20/05/2015 So far in our travels, we hadn’t considered Farm Stays as a camping option. But while looking for a site at Roma, we came across a farm stay just out of town that provided power and facilities, and a canopy of stars at night thrown in for no extra charge. Meadowbank Farm Stay is provided on a working cattle property along with a private museum of historical implements and artefacts. The farm was in its third year of drought and doing it tough, and we were glad to be able to do what little we could through our site fees.
The camp proved to be so pleasant and peaceful that we stayed on for a couple of days to allow time to look around Roma and reacquaint ourselves with the town. Career opportunities had taken us and our young sons to Roma in late 1988 and we stayed for four years. It was interesting to be back again after twenty or so years to see how the town had changed in that time.
The most noticeable change resulted from the boom in the oil and gas industries. Roma has long been associated with oil and gas, but with the recent boom, signs of it were everywhere you looked. On the outskirts of town, donga cities for fly-in-fly-out workers were enormous. Just about every second vehicle on the road sported company logos associated with resources industries, and the customary clothing was Hi-Vis. I must say, though, despite the apparent money tied up in plant and machinery, on the face of it Roma didn’t appear to display obvious financial benefits of the resources boom. There were certainly a lot of new industry-specific businesses around town but apart from them, the place looked not much different from when we lived there. I hoped that some of the money was staying locally. It wasn’t clearly obvious.
The Roma Saleyards is the largest cattle selling facility in the southern hemisphere and is a national icon having held the mantle of Australia’s largest selling centre for a number of years, with over 12,000 head per sale. Every Tuesday, the saleyards hosts the biggest Store Cattle sale in Australia and we went along to check it out. The raised walkways above the cattle pens provided an excellent vantage point from which to watch the auctioneers and buyers, and the roustabouts handling the movement of cattle through a maze of pens and gates. Viewed from above, it was a surging mass of cattle heads and rumps moving to the conductors’ batons, although the conductors wore jeans and weathered Akubras and waved poles with fertilizer bag ends. It was still just as synchronised and fluid. It was an amazing sight. Di tried not to think about what the future held in store for these beasts with the big sad eyes, and we fought the urge to take the cutest one home with us. I must admit that I kept imagining what nice floor rugs they would all make.
Roma boasts hundreds of iconic Bottle Trees. The largest with a massive 9.5 metre girth is reputed to be well over 150 years old. We visited the striking 3D clay mural that depicts the history, industry and culture of Roma and its district, The Big Rig memorial to the pioneers of Australia’s oil and gas industry, and the little house we lived in for the short time we were Roma-ns.
On our last afternoon we spent a very enjoyable time playing Sequence and Sumoku with Leonie and Dave, fellow caravanners, who we hope to meet up with again around Winton. With the van restocked with provisions, we continued on our way west after two enjoyable days on Pat’s cattle farm.