Kings Creek Station, NT
Droving cattle is in Ian Conway’s blood and, at Kings Creek Station, he has realised his dream.
Nestled at the foot of the spectacular George Gill Range in the heart of central Australia, Kings Creek Station is the realisation of a dream of modern-day pioneers Ian and Lyn Conway. Back in 1981, Ian and Lyn purchased the 800,000ha property and lived under a tree for five years with their two young children, without electricity or running water. Their third child, daughter Sally, was also born here.
"Times were tough," Ian said thoughtfully. "But I love this land, it’s in my blood. My grandfather was the first settler in this area at the turn of the last century. My ancestry is both Aboriginal and European and can be traced back six generations."
His weathered face is a testament to the many harsh conditions he’s faced over the years. Losing his mum at the age of 18-months-old and a warden of the state for three years, Ian’s start to life was anything but easy.
"My father was a drover for Sir Sidney Kidman and would be off droving for 12 months at a time. My dad and I had no proper home until I was 16. I grew up in and around Alice Springs, living off the land," he said.
"My dream was to establish a cattle property. The only money we had we used to sink a well but it was a dud. Water is essential to do anything around here so it was a major setback. My brother-in-law was willing to lend us some money and, this time, we struck liquid gold.
"I started off catching wild camels and this developed into a business with interest from people all over the globe. Filmmakers got wind of what we were doing here and wanted to make documentaries – more than 80 documentaries have been filmed here. We also hosted Australian Geographic’s fourth expedition and the world-renowned Australian Safari stayed at the station."
This was the beginning of Kings Creek Station, now a successful cattle and camel station with a variety of accommodation and tours for tourists who come from all over the world to experience this outback place of inspiration where the adventure never ends. Tours include camel rides, quad bike adventures and scenic helicopter flights. The most recent addition is the Dreamtime Escarpment – luxury glamping accommodation in a stunning outback location.
Running a station as well as a tourist venture requires a group of exceptional people. "As a boss, I can’t survive without a good team behind me − the success of anyone’s story is their staff," Ian said. "I treat people the way I want to be treated. I like to think of my staff as one big family."
I had the opportunity to meet with two staff members who were more than willing to share their exciting stories.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Twenty-three-year-old Becc Lane studied a Diploma in Tourism, graduating in 2012, which included a one-month placement at El Questro in the Kimberley, WA. Returning to her home town of Traralgon, Vic, she soon got itchy feet again and applied for a position at Kings Canyon Resort where she worked for two years.
"I arrived on January 8 when it was 40°C," she said with a smile. "My first duty was breakfast, which meant getting up at 4.45am."
It’s obvious Becc is not the type of person to complain, taking it all into her stride and enjoying the experience.
"I got to do a bit of everything," Becc said. "But after two years, I was ready for a change." Someone encouraged her to consider a job at the station where she’s now worked and lived for three months.
"It’s like family here. We all look after each other." With 20 staff from many different nationalities, the station is a fascinating place
During her short time here, she’s been asked to manage the reception area which is right up her alley. In her spare time, which is short in supply, she volunteers with the local SES.
BEYOND ALL LIMITS
After an exhilarating ride in the Kings Creek Station helicopter with Mitch Watson as my highly experienced pilot, I was curious to find out when he first took to the skies.
"I was 16 when I took my first flying lesson," Mitch said with a smile. "And I haven’t looked back since." Completing his training at the Helicopter Group in Moorabbin, Vic, he acquired both commercial plane and helicopter licences.
"Last July, I was given the opportunity to fly helicopters at Uluru which has been an unforgettable experience," he said. "Once I completed 50 hours at ‘the rock’, I joined the rotating roster for Kings Creek Station – two weeks at the station, six weeks at Uluru."
Mitch enjoys flying from the station. "There are five helipads around the property which require different approaches. This is an incredible place to build your skills."
Of course, living at a remote cattle station also comes with its challenges. "As tough as it might be, the experience you get is amazing."
When I mention Ian, Mitch’s eyes lit up. "He’s a fantastic leader, full of energy, passionate, motivated and an incredibly hard worker."
Chopper Mitch, as he’s known at the station, loves to show visitors the breathtaking views from the cloudless outback skies.
- Kings Creek Station is 36km from Kings Canyon, 280km from Uluru and about 300km from Alice Springs via dirt or 450km on the blacktop via the Lasseter Highway.
- Grassed and non-grassed campsites are available with or without power. Amenities include toilets, showers and laundry facilities with access to a swimming pool.
- Sites suitable for side-fold campers are limited so contact Kings Creek Station prior to booking.
- Phone (08) 8956 7474 or visit www.kingscreekstation.com.au for more.
VisCheck out the full feature in issue #103 June 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.it www.ntlis.nt.gov.au/roadreport or phone 1800 246 199 for the latest road conditions.