There are plenty of cattle stations on Cape York Peninsula – most of them welcome visitors, some offer the chance to stay a while and do some work. It’s a seven-day working week in tough conditions – very hot in the dry season and the wet will challenge even the hardiest of souls.
But if you do get the chance to spend some time on a station, grab it with both hands. You’ll get a real feel for what it’s like to live on the Cape – it’s a very different experience from even the most adventurous Cape York holiday. When cattle station folk start telling you about the daily challenges they face, you will begin to wonder why they stay here. But despite the hardships, they stay because they love the place and the way of life they’ve created for themselves. You’ll often hear the phrase “the Cape is in my blood”.
That’s certainly the case for Freddy Christiansen at Watson River Station, 140 kilometres south-east of Weipa. Freddy and his family have an association with far north Queensland and the Cape going back to the 1930s. Freddy has done it all, including his fair share of old-fashioned cattle droving from Kings Plains station, further south near Cooktown.
These days, Freddy starts before dawn, seven days a week working for friends at Watson River. He does it because he can – not because he he has to. Freddy is 74 this year, and has no intention of retiring. He tried it once but didn’t much care for it.
In the days before our visit, the Watson River folk had done a few all-night shifts fighting scrub-fires, a common hazard this time of year and just part of life on a remote FNQ cattle station. Listen to Freddy Christiansen talking to the ABC’s Charlie McKillop.