Life of Di is spent in camel sad­dles

Gatton Star - - Life -

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.

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