Story contributed by Jannene and Graham Cannard, Pichi Richi Camel Tours
Written by Tarla Kramer
Jannene and Graham Cannard of Pichi Richi Camel Tours have given tourists the taste of bush tucker since 2006, but there’s one thing you won’t find on the menu: camel.
The Pichi Richi camel story began in 2000, when Jannene was living in the Adelaide Hills and working as a nurse. “A friend rang me up one day and said she was going to visit her camels. I always used to call her my freaky friend who lives with camels; she had a shed that she lived in on her property and she lived with them in her shed – I still wouldn’t go that far. Anyway they’d gotten too big for her shed so she’d moved them back up to the place that she’d bought them from, which was Graham’s family’s property near Silverton NSW, and she went up once a month to visit them.” The friend invited Jannene to join her on this particular weekend, on a camping trip to see the camels, and as Jannene had the weekend off she agreed. It so happened that Graham also happened to be home that weekend, and not somewhere on the racing circuit; “it wasn’t planned, it was just meant to be I think,” she says. “And we went out on a moonlight camel ride and that was it, I was hooked; on camels and Graham.”
“We sort of to and fro’ed a little bit, and then he rang me up one day from Broken Hill and said that he was coming down to visit, ‘to court’ was actually what he said, and he was bringing me a gift; and I thought ‘you beauty’; could be art, could be jewelry, could be something really nice. And he arrived two weeks later, which in Graham world is normal time, with a baby bull camel that I kind of looked at and went ‘what on earth am I going to do with that?’ and he promptly declared that it was the beginning of our camel farm and proposed.
It took a few years to get going of course, and the pair lived in the Adelaide Hills while looking for a suitable property and training up a new set of camels, as Graham only had racing camels. They found a place outside Quorn and moved there January 2003, along with baby Cody, the first of their three sons. In 2004 they had their first customers arrive for camel rides.
The baby bull camel Graham gave to Jannene is still with them; he is known as Grumpy, “after Graham, not because of his temperament.”
“One of our biggest marketing hurdles is getting people past the mindset that camels are nasty, dirty, bitey, horrible, spitty animals. They’re big animals and they make lots of noises, and so I think that people think that they’re scary. They’re not, and they don’t spit. So I’ve always intended to make the camels look friendly and happy and gentle, with lots of pictures of kids with camels, so people can see that they’re really not that scary. And we really want them to love the camels that they ride.”
In 2006 the first Camel to Candlelight Dinner went out, with tourists given the opportunity to combine a camel ride with a three-course bush food meal, and it was also Jannene’s opportunity to combine two of her loves.
“I love bush food, I cook it for my family, I cook it for anyone who walks in the door; we have it on a regular basis as part of our normal diet.” Most of their customers are from overseas, and they are so interested in the day-to-day life of the Cannard family, that the idea of the bush food menu just sort of grew.
Jannene developed many of the recipes herself as the few bush food cookbooks around tended to use ingredients from the tropics, so she has had to adapt regular recipes, for example Beef Wellington, which she has put kangaroo into. Bart Brooks is chef on these tours, so some of the recipes are his. Some of the foods found on their menu is yabby, from their dams; bush tomato, wattleseed, macadamia, quandong , lemon myrtle and wild lime.
There’s no camel though. “We eat camel but not our own. Camel’s a really nice meat, I don’t have any qualms about eating camels, I thinks it’s a massive resource in Australia that is sadly going to waste, and I think that there should be a huge market for it because it’s a beautiful meat, really low in fat. But we don’t serve it because people tend to not want to eat the animal they’ve just ridden in on and hopefully fallen in love with.”
For more info about Pichi Richi Camel Tours, please visit http://www.pichirichicameltours.com/