A Change of Venue

Hi gang
First up, it’s been just over 12 months since Tina and I left Rockhampton. We left, if I recall correctly, on the 2nd of March 2011. We had big ideas on what we were going to do with the rest of our lives when we started our journey. Go back to the start of this blog & you’ll get an idea of what we had planned.
As most of you know, things didn’t happen the way we thought they would. In fact the past 12 months have felt like a lifetime. A lifetime of joy, and a lifetime of heart wrenching sorrow. It has also been just over four months since I lost my best friend to cancer.

I’ve made a decision about The Green Bus. I’m going to leave this blog as it is for now. No more new posts for a while. This was Tina’s baby. She had planned for it to be a showcase of what every day people were doing around Australia in terms of self-sufficiency & renewable energy. It was never really meant to be what it has become, a record of loss & sorrow, and random travelogues from me. So for now (things may change in the future), The Green Bus shall be parked up like Jimmy the four wheel drive.
I am starting something new, called ‘InVivamus’. In Vivamus is latin for, ‘The Gypsy’. I may at times cross-post, or I may even export some posts from here to there. The Green Bus will stay though. It is Hers & and I still need to go back and read those early posts of Tina’s.
She was a woman with strong views about the sustainability of this planet, & besides her art, this is one of those things that shows what a beautiful soul She was.

You won’t find anything on http://invivamus.wordpress.com just yet. I’ll let you know here and on Twitter & Facebook when it’s ready. I’m a really experienced procrastinator, so don’t expect anything for a few days.

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For Tina’s Friends and Family

I wrote the post below last night.
My best friend. My rock. I love her so.
Flying to Cairns then Townsville today to be with her (thankyou again QLD Health).
Tina has a serious tumour in her brain.
I’ll contact or post when i know more later today.

Hi all
Tina probably doesn’t want this post. But I/we owe it to you. You deserve to know what has been going on this past week or so. I know that many of you, her friends, are concerned for her.
I’ll try to relate everything, without upsetting my baby.

About a week or so ago, Tina started complaining of a sore upper neck and bad, migraine like headaches. Now Tina doesn’t get headaches. She is much like me in that respect. Headaches are very rare for us. Both of us could count on one hand the amount of headaches we have had collectively in the past eight years.
At one stage it was that bad that she vomited. I suggested a doctor or hospital visit but my baby is not very trusting of medical types. Most of you know our views on the medical and pharmaceutical industries so you can understand her aversion.
There have been a few stages over the week where Tina has been confused and vague about the simplest of things. Like trying to remember the name of what she was looking for. Eg. A packet of tobacco, or misnaming a rubbish bin and calling it a ‘drug’ box. She would just become seriously vague and confused. At first I thought it might have just been the neck pain or headache pain making her a bit cloudy. But in the past couple of days some things happened that got me very worried. I won’t relate them out of love and respect for Tinas dignity. She also vomited while asleep.

I managed to convince her to go to the hospital today (Friday 12 August). We were sent to the local clinic because the hospital was extremely busy. When we went to the doctor, he listened to our story and referred us straight back to the hospital.
Cooktown hospital admitted her and did a full range of tests. Blood, chest x-rays, ecg etc. They couldn’t pinpoint anything. The nearest ct (brain) scanner to Cooktown is at Cairns, about 350km from here.
Cooktown hospital liaised with Cairns and they accepted her for an emergency scan immediately. Next, they organised the Royal Flying Doctor service to fly her to Cairns.
The next step was to try and get Tina to agree to stay at the hospital and to go to Cairns for the scan.
I won’t go into details, but eventually she agreed. I don’t push Tina to do anything. That’s not my job. I’m her best friend, lover and buddy. I respect what she wants or doesn’t. But this was important. Not just for her, but for all who love her.

We were taken to the airport by ambulance and Tina left at about 8:30pm in the plane.
She would have been in Cairns by 10 ish and has probably already had the scan (11:40pm).

Just as an aside, any Australian who whinges about our medical services is plain ignorant. This whole episode has and will cost us nothing. Consider the expense of the doctor, the hospital, the ambulance, the plane flight and the further tests in Cairns and you’ll realise how lucky we are. We earn about $900 a fortnight on a really good pay period. There is no way we could afford this if we had to pay for it from our pockets.

OK. So what are the local doctors thinking? The common theory is either a possible minor stroke, or maybe onset of a type of epilepsy. We will know nothing until Saturday. As soon as I find out any more news I’ll update you all. Expect another post within 12 hours of this one.

Tina. I love you more than a walk on the beach. More than a perfect shell. More than a Sunbird. More than a glass like ocean. More than the Moon. I love you more than.

I took the following pics this morning for Tina. The ocean was glass, about three minutes before the winds started again. Check the difference in the pics. It actualy went from still to 20 knots in an hour.  The other pics are of the adventure trails we made and the scrub around our present home.
If you don’t get a post later on, it means I’m on my way to Cairns.
Kids. I’ll ring with news as soon as I find out.
It’s after midnight. I should probably attempt sleep.
Goodnight for now.

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Rockhampton Floods 2011 – A Few Photos & Anecdotes Part One

I procrastinate.

It was late November last year when I had an idea we might get a Big Wet. We’d been getting a few storms over the weeks. Not too much, but intense when they came. There was also those annoying, but welcome scuds; small patches of rain that would soak one part of town, but leave the rest dry. We were getting used to camping with the expectation that we might get a little wet at times.

November 2010 – Hedlow Creek

The second last weekend in November was going to be wet. We headed out to Hedlow Creek on Friday arvo. I wrote the following as events unfolded:

20:20 Sat. 20th Nov, 2010.

We Live In Our Car.

First, this is not a bad thing. Our rent is the cost of a tank of Diesel every couple of weeks, plus maintenance. We don’t have a TV, nor any major mod-cons other than a car stereo and the laptop with obligatory ‘net connection. We have a radio scanner that we listen to to entertain ourselves at times. We have a small inverter to rechgarge the phones and computer etc. We have a 12 volt flouro that lights the car interior. Our battery is a Champion brand 720 Amp marine battery. It has specially designed plates to resist the wave slap in boats. This translates to a better capability to handle regular discharging without collapsing. So far we have had no dramas. But then, it has a 2 year warranty and we’ve only had it a week.

Sleeping is comfortable. We fold down the back seat of the 4WD wagon and stick a double size air-bed in there. Our $8 low pressure/high volume pump inflates the bed in a minute or two.

We have a heavy duty tarp/awning that hangs off the drivers side, giving a 4 by 5 metre covered area to keep our boxes and esky and stuff under. When we’re driving, this stuff is packed in the back. Our home is the car, so we use it to get to work as well. As a result, we can pack the car in about 30 minutes. We have a full toolbox, a half dozen storage crates, plus the soft things (blankets etc). This all fits in the back with the seats up. The dogs sit on a canvas tarp on the back seat and we’re set.

On the weekends, we fit us, the dogs and the two juniors in the car and go camping, usually at our favourite swimming creek.

It Is Raining … A Lot

Now, this could be a bad thing.
We got here Friday night (a little over 24 hours ago). We set up the tarp and the rain started. We’ve had rain most of the week, but it looked like clearing…BBZZZZZZZZTTT!!! Wrong…

I’m guessing we’ve had about 2 inches in the old scale. About 50mm since 8pm last night. It has been continuous, steady drizzle with the odd heavy downpour. The catchment for this creek is moderately large, meaning it is catching a bit of water upstream. Fortunately we have about 3 metres of safe ground before we have to worry about the camp getting inundated.

The other problem we are going to have is when we try to get out of this spot.
We’re camped midway down a gentle slope, on a level spot. The track has recently been graded. It is Black soil. Do you know what Black soil does when it is wet? It sticks to things. Tyres especially.
We spent Thursday night out here and it rained enough to get a little sticky. Our home has a unservicable front differential. This means no Four Wheel Drive. With just a few mm of rain on the track, it was like trying to drive with no steering. Cornering at 3km/h trying to get the front end to drift in the direction you wanted it to go. Fun stuff, but it chews the track up.

Which leads me to answer the question you may be asking. “Why don’t you piss of now, before it gets any wetter”?

Well, it’s already too wet. Driving out will be a case of driving up off the track onto the grass (it’s cattle country). The track was a vague option, up until the four 4wd’s and the two motorbikes repeatedly drove up and down one section of the track, converting it into a slush pit with no chance of getting any traction.

The usual band of destructive 4 wheel driving nutters have decided that the access track is fun to play on. Because of their stupidity, we can’t even attempt the smallish hill in front of the car. We’ll go cross country instead, using the grass to stop the Black soil sticking to the tyres.

Maybe the rain will ease a little tomorrow. Or not. I’ll follow up then…

We Had ‘A Moment

It’s Still Bloody Raining (06:42am Sunday 21/11/2010)

It rained continuously last night. Sometimes it got heavy.
I was woken by my better half at 3am…”You better look at that creek…”
It had risen over a metre between 9:30pm and 3am.
“Wake up daughter, time to pack.”

We got things jammed in the back in about ten minutes or so. The awning and tarps, dog blankets etc were left out. I got ‘Jimmy’ (the 4WD) going and made an attempt to move. As soon as the rear wheels turned it slid sideways. The front left wheel dropped into a small depression next to a very large tree. I tried to back it out. Tried to rock it out. We weren’t going anywhere…

The Unservicable Diff Works – Mmmm, Freaky

(If you read my post from last night, you’ll know about the front diff and how the Crown wheel bearings are supposed to be stuffed. I tested the diff last year and it was making some horrible grinding noises…was to be replaced before January 2011).

…I decided in desperation to engage the front hubs and try 4WD. The worst that could happen is the diff would make nasty grinding noises and do nothing.
It worked. I mean, it worked without all the horrible grinding noises. However, the ground was sodden. It was as slippery as ice. The only way to get traction was to do as we’d thought earlier and try and go cross country. The grass would give us better traction.
I rocked the car back and forth gently, climbed out of the hole, missed the big tree and moved up to high, grassy ground.

We dragged the tarps and other stuff up to the 4WD and left them there, then threw the dogs in the back and headed through the scrub. My Best half walked ahead, checking for low spots, stump holes and logs. Poor baby was soaked. Even the storm jacket copped it.
We got out to the formed track eventually and made our way to the crossing.

Hedlow Creek Crossing In Flood 2010

Hedlow Creek Crossing In Flood Nov. 2010

0700am Still Rising

We got to the crossing about 4am. It wasn’t quite light, but it looked at the marker to be about 20cm under the 2 metre mark. We’re going nowhere. It’s now 7am and the marker has about 5 cm exposed. It has risen roughly 35cm in 3 hours. The rise is a lot slower than it was. I’d say the lake at the end is taking up a lot.

We don’t have any option but to wait this out. We could go back the other way, but it runs over as well, and it is probably under a metre of water by now. Plus, it’s 15km to there across some low country that may be under.

We’re OK though. We’ve got plenty of food and water. Plenty of power, and we’re dry. We can move if we need to find higher ground.

I have a theory about this diff. A while back, when I was servicing the front bearings, I noticed that the splines on the outer end of the axle had been burred. At some point, someone had stuffed up when working on it. I cleaned up the burrs and refitted it. I haven’t tried the diff since then. It’s possible that was the real issue (I hope). I’ll keep you posted on how we fare.

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Well, we ended up stranded between Lake Mary and Hedlow Creek until Tuesday. It wasn’t all bad though. No-one else was around, or could get to where we were.

Flooded Hedlow Ck With Sightseers

Flooded Hedlow Ck With Sightseers Nov. 2010

Camped On The High Spot

Camped On The High Spot

2011 Australian Flood Appeal

So I’m sitting here… safe and dry in our 4WD. We’re parked under our daughter’s carport and have been here for more than a month now. We turned up here to hide when the rains started… mainly to stay dry for a while. And then the flood came…

We haven’t had a whole lot of trauma associated with the flood in our part of the world, thank whatever powers that be. Not really… not when you take into account the horror and tragedy that have impacted on the rest of our state. And now, so much more of our country seems to be disappearing beneath the torrent of flood.

I feel kind of useless here. Sure, we knew a couple of families who needed a little help with the clean-up around their yards, but the SES guys did such a great job cleaning up that we weren’t needed. We’ve sneakily fostered our son’s dog for the duration, but we can’t foster animals for the long term because we have no yard to house them in. We’ve been there to listen and support our friends, offered advice etc… the little that we could do. Most around here take a flood in their stride, so there’s not really much supporting or advising to do. We’re not wealthy people, so a large monetary donation is out of the question. I can’t help with heavy clean-up work because I have a bad back.  We have no special skills… no useful equipment… no extra goods to donate. All we could really do while we were sitting here dry and safe under the carport is upload photos and keep track of everything happening via updates on the net, … but I still feel like I haven’t done enough.

It’s kind of frustrating.

And so I started thinking hard on this one. I thought about all the people in all the communities affected by this flood. It started playing on my mind… all the news reports… the number of times that I have had to phone, text or email someone to make sure they’re ok… the bad news… the humour… the pride. Finally I decided that it was going to do my head in if I didn’t at least TRY to do something else. And so…

I gathered together all those multi-facets of my personality to try and nut this problem out. After the initial general murmuring and jostling, we sat down around a beer, a bong and a packet of Samboy Tomato Sauce chips… and we had a little meeting…

‘What can I do to help out?’ I asked myselves as we all found comfy chairs.

‘Well,’ my outrageous arty side replied. ‘I can paint… I could make an art piece and offer it up for auction. It’ll be brown and violent and full of Aussie tenaciousness…”

‘You’re pretty full of yourself, aren’t you?’ that bitchy side spat venomously. Outrageous arty side glared at that bitchy side, who had that frustrating smile on her face. She just loves making trouble… and she loves picking outrageous arty side any chance she can… sometimes she reacts in completely unpredictable ways and that bitchy side loves anarchy.

We all know that she stirs shit for fun… but we’re also thankful that she’s there for us when we need her,  so we put up with it, lovingly even. None of us chastise her… not really.

‘Come on now, don’t start fighting already,’ mother said… but gently. ‘We’re here to try and solve some problems, not make more.’ Mother is the only one of us who really has any control over bitchy. She sulks with a flourish, but to her credit, she sits down dutifully. Then another small voice speaks up.

‘She has a point though,’ whispered the scared little girl. ‘We’ve never tried to sell our art before. What makes you think that this could work?’

‘What makes you think that it won’t?’ asked pride, a little too harshly.

‘Arty side is pretty good, you know,’ agrees confident independant woman. ‘You guys never give her enough credit.’

There were a few quiet murmurs from hope, compassion and will, until now sitting quietly in the corner, munching on chips.

‘So what would we do with it?’ asked practical is best. ‘We’re not famous and we don’t have any real contacts with the art world. Where would we offer it for auction?’

‘The Green Bus!’ happy tree-hugging hippy chic in the tie-dyed headband shouted… then looked nervously around to see if she’d reacted a little too strongly… then giggled.

Hope, compassion and will shifted their chairs a little closer to the conversation. We all saw this as a good sign. Perhaps… if those guys were gaining some interest…

‘The Green Bus…’ mother mused. ‘That’s not a bad idea.’

‘And Twitter… and RedBubble… don’t forget them.’ Geeky emo chic suddenly became interested in the conversation and jumped in with heaps of techie ideas. But to be honest, she gets so intense and geeky sometimes that most of us just lose track of where she’s going and turn off. To save geeky emo chic from doing her pills because no-one was listening to her, we gave her some new glitter pens and an A4 size notebook and sent her off with the pedantic whining one (’cause she would have just been a pain in the arse anyway) to make a long and detailed list of it all… all the while assuring both of them that they were doing a great job.

Suddenly brutal honesty spoke up with the thought that we’d all put off speaking. We all sighed…

‘How much can we raise… really?’ she asked. ‘What if our effort comes to nought?’

‘It won’t,’ the dreamer injected. ‘None of it will be for nought. We may raise $20… we may raise $200… but not one cent of it will be for nought. Every little bit helps, even if it’s to buoy the spirits. Sometimes the outcome of an experience is more rewarding than mere dollars and cents, you know. Has anyone ever thought of that?’ A short silence ensued as we mentally slapped ourselves in the head for being so worried about our artistic ‘value’… probably broken by the munching of chips, or something similar…

‘I don’t want to be responsible for handling any money,’ stressed out slapper whinged.

‘I hope we can’t get in trouble for this,’ worrier worried. ‘What about the legal stuff?’

Suddenly a gale blew through the meeting, sending papers flying willy nilly… several of us gasped.

‘Legal stuff? What legal stuff could there be?’ the great aussie battler bawled, her voice a mixture of the recent thunder and the sound a wayward cow makes as it floats past your front verandah. ‘What’re they gonna sue us for tryin’ to help our mates out in a rough patch?’

‘Yeah, fuck’m if they don’t like it,’ the bitchy one called from the corner. It kind of surprised us that she agreed with someone… for a minute or two we all just kinda stared at each other.

‘So, we’re really gonna do this, huh?’ the wild pioneer asked, her smile radiating sunshine and beautiful birdsong into the air around her head. ‘I’m proud of you guys.’

Suddenly scared little girl started to whimper.

‘But I”m scared,’ she cried softly. Mother came and scooped her up gently in her arms.

‘We all are,’ she whispered, ‘but we’re all here for each other. That’s why we have to try.’ Little girl smiled and mother hugged her close and tucked her into bed with her teddy.

The meeting continued and all details were discussed rather peacefully after that… surprisingly. It’s been generally agreed that while we may not know everything (Note: bitchy side and pride both wish it duly noted that they are NOT in agreement with the rest of those soft-headed pussies), we would very much like to give this a real go.

Details were passed to verbally eloquent and somewhat humorous to try to pass on to the rest of human civilisation…

Yeah, I know… I’m probably crazy. But I am an artist… we don’t call artists crazy. We call them eccentric.

So here’s the piece, some close detail and information on how you can be a part of this auction. Please get involved if you can… if you can’t, then perhaps you might know of someone else who might be interested. Let’s see how much we can make for our Aussie Flood Appeal.

This piece remains unnamed (at present). As a part of this prize, the winning bidder will be given the opportunity to name the piece and a dedication will be inscribed on the back, along with date and artist details.

2011 Australian Flood Appeal PhoenixArt

I envisioned doing a painting that would convey our land, from our distinctive red lands to our productive black dirt. As I plastered water paints onto my canvas, I pictured the land engulfed by the thick brown flood water that so many of us have become accustomed to in recent weeks. I added water, diluting the paint… and as I watched the resulting drips I saw gouges and furrows dug from the land as raging waters tried to escape. I saw rivers and creeks, flowing and overflowing into areas where water normally doesn’t go.

2011 Australian Flood Appeal PhoenixArt Top Left Detail

As I flicked water and paint with my fingers, I saw rain and wind and rising water, bringing with it deluges that overtake all manner of material ‘things’ and carry them as flotsam on the inland tide. More flicking, and several shades of mud splotches appeared, sticky and brown, grey and smelly. To finish this piece, I ‘drowned’ the whole thing in a dirty brown concoction of paint, water… and some small leaves and dirt. This was an homage, of sorts… to the many other artworks of mine to have been destroyed by rain or flood. And then I saw the retreat of the water, and the result of ‘inundation’… the ‘stuff’ left behind, the property drowned and ruined. Carefully, I lifted the piece out of the water, and was pleased to see small pieces of dirt and leaves left behind to mimic the detritus left behind for so many of us to clean up.

2011 Australian Flood Appeal PhoenixArt Bottom Right Detail

This multi-media piece has been created with water paints on a D/1616 Mont Marte 46x46cm (18″x18″) mounted canvas. In creating it I have also used small leaves, twigs and flowers which have been sealed to the canvas with artists’ sealant.

We here, on The Green Bus will be privately auctioning this piece to raise funds for the 2011 Flood Relief Effort in Australia. However, we don’t want any money to change hands during this transaction… well, not through our hands anyway. What we ask is that the winning bidder donate an amount equivalent to their winning bid to any Flood Assistance charity of their choosing. Whether that be here in QLD or another part of Aus, we don’t care. Whether you’d prefer to donate to The Premier’s Fund, help to fund an animal shelter, or even if you’d like to donate to a more specified smaller appeal that’s been organisation closer to your own home community… that’s completely up to you. All we ask is that the proceeds go to helping our mates out.

Make your bids here, in the form of a comment on this post. Remember, I can see your email address, so please don’t bid if you don’t mean it. We’ll keep bidding open for… oh, let’s tentatively say a couple of weeks? Let’s say the 1st of February (QLD time… AEST… +10GMT) We’ll keep track of them and announce any new bids on Twitter as they come along. At the end of the auction we’ll ask the winning bidder to make their donation and provide us with proof of payment in the form of an official receipt or email from their chosen Flood Relief Fund. When we receive that confirmation, the piece will be shipped out ASAP.

So there you go… that’s my convoluted contribution. I guess now it’s just up to you guys…. if you like.

‘Gerrat it mates…’

‘Yeah come on… have a go.’

‘… if you don’t mind, that is…’

‘God, you’re such a suck-up.’

‘Man that was hard… I’m tired now.’

‘I’m hungry…’ …

I Have A Dream…

This is a recurring dream that I remember having from very early in my life.

I was born in Western Queensland. We didn’t have towering mountains, dense rainforests… or beaches, for that matter.

I have come to believe that this dream has some great significance to my life, or to the path that it should take. Now, to find the start of that path…

“I don’t know where this is… it’s the place in my head that I keep returning to. There’s an old black jetty on the beach… old and permeated with the years-old oily smells of countless bales of wool… old and slowly decaying. It’s still strong though. I walk along to the very end and sit with my feet dangling over the edge.

A myriad of rainbow colours sparkle in the water as reef fish come up to investigate my toes. The water is deep, but it’s so clean that I can clearly see small fish darting amongst the brightly coloured coral at the bottom. As I sit and peer into the depths I notice several crabs jostling for a spot on the carcass of a half-eaten Parrot Fish.

Soon I realise I have to leave. I stand up and turn to walk back along the jetty. The mountains tower into my view… ever beautiful… ever majestic. The beach is long and curved out to my right, white sand that starts at the edge of the rainforest and ends well below the waves. Dolphins frolic offshore, whales are regular annual visitors and dotted along the white sand are little treasures such as shells and starfish. I stoop and pick up a piece of driftwood that takes my eye… I’ll sand and carve that into something beautiful one day.

The forest above the beach is rich and lush, sheltered by a semi-circle of mountains and supporting a wide range of animal life. A well-worn path disappears into the rainforest, and the birds twitter a welcome as they see me step into the darkness. Within ten paces I lose sight of the sky. Huge towering trees paint swathes and splotches of every shade of green above me, but the floor of the forest is smooth and clear, covered in a carpet of leaves and the occasional cycad or fern.

A fifteen minute hike up the range brings me to a waterfall that spills down into a series of cool, clear ponds. I’ll go down later for a swim… I need to wash my hair. Another five minutes’ walking, and the path widens. The foliage around me thins out again and I pause at the doorway from the forest to let my eyes adjust to the sunlight…

And there is my house. It’s a small wooden structure with a roof made of raw redwood logs, and big open windows with shutters held up by sturdy support logs. The house is situated in the middle of a hand-cut clearing in the forest and is surrounded by well-tended gardens containing fruit and vegetables to eat and herbs for good health.

As I walk across the clearing sweet scents of honeysuckle and night jasmine tickle my nose. A coup housing ducks and chickens is to my left, and there are at least 6 dogs running at my heels. The cat is inside doing her job of chasing mice and rats (or else she’s sleeping in my favourite chair).

A family of possums live in the trees nearby and chatter excitedly as they see me. I stop at a series of large feeding platforms half way across the clearing and divide up the fruit, flowers and grass seeds that I collected on the walk up the path. Within seconds a cheeky baby possum darts up and leaps onto the platform to snatch some ripe mango before his brother can. A few seconds later a dozen or more birds glide noisily down to claim their share of the spoils.

Tree Kangaroos and Rock Wallabies are regular visitors and are often seen around the edges of the clearing nibbling on the tender new grass shoots. Some raise their heads as we approach, some snort a greeting… but none hop away. The dogs don’t bother them any more. They are used to the ‘other’ family members of our tribe and show them all due respect by ignoring them completely.

Each day I rise as the early morning light is breaking over the horizon and take the short walk up to the cliff. The She Oaks whisper to me as the morning breeze gently stirs their branches. I reach up and pluck a few needles, and breathe deeply as I crush them in my hands… I love that smell… so clean and pure and natural.

At the end of the path, and very close to the cliff is an old fallen giant, the perfect size to sit on comfortably. I sit and run my hands over the wood and realise that it’s now almost worn smooth from these morning visits. I gaze out across the waves… the sun is almost there, but not quite.

Down on the beach, rocks that have tumbled off the cliff for many milennia now lay in a haphazard and stunningly beautiful black and brown jumble at the edge of the water. The rockpools trap marine life as the tide drops, and when a big fish finds itself trapped there it’s promptly speared and taken home for dinner. I can see a large flash of silver down there now… mmm… tuna tonight.

As I’m thinking about how I will prepare this luscious meal, I gaze down at my old black jetty. How many times had I seen that very jetty with the eyes in my dreams? How often had I wondered how to find it? Who led me here… or what? I don’t know, but I don’t care either. I’m here now and that’s all that matters to me.

I smile that most beautiful and serene smile that has only become a part of me since I saw my jetty with my real eyes. I knew instantly. I knew then that this place was special. I feel that there is more peace in this one place than in all of the rest of the world combined… and I know now that I’m home.

I turn and gaze at the person sitting next to me. His eyes shine with the light of the rising sun, and he’s smiling as he watches the turtles gliding below the waves.

“I love you,” I whisper, and nuzzle into his neck as the first rays of the sun paint red and gold streaks into the  waves.

“I love you too,” he replies as he gently kisses my hair. Yes… I know I am home.

Later we walk back to the house hand in hand, to collect the fresh eggs and fruit that will be our breakfast. We feed and water the animals before we go inside, because if we don’t they complain… loudly. In our meagre kitchen, he cooks omelettes on our old wood stove, and I begin to prepare some fruit, juice and coffee.

I catch his eye and he winks, then smiles in that cheeky way that I’ve always loved. My heart leaps and my tears begin to well before I blink them away with a smile of my own. Thus begins another day in paradise.

Our own paradise… my Old Black Jetty.”

I Know A Place …

It’s just breaking dawn. From my bed, a wooden framed platform covered in a large soft down mattress above the forest floor and protected by a large mozzie net, I can see the ocean. It is like glass, tinted by the morning glow of the rising sun. My view is about fifty metres above the beach. I make my way down the steep narrow track that cuts through forest covered hillside to the shore below. Lorikeets, pidgeons and other birds fill the air with music. A lizard darts across the track in front of me, its bug hunt interrupted by a giant stomping through its domain. By now the local Tree Kangaroo will be asleep in the canopy somewhere. We’ve seen it once or twice at night when spotlighting the treetops.

About 50 metres off the beach is a small reef. On the high tide I fish from the beach with a rod. But when it is low, I walk to the reef and and hunt crayfish, or spear the odd fish from the outer edge of the reef. I usually catch ‘lippers’ or the odd Coral Trout. The fish are scarce this morning, but two fat crayfish aren’t so lucky. My spear was made from a length of hardwood, slowly whittled and shaped, then hardened on the fire. A barb fashioned from a pig tusk is fixed to the point with twine. I cheated though. Instead of using tree sap, I used rod resin to seal the twine. It is the perfect shape for hooking crays and muddies out of their crannies and mudholes.

My soulmate is preparing a fire on the beach for breakfast. Today it is roasted cray, accompanied by a salad of Cedar Bay Cherries, banana and fresh Avocado, washed down with Green Coconut juice.

I set some traps up near the Mangrove beach yesterday. It’s about two kay’s North. Later on I’ll head up and see if I’ve snared a pig. The Mudcrabs are abundant around the edge of the Mangroves this time of year, so if I don’t get a pig, I’m sure to spike a muddie or two.

When we get pigs, we usually spit roast them, or if we’re feeling lazy, wrap the meat in leaves and cook it Hungi style. That way we don’t have to watch it for hours. We can explore the forest and the mountain and come back around sunset to a sumptuous meal of Pork and vegetables.

Muddies are best cooked in a large pot using sea water. If not, a short sear on the coals of a fire will cook them nicely in their own juices.

Every now and again we do a Stingray broth. Catch your ‘ray. Tail it and carefully gut it, saving the liver and gizzard. Throw away the Pancreas, it’s no good. Now chop the b’wings up and toss them and the guts into a pot and add seasoning. Simmer until the meat is cooked and the flavours have blended. Good tucker.

The shadows come early here, due to the high mountain on our West. We live at the very foot of it, cradled in a spot sheltered from Sou’ Easters but with enough Northern sunlight to grow vegetables in the natural clearings.

We grow our vegies in spots where large trees have fallen and broken the canopy. We have four spots all within a few minutes walk. Stuff just grows here with minimal care. So long as we keep the vines from overtaking the tomatoes and greens, we do OK.

The pigs sometimes attack our Taro and potato, but we’ve managed to trap a few of the squealers as well, so it’s a bit of give and take. A balance if you will. They get some good healthy vegies and we get a protein boost when we need it.

Water used to be a bit of a fitness exercise. Out of necessity, we had to make a small dam in a natural hollow about a hundred metres up the mountain. It was the only place where we could ‘store’ enough water to fill our 25 litre jerry cans. Once a week we’d climb the trail to the pond, fill the drums and cart them back down. Nowadays we have a hundred and fifty metres of poly pipe with a tap on the end. Lazy buggers we are. We’ve built another small catchment about two minutes walk across the hillside. It’s our bath. We only use coconut oils and natural soaps to wash, resulting in negligible effect on the water. The ‘tub’ is big enough for two…and it gets full sun at certain times of the day. It’s also a natural spa, due to the small waterfall that runs in from upstream over the rocks.

Technology wise, we are pretty spoiled. We have two 150 watt solar panels set up in a clearing. They receive about nine hours of direct light a day. This supplies power to four deep cycle 12 volt batteries hooked to an inverter that runs our small satellite transmitter/receiver, the computer and some rudimentary lighting. You may think, “so what, anyone can set that up”.

Well, we’re not exactly close to civilization. It is an eight hour walk to our humble abode…over a mountain. It took about two months to carry all that gear in. One battery each at a time. One solar panel between us, negotiating a trail that at times is hard to see, let alone walk along it with a 6 by 4 lump of glass and silicon and aluminium. But we did it. We wanted our privacy, but we didn’t want to lose touch with our friends and family.

Posting a letter would be akin to sending mail by ship to England. On rare occasions we head into town. This is what most people would call a journey. You see, as much as we have technology in our little bit of paradise, we still have to buy the odd staple. Flour, rice, yeast etc. all has to come from town. As I said, it is an 8 hour walk to civilization. That is just to a friend’s property over the hill. We keep our old four-wheel drive at this mate’s place. It runs on a mixture of diesel and chip oil from the snack bar in town. It manages to get us to town and back with minimal cost and environmental damage. Plus, it smells like fish and chips. 😮  It is then another two hours to any town of substance, if you don’t count the Pub and Trading Post half-way along the road.

So, posting a letter takes a full day or more just to get to the post office. It’s then another two days before the receiver gets it. Now, if we don’t go to town for a month or more, people worry. So we decided to marry the technology with the solitude. It’s quite surreal sometimes. We are lucky to see another human here. The odd adventurous back-packer makes their way here from the National Park to the South, but not very often. But we can stay in contact with friends from as far away as Canada, or chat with people in realtime via video on a good reception night.

We are somewhat physically isolated in a number of ways. About three kay’s to the South, a deep creek blocks easy access. To cross the creek and stay dry, one has to walk about 2 kilometres upstream through thick rainforest, and near a tidal creek that is home to a rather large crocodile. To the North, the mountains drop straight into the sea. It is difficult, if not impossible to traverse this natural barrier. Finally, the reef makes access to the beach possible only by small tinnies.

I know this place. It’s in my heart and in my dreams. We’ll be there one day soon.