Among Friends

Words and photos by Carlisle Rogers

Natural hospitality is the hallmark of Bullara Station.

At first glance, Bullara Station is just another dusty west coast damara sheep property. But to stick with that kind of interpretation would be to belie the deep beauty that resides here.
The second we turned off Burkett Road onto the Bullara property, I heard Kris, our camera operator, come on the radio: “Hey guys, I don’t know why, but this place just…feels good.”
Craig was on in a second, “Mate, I was just about to say the same thing!”
Tim and Edwina Shallcross have been taking in tourists at Bullara for about three years, but their operation has all of the charm and hospitality of staying with friends. You don’t feel like a customer, but a guest.

Top to bottom: Tim takes Craig for a spin in the shorty Patrol. While bullcatchers are great for hooning around in, their real purpose is to help during mustering, giving the jackeroo a fast, safe way to guide cattle.
Tim puts out hay for the cattle. In this arid climate, they could survive on grazing alone, but the hay helps fatten them up.
Dirtbikes and spare parts litter the ground in front of a repurposed shed.

At first glance, Bullara Station is just another dusty west coast damara sheep property. But to stick with that kind of interpretation would be to belie the deep beauty that resides here.
The second we turned off Burkett Road onto the Bullara property, I heard Kris, our camera operator, come on the radio: “Hey guys, I don’t know why, but this place just…feels good.”
Craig was on in a second, “Mate, I was just about to say the same thing!”
Tim and Edwina Shallcross have been taking in tourists at Bullara for about three years, but their operation has all of the charm and hospitality of staying with friends. You don’t feel like a customer, but a guest.
And while Tim still runs a healthy mob of damara sheep on the 110,000 hectare property, tourism is the growth industry in this part of the world these days.
There are immaculate rooms you can stay in, dubbed the shearer’s quarters but far nicer than any real life shearing accommodation, replete with polished cement floors and corrugated iron walls. The camping has plenty of shady trees scattered around, and neat, functional, communal fire rings. The camp kitchen is simple but accommodating, and everything looks the part, including the random Shetland pony that comes wandering through our campsite one afternoon.
The shearing shed here dates back to the days when they didn’t use finished timber for posts, just debarked trees with the limbs lopped.
I have always loved driving around in dodgy cars, and Tim had three different bullcatchers lined up next to one of the workshop sheds. The two that ran were a white Jackeroo with crumbling shadecloth for a roof and a red Patrol shorty with everything but seats and steering wheel stripped out. I took the shorty for a run around the property before Craig jumped in to go round up a few cows with Tim, who drives it like he stole it, kicking up dust and dodging tree stumps.

Tim and his daughter enjoy sunset on a sand blow

Top to bottom: The Bull Bar is a classy place to cook dinner and have a cool beer.
The old shearing shed with 1920s timbers, literally whole trees with just the limbs lopped off.

Vital Stats:

Bullara Station is 1260km north of Perth and 60km north of Coral Bay, (08) 9942 5938,
www.bullara-station.com.au
Camping costs $12/adult and $6.50/child (3-11 years old), all sites are unpowered but generators are permitted.

Through everything I’ve experienced on this trip, one thought recurs every night as I look back on the day behind me: soon this will all be gone. Eras are always ending. Our parents’ eschatology was about the things they were nostalgic for. Our endings are of things we haven’t had time to miss yet. Future Shock is here, that unsettling experience of the world changing faster and faster each instant. Forty years ago, the Nullarbor and the Stuart highways were dirt journeys, instead of the long boring paved vessels they have become. An old woman at Three Mile remarked that this part of the world was still special because it reminded her of what it was like to travel around Australia 40 years ago. “When the Nullarbor had bulldust holes so deep they would turn you around back to Perth!”
Bumper stickers on every pub wall declare that the only true wilderness is between a Greenie’s ears. Maybe this cynical truism is accurate. There is less and less ‘true wilderness’ in the world. And if things don’t change, the only nature left will be human nature.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, Tim took us along one of the fence lines that runs away from the house. As the track rose imperceptibly, the undergrowth thinned, and soon we found ourselves perched atop a blood red sand blow overlooking the country around for miles in every direction.
Tim’s daughters run around the place, this small parcel of their back garden, and they know it well. He brings them up here in the bullcatcher to watch the sun set and I’m hit with one of those little pangs of guilt. When was the last time I rounded up my kids for a short journey with no other purpose than to watch the sun set? We sit on the crest of the hill drinking a few cold beers and talking about the simple pleasure of living off, living in, and living with the land.
“People come here,” Tim says, “to get away from the Coral Bay crowds. We are pretty much smack in between Coral Bay and Exmouth, and only half an hour from Ningaloo Reef.”
Bullara actually runs all the way up to the base of the Exmouth Gulf, where Tim takes visitors to catch Mangrove Jack whenever he gets a chance.
“I just love being able to run a property like this, to spend one day mustering sheep and the next taking people fishing among the mangroves. It’s really satisfying.”
That evening, we lit a fire in an old wheel hub with a few sheets of corrugated iron for a wind block and reflected on everything Tim and Edwina had said, and everything we’d seen.
Whether you want to see what life on a working station is like, or you just want affordable accommodation near the reef, there is more to Bullara than meets the eye. And I think it comes out of the love that Tim and Ed have for the land. That respect flows through to the quality of the accommodation, to the awesome outdoor hot shower they’ve rigged up under the water tank, powered by an old wood-fired donkey, to their gentle hospitality towards every guest.