I grew up on a farm in the rural town of Kangaroo Ground in Victoria, where black mud, living off the land and early rises were an innate part of life. This lifestyle placed hard work in my veins from a very young age, but also made me hungry to explore life off the beaten track.
Slowly this hunger manifested itself into my career where my passion for travel is sated through my creative endeavours.
Track forward many years, now a Bondi Beach local, I got a phone call from Robson Green’s production team in the UK, asking me if I could jump on a plane tomorrow and fly out to Alice Springs for Discovery Network’s Adventure series in the red centre. My answer was of course, FUCK YES!
Upon landing at Alice Springs airport, I jumped into the ute and drove 428 km along the red sandy roads that felt like never ending mirages, till we reached the gates of the Kings Creek Station. A working cattle and camel station in the middle of Watarrka National Park, and also the largest exporter of wild camels in Australia.
It was hot, dry and breathless and at this point. I would have typically started to develop anxiety from being that far inland and away from the ocean, but the sheer and vast beauty of the arid dessert clutched at my soul in a way I honestly hadn’t expected.
Here we meet Ian Conway, the station boss, who's whole aesthetic was as rugged as the terrain he’d built his life on back in the early 80’s. He explained over 750,000 wild camels are roaming Australia's dessert, damaging terrain, poisoning water supplies and over eating what little flora the desert had to offer. Ian explained that he and his motley crew step into to do all they can to prevent the destruction. It was only then in the midst of hearing this conversation that I realised things were about to get interesting.
Two choppers, three buggies, two quad bikes, one ute and a dirt bike later and it was official. I was on my first camel muster.
The choppers head out to find the herds and drive them back towards the rest of the crew hiding in the shrub. Eventually, you hear the humming of the choppers, then a thundering noise and then... It happens.
His team came out of hiding as a herd of close to 100+ camels doing nearly 65km/h race past us. I was riding with the boss, who felt to me like the godfather of the desert & camel trade, as he waited patiently for just the right time.
Ian starts yelling, throws the ute into gear and accelerates over the ridge! Choppers are flying at eye level, motorbikes are ducking and weaving in front of us, camels are all around us, and my heart is jumping out of my chest.
After a solid few hours of nail-biting, adrenaline racing camel mustering, the Kings Creek Station crew had successfully rounded up the herd and secured them in the yard.
The team were covered in red dust, sweaty and telling tales of close shaves during the pursuit of these infamous camels. It became very apparent to me that these men lived for this, and like a surfer who just got barreled, they couldn't wipe the smile from their faces.
Later, I had asked the Boss where all his crew had come from, as Kings Creek is as remote as you can get. He said that they had accidentally stumbled across the station while travelling around Australia and just never left. He also said I was the first woman to go in a Kings Creek camel muster and that I should be pretty chuffed. I was.
The point of the story – go where other people won't.
Words & Photographs by Emma Metcalf // @emma_metcalf