Laura and Quinkan Country

Perhaps I was a little misleading (or hasty), or confused when I said I’d put The Greenbus on hold.
What I should have said is, “There will be no more sad here. Only the fun stuff the ‘we’ would have been still exploring and posting about together.” It will be a nice place πŸ™‚
Brad’s Blog will take the weight off this place.

And so…

Tina had a deep love and respect for, and a keen interest in Aboriginal culture and history. Her art was influenced by the mysteries of The Dreaming. One of her favourite non-fiction references was ‘The Archeology of The Dreamtime which compares Dreamtime stories of different country with the archeological evidence of the past. This review give a good overview of the theories put forward.
One of the many areas on our ‘To Do’ list, was to spend some time in Quinkan country.

Laura, the commercial hub of the Quinkan country is only 140km (87m) from Cooktown. For a village with a population of roughly 120 people, Laura contains, and as a community, protects over 30 thousand years of Traditional history, and some 140 years of European settlement.
Laura township was an important link in the Gold trail back in the 1800’s, but more importantly, the country has been a part of the Ang-Gnarra peoples’ culture for thousands of years, and is one of the top ten most culturally significant rock art sites in the world.
Laura also plays host to one of the longest running indigenous festivals in Australia. The Laura Dance Festival is held at the Ang-Gnarra festival grounds, about 15 kilometres from Laura. Every two years, community members and dance troupes from as far away as Woorabinda gather in a celebration and education of dance, culture & history. The festival is also world famous, and attracts tourists from all over the planet.
I’ll give you a list of easy links to more information about Quinkan Country at the end of this post.
Last week, I had the chance to absorb just a miniscule sample of this history. As the year progresses, I will spend more time up in Ang-Gnarra country. For now, here is a small sample of this areas history and beauty.
*Note:* In respect of Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation, no images of rock art galleries were taken. In future visits, I will ask if I can capture some images for you. In the meantime, the links below have many authorised images of the galleries.

Images around Laura:

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If you head to Laura anytime after this years dry season, you’ll be crossing this bridge on the Peninsula Development Road over the Laura River. This bridge, and a couple of kilometres of dirt are all that is left of the road works between Lakeland and Laura. The original wooden crossing of which I promise a photo of soon,
*EDIT*: Borrowed from an ABC journo’s blog. A future edit will provide links.
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is very, very old & is impassable for most of the wet season. It regularly has metres of water over it.

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The T-junction at Laura. Turn left for Cooktown & South. Turn right to head ‘Up The Cape’.

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All that remains of the old Laura railway station. If you’re into railway history, the Cooktown to Laura line is worth researching.

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Once located at a Police outstation some 24km from Laura, this tiny ‘lock-up’ is now on display at the Laura memorial park. Part of the display reads, ‘…18 natives were once locked in here together…’

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This steam tractor was transported by rail to Laura, intended for use on the goldfields. Upon unloading, it was found to have a broken front axle and was left in town to decay.

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The heath country near the ‘Split Rock’ art site. At this time of year, many native shrubs are flowering.

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An assortment of colour on a rainy afternoon.

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Some of the wild features of this Quinkan Country.

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A Night Out Watching My Mates Catch Fish

I got talked into going fishing, instead of sleeping yesterday arvo. I’m glad I did go. I took the dogs too, down to Our beach.
I played with the dogs & my friends fished. S, caught the first and biggest. She pulled in a 65cm, really healthy Barra. Then, through the night they caught four fingermark in the 50cm plus range. Watched a nice sunset, and moonrise.

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Midway through the night, one of the boys hooked what at first thought was shark. But it turned out to be a protected QLD Grouper. I managed to get one photo with torch light before it swam offΒ  after being freed from the hook. To give you an idea of its size, That mouth opening would easily fit your foot in sideways. The mouth is about 30cm across. It was bigger than the carcass in the second photo. I found that on the beach a few weeks back.

1.5m 50kg est. QLD Grouper.

1.5m 50kg est. QLD Grouper.

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A QLD Grouper carcass found on Walker Bay beach, near Cooktown QLD.

A QLD Grouper carcass found on Walker Bay beach, near Cooktown QLD.

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August 2009 – From Her Notebook

Last night I was checking out an image of a Kite (the feathered kind) on my big Sisters wall on Facebook. It reminded me of how birds always seemed to gravitate towards Tina. I remember her taking a photo of a Willy Wagtail one day in Rocky. She was sitting on the ground with her legs stretched out in front of her when a Wagtail decided to perch on her boot. I still have the pic somewhere. He let her take a couple of pics, had a little chatter, then flew back to where I’d been digging in the garden, to chase a few more bugs.
I was also reminded of a few pages in a notebook that I found while going through our stuff a couple months ago. Back in August 2009, we were staying at certain spots along the Fitzroy River near Rockhampton. Tina had started to write a journal of sorts & this is what She wrote over a few days. Anything in brackets are my additions for clarity:

Mon 10-08-09
We moved yesterday, about 14km from town along Bowlin Rd. But that road is a 4WD track, so chewed up by blokes with their big mud tyres that it’s a 45 minute trip. There is another way to get here, along Port Curtis Road and out to the river, but it is a bit further and takes nearly as long. I don’t think we’ll be able to camp here for long. It takes too long & too much diesel to come all this way (every day). We’ll spend this week looking for somewhere else a bit closer to town I think.
*******
We had a very pretty sight to wake up to this morn. Looking out over the water, the fog hid the opposite bank up around the bend. As Brad said, “It looks like we’re on a lake.” The other bank and the mountains in the distance behind looked like a big island in the centre.
******
It’s raining! For the first time in ages. It’s not going to last long though. The clouds came over & I had plenty of time to make sure everything was covered. I saw it coming over the mountain, and it was just rolling in lazily. It’s stoped now. I can see blue sky again, but there’s still some rain somewhere between here and the mts.
The crows are flying around again after making a big deal of roosting just before it hit. So maybe they know it’s already over.
The rain barely pocked the ground. I can see tiny wet splotches where the raindrops landed, but there’s still more dry ground than wet. My fire is still alight. It’s still raining, but it’s more like mist. The rain on the mountains looks like it’s heading towards town, and the band that came through here I can see retreating Westwards.
I was going to open the back & sit on the tailgate to watch it go, but as I opened the door a scud came through. It’s gone again now but I think I’ll just sit here in the nice dry car & have rest,, in case another one comes through.
******
There’s a pair of finches in the trees next to the car. No, they’re tiny little Honeyeaters. They’re flitting through the trees., one of them performing little aerobatic manoeuvres as he goes. When he lands, he flips upside down and hangs from the branch to eat from the little upside down flowers.
*******
When we came up here yesterday we kept seeing a pair of Whistling Kites circling our car. We were wondering if they were our mates from the last campsite (8km away). When we got here & were checking the place out, the kites kept us in view, circling down close to the car several times. Now, I know that these types of bird are very common in this area, but that’s not a very normal behaviour for them. Usually they’ll fly quite high, & there’s only one bird I know who comes so close…and more recently his mate (at the previous camp, Tina had gained the trust of a pair of kites. They would perch in the ironbarks quite close to the car).
I know that it’s not likely to be the same pair, but it’d be cool if it was. This morning though, while I was listening, his call sounded different. It could be because he’s in a new territory, but I doubt it. I might allow myself to fool myself though. I told Brad yesterday, “You realise that if they’re the same pair we’ll have to name them Gryphonn & Phoenix”. I kind of like that. So from now on that will be their names…whether they’re the same pair or not πŸ™‚Β  (yep, She drew a smiley face).
*******
The Wrens are in the grass, jumping from stalk to stalk as they check me out. The female was trying to attract my attention this morning, but I’ve only just spotted the male now. He’s beautifully decked out in his finest Black, his little Red vest shining as he puffs out his chest. His full breeding colours and his wifes behaviour this morning suggests they may have set up home somewhere nearby. I’ll have to have a look so we don’t disturb them.
*****
The coolest thing just happened. I took Jack (our dog) for a walk along the river. I was hoping to see some evidence of crabs amongst the mangroves, so that we would have some idea of where to drop the (crab) pot tonight, but I soon forgot about the crabs. I was looking down among the mangrove roots & saw a round, white object floating in the water, trapped. A frisbee! Bargain! “You score Jack”,I told Him. After I found a suitably long stick to retrieve it without wetting my boots, we took the frisbee up to the wide grassy flat just up from our camp. This is the cool part! I threw the frisbee a couple of times & I heard the kite calling. I looked up & he was just there above me, about 4 metres up. He just sort of hung there on the wind, adjusting his wings slightly now and then. His mate was flying lazy circles, much higher up. “Hello Gryphonn,” I said. “Want to play?” I held the frisbee up to show him & he looked at it. Then, when I threw it, he flew above Jack as he ran, then turned and came back when he did! I was spun out! So I did it again…and so did the bird. And he kept doing it, never diving on it or anything, just flying low above Jack … around 3 metres or so, racing him to the frisbee. He did it eight times – I counted. Pity Jack got tired. It was so cool! I’m sure he was playing. I even apologised for not having anything for him to eat. I told him to come back tomorrow & I’ll have somthing. I hope he does.

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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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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