Cobbold Gorge is a narrow crack in the sandstone plains of Robin Hood Station, around 6-7 hours drive north west from Townsville.
The Gorge grew over a long period of time, water slowly seeping through the cracks, washing away sediment and eventually gouging a way through the sandstone as the young (in relative terms) gorge grew.
And then in only the early 1990’s was it “discovered”, fully formed.
It is a remarkable sight, well worth the time to travel into its depths by silent electric boat, the Savannah Guides revealing many of it secrets (even if not the resident freshwater crocodiles on the day we visited).
Cobbold Gorge is home to another secret too, another that grew little by little before popping into existence in recent times.
Camp Cobbold is the brainchild of dynamic mother/daughter duo Katerina Keogh and Min Jones, and takes place at the Cobbold Gorge campgroup/resort (neither label seems quite enough on its own) each September/October. Backed by SU Qld and with the support of a diverse range of volunteers, it is an amazing gift of generosity to isolated northern Queensland cattle farming families who daily do battle with the trials of distance, drought and disadvantage.
Camp Cobbold can’t possibly fix all of those immense challenges, but it offers the families that come a few days of respite, the social interaction so limited by isolation, and access to a range of experiences and services brought by the camp team that are normally not readily accessible.
In 2013 around 40 families came, with about 120 kids and their (mostly) mums living at Cobbold Gorge for 5 days.
My family were privileged to be among them, joining a team of 30 from Toowong Uniting Church to convoy north and offer our support and assistance for the week.
Our camp-week seems to have disappeared into a heat haze of over-powered memories. Dirt and dust. Flies and wallabies. Heat and harshness. Smiles and tears. Fun and games.
Resilient, fighting, fun-loving people.
Gorgeous kids who at one moment seem just like any other (city) kid, but in the next reveal their different context by declaring their favourite activity to be “shooting pigs with dad”.
Many will leave home at age 11 or 12 to go to boarding school, likely not to return.
And with one failed wet season after another, the earth is parched, the cattle withering, sale price of cattle not even covering the cost of transport to market.
It’s heart-break upon heart-break.
And yet, despite those realities that lie beneath daily life, Camp Cobbold is a place of celebration, of laughter, of joy.
A place of renewed and restored relationships, of learning and discovery, of new experiences.
And that’s exactly the point of it all….at least as I understand it.
The team that traveled north to help with Camp Cobbold was diverse, professional services like speech therapy, physiotherapy and counselling, joining practitioners such as beauty therapists, swimming coaches, poets and youth workers.
The team offered a lot, gifted a great deal to the families of the north; and their work and generosity is to be celebrated.
But to be honest, every one of us gained so much more in return that it hardly seems like a fair deal.
We learned so much about ourselves, so much about the nation we live in, and so much about the people we share it with, I’m pretty sure I know who gets the best of the arrangement.
Thanks SU Qld, Cobbold Gorge and Toowong Uniting Church for making space for us to join you for the week. But thanks most of all to the families of North Queensland cattle stations who welcomed us, forgave our uneducated city ways and extended friendship and welcome.
Any time you can visit Cobbold Gorge would be pretty special, but in Camp week it’s something else entirely.