Our wild-west adventure

Host: Koordarrie Station
Written by Eddie Vanderstadt – Volunteers, Koordarrie Station.

In November 2011 myself, Maggie (my wife) and our 11 year old daughter Tea set out from, Melbourne Victoria, on an adventure to travel around Australia. We had no definite plan of where we would go and no time frame, other than we were travelling west along the coast. It has always been a dream of mine to spend time working on a station in remote Australia. When travelling in southern Western Australia we were looking at a website – Grey Nomads – and saw an advertisement looking for volunteers on a cattle station near Onslow. I emailed the advertiser expressing our interest in volunteering on their station; this was at Koordarrie Station in the Pilbara region.

Yanrey Station 2012.

Approximately a month later, we arrived at Yanrey Station on 12 June 2012, which is next door to Koordarrie. At this time we were not able to get to Koordarrie with our caravan as there had been considerable rainfall that week and the road was under water in places. We went across to Koordarrie the following morning, leaving our caravan behind, via the wet weather road. At this time my wife and I had decided to stay on the station for at least two weeks as we were not sure what our hosts would be like (we ended up staying almost three months!).

Koordarrie Station 2012 when we arrived.

Our accommodation for the next four weeks was the mustering crew huts. On the first morning I was set to work digging six large holes for planting shade trees in the yard. The homestead at that time had only been there for about 18 months and was still being developed. Maggie and Tea helped out in the kitchen, moving the sprinklers on the lawn, and looking after the children. My main task when we first arrived was to check the water tanks around the station.

To help me with completing this task Rory had drawn me a mud-map of where the tanks were located. It involved travelling on red sandy tracks for a couple of hours making sure water was still filling the tanks for the cattle. When I first went around I found it very difficult to identify the track from the rest of land at times.

Maggie and I also did some painting while we were there. We painted all the outside walls of the house, one of the bedrooms, cattle grids, gates, signs, and the outside mustering crew huts. At the time we were right into watching “The Block” so we painted each of the doors of the huts matching the colours of the teams on The Block.

                                                 When we arrived.

After painting.

My most memorable task while on the station was the being a part of the mustering team, this was something on my bucket list. Everything that happened during mustering was well above what I thought, the dust, dirt, terrain, the noise of bikes, cattle mooing, and the Gyro copter all added to the excitement. We all had two ways and were skilfully directed by Rory in what we needed to do and where to be. I was given a bike to use and look after while doing the mustering and have never had such an exhilarating time, and at times exhausting while driving through the crab hole country (crab holes are the small indentations in the ground anywhere from a foot to three feet across and hidden in the scrub). On occasions I was put in the bull buggy which was used to carry the food and water, but more importantly to chase the mickey bulls back into the pack when they decided to bolt.

After about four weeks on the station we headed to a place called Winning for the weekend, with all from the station to enjoy two days of a gymkhana. We enjoyed horse riding and bike events, as well as socialising with other station owners and staff from over 600km away in all directions. Travelling long distances to come together for such events was the norm, our travels changed the way we thought about travelling distances to see friends and family, which is now not an issue. Fixing vehicles, fences, pumps, bikes, travelling long distances to do chores became part of life, we all just enjoyed what we did. Every Wednesday while I was there was a trip back to the main highway to meet the truck which brought out the food and other items (shipped from Carnarvon) to restock Yanry and Koordarrie, it was about a 150km round trip.

While staying there we did day trips to Exmouth, Yardie Creek, Old Onslow and Onslow, and visited the Ashburton river and the surrounding area – it was just magnificent.

Steaks the size of Texas where the norm for dinner while talking of the day’s activities where discussed in great gusto, including a lot of laughter and ribbing. The crew while we there was as follows. Marika from Holland, Burt from South Africa, Collum from Ireland, Pip from England, Tom from a sheep station down south, Dave a professional rodeo clown, Jimmy the Gyro pilot, and Blair from down south. My family and Kricket (Kristie) and Rory and the children and locals who would come over to help on days when they could.

It has been about four years since we were on our trip but the bonds we formed with the family while we stayed with them have been etched in our minds, we are in continual contact with them, and there is not a week we don’t talk about them or an experience we had while there.

We are planning a return trip hopefully this year as we want to add another chapter to this fantastic experience we had with such a magnificent family.