Sunday morning we said our goodbyes to Robyn and Neil, who were heading west to Bunbury for their grandsons first birthday. Camooweal Billabong had been highly recommended by a number of the campers we had met and so this was to be our next stop. We travelled through the Lake Eyre Basin, in parts the trees, grass and shrubs all very green while the massive flood plains (approximately 40 kilometres of road) were treeless and dry. The cattle and horses were mainly grazing the floodplains in fenced paddocks.
Then we arrived at the Camooweal Billabong, with almost every space on the water taken by some style of camper, the vision was amazing; campers as far as the eye could see! We drove up and down the track a couple of times before deciding where to set up camp.
We had barely unhitched the van when 36 black swans cruised past us, then the pelicans, about 3 or 4 different types of duck, gannets, brolgas and herons. We sat in awe observing the bird life and making acquaintance with our nearest neighbours, Shirley and Luke and their 2 cute Shih Tzu dogs (Recycled Teenagers in scripted on the back of their van). As the ad goes ‘This is living!’.
The next morning Derick came to the door to say we have visitors, and on venturing outside we were surrounded by cattle visiting the billabong for a drink. They are very comfortable with us humans, we took photos , spoke to them, and they just looked as if to say ‘this is our water hole, not yours’.
Camooweal had a population of 310, is part of the Mount Isa City Council and in the early days was a favourite spot for the drovers and teamsters to camp and meet under the mature Coolibah Tree about 200 metres west of the town. These meetings and yarns have grown into the Camooweal Drovers Camp Festival held annually on the 4th weekend in August.
We visited the Drovers Camp (free of charge), and a retired drover by the name of Stumpy took a small group of us (8) on a guided tour of the camp, through the drovers museum and hall of fame. Stumpy is a story teller, and his tour would have to be one of the best guided tours I have ever been on. The population of the town of Camooweal swells by 2500 to 3000 for the Festival weekend, there is a street parade, charity fund raising race and a ball on the opening day, Friday. Saturday and Sunday are filled with bronco branding, country music, poetry recitals and photographic displays and a race meeting.