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I am alive. Just busy keeping busy.

It Has Been a Mad Fortnight-Part One

Well, I’ve hitched a few thousand kilometres and had a big week in Rockhampton, and a huge New Years Eve back in Cooktown.

So I should tell you about it and thank the friends, family and random people who helped me along the way.

It all started during a long, sleepless Wednesday night/Thursday morning two days before before Christmas. I had planned on staying in Cooktown for the duration & heading down after New Year, but I got pining for family…

Thursday 23 December 2011

I sorted out my pack with a minimal change of clothes & my toothbrush etc. I made sure I had socks & me walking boots & some basic first aid too. And plenty of undies. The plan was to hitch out at about three in the arvo. Then I got drinking with the crew πŸ˜‰ . At about 7:30 in the evening I rang my mate Alan, who owns Country Road Coachlines. His business services the Cooktown district, as well as Laura and Weipa. It happened that he was running a special to Cairns in the morning for a bunch of the Banana farmers, and was happy for me to jump on in the morning.

Jazz, Maddy, McGee after a big night

Jazz, Maddy, McGee after a big night

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This pic is of Jazz, Maddy & McGee the morning after. We had managed about 2 hours sleep between 5 and 7am. The night was also a farewell for Maddy as she scored a job with AAT Kings out at Uluru/Yulara. We love you Maddy & miss your guts πŸ™‚

Friday 24 December 2011

So, on Christmas eve at about 9am, with ten bucks & half a pack of rollies & my backpack & boots, I jumped on the bus & headed to Cairns.

We got into Cairns about one-thirty in the afternoon.
Alan, the owner of Country Road Coachlines dropped me out to the Southside of Cairns near Sheridan Plaza, and gave me $100 as an early Christmas present. Thx mate πŸ™‚

That got me some smokes & a feed to start with. Oh, if you haven’t eaten Hungry Jacks for a while, the burgers seriously taste like a handful of fat. Bleh…

I started off down the highway & a nice girl stopped & picked me up. I thought it a bit strange until a 4wd pulled in behind her carrying more of her family πŸ™‚
She took me to Gordonvale & said if I got to talk to one of the blokes from Troncs transport, I should mention her because her husband works for them & I should be able to get a ride to at least Innisfail.
I walked out to the other side of the Mulgrave River to a good hitching spot and stuck out my finger.
After about an hour or so I got a lift with two gentlemen who were heading to Mission Beach for Christmas. We had a great yarn about spirituality, and they gave me some beautiful mangoes to take with me. They dropped at the North side of Innisfail & I headed off to the other side of town.

I stood at the turn-off for hours without a lift and decided to hike out to the BP servo, about four kilometres further out. However,it was closed when I got out there. There was a caravan park just up the road, so I waited there in the hope someone might pick me up.
It was getting close to midnight by the time someone stopped. Four folk in a magna had been heading to Cairns from Townsville earlier in the afternoon & had seen me. They were on their way back & stopped for me. So, after an enjoyable ride,we arrived in Townsville about 3am Christmas morning…
To be continued…

Things I See or Three Days of Solitude

Of course this is long! That’s why you could make coffee while the page loaded πŸ˜‰
I was trying to think of a catchy title, but all the ideas I had were a bit clichΓ©, or just plain weird. For example, ‘Visions of the Tropics’, or ‘My Eyefood’. Then I digresssed and this post became somewhat long and emotional.

Anyway, I’m sitting at Walker Bay beach in the car. I’ve got the pig cooking a fish and vegetable broth. The dogs are under the car, resting and chewing on bones after a run on the beach. It’s around 4pm.

A lone seabird flies North over a steel grey ocean. An approaching early Summer storm flashes and rumbles an ominous greeting. Sol has retreated behind rain filled clouds. The rain has started. Just a gentle drizzle, but although the temperature has cooled slightly, the humidity is wicked.
The pig protects the fire from the rain,so my fish and vegetable broth still simmers gently, aromas of reef fish, sweet potato, pumpkin and herbs waft into the car.

The sea has flattened. Perfectly formed small waves are rolling onto the shore. The lightning charged clouds have headed North West and the sun is almost breaking through.

As the sun sets, the wind and the seas calm further. It’s 6:40pm, but still light. The last rays of the sun are splashing pastel oranges and pinks on the clouds. The ocean is a mix of pinks and greys with shimmers of silver.

One in the morning and the clouds have cleared. The moon throws a sheen on a calm sea.

Dawn. Dead still.
The Sunbirds are serenading their mates. A lonely Cricket calls before daytime takes over.

A school of baitfish leap from the water, chased by some mystery pelagic looking for a feed.

This place is beautiful. I realise now though, that it makes me sad. I knew it as our home, but now it’s just another beach. I can’t keep away though. Too many memories, and that irrational thought that just maybe, I might wake and that horrible nightmare has ended, and she is here again.

In the morning (that’s Tuesday 13 December) I took Jack and Floyd for a long walk up the beach. I went for a swim in the shallows & tossed a stick for Jack. Floyd ran amok as usual. He loves playing with Jack & I on the beach. The Smithfield Cattle dog shows in him. He crouches low and eyes up his target, then starts to stalk and suddenly races toward his quarry! He doesn’t stop either. For a full two hours he ran backwards and forwards and up and down the beach, chasing wayward leaves, or a crab that was caught by surprise. He’s learning the stick thing too.

As we headed back to the camp, I was thinking how I hadn’t seen an eagle since I got back here early November. When we were both here, eagles would greet us wherever we went. It used to happen down South too. However, since Her funeral I hadn’t seen one. As I walked, I looked up from looking for shells and not 20 metres in front of us was an eagle on the beach harrassing a crab. It took flight and landed a little further down the beach and watched us. This time it waited until we were less than 10 metres away before it tok flight again and landed in a beach she-oak. There it stayed and watched as we continued down the beach. I saw it again, late this afternoon, cruising South over the camp to somewhere unknown.

I don’t know if I mentioned it in a previous post, but when I first came back here after Tinas funeral, I discovered that our Sunbird friends had nested at our old camp/home site.

I cooked up a hearty bean and vegetable soup this afternoon. I’ve actually been eating food almost regularly this past two days. Healthy food even. In town I was forgetting to eat, sometimes for a couple of days. I need to focus on my health more, so I don’t turn into an old man too early πŸ˜‰

After an emotional day (up and down like a yo-yo as usual), it’s 09:11pm (21:11) and I’m watching the most stunning lightning show. I just saw a freighter get struck in the channel 9 kilometres out to sea.

The wet season is nearly upon us now. Thunderstorms are common any time of day. Sudden driving rain momentarily cooling us a breeze and some rain, but in between storms the air becomes thick and still. Like a Swedish sauna. Crocodile free creeks are talked about in longing terms. An hours drive to a waterfall is well worth it this time of year. Air conditioners work overtime as locals escape the humidity and the sandflies that take over when the breeze drops.

10:50pm. (Tuesday) this lightning show is getting even more impressive. I think the Archer Point lighthouse just got struck. Three big strikes made water or vessels out on the ocean and right now I would nearly give my left leg for a good dslr! I’ve got a tripod, so I’m nearly set. πŸ™‚ The storms have been coming from the South West and look like they’ll go all night. I haven’t had much rain here, but I heard on the radio that Cooktown airport has had over 45mm today. The airport is about 20km inland from here. It looks like Cooktown itself may have copped a fair bit too.

Update 11:05pm. The most active part of this storm (that’s on land) is heading directly towards me. The wind has picked up significantly (it’s blowing). I was kind of hoping for a lightning strike on the beach, but considering how exposed this big hunk of metal is…I’m parked 20 metres off the beach next to a she-oak and not in our old protected site…I wonder what might happen ;).
Ah well, I’ll know within the hour. I’ve been watching the mountains to the South disappear in the downpour when the lightning makes the sky like daylight. The bulk of the rain is just coming over the hills on the Southern end of the bay. I’m roughly 5km from there. As the gusts increase, the cuttlefish bone I put on the roof earlier rocks. It sounds like a bird running on the roof πŸ™‚ .

11:20pm: I took the currlebone off the roof. The lightning is close enough now that I am avoiding contact with any metal on the car. Normally I would move under cover, but it’s too late to pack stuff up. I’ll just enjoy the show πŸ™‚
It’s 11:40pm, and this storm is just teasing me. The wind has dropped and there is a gentle breeze. The lightning is mainly moving of shore to the North. It’s still an excellent show though.

01:30am Wednesday 14 December

The show has moved North, so it is sleep for me.

WednesdayΒ  11:40am

The Sou’ Easter has kicked in again with 20 knot winds. The sky is clear, with some cloud forming out West. This morning was dead calm and hot. It was over 30C at 9 this morning and the March/Marsh flies & sandflies were rank. Jack, Floyd and I escaped to the water to cool down a bit. The sea was still and clear, so I swam out a bit but Floyd followed me so I went back to the shallows. He gets all panicky and tries to climb on my head the little bugger πŸ™‚ . After our walk and swim, I sharpened my knives, machete & axe, and now I’m tossing up on another swim or a nanna nap…

…and the nanna nap won.
I went for a swim after my nap,then collected some firewood for an early dinner. I got the fire going and prepared some noodles *and* rice. The pantry supplies are shrinking (roll on Friday) and I don’t have enough water left to waste on damper, so it’s very basic tonight. As I was waiting on the noodles,I listened to the news on the radio. A couple of lads got stung by irikanji jellyfish today down near Cairns. Looks like oceanΒ  swimming is off the list for now. For those who don’t know, Irikanji are a small, about the size of the end of your little finger or a large pea. They also have long trailing tentacles which pack a wallop. The initial sting is barely noticeable,but around 15 minutes later the venom lets you know! Initial treatment is to douse the sting trails in vinegar, and if stung, a visit to the hospital is generally required. Yes, Irikanji stings can be fatal.
So, I reckon my next escape from town will be down near the Little Annan crossing. No stingers, no sharks and no crocs.
πŸ™‚

I have added a few cloudscapes that entertained me on Wednesday arvo. The sun went mad with the light paint hey?

A friend popped down about 6:30 tonight. He’s heading South for Christmas in the next couple of days. I would jump a lift, but I have things I need to do in town, and a dear friend is leaving soon and I may not see her for a while. I have learnt more of the treasure we call family and friends over the past four months, and I care for this person more than I thought.Β  Maybe because I have seen the beauty inside her heart. I also think that my headspace has contributed to these feelings, so I’m not trusting my feelings too much at the moment,which confuses me even more! Anyway, Maddy has scored a job with a tour company out at Uluru! It’s official now so I can say it here πŸ˜‰
Her start date hasn’t been confirmed yet as far as I know,but it will be early new year she thinks.

Christmas in Rocky or Burrum Heads is looking doubtful at the moment because I can’t/won’t leave the dogs behind this time.
Besides, I am paying back some debts this week which will leave me pretty broke for the fortnight. I think between Christmas and New Year will be more realistic for me budget wise.
Christmas doesn’t feel good this year for me, but I’m going to miss my kids though 😦 .

8pm: Another brilliant lightning show off the coast tonight. The freighters are copping it in the channel again.

You know how I wrote about me feeling that this is now just another beach? Well, I retract that. This beach is so much more than that. This was our home because we thought it was a beautiful place. It still is, and it always will be ‘our’ home. It’s taken three days to let it all soak back into my soul and it feels good.

8:20pm: Well that was a surprise. I’ve been watching the storm out over the ocean and a real nice lightning storm has snuck up behind me. Very slow and menacing πŸ™‚ One close strike just lit up the beach and dunes,and the wind has changed direction. I’ve put the lid on the fire pig and put my dry wood under the car. This is right over me. Barely a breeze, but super impressive lightning and thunder πŸ™‚ . It’s dead quiet except for the waves and ominous rumblings in the sky…
08:30pm
…the humidity has just shot through the roof. Thunder rumbles distantly from that storm in the ocean, challenging the one above me to a contest of electrical brilliance. So far,my storm has stayed silent, no doubt building up something impressive.
My storm responds with three, then four strikes, and follows up with two more a minute later.

The sea is very calm, as is the air. Surprising really. With this much activity, I expected big rain and a lot of wind. But then,I’m used to Southern Summer storms. These pre-monsoon things are like a warning. But sometines they do dump a deluge. Official figures for Cooktown were 47mm at the airport yesterday. It’s also a time to be very,very wary of crocodiles. This sort of weather is the mating trigger. Males and females get very aggressive and territorial this time of year. No time to be creeping around river banks and swamps.

It’s nearly 9pm and my storm is firing at about a strike every 5 seconds or so on average. They’re close enough that I can feel the thunder πŸ™‚
It is getting more intense as it heads over the coast and out to sea. Now the breeze is picking up, easing the oppressive humidity.Β  The ocean is still gentle, caressing rather than slapping the sand as the small waves roll down the beach.
My storm just roared. The thunder rolled out to sea for over thirty seconds!

My storm has stretched out over the sea in much the same position as those clouds in the south facing pics below. It’s reached out to envelop the small storm and has been celebrating its success with a huge flash along the coast just south of me.

In the distance I can hear wind blowing through the she-oaks, getting closer. The sound of heavy rain on the water maybe?
After a short lull,the light show has re-intensified, the sea is keeping up its steady, gentle rythmn on the beach.

My storm has continued out across the ocean and our reef, all the while showing off its electrical energy. The clouds are breaking here on the coast, and stars are beginning to show. The Southern Cross should rise soon,as will the moon. Clouds have blocked the moon nearly every night since the lunar eclipse.

How do I describe this moon when my camera can’t?
A blood red half moon, with a few thin slivers of cloud slicing through it, looking like Jupiter.
I wish I could show you the view I have. The Moon has gone orange and is casting a golden shimmer over an almost glasslike sea.
A Dolphin shaped cloud is now leaping across the moons face.

At around 11:00pm, four friends turned up with an esky full of beer and JB bourbons. The consensus was that seeing it was my last night out here for a while, they should help me enjoy it! πŸ™‚ Well, the night was long! We had to build a few smudges around the camp to keep the mozzies at bay due to it being a very gentle Westerly breeze, which brings the biteys out of the bush.
As the night wore on it became very calm, just after dawn, the sea ‘glassed out’. On parts of the horizon, the glass sea merged seamlessly with the sky. Photos below.
A few of us went for a swim. It was low tide, so the water was only waste deep fifty metres out. Plus, the water was so still and clear that nothing suspect could be missed. We just lay in the water and enjoyed the start of a beautiful day πŸ™‚ . One of the girls was watching us from the beach and said that it looked like we were floating above the water due to the glass out. Also a testament to how clear the water was, because she was standing at least 50 metres away from us. Stunning stuff πŸ™‚

The weather began to blow from the South East around 11 in the morning. I chose to err on the side of caution and stay one more night. I did imbibe quite a bit last night πŸ˜‰ and don’t need or want a DUI conviction. Besides, it’s quieter out here and easier to sleep.

Well, that’s three/four days of my life on the Interwebz once again. If you got this far without getting too bored, I thank you.

It’s just after 10pm on Thursday nightΒ  (15 December) and I’m waiting for the moonrise once again. Tomorrow will be a busy day with paperwork to fill out and stuff. Thanks again for reading πŸ™‚
I will only post a couple of pics here. My next post will be all photos from the three days πŸ™‚ .

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20 Days

(9-11-2011) Twenty days and I haven’t done much. Friends took me out on Saturday night, but I’ve barely left the house other than to buy beer or rent DVDs.
One thing I did do is look through her art.
I’ll take some photos and post them below.
Most of you know that Floyd our pup got run over by a Jeep Cherokee on Sunday. He was sleeping under the car when it was moved. We’re guessing his front legs and chest got run over. I was asleep when it happened. Dragon had to blow air into his lungs to reinflate them. For the first 36 hours it was touch and go. Floyd couldn’t lie down without help and his chest was that sore that we couldn’t pick him up. After 48 hours he started to improve a bit. By Wednesday he was well enough that I could carry him. The vet was in town so I took him across the road for a check up. The vet checked him over and recommended an x-ray as he was concerned about a diaphragmatic hernia. Apparently it is common in these type of injuries. Anyway, I left the vet $70 poorer, but Floyd is vaccinated and wormed. Actually, I’m not poorer. My mate who ran him over insisted on paying for any expenses. It’s now Thursday (22 days?) and Floyd has his pep back, but he is still sore in the belly. Hopefully he hasn’t got a hernia because I can’t afford to take him to Mossman or Cairns, let alone pay for x-rays etc as well. I’m not going to burden my friend with potentially thousands in vet bills either.

What have I been doing besides losing sleep? Oh, that’s because Dragon and I took it in shifts to stay awake with Floyd for four days. Well, mainly i’ve been watching DVDs and cooking food. I have cut back to about 3 Sparkling Ales a day which is good. My sleep patterns are all over the shop too. I slept between 2pm and 5pm today. I keep making grand plans to go outside and see people, or tidy up the car, but I just can’t get motivated & I refuse to climb out of my comfort zone at the moment. I am acutely aware of how fragile my emotions are and I just can’t see friends I haven’t visited as yet. Especially those I used to work with. Sometimes I wonder if the next time I fall apart, will I be able to get back up.
I can see the signs of reactive depression emerging already; insomnia, then when you do sleep you don’t want to get out of bed when you wake, no interest in thing that I would normally find fun, and no motivation to do fuck all.
I know it’s happening and I’ll keep it under control without chemical big pharma anti-depressants.
One of my daughters told me, when I was in Rockhampton, that she felt like she was just waiting for mum to turn up. She just couldn’t allow herself to deal with her not coming back. I catch myself sometimes. I’ll think of something and for a split second will remember to tell my baby about it. That hurts.
I didn’t take those pics of her art. Next time.

Must See Saturday Morning near Cooktown

We had to show you these. We popped into the markets early and grabbed a big pawpaw (papaya), a dozen passionfruit, a kilo of bananas and half a dozen avocados for a total of $15.
Then we went to the beach. Barely a breath of wind and a beautiful 29 degrees. The water was crystal clear and fish were running along the gutter,30 metres offshore.

We love this place πŸ™‚

Oh. A fisherman friend dropped 10 kilos of Spanish Mackeral in yesterday arvo. Big fillets about a kilo or more each. And thick!

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It’s All About Us

Hey gang

4:20pm πŸ˜‰ Tuesday 13 September 2011
After getting cleaned up at the Dragons Lair, we headed out to Walker Bay. First we checked the North end, then headed to the South to find some shelter from the trade winds. We found a nice hidden clearing about a hundred metres (330ft) in from the beach. The thick coastal scrub just lifts the wind over our heads, but also lets the breeze flick in a little to keep things cool and fresh.

I learnt a lesson today. Tina should not have shopped by herself at the supermarket. She insisted though.
“I haven’t been in their for ages! I’ll do the shopping.”
Tina purchased some avocado, bread, tomatoes, eggs and potatoes. Cool. She also bought a tray of herbed steak, a cold chicken, some cheese kabana. Enough cold meat for three days. Cool too. Except we have no fridge or ice. πŸ™‚
Now, we could have eaten the chook last night. But…we also had two live crabs that our bama mate had given us. They were happily resting in the mangrove leaves in the old blue Styrofoam esky we’d found at the Annan.

A Quick Diversion

Bama Explained
The term ‘bama’, pronounced ‘bumma’, is the local term in both guugu yimmithir and kuku yalanji languages for person or people. However, over time it has become the respectful term for differentiating between local aboriginals and white people. White people can sometimes be referred to as migaloo (whitefella), but that’s generally reserved for tourists who travel up here around the same time as the whales migrate North. We sometimes think there was an in-joke going on when the White humpback whale was named.

Crabs
Our somewhat famous mud crabs are arguably the best tasting crabs on the planet.
Mud crabs are most commonly found in tidal saltwater, mangrove lined rivers and creeks. They’re also found in mangrove lined coast.
Now, some people may argue with me, but in our humble opinions, the best way to cook Australian Mud crab is thus:

Assuming a 1 kilogram (roughly 2lb) mud crab.
It must be alive! If you can’t get live green mud crab, ignore this and buy a cooked one.
Euthanase it.
Squeamish people avert your eyes. Either place in a freezer for an hour,or spike it between the eyes with something sharp.

Preferably get a big pot of fresh clean ocean water,about 5 litres (1.3US gal) and bring it to the boil. Immerse the crab and allow it to come to the boil again. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, then take off the heat. Let it sit in the hot water for a couple minutes, then remove and immerse in a bucket of cold saltwater.
Leave in water to cool for 15 or 20 minutes before eating.
Oh, if you put thick layers of fresh mangrove leaves in your esky with your crabs, they’ll live for days. Keep the esky in the shade and open it for fresh air a couple times a day. Replace the leaves every couple of days or so. Only mangrove though.

End Diversion

Anyway, we decided to cook and eat the crabs instead, and sacrifice the chook to the dogs in the morning.
Dinner was fresh Annan River mudcrab, boiled in Crystal clear Walker Bay ocean water. Accompanied with ripe Avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and soft multigrain bread and butter.

We went to bed early, listening to the ocean and the breeze we’d become so used to before Tina was diagnosed with the GBM.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

We both had an interrupted sleep. Tina was awake more often than me, listening to the radio and quietly shushing Jack when he barked at a hog or wallaby in the undergrowth.
I woke around 11pm. Then at some hour after that, I woke with an overwhelming urge to throw up.
After emptying my guts, I felt much better and slept til dawn, about 6:15am. Tina was fine. Not sick at all. Just not very tired.
I did something silly while cleaning up last night. It may have contributed to my sickness 😦
This morning, Tina had some steak and salad for brekky. I took our long bucket out to the beach with Jack to get some washing water. There’s a good 25 to 30 knot Sou’Easter blowing off the ocean onto the beach. Our spot in behind the 4 metre high, dense vine scrub is well protected, but the wind still rips through the canopy at the edge of the clearing, letting us feel her freshness when a gust rolls like a wave into our camp.
Which leads me to the beauty of Pig.

Pig, of whom I think you are intimately aware, provides our cooking fire, warmth and entertainment during our nights here in Paradise. Pig can contain a fire and its ash in a 20 knot wind. I reckon it could handle more though. The mesh on the vent at the bottom of Pig, Pigs Arse, holds the ash until it has completely burnt. The ash can’t start another fire outside Pig. The only evidence of Pig that you’ll see after we leave a camp after a few days, is a small pile of ash that might, but probably wouldn’t fill a 10 litre (4gal) bucket. Thankyou Legend Of The North, Pig is good πŸ™‚

Tina weighed herself Tuesday morning at the Dragons Lair. She was 67.7kg (10.6 stone 150lb).
Prior to the Dexmethsone treatment, well actually, the Thursday Tina flew from Cooktown a month ago, she weighed 58kg (9.1st or 128lb).
An extreme appetite is a common side effect of Dexmethsone. There are others as well, some quite serious. I think it is either the Dexmethsone or the omezaprole that lowers your immune defenses. We have to be careful in case Tinas system weakens.

Today will be a quite lazy day for us. We’ve gathered wood, collected water, cooked breakfast, checked the weather on the radio, and decided to do a lot of nothing today.
Images today are of The Penn rod we found washed up on the beach. Which reminds me. I forget when we’re in range to Google this rod. Do any of you fisher folk have a replacement value for it?
There is also the float we found that will be for JJ or The Legend, a few obligatory Jack and Floyd shots (puppehz izz cute), and whatever else I have a whim to show. πŸ™‚
For example, Tina dozing in her ‘Fraggle Rock’ t-shirt πŸ™‚
Pig is there with his Blue 5 litre enamel pot (another gift from Legend). See the ash pike? That’s from boiling two crabs, boiling the billy twice, pan frying steak this morning,and boiling off the crab water this morning.
OK, here is a Tina-ism. It might give you an idea of where her head is at at the moment. Her confusion with naming things is more pronounced early in the morning, or at night when she is tired.
“These guys taste pastel!”
…said whilst eating weet-bix with creamy mixed powdered milk at 10pm one night. Pastel=like cream…duh!
…and Aussie kids are weet-bix kids! Sport, team, guys…
If you don’t know weet-bix, Google them too.

Lunch time!
A Tuna salad of Avocado and raw Broccoli florets with seasonings. Too nice on a tropical Wednesday.

We have plans for next month while waiting for the Pensions to come through. First,Tina is adamant that we attend the Wallaby Creek Music and Arts Festival. We’ll get a Centrelink payment on Thursday the 22nd before Wallaby Ck, which runs from the 23rd to the 25th. The tickets will cost us around $200 for the weekend, but dogs are banned. What do we do with Jack and Floyd? I heard a place in Rossville will board dogs for the two days. Jack and Floyd would be very well behaved, but I guess rules is rules.

3:30pm. Time to sneak into town and get some non-perishable food πŸ˜‰

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Of Bandicoots Bream and Tinas Scissors

Grab a seat, this may be a long read.

Friday night, 9 September 2011
We were once again at the Dragons Lair relaxing with ale and good food. Dragon had cooked up a really nice Indian curry that was ageing nicely in our cooking pot on the electric stove.
Tina escaped early because the Friday night football marathon was on the electronic opium dispenser (aka the television).
I hung with the boys and watched a full game of Rugby League (Dragons v Tigers). Then watched most of the Tonga v New Zealand Rugby Union World Cup opener. You may think this normal for a bloke to do. You know, sit around on the piss, talking as armchair experts about game tactics and flow. Taking the piss out of Dragon as his team crumbled from a potential winning lead to a demoralizing loss. But no. I haven’t taken part in that time honoured Aussie bloke tradition in over twenty years! Well except for the odd State of Origin clash of course. But that was with mixed company and Roy & HG calling the game on JJJ. The tv provided the vision.
I poured myself into bed about 1:15am and promptly passed out. Meanwhile, at about 2:30am, the girl housemate, we shall call her L, came home. She sits down next to Tina and gives her a cuddle, “Darling, good morning. Would you like to come in for a coffee? Or a cigarette? Have you got a cigarette? ” So Tina crawled out of bed and had conversation, coffee and cigarettes with L at 3am. I wonder if they had Tom Waits playing on the CD? I slept through until 6:00am.

10 Sept 2011
Saturday morning. Market day. Mmmm…Home made pies!
At about 08:30, we grabbed a beef & a chicken with asparagus, plus a sausage roll, then headed down/up to the old Pilot jetty to give the dogs a run and to feast on our Cooktown breakfast.

A bit later on, 4’ish in the afternoon, we organised some water and groceries, then headed off to the Annan River (croc country) again. Before we left town, we grabbed two new handlines, some tackle and some bait.
We collected firewood from the track on the way in. Our firewood comes from timber dropped when they backburned up the track near Crocodile bend.
We pulled up by the river in the same spot we camped with JJ and Charline last week. I pulled Pig off the roof and we got the fire started.

Tina cooked up a chicken casserole using wings and a bunch of vegies. Yummm. The Pig did its job to perfection as usual. Just after dark I caught my first fish in ages (years actually). It was a pan sized bream. Perfect with chicken casserole! I scaled and gutted it, rubbed some salt on the skin, sprinkled herbs and spices in its belly, then laid it into the pan I’d oiled and preheated on the Pig. I let the fish sizzle for five minutes and turned it over. This was repeated four times, then the fish was laid on a plate to rest for a minute.
The skin was almost crisp, but slipped easily off the meat. The flesh was white and fell off the bones with little effort. However, it was still juicy and held its delicate sweet flavour.
Tinas verdict: “Yummy!”
Between us we ate seven chicken wings and the fish, so I guess we’re eating well πŸ˜‰

Β  Around 8pm we heard something in the undergrowth. Floyd the pup growled and barked, all the while looking between Jack on his and the mysterious monster in the bush. Jack meanwhile, just lay there looking into the scrub without any concern. We knew by his attitude that it was some sort of native animal. After we’d settled Floyd, the mystery creature became a little braver. It turned out to be a little bandicoot, so we enticed it closer with some dry dog food and fruit scraps. It came within four metres of us before finally heading back into the bush an hour or so later. Both Jack and Floyd ignored it and went to sleep. They’re good puppies. πŸ™‚

I lost half a dozen hooks through the night from the current dragging the lines into tree roots. So I pulled up about 11pm. I’ll collect them on Sunday afternoon low tide. Tina can be my croc spotter.

Sunday 11Sept. 2011
Up at 06:30. The lines went in about 7:30am after coffee. We’ve made a soup from the casserole sauce and it’s heating up. The lines have ‘telltale’ soft drink cans attached, so we can hear if they run. They’re only 20 metres away, so we shouldn’t have any dramas reaching them quickly.
I think Tina and I made a good choice with Floyd. He is showing intelligence even at this early age. He would now be just on six weeks old. He sits on command, comes when his name is called then sits at your feet, and generally shows a natural will to learn. Jack is tolerating his puppiness, but puts him in his place when needed.

It’s still only about 11:30 in the morning, but we’ve eaten a big meal and did some tidying and we’re ready for a siesta. The lines haven’t interested a crab,let alone a decent fish 😦
I’ll try a doze and a line will go. The Sunbirds are just off in the trees, two males are trying to out sing or fly each other, while the lone female follows the show, singing in approval at their displays.

I couldn’t sleep, so I went down on the bank, looking for sinkers and hooks. I found a sinker, then came across a top quality soft lure. It looks like a small greenish yellow mullet. Tina got me to hook it up to a handlines for while. So I climbed out on this big old tree that overhangs the river bank and proceeded to hand cast it out into the channel and jig it back in. The tide was on a good outrun so the lure was working well. It is internally weighted and sinks diagonally into the water, then when jogged, it make a lifeline paddle back up. A large Long Tom, full of teeth and needle like bones followed it in at one stage,but no strikes.
Then I hooked my other handline and buggered the whole show up. It took half an hour to untangle the lines while sitting over the river on tree trunk being swayed by 25 knot gusts. Then a legal size mud crab hooked up on the other tangled line. I couldn’t climb to shore to get within reach, so just hauled it two metres clear of the river before the big buck let go.
Bummer.
After untangling the lines, we rerigged and they’re out just on the edge of the channel. Maybe a big flathead might take a liking to my smelly old baits.

Low tide came and I took the opportunity to see if I could find some of my snagged tackle. I found one of my hooks and two sinkers. But I also scored half a dozen other hooks, ten sinkers and two wire traces. Score!
We’ve hooked onto our second big crab, but it too let go at the surface. I wish we had a big scoop net. We’re going to modify the long desnagging stick we have here so we can hold the next one to check its size and sex.
If all goes well you’ll see photos πŸ™‚
Tina decided a haircut was in order, so she found her Wahl brand hair scissors…let me tell you about Tina’s hair scissors. YOU DO NOT CUT ANYTHING BUT HAIR WITH THESE SCISSORS!!
Tina bought this set, a pair of thinning scissors and a pair of standard scissors about six and a half years ago. She had always wanted a set of quality hair scissors. As a mother of four kids, home hairdressing was often a necessity. Anyway, this set was on special for $85, down from $250, so Tina snapped them up.
To this day, all they’ve done is cut hair. Maybe fifty haircuts in nearly seven years. They are very cool.
A Wahl 6.5″ thinning scissorΒ  and a standard 5.5″ scissor. They are both Rockwell 57, 420 stainless steel, ICE tempered, and with a satin finish. They are super sharp.
So we both cut Tinas hair so she could see the scar and remaining stitches in photos. Check them out below.

Sunday Arvo around 15:30, or 3:30pm.
As the afternoon cruises on, one of the Sulpher Crested Cockatoos that resides in these parts flew by, screeching its signature hello on its way to somewhere unknown. A few Rainbow Lorikeets zip by, while just downstream a honeyeater calls.
Just on sunset I have the same luck. A nice break nabs my hook. I got him off and cast again. Five minutes later and bang! Something slams the line and wraps it up in the mangroves. Ah well. Another bream is good. Tuna is going to foil bake it with butter. The bandicoot is back and bolder than ever. Straight of the small rise and into the clearing. Damn! I forgot to put food and water out. I’ll do it now.

The bandicoot turned up about 6:45pm. It’s now 7:30 and it’s just on the edge of the light and the clearing, crunching a few little bits of dog food.
We’ve also just finished a superbly pan fried bream, courtesy of Tina. From hook to plate took under an hour. In environmental terms we burnt less energy catching and eating it than the fish provided us. Carbon negative? Probably not in the big picture. But it was guaranteed fresh πŸ™‚
It’s coffee time. Tina has the billy on the go. We’re also snacking on plain brand fruit tingles.Β  Nomm Nomm! They come in the bagful!

Just in case anyone is wondering, today we also paid silent respect to all civilians and others killed by acts of terrorism and/or war.

The fish have either gone off the bite, or my last bait is gone. Ah well, next time around I’ll know when and where to fish for the bream.

08:00 Monday 12 September 2011
For the first hour after dawn it was calm. Then the regular breeze kicked in again. For the first time this year, we’ve felt mozzies. Not worth a mozzies coil but noticeable.
Late yesterday arvo, a local and his two boys came down and threw their crab pots in. I offered to watch them overnight and check them occasionally. This morning I pulled out four just legal buck mudcrabs and put them in an old Styrofoam esky with some mangrove leaves. That’ll keep them stable and calm. I’ve rebaited the pots, added extra rope to one and moved the other one closer to us, and they’re back in the river. Hopefully there’ll be more in an hour or so.
Our bama friend, Eddie, came back about 9:30 this morning to check his pots. I gave him the esky with the four crabs and told him the story. He gave us two of the crabs and left the pots in, saying he’d be back between 3:30 and 4:30 this arvo. We decided to hang around til then and keep an eye on them for him.

We’re going to break camp this afternoon and make a trip to Walker Bay beach. We need to get fresh water, and we have some long lengths of bamboo down the beach that we need to cut in half and strap to the roof of Jimmy the 4wd.
We also need to move from here for another reason. Crocodiles are crafty. A croc may swim by here and take no notice of us. It may do the same thing three or four days in a row. Then one day it will watch. It will learn the habits of the food on the bank over a day or two. It will come closer. We may get lucky and see it. Or not.
We’ve already broken two rules of croc country camping.

One: camp at least 30 metres from the river bank, especially if the bank has easy access to the water. We’re half that.

Two: don’t throw your fish cleaning scraps in the water. Well, the rule is technically, ‘don’t clean your fish at the river bank’. Now that would be plain stupid. We clean the fish in our long bucket away from the river, but we toss the guts into the river. It’s probably a good thing that the tides run hard here and drag the offal away quickly.
But having said that, I’m still very croc wary because I know there is a three metre croc that hangs around 600 metres upstream, and crocodiles happily tour hundreds of kilometres a month in a river system like this.

3:30pm Monday.
Our mate turned up and grabbed his pots. No more crabs this time. Tina got coffee going and we prepared to pack up.

Now this next paragraph you can choose to believe or not, but it did happen.
I walked over to the bank with my coffee to pick up some rubbish. A splash to my left startled me. A little five foot saltie got a front and shot across the water, diving as it got to the channel.

Time to break camp.

One final note. It is exactly one month since Tina first showed signs of being sick. She is amazing. πŸ™‚

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Back to Trevathan

For those of you who have been following our lives in paradise, you may recall an early post about Trevathan Falls. If not, check it out here: http://wp.me/p14WwP-6H

Trevathan Creek and falls are surrounded by a dense rainforest environment. However,once you get about 50 to 100 metres from the creek itself, the country opens up into eucalypt forest. A lot of this land was ripped up for tin mining in years past, but it is slowly repairing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We spent Wednesday night at the Dragons Lair, enjoying the company and conversation. Of course by 10pm the conversation is oft times reduced to drunken ramblings from ex hippies, new age hippies, fisherman and bar managers.
Dragon loves his pool. So last night (Wednesday…stay on track now), he and four or five of the boys and Maddie (@mycooktown) headed to the West Coast pub for this weeks round of the three pub tournament.
We stayed at the house with Benny who was due to go to sea Thursday morning and tried in vain to get sleep and stay sober.

We crashed about 11:30pm under the side awning, wrapped up in our swag bed, but as usual we rose just before dawn and beat the birds again. Can I seriously suggest to even those of you living in a big city? Wake about half an hour before dawn. Make a tea or coffee or your preferred wake up poison, then open your windows, or find a spot where you can hear the outside world. Forget the radio and TV for an hour and just listen to your world wake up. It is very cathartic.

(Thursday 8 September 2011)
Back to the subject. We received a $200 payment from the govt, so we got fuel and smokes, then we bought groceries to last at least a week. Where to go? Everywhere relatively close to town we’ve shown you. But we really didn’t get to show you Trevathan Falls in the dry season.

Now we’ve made amends. Here are the beautiful, relatively unknown Trevathan Falls. The falls are about 40km South of Cooktown at the end of a 4wd track off the Mt Amos road.

How do I describe this place that will help you see it better than this lowly 3mp phone camera can? My kingdom for a dslr.

As we sit by the huge rock pool opposite the base of the falls, we can see irridescent blue butterflies flitting between the callistemons and native umbrella trees that are flowering 30 metres above us on the cliffs opposite. A multitude of honeyeaters, large and small share the nectar and airspace. The honeyeaters show their preferred flower is the umbrella tree. At least a dozen birds are cavorting among a profusion of bright red flower spikes. However, you can’t hear the birds, nor much else. The song of the waterfall reigns in this small gorge.
Look closely at the foliage directly left of the falls as faced. That is a bottlebrish (callistemon) that has its main trunk near the top of the falls. Over successive wet seasons, the flow of water has shaped some branches so that they cascade some 20 metres down,rather than up the way they’re supposed to. It is quite healthy and is flowering profusely.
I only wish I had a decent dslr and zoom lens to capture its beauty.
Tomorrow we’re driving/walking downstream to find a spot where I had camped nearly 30 years ago. If we find it, we may lob there for a few days. But tonight we’re camped at the same spot we were at back in April and pre-burn. But then, it was wet and we didn’t have pig back then.

Dinner: finely diced bacon pieces, onion, potato, tomato, capsicum, mushrooms, spices and herbs in a broth. Once the broth has simmered for an hour or so, crack in four eggs and stir briskly through the soup. The result is a flavoursome, thick soup that is very moreish.

Its about 6:20pm and the sunset tonight is a mix of bright orange clouds and a pastel blue sky. The orange is turning to a deep pink and then almost purple as I type. This phone won’t do it justice so I won’t take a photo.

Friday morning 9 September 2011

I went for a three kilometre walk downstream this morning. But after 30 years things change. I forget that I lived here not long after the tin miners left. The land has regenerated with the help of people. I felt quite disorientated throughout the 6k round trip.
I got back to camp and Tina wasn’t feeling too good, so we headed back to Cooktown. We’ll go back again and search some more one day. In the meantime, enjoy the random pics. Remember to check for the callistemon and appreciate the type of country that this place is surrounded by.

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Hanging Out in Crocodile Country

This weekend JJ, Charline, Tina and I camped down by the Annan River. The saltwater end. This is crocodile country.

We spent Friday night at Dragons lair again. Good company, good conversation, and the last of the LOTR trilogy showing on the dvd. We ate like kings. Tina cooked up a big potato bake and I fried up chunks of lightly floured Red Emporer that one of the boys had caught earlier in the day.
I fell asleep on the floor at some stage, so Tina rolled out the swag next to the car in the back yard and woke me up to put me to bed.

We were parked half under a huge, potentially hundred and thirty year old mango tree that is in early stages of fruiting. Now, it’s been blowing 30 odd knots these past few days, and last night was no exception. The fruit on the tree ranges from about grape size to about pear size, and we kept getting woken by mangos hitting the roof of Jimy the 4wd. I kept thinking about how much they’d hurt if we were in range…ouch.
At around 3am, a one of the housemates came home with her friend. We ended up sitting inside for a while. Well, Tina went inside first and yarned with the girls for an hour. I stayed under the blanket watching stars and dozed off again. I was woken by the loud crunching of dog food about 2 metres away. As I turned my head, something shot off around the back of the house. I didn’t see what it was, but later I was told it was the native quoll that resides in the bush immediately behind the house.
We ended up back in bed half an hour before dawn.
We hit the markets at about 8:30am and the place was jumping. People everywhere!
We picked up a couple of those somewhat famous home made pies for breakfast. Then we bought half a dozen avocados for $5. Ten passionfruit for $2, and a paw paw for $2. Nomm Nomm!

Now it’s 11:30am Saturday, and we’re waiting by the banks of the Annan. JJ and Charline should be here soon.

JJ and C arrived and had a story to tell. They’d popped into the local camping shop to buy an airbed & pump, and to partake in the free sausage sizzle.
They left as winners of the lucky docket prize. A $200 rod and reel combo, a 25 litre icekool esky, a camp chair and a fully kitted tackle box.

JJ and I went on a firewood run and he took me on a little tour. As we drove along the track, he said, “I’ll show you Crocodile bend. I hope the croc is there.”
We saw the croc as we drove to the edge of the river. The Northern side where we were was a good ten metre vertical drop. Across the river was a small sandy point, created by a hairpin bend in the Annan.
The saltie in the photos is between two and a half and three metres long. It’s tail was Black, contrasting with the pale clay colouring of its body. The crocs body is the colour of the ground we’re camped on.

We made up a casserole of beef, spuds, sweet potato, onion,celery, tomato, zucchini, garlic and spices. After simmering for a few hours, the beef was falling apart and the flavours had mingled into a beautiful meal.

It’s around eight in the evening and we can hear unidentified fish jumping in the river. The birdlife has settled after the sunset choruses.

The dogs are all dozing and the campfire is casting gold into the trees. Crickets and the constant sou’ east trade winds blowing through the canopy are the only sounds other than the occasional night bird. We’re ten minutes from town, but may as well be a thousand kilometres from anywhere. Occasionally the wind creates wavelets on the river that tinkle against the river bank. We’re camped relatively close to the bank, given that this is full on croc country. Ten metres, five dogs and a nice campfire is good defence. We’re sleeping in back of Jimmy as usual. JJ and C are on their air mattress next to the fire with two dogs on watch.
10:00pm Saturday.
The moon is near to setting, casting a silver grey sheen on the river’s rippled surface.
The sound of a truck crossing the Big Annan Bridge echos from a kilometre downstream.

Five minutes later, just as Tuna and C were nearly asleep, three of the dogs went off their nuts at something in the bush up the rise. Nothing could be seen though. Probably a wallaby or pig on the high ground.

Sunday 02:00(am)
We were woken by the sound of light rain. I covered our stuff with the swagger canvas. Charline woke up, then JJ. I grabbed our large awning tarp from the roof of the car and they covered themselves and their queen sized airbed.

Then the rain stopped.

06:30
Got the fire restarted from the coals. It was obviously a good hot fire because the rain didn’t put it out.
Hot Coffeeeee!

Tina is still eating well πŸ˜‰ . The stitches are slowly disappearing too. Tina still gets a bit confused, but mainly when she is tired or just waking up. Recalling names of things is still hard for her at times. But she is happy and loving life πŸ™‚
Tina has had weetbix, a tomato, a passionfruit and half a tin of Irish stew and some bread so far for breakfast. I think I might keep a record for her so she can read back over it later. πŸ˜‰

We drove to crocodile bend to see if croc was on the sand bar, but no luck this morning. We did discover reception here though, so you might get this post early.
Thanks for the Fathers Day wishes too πŸ™‚

Charline and JJ headed into town and came back around 1pm. It was shishkebab time!

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A Very Lazy Thursday

Today (Thu 1st Sept) has been a very laid back day. We didn’t wake up too early, and the weather was still windy and squally, so we weren’t too keen on a morning walk up the beach.
The patches of rain were broken by some sunshine later in the morning, so we took Jack and Floyd for a wander. Floyd seems to be handling the sand and wind quite well. He also has some stamina for a little pup. He managed a good 3/4 of a kilometre before we picked him up and gave him a rest.
We found a frisbee for Jack and tossed it around until he killed it. Then we started with the sticks into the ocean game. The waves were crashing close to shore and were getting up to a metre or so, which is high for here. But then it’s been blowing 20 to 30 knots as well. So Jack had some more surfing lessons and a good bath.
We also found some big cuttlefish bones. I did some artwork on one for Tina, using shells and the spikes on the end of other cuttlefish bones. It’s carved and embossed. I’ll work on the bigger one as well one day.
We had leftover stew and made dry roasted flat bread for lunch. Oh, and we found a nice size coconut and opened it. Wasn’t as nice as a green one, but it still went down well.
All in all it was a nice relaxing day.

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