The distance between Airlie Beach and Rainbow Beach is so vast that Oz Experience incorporate a compulsary stop into the timetable. I have another one coming up at 'Surf Camp' (guess what I'll be doing there!) but this one was at Kroombit Cattle Ranch, a real working cattle ranch which has converted some of its stables - yes stables - into comfortable (???) sleeping quarters for 8, so that's 1 horse to 8 humans!
The ranch is 40,000 acres, has 10,000 head of cattle, 1,000 horses and loads of goats but it's having major problems at the moment finding experienced hosemen as 2 mines have opened up locally which are offering much higher salaries than the ranch can ever offer. As a consequence they have had to resort to using a helicoptor to muster their cattle.
Here's an interesting fact - after 150 years of farming European cattle the farmers have now started farming an Indian variety called Braman (hopefully spelt correctly). They have switched because the Braman is hardier, has a better survival rate, are immune to ticks and has a larger lower intestine so can digest their food more slowly. In addition they are more placid than their european counterparts, tolerate humans and are followers which makes mustering much easier. You can't help but wonder why it took them so long to recognise this!
We arrived at the ranch as the sun was setting (so as this is Aus that would be 5pm!) and the first thing that hit us was just how cold it was. As the objective is to live and eat like real cattle ranchers we had to eat our beef (obviously!) dinner huddled round real fires and in the morning we had beans in a tin dish. The emphasis of your time at Kroombit is to have 'FUN' but it is just a little bit too contrived and the organisers hearts don't seem to be in it. The organisers are all travellers themselves and I don't know if it's because of the harsh conditions but they all seem a wee bit aggressive, especially when they have a drink inside them! That said there were a number of activities that I really enjoyed and had a go at. I tried cracking the whip, granted I couldn't quite get the elbow action right but I did achieve at least one crack which will do for me. I also participated in a team competition where you caught a goat and pretended to brand it (we actually came second in that event) and then I went for a long walk around the ranch.
Fortunately Fran and Jess, 2 of the girls I met at Airlie Beach, were also on the trip so we hung out together moaning about the cold and the horrible organisers etc. - all good fun!