THE 2011 QUEENSLAND STATE CAMEL RACING CHAMPIONSHIP...
22.07.2011 - 24.07.2011
will be held later in the year, but this does not in any way detract from the status of the Annual Capela Camel Races held at the local showgrounds over the weekend...
Of-course this could only be on Ang's 'must-do' list so after a few relaxed days on the banks of the Nogoa river catching Barramundi (more later...) we headed north a whole 50kms and setup camp at the Capela showgrounds to watch, and maybe bet on, some camels... I settled down with the laptop to do some work and Ang set off to see what we could expect from what seemed to be a total non-event. No people, two sad looking camels and one grey nomad (60+ caravaners joining dots on the caravan park map of Aus) and with 4 hours to go to 'gates open', it was not looking promising...
Then Ang arrived back back, smiling from ear to ear with that distinct pep in her step and I felt a familiar cold sweat coupled with swarming butterflies run through my gut... why did I agree to coming here...?
'I got us in...I got us in...!!' she yelled as if this was something to be happy about.
Tentatively I listened to the plan... she was going to be in the first race - 'how much did you bet?' I asked... 'no I'm the jockey!!' she replied excitedly... and then came the kicker... 'I got YOU into race 5!!'
What...!! I can't even ride a horse, let alone a camel... and now you want me to race the thing!! I glanced over to the pens where the camels had been grazing all morning - suddenly they appeared much larger and meaner than I remembered... these were finely tuned elite athletes - the Far-Lap's of the camel clan.
In no time at all, it was 1:30pm and race one was on. Ang, now known as 'Zulu Princess' stepped out of the dressing room kitted out in silk jockey attire, and I must say, looking the part. She mounted her steed, Wachachooki, which promptly waddled from its crouching position to its feet and after a quick lap of the members stand, headed off with the others to the start. Slowly making their way to the far side of the main grandstand - hearts pounding, quiet tension filled the arena - muscles of the beasts quivering..
Suddenly, with a shout from the marshals, and they were racing... Zulu Princess, starting from behind, began making up ground as she pounded the rump of Wachachooki over and over. Lethal Weapon, a huge animal was clearly going to be her only challenge, the others, although still in front were losing ground rapidly. Lethal Weapon went for the outside, Zulu Princess on Wachachooki took the inside has they left the others gasping in dust. Zulu Princess was gaining rapidly on Lethal Weapon, but the finish line came up too soon, and Zulu Princess was to be content with a well deserved 2nd place.
$75 was the prize for 2nd place and so we headed down to the beer garden to enjoy the winnings... Soon enough though, it was 4pm and time for race 5, although my heart had been racing all afternoon, as was my stomach... However, there can be no turning back now. We sculled the remains of our beer, and headed down to the change rooms. Final thoughts of how to get out of this predicament got pushed aside and rather I focused on Ang's first comment after her race... 'you're gonna wipe out so bad..' she had said... nice darling!
Royal Blue was my chosen silks and slowly I started to feel a little ... terrified... 'ok, just a few seconds on the camel, then try landing gracefully on my head and then it's all over - maybe I can even get a free flight with the Royal Flying Doctors service..'
All good.... year right..
Now for the briefing, the marshal assigned me the same camel as Zulu Princess, Wachachooki, saying in his best Queensland slur 'I know he threw the guy off in the last race, but '..you'll be right mate...' and then to all the riders, 'you can all ride a horse, it'll be a bit bumpy, but just ride it like a you would a horse..'.
Then his eye's met mine and it must have shown all over my face...
'you can ride a horse can't you..?' he asked.
'Once 25 years ago...' I whimpered.
'oh.... well give me that crop, you are going to need both hand to hold on - and hold on tight!!' and then in true Aussie style '... you'll be right, mate...'
Walking the beast up to the start line, I wondered if the other guys could hear my heart beating, or worse... could the camel hear it?? Is that guy in the crowd laughing because he can see the terror on my face? Where's the first-aid van? I don't see one anyw....
'GO!!' - that damn mashal, no warning at all - just 'GO'!!
And we're racing - what happened over the following seconds was just a blur of dust, flying grass and heaving fur and muscles of these beasts pounding the ground. STOP!! I think I shouted and then remembered the race briefing ...'if you want to really get them going - shout at them..'
I hung on in deathly silence - where is that finish line...? Will my feet stay in the stirrup long enough to get there? Who said camels are the ships of the desert...? they're the bloody formula one powerboats of the desert...
Suddenly, the finish line was there - a calm came over me... phew, we made it... and then, this bloody camel decides we should jump the finish line. this is just a white line painted on the ground - why it would feel the need to clear it by 4 feet, will remain a mystery... but we're still on... feet are out the stirrups and flying dangerously close to me ears, but we're all still upright.
That's when the horror dawned on me - I don't remember seeing any one else at the finish line... were they already enjoying a beer in the beer garden? No they were still racing...! I had won! DAMN!!! that puts me in the semi-final... I have to do this all again!!
After a few high-five's and slaps on the back while walking out the change rooms... finally a little testosterone showed up...finally!!! Yeah, City-Slicker (my racing alias) will be back!!
While making the turn up at the start of the semi-final, feeling a new-found confidence I looked down a Wachchooki, gave him a slap on the neck, and for a moment enjoyed the bond we had made together, we were as one. We had made a connection I did not believe was possible to make in such a short time... Wachochooki, looked back at me and I knew that he felt the same.
15 years with Ang had given me an almost unfair advantage... I glanced over at the other jockeys, anf felt only pity for them. Such aspirations about to be smashed...
And so it was... another first - I was getting used to this...
Grand Final time... Wacha was feeling as good as I was - this was our time. $1000 up for grabs... what should I spend it on...mmm..?
I think I may play cricket for South Africa rather... choking must be more engrained in the society than I thought...
Goat races for the kids
Well, together we had made $175 on our first camel racing experience which is to be proud of - but all night at the after party no one ever mentioned anyone but the winner!!! Where's the next race..?
For a part of our trip that we did not expect to experience much, this has turned out to be a great area in Central Queensland. We spent a few days on the banks of the Nogoa River near Emerald which was the best fishing we could have imagine - we did not even have to get the fishing rods out the car, and we ate barramundi until we hated it.
After 4 days, we had pulled out seven 4 to 5kg (and this is no fishy story...) Barramundi by simply scooping them up with a crab net. The dam further upstream had let out some water a while back and with it a heap of 'barras', but as the river resided again to more a creek status, the bigger barras don't have enough space, so they get stuck on the rapids flapping around or they are just so lazily swimming in the pools, that you just wonder over and scoop them up with a net. Ang scooped two 4kg barras in one hit... Good 'ol fish braais.
Scott, came out to join us for a fish braai one evening after work. He had been doing one of his 10 day shifts at a local mine.
The Emerald area is a hub of activity compared to the towns further south. Mining and cattle industries really creating a boom and bring in many city-folk for contracts lasting a few days to months, even years. Coal mining is the main attraction ensuring the China power stations continue to keep the greenies in high spirits.
And now off to the Whitsundays to meet up with Belinda and Tracey for girlie week.... HELP!!!