The day I arrived in Rockhampton was a miserable one. It was dreary and rainy, like it had been for a couple of days. Louise and Claire had decided to stay in Agnes Waters, so I was on my own again. Everything was wet and there isn’t much you can do on days like this.
I booked into the Rocky YHA and the shuttle picked me up at the bus depot. When I got to the hostel, it was an older one and away from the center of town. I crossed my fingers and hoped there was a rodeo going on in the evening, otherwise the entire day would be a bust.
To pass the time, I did laundry and had some soup for lunch. It’s amazing how small things like washing your clothes or shopping for groceries are often a chore at home but become a legitimate activity when you’re traveling.
Later in the afternoon the hostel manager told me that we had a go for the rodeo. Yeehaw! He dropped me and a French couple off at the Great Western Hotel and Rodeo, which doubled as the arena and a restaurant. Unfortunately, we’d have to walk back to the hostel when the rodeo ended at 10 pm unless we could find a ride.
At the event, we bought some steak sangers (Aussie for sandwich) and drinks for dinner. It was literally meat between two slices of buttered white bread. You could also add grilled onions to it for free. Was this how the Aussies did cowboy food? Where were the barbecue ribs, baked potatoes and corns on the cob?
The French girl saw two German girls at the rodeo who were also staying at the YHA. She asked if they could give us a ride back to the hostel after the show, but they said no because they didn’t know how to rearrange their camper van to fit us. This, I think, was bullshit but whatever. It is beyond me how you can let three people walk 30 to 45 minutes in the cold when we’re all going to the same place.
However, that’s beside the point. The rodeo was the point of this post, and the rodeo was pretty well awesome. It felt very American with all the tight jeans, big belt buckles, boots and hats strutting around the place. I swear I even saw Colonel Sanders in attendance! People watching was almost as good as the events. Even the music was American country music. There were only a few ways to tell that I was in Oz: 1) accent of the announcer and 2) brands of beer on tap.
We had a great night of rodeo and watched several different events, including barrel racing, bronco busting and bullriding. It was shocking to see how young some of the competitors were (around 5 years old, I think), but they all seemed to enjoy what they did. The event seemed well-organized and there weren’t many delays, even though they were working with unpredictable animals. At one point, a bull charged the fence separating the participants from the spectators. When it saw the fence, it tried to stop quickly and ended up spraying the people with dirt. Nice.
|Slide Album: Rockhampton Rodeo|
In the end, I had a great time at the rodeo, experiencing a real one for the first time with other first-timers. I found myself marveling at the similarities shared by Australia and America, especially when it comes to the cowboy persona. Both countries seem to view themselves as fiercely independent, rugged and pioneering. Both have their fair share of battles against nature, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. Both would probably consider themselves to be hearty people of the earth who must fight for everything they have. But, despite the similarities, I was also discovering that the people and nations couldn’t be more different.