Life of Di is spent in camel saddles
AT ONE time 70 camels roamed the property of Di Zischke and her husband.
These days it is far less but her love of camels only continues to grow.
Di has always loved the outback, riding horses and camels were a big part of that, and at 70 years old she said she “hopes to die in the saddle”.
“I was born and raised on the land,” she said.
“My father had me riding a horse before I was born.
“It has been the most constant thing in my life.”
Di has always lived in Coominya, only moving to a different area in Coominya when she married.
“I love Coominya with all its trees,” she said.
When Di was 16, her father died and her mother made the decision to pack up herself and the children (Di and her two younger brothers) and move to Brisbane.
But Di was not having any of that, determined that she was not moving.
“No way, I couldn’t live in town,” she said.
She said she was fairly determined and fairly capable, so despite her mother’s objection, she moved in with a family on a property nearby, Frank and Lydia Zischke and their son Cedric.
The two families had always been close and in 1961 when Di was 18, she and Cedric married.
“We had been going out together when I was 16, we waited until I was 18 and then we married,” she said.
In 1963 they welcomed their first child but that didn’t stop Di from working on the land and riding horses until two months before their daughter was born.
“I could ride before so when you have ridden all your life there isn’t a danger,” she said.
She said as soon as all three of her children were able to, they were also riding horses.
They really know you and they are much more faithful than, say a horse. They love their owners.
While Di loved horses, she had always had a love for camels although she does not know where that love comes from.
She said she pestered her father for a camel for years and also pestered her husband for one.
“They have the intelligence of about an eight-year-old,” she said.
“They really know you and they are much more faithful than, say a horse. They love their owners.”
Her love of camels grew through the years and into a love of camel racing and camel trekking.
“One of the first places I raced at was at the Gatton Show,” she said.
“We raced at shows all over the place which was probably at the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s.
“We also raced at the Magic Millions.”
Camel racing isn’t something you see at shows anymore and Di thinks that is because not many people are prepared to work the hard yards to do so.
Although not functioning anymore, Di had set up her own camel racing complex on her property.
“No one had the team to put in, the time, the effort, I could put 25 on the track – only Noel Fullerton could match that,” she said.
Noel Fullerton was Di’s travel partner on her first camel trek, a 14 day trip through Alice Springs.
Since that first trip when she was 40, Di said she has trekked extensively, covering 40,000km.
“I have trekked for the last 30 years in the Australian deserts,” she said.
Some of her treks lasted months at a time while on her own, many people asking how she did it.
Di’s story and others like hers have been chronicled in a new book called Outback Heroines by Sue Williams.