00 – carry out daily jobs of doing everyone laundry, cleaning the washrooms and toilets, tidying up the TV room, and cleaning the staff area of the homestead. I would then get busy in the kitchen preparing that night’s dinner which generally consisted of a good hearty meat and two veg meal with a pud, the next day’s lunch and smoko, and any other jobs that needed doing.
- I would then potter around reading a book, chatting with whoever was around and going out with Tubby for drives to check bores and generally putting the world to rights.
- 17.30 – After a shower and clean up I would then go and finish preparing dinner, cook, serve, and tidy up.
- After dinner everyone would sit around have a few beers, catch up on the day’s activities and before too long it would be 21.00 and the whirling sound of the generator would go quiet, lights would go off, empty cans would be binned, and it was time for bed.
*Smoko is a morning break generally packed full of cakes, sausage rolls, and toasties.
^This was a general day if the crew were out and we were at the homestead.
The arrival of the mustering crew was stretched over a week with a few guys arriving each day. Kate and the family try to pick people from all walks of life and experiences as they want as many people as possible to experience life on a station. So we had two Aussie guys who had done mustering before, a Kiwi guy from a farm back home, and a guy from the UK. A motley crew of people, but my life and friends for the next six months none the less.
Within the first few days of arriving at Noreena it was ANZAC day – a great chance to meet up with our neighbours and take part in a ‘traditional’ Aussie past time – football! Cue the Roy Hill Rovers V’s the Noreena Stinky Bums at the Roy Hill Oval. As a non-football fan let alone Aussie rules footy fan I was potentially the worst member of our team and after several beers the game was decided to be a draw.
Niffy their second eldest daughter organised an afternoon out for us to a part of Noreena that I truly fell in love with and visited many more times during my period at Noreena. An oasis hidden in a world of red sand and little to no life and water. Noreena as like many other stations has so many hidden gems that within the year and a year I spent in the Pilbara I don’t think I managed to get round to them all.
The landscape of the Pilbara is so varied and due to the vastness of the region no two places are alike and always provided a great excuse for an afternoon outing or camping trip. It’s hard to explain to people here in the UK what it is like as everyone expects a flat, dead looking landscape but with hidden lagoons, rivers that flow when it only rains, and mountainous regions it changes both daily and seasonally.
The rains bring rivers bursting at the banks; scrub land that bursts into life with lush green grass and wildlife never seen at other times of the year, to the scorching hot summers where life hides away from the blistering sun and the land is burnt from the bush fires that start with a single bolt of lightning. You’re spoilt for views and what nature has to offer.