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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Crazy Classroom of Wild Beasts

So for those that don't know, I'm actually a school teacher amongst other things.  I teach students from Weipa and surrounding communities in the Cape who are aged between 13 and 17 years old.   Most of my students are disengaged from school or need a little bit more room to breathe than the conventional 4-wall system.

Together we are a motley group of about 30 students and myself with a teacher aide.  My students are naughty and intelligent and witty and wonderful and I love the wild beasts too much!   The goal is to re-engage students back into mainstream school, increase literacy and numeracy and work with them through their own personal journeys so they can be happy, successful and productive citizens. We also transition students between distance education and community schooling into a fully loaded academic pathway on the main campus.

No one student is the same.

Our classroom is off the main campus in Weipa and the students come from all walks of life and experiences with all different and highly varied needs.

I truly have the most challenging and rewarding and satisfying role.  I have the best job in the whole world.




We have four snakes in our classroom - all who are readily fed, admired and handled by our students. We have a Cape York Jungle python called "Cleopatra", a rescued children's python "Zeuss" who accidentally got loose and escaped on his own week adventure before the snake catcher in town returned him to us, a spotted python "Monty", and one of the students caught another little juvie who looks like a Cape York Carpet python and who's growing alarmingly quickly in his hutch whom he called "Bruce".

We also have a BlueTongue lizard called "Borris" and an adventurous Red Claw called "Pinchy".  Pinchy ate everyone in his tank and is now in the big tank.  We had a rescued turtle as well but she kept eating everyone and getting out of her tank.  We also had a 6ft Bredli Python called "Esmerelda" but she kept getting out of her tank and had to be wrestled to go back in. She was also cranky and wanted to bite my face.

The students caught all the fish in both the tanks on one of our many adventures.  We also act as carers for the Weipa Wildlife group and often hand rear baby birds which we release back into the wild once they're ok and ready.  At the moment we have 2 kookaburras with concussion, a cockatoo called 'Wally',  a tawny frog mouth called 'Froggy' and we just released a crow called "Satane" who was bloody marvellous and would sit there saying "yum yum yum yum" until someone fed him!  We had a 'long-eared guinea pig' but he's moved on to a better and more suitable home...

One of the many strategies used to maintain control and engagement is a rewards system that works like this.    "If you come to school every day, be respectful to Miss and the other students, do all your work and get along, then we go for day trips on the weekends."  It works for me and for them cause my family and friends were going anyway and we've got spare seats.

On the weekends, I go around and pick everyone up from their homes.  Sometimes I have to call in some of my mates to help convoy them all if we've had a good week.  Their parents are very supportive and are so happy that their kids are happy.   Then we go for a day trip somewhere and swim in waterfalls, fish for barra, ride quads, shoot the .22 at targets or other wild adventures.  They get to cook their own bbq snag sangas and I take plenty of photos of them when they're happy and strong and proud which we use later in class.....when they're not.  It also works on the other students who didn't make the cut and they see what they missed out on so they work harder to get it.

On the first trip we took 6 of the boys.  I had one of them from Kowanyama say to me "Miss, I feel like I'm gonna see a pig. Miss, I feel it in my chest and Miss, I feel like I'm gonna see a pig."  I didn't think anything of it and brushed it off. Sure enough within 1 minute of him saying it, there it was. A big pig in the middle of the track...... Uncanny!  They get to know me on a different level and become part of the family.

Last Friday I took them on the bus to the Lakes for a flick in the afternoon and to throw the cast net.  I had two casts of the net for fingerlings. The first one went over another student's line and I thought they were going to be cross with me but that laughed and shook their heads saying "Ooooh if Mr Lobley saw that he'd laugh and get so mad at you..."  I shook my head at him but I knew he was right. The second cast I threw over the ledge and it tangled on the bottom. There was no way I was going in after it and was prepared to leave it and walk away.  But before I could stop him, one of the students had taken his shirt off and jumped in, untangled the net and was out. Quick as lightening.  I growled him out of shock "What are you doing? There could be crocodiles in there!!"  He just looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Miss, that's YOUR cast net and you only have one so you gotta look after it or Mr Lobley will be cross with you."  Unbelievable!  I was sooooo mad and proud of him all at the same time.  Thanks God no one was eaten that day!

They all know how to ride a manual 250cc quad now and the love riding them through the mud holes as we squish them between the car convoy to cap their speed without them knowing it.  They drove the quads into one of our secret spots and I thought they'd think it was super lame that I made them go so slow cause I didn't want ANY accidents but when we stopped all I could hear was their screams of laughter and excitement.  They walked each puddle before going through in case they got bogged and when we go there they were all like "That was soooo awesome!".  Totally worth the stress for us too x

They all want their photo on here but I said no.  We might have to do a blog lesson this term and they can write their own stories  xx

We were working towards a camping trip but we didn't quite make it in the end so that's our goal for term 2.

It works.  We've got kids coming to school more in the past 2 months than they have in the past few years.  We've got kids reading for the first time, feeling confident in themselves to have a go, learning to trust and taking responsibility for their own choices.  We've got kids learning to stand on their own two feet and be proud.

Love my job!







Barra Bonanza

I love fishing.  I love flicking lures, waiting for the set baits, catching livies and pretty much everything about it.  I do not like wingy children who bird nest their overheads. I don't care if he's only 6. He's had more experience flicking than most adults I know but I lost my temper and left him in the middle of 'crocodile lake' at one point on this trip I'm not too proud to say. ...

We took my sister and brother-in-law (who are now proud parent's to my niece Willow) to the Wenlock River for a weekend of fishing and swimming and exploring.

I love the Wenlock and everything about it.

All in all we caught barra, togas, too many to count Sooties and took almost all the fingerlings out of the river system as livies but it was soooo awesome!  

Cheers to you Snag Central! You never disappoint.

Here's the vid.


Old Nixon Station


For years I've seen Nixon Station on the Cape York map and wondered what it was.  I'd asked around a bit but no one was really clear on what it was any more or who I had to get permission off to stay there but I thought I might go in on quad and check it out for myself really quick on my next adventure.  After the Frenchman's Track debacle I was ready for something new and fresh.  

My beautiful friend and his daughter came with me and we parked the trucks and trailers near the PDR and quaded in.  I packed my day riding pack and an esky and we were off.  The track was fully overgrown and I could hardly see where we were going.  Needless to say it was quad country and I highly doubt if you could get a car in there.  The country changes dramatically every few hundred metres and the views from the mountains are breathtaking.  The kids were on the back and we were cruising along when a stick came up under my mud guard and through my foot about 2 -3 cm deep.  I was in the middle of nowhere so I had to pull it out and I washed the blood off with some of my beer as the water was still frozen. It didn't think it was too bad.  I'd wash it off when I got to the homestead.  It bled badly and looked worse than it was and blood was going all over my quad.  

There were pigs EVERYWHERE!!! Big mobs of sows and babies. They were digging up the ground and were not frightened of our quads at all. They just stood there like "hey, how ya going?".  We drove past them as none of us were capable of chasing nor were we prepared for hunting so it was their lucky day.  We went through some thick undergrowth and giant spider web went across my face and I had a little panic attack and swatted my face as if it was on fire.  I was thinking to myself, man this better be worth it.  The whole trip took about an hour to get in.  

When we arrived we saw the old cars and tractors abandoned many years before.  The old homestead was now the castle for the local wildlife who'd made it their home under the mango and mandarin trees.  The smell of pig was quite strong when Makayla spotted this big old black boar who was horribly drunk on mangoes and had no idea what we were or what to do.  I doubt he'd ever seen a human before.  Xavie started getting worried as he doesn't like being left behind on the quad when mumma runs after them and this one was huge!!!   He kind of trotted towards us, stumbling and awkward.  My friend gave him chase for awhile but left him be when he collapsed under the next mango tree in a stupor.  He must have been over 100kg and fat as!  

The property was amazing!  The mandarin trees were not in season but they were healthy and gorgeous.  We gorged ourselves on ripened, juicy, fat mangoes which were by far the best mangoes we've ever had. I filled my day pack with as many as we could carry and headed down to the creek.  We were standing in ankle deep water and is cascaded down into the hole.  I was thinking I should have brought my rod as there'd be huge untouched barra in there for sure when one of the kids spotted a brown looking snake wrapped around a rock next to our feet.  Quick thinking, my mate flicked it into the hole. Thank God no one got bit.  We'd have been gone for sure.  I washed off my foot as best I could but by now it was throbbing and I knew it probably needed stitches.  I haven't had much luck with sticks in legs as my family can attest so I knew I had to get back into town faster than I wanted to.

Nixon Station is an amazing place and I'll definitely go back to explore further.  I'd love to do a quad mission all the way to the East Coast following the creeks.  That'd be awesome!

Bloody Frenchman's Track

I'm a horrible driver at the best of times.  My first car was a Morris 1500 and I remember having it for about a week before someone reversed into me.  It would get a flat tyre and I once stopped on the side of the road, got out and knocked on a strangers door and got them to change it for me.  When it comes to cars I'm completely useless.....until living in Cape York.  Now don't get me wrong, I am still absolutely notorious for banging into large unwavering objects, wedging myself between two trees (where I had to call hubby to find my tracks and then get me off before driving back home), and hitting the water metre across from our house numerous times when hubby has made me practise reversing the trailer into the driveway. Don't even get me started on my reversing skills in the boat.  Ridiculously bad.

Anyway, I had the map out on the back table and my good friend was plotting me some good spots to go and find and explore on our latest adventure. I wanted to go someone off track and somewhere where there were not too many tourists. I'd just come back from a week up at the falls and had been home for less than 48hrs before I needed to go again.   We decided I'd try The Frenchman's Track.

Well, we were on our way through Bataivia when someone in a hurry zoomed past me and flicked up a boulder cracking my windscreen.  Bloody nora it gave me a fright!  What an ass!

It was a stinking hot day and I'd cracked the first beer as we entered the Frenchman's Track just off Batavia Downs.  I met my mate on the end of the airstrip and she'd brought her babes out too for the night.  We entered the turnoff and it was deceiving to say the least. The first hundred metres wasn't too bad.  Low gear and slow.  I had the trailer on the back with the quads on so we could explore right up to the East Coast through the Pascoe River.  Beautiful country.  There was nobody on the track and it looked like no one had been on it for sometime.    Sometimes you just have to follow tracks to see where they go. Sometimes it leads you to gold......

I got to a bog hole and decided to go around it which meant I had to go up on the side at a horrible angle, wedge between some trees and manoeuvre the trailer around at awkward angles to make it.  After another courage can, I was ready to give it a go.   I went up and through the bush but couldn't find an entry point back onto the track.  The track was already overgrown and hard to see and now it was impossible. At one stage I had to get out and climb up to see where it was.  I kept going further and further trying to cut back in but no go.  I then had to reverse my labyrinth with the trailer on all the way back.  Bloody Nora - what a mission that was!!!

Rookie Error 1:  Do not lose the track you are travelling on.
Rookie Error 2:   Try not to go over sharp, burnt logs as they wedge under your car and can pierce a tyre.  

I could hear the hissing sound and I knew my driver's tyre was a goner.  I got the pump out and tried to savour as much as I could. There was no possible way I could get all the gear off here. I had to persevere a little long.  I stopped every hundred metres or so (when I could hear grinding....) and pumped it up again until I finally got to a spot that was shady and I could make camp.  We went for a swim first and I tried to remember everything hubby had shown me about what I had to do.   There were a few blokes in the creek a bit further up and I did contemplate going and getting them to help me when I thought nah, I'll give it a crack.

About an hour later I finally got the rattle-gun hard nuts off. (I accidentally lost one somewhere...... don't tell hubby) Then came the drama of where do I put the jack.  I didn't bring my kangaroo jack which I know how to use on this trip cause it annoyed me taking up too much room so I only had the small one.  After several attempts, my friend and I were almost ready to give up when we got down and saw the little groove thing it's supposed to go in and Wahla! Presto!  It was on like Donkey Kong.

We celebrated with red wine and waffle cones filled with marshmallow and chocolate and baked them on the fire.  They were amazing.   The kids ate so much of them that they were sick.... literally lol.

The next morning my mate left with her kids and it was just us again.  We spent the day flicking lures in the creeks and lagoons catching Sooties and Togas.  There were fresh pig tracks EVERYWHERE and you could smell pigs a mile away but the quads scares them off before we get too close. There were a few slide marks on the banks too but I'm guessing they were more likely freshies however I didn't let the kids swim anywhere except in the crossing where I could see what was coming.  

That night we retired next to the fire and a car crossed going down south and were trying to get through to the East Coast.  A random chick in the front seat wound down her window and yelled out at me "Hey, you're the chick that camps with her kids with a lounge!  How are ya!"  I nearly fell of my lounge laughing (yes, I like to bring the lounge on the back of the trailer with quad so I can read my book by the fire in comfort lol.)    They'd driven past my camp on the old tele track last week when I was up near the falls for the week. What a small world.

That night a pack of dingos circled our camp at the reach of the fire light and I got the kids to bring their swags into the tent with me and slept with one eye open as they were giving me the creeps. I threw a rock at one but I don't think it was deterred one bit.  In the morning I figured it was the third strike in this trip so I packed us up and we moved on.

Lesson learned:  Bring the big Jack...... and the rifle.

Finding Sammy

We've got an amazing little spot near Eliot and Fruitbat Falls which has enough room for us to camp on the bank without pushing the vegetation unnecessarily, no tourists, no crocodiles and the best part about it is that we get our own private waterfall. It's magical!

For a week the kids and I and another mate, adventured down the old telegraph track on the quads and tried to find some spots we could see on Google Earth.  We spent our days swimming in the crystal clear waters, jumping off the tops of waterfalls, quading new country, cooking up camp oven roasts, attempted doughnuts and did naughty things.  All my favourite things!

We have a rule in our house. No one swims ANYWHERE until I say it's ok.  Not that there's crocodiles but there could be numerous other dangerous things and my 6 and 7 year olds are wildies and would rarely check before jumping.  They get it from their Father.  We're also at least 4.5 hours from any hospital should something happen and my first aide kit is waterlogged, rusty and full of dirt.

Anyway, on the third day I could hear them hollering out for me to hurry up so they could jump.  I was lugging the esky down the 10m strip from our swags so we didn't have to walk too far back to camp lol.  They were already in position and I had to climb down and check out the water.  We'd had some cars go through the crossing earlier on in the day and the water was murky and white from the clay up the river so I couldn't see anything.  I knew the bottom fairly well by now after drinking beers in there for several hours each day so was fairly confident that it was going to be fine.  I couldn't see any snakes or anything untoward this time (have come face to face with a python under a waterfall previously so now I make a point to check).  The coast seemed clear.

I waded out into the water to about my chest and took a leap and froggied my way out to the middle where the kids were standing about 3metres higher on the ledge ready to jump when a brown, scaly monster popped up no less that 10cm from my face.  For a big girl, I can really really really move. I'm talking walk-on-water-move when faced with a brown reptile in close quarters.  I was out of the water so fast that I couldn't breathe and almost had a panic attack.  I was pumped full of adrenaline when I had to get a closer look at what it was. It was too far from the coast to be a salty.  All I'd seen was the shell part when the bloody thing popped up again. It was a plate size long-neck turtle.  OH. MY. GOD. Talk about age me another 10 years!!!

We called him Sammy.

Over the course of the next 2 days we strapped a Go Pro on his back and watched him swim into all the crevices and secret spots in the caves.  We followed him around with googles and flippers, feeding him sausages from our hands and patting him like we were best friends.   The kids all got to touch him and chase him around too which they thought was beyond cool.  He did get a little too friendly towards the end and enjoyed swimming right into your nether regions and tried biting ANYTHING that looked like sausage.  The poor boys had a few close calls.....

And just as he appeared, he was gone and was never seen again.  We don't know how he got into our little waterfall oasis nor how he got out but we do know he was full when he left.

Pennefather and the "Turtle"


I LOVE Pennefather Beach. It's one of my all time favourite places in the world.  Kids and I were off for a week to stay in the hut on the beach. (yep, on school holidays again and hubby had to work).  I took up the quad so we could travel the beach and look for mumma turtles laying as well as get up and down the beach to chase the fish on the tides.  

On the first night the kids jumped on the back of the bike with their headlamps on and a belly full of sausage on bread with chocolate breaker.  They wrapped themselves up in their towel blanket as the night air was getting cooler, especially on the back of the quad.  It wasn't long before we spotted the tell-tale tracks in the sand and worked our way up the beach to find her.  The full moon was enough light for us to see and, crawling slowly on their bellies, they watched the first big turtle dig her hole and lay dozens of eggs before we guided her back to the water.  It was magical.  The kids couldn't stop talking about it and it was another lifetime memory sealed.

For the next 5 days, our routine was very, very similar.  Wake up with the sun about 6am.  Throw on rods and go pro and kids on the quad.  Flick lures until someone complains of hunger about 9am.  Go back to camp. Cook up pancakes and eggs.  Have a feed and coffee and make our way to the tunnels of fresh water which is about 20mins ride on the quad.  Swim for a few hours. Read my book until someone says they're hungry for lunch. Go back to camp for lunch.  Flick more lures and swim in the gutters. Make sandcastles, drink beers and chase the marine life up and down the beach until someone complains they're thirsty and burnt.  Go back to camp for cheese and crackers in the hammock with my book.  Make dinner.  Tell stories by the fire.  Cook marshmallows. Go looking for turtles again until someone says "I'm busted!" which is about 7:30pm and we're all in bed by 8.  

On the 6th day my friend came up for the day and we spent it much the same.  We had a thousand beers, cooked up a camp oven and went looking for turtles. We saw 7 lay before it was time to make our way back to camp.  My friend drove home about 10pm as his partner thought he was on a 'day trip' and he didn't want her to worry.   I was ready for a mission by this stage and found a giant log on the beach which I tied with rope and skull-dragged up to camp with my quad.  By the time I'd wrangled the mammoth into the fire, we were well alight and set for a few hours if not days and I crashed onto my swag like a starfish with the kids in theirs on the sand next to mine.

On the last morning I woke up with the sun and it was another glorious morning!  From the corner of my eye I saw very fresh and distinct markings in the sand right up into the camp and stopped on the other side of the fire.  I thought to myself "Oh my God, a turtle must have come right up to the fire to lay."  I got the kids up to look and was talking it up like I had some kind of insight into this turtles intentions.  
We were looking at the markings when I realised it hadn't dug a hole.... strange.  Perhaps it had changed it's mind because of the fire?

We followed the tracks around and back towards the water. As the sand hardened the markings became more clear.  It appeared that in the middle of the track there was a sharp line..... strange. Perhaps the turtle had something stuck underneath it?

We followed it down towards the water's edge and the flipper markings became clearer.... Strange, I didn't know turtles had CLAWS???

Rookie Error:    Not a turtle track.  It was a CROCODILE track.

I scurried the kids back up into camp and, as it was our last day anyway, began packing up and getting ready for home.  It had been a wonderful week but this was a bit too close for home and I was ready to take my chances/luck and go home.  

When I reached Weipa, I called my friend who was staying out there that night as she was tag-teaming my adventure with her own.  I told her the story and advised her that it was probably that 2.5 metre one that we saw a few times up the beach. No big deal but to be careful as he was cheeky enough to come right up to the fire. Thank God I had the fire going!!!

She went up to the hut that afternoon and took a photo of the salt water crocodile which sat out the front of the camp sulking for the next 2 days.   It was 4.5m long. A monster.  God knows how long he'd stalked our routine and behaviours before making his move. We never saw him once.

Lesson learned:   Midnight missions for wood are an excellent idea when you've had beers AND for your own safety.

The Stonies Adventure

We were going for a day trip to Stones Crossing..... The operable word: were.....

I'd packed an esky with beers, a couple of sangas and a packet of shapes.  I'd dropped hubby off at the airport for his 6 week stint at TAFE in Cairns and we were off to throw lures out off the Stonies Road with a couple of mates.  Road was easy enough - slow and steady but rough as guts.  We spotted a couple of emus on the road and two pigs, much to the delight of the kids squealing in the back but they lived for another day.  My favourite part of the day is the smell of the bush early morning when the dirt is still moist and earthy and the sun begins to beat down drying up the spiderwebs and puddles of dew.

It's about a 2hr drive to our 'Secret Spot' but with cranked tunes and 2-way radio banter between us, the trip went quickly and before long we were cruising along the bank of the mighty river.  Just by looking at the crossing you know there'd be some ancient Salties lying on the bottom in wait.  We'd have to find a spot where it was clear enough and we could see what was coming before we got in.  I got Xavie's and my rod off and we started flicking soft plastics in the creek around the rocky outcrops.  Mak forgot to pack hers.  It wasn't long before we'd both hooked up on some nice Sooty's and a Toga.  We played with a baby bull shark for awhile but then nothing.  Lesson no 1 for this trip:  Don't throw fish back in the same spot as you're fishing because they talk to everyone else in the creek and you won't catch anything else.....

After several hours of wallowing in the creek, swinging off the rope chandelier, drinking cold beers and working our way through the esky it was time to head home.  Some of our mates were staying the night and the others were driving home.

Neither of my kids ever want to go home so we put it to a vote.  Posed with the idea of staying overnight with no bed, no food, no drinks and no clothes to change into OR go home.  It was unanimous. We were staying!

That afternoon I thought I'd set a line up between one side of the creek and the other and hang some lures off it throughout the night. We'd done it a thousand times and have had much success with barra, sooties and other weird nighttime adrenaline rushes.  I got the rope out of my ute and, with Xavie in toe, we made our way down to the creek bed. It was really dark and deep at the bottom of our spot. Very crocy.  There was a fallen tree that I thought I could balance my way across till about three quarters of the river then, with a giant jump, I thought I could make it over enough to scramble out in time before being eaten. Then, the plan was to tie the end onto the other side and dangle off the lures. Simple enough.....

Needless to say after a day of sitting in the creek drinking beers, my planning, physical ability and problem solving skills were inadequate.  Oh, I made it to the other side ok; not for a little panicked scramble out of the muddy depths which were far deeper than I'd anticipated but I was safe.

Rookie Error 1:  Whilst I was putting all my brain-power to the test of getting across the crocodile lake, I'd forgotten the rope....
Rookie Error 2: Xavier is 5 and can not throw a large coil of rope even remotely strong enough to make the distance.
Rookie Error 3:  I had no idea how I was going to get back over to the right side of the creek again. I was stuck and the sun was going down far too quickly.

So....I walked about 300m up the creek in each direction and nothing - no crossing - no shallow bits - no trees - no way to cross.  By the time I realised I had to get into the water, it was almost dark. I'm an idiot!  I picked the closest tree and ran into the creek as fast as I could, leaping as high as I could until I reached a tree and monkey-styled my way across holding my legs out of the water as much as I could. Clearly, I'm not a gymnast nor am I a feather-weight so it must have a looked ridiculous but I swear to God I moved faster than I've ever moved before and scrambled out of the black water like lightening.  By the time I'd made it over I was wet, cold, full of frustration/anger/adrenaline/fear and was barely lucid.  I also decided we didn't need a rope fishing trap on this trip any more....

We set up our fire and our mates shared their dinner and red wine with us.  We lay on their tarp on the ground with their dogs as our blankets and, after our adventurous day, the kids were asleep in under a minute.  I tried calling hubby on the Sat phone to tell him we were staying but couldn't get through. Lucky we didn't have an emergency eh!   We all turned in late and it was freezing cold as we were still wet so I wrapped myself up with my children and the dogs who were surprisingly wonderful pillows.

It was about 4am when the mob of pigs came down on top of us as we'd camped on one of their runs to the water.  When they realised our fire and our dogs smelled them, it was on like Donkey Kong.  I hollered back for my pillow pooches to return as the pigs went down towards the water at the bottom of our campsite.  Within minutes there was a huge splash in the water and then all the pigs left.  The splash was way too big for a barra and the fact that it was at the bottom of our camp where I'd done my dash-for-life earlier was too much for me to think about. I didn't want to think about how big it was that took whatever it took.  It is a mystery that I still won't acknowledge thanks.

In the morning, we woke up and had some breaky. We flicked a few more lures into the dark water and caught a couple of nice size Barra before heading back home.

Note to self:  Think the entry and exit plan through before jumping........

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Wenlock Wildies - October 2012

Friday afternoon could not get here quick enough.  I packed the truck up early and headed off to the school swimming carnival for the year with the intention of scooting out as early as possible, picking up the kids on the way out of town.  I tossed up whether to take the quads or not and decided there were too many things in the boxes on the trailer that I would need like the compressor, tarp and camp oven so I thought bugger-me I'll hook it on and hope for the best.



With two other cars with me I was sure we'd manage whatever the track into the Wenlock river had in store.  It got dark quite quickly and the panels of my truck are testament to my lack of depth perception and driving skills anyway but winding through there I felt like a precision driver weaving in and out and around fallen trees and burning scrubland.  A few courage-cans later we were there and I had two options to get down onto the bank - a whopping vertical drop of soft sand OR a windy, jack-knife-waiting-to-happen option two.  I chose vertical.

Rookie error number 1.   I should have taken the quads off up the top. But instead, I dropped it into low gear, lost some air out of my tyres and pushed through the sand until I came to the camp site.  How I was going to get back up was a thought best put aside for another day.

We jumped straight into the clear, running Wenlock river and washed away any remaining travel nerves with cold beers and cocktails in the creek.  We had a few snags on bread with sauce, threw the swags on the ground and we were home.

A beady pair of eyes made there way down to our camp shortly afterwards and judging by his lack of response to anything we did to scare it away, he was definitely a salty.  Dogs had to sleep in the back of the ute this trip much to their disappointment.

Saturday sunrise was spectacular over the river and we hopped up for a cold swim and cooked up some pannies with shaker cream and chocolate sauce.  The kids were keen to "go on an adventure" so I got the quads down and my friend and I (with kids hanging on the back) set off with the rifle to see if we could come across some pigs in the nearby swamps and billabongs.  We saw fresh markings and diggings but the quads must have scared them off.  We pushed a track over the newly burnt ground and found a nice 'secret spot' and wallowed in the shallows for awhile before heading back to camp.  We came across a large stick creature that landed on my friend's arm and the kids got to see him up close. I've never seen one so big and like a white, paperbark branch.  I had a stick come up under my quad footings and spear into my bare sole which required some first aide but it was lucky I didn't need stitches.

We spent the remaining time in the creek, spoilt by cheese and crackers, peach cocktails and ciders.  A few little spangled perch fish were biting our feet and legs in the water, one of which scared my friend a good foot in the air after the crocodile incident the previous night and then Xavie decided he was going to catch one.  Two rods set up with little hooks and a loaf of bread in hand, we set off down the creek and within a few minutes he was hooked up and brought in a nice size sooty grunter.  Not to be outdone, Makayla then threw hers into the crocodile hole and pulled out a very large sooty grunter as well.  They were stoked.

After lunch our friends went on a wood chop mission and the camp oven coals were calling.  For dinner we had a selection from 3 camp ovens with an assortment of marinated sirloin pork, slow cooked lamb and all the vegies we could bring.  We backed it up with some toasted marshies and red wine.  It was like Christmas.

The kids were 'busted' early after their day of swimming and quadding and we weren't far behind them.  No croc that night so he must have gotten the hint.  We woke up early again and cooked up the smorgasbord of pancakes and wraps with coffee and it began to dawn on me about how the heck I was going to get out of this like piece of paradise.  We packed up mid-morning and all of a sudden my friend decided she could stand it no longer and floored it up the vertical incline.  We could hear her scream a few F bombs and adrenaline forced her over the lip with SUCCESS.  She was very proud of herself as were we.  There was also no way I was getting up with the quads on so the kids rode them down and I tried to turn around and head up too but it was a no go.

Rookie mistake number 2.  Don't try turning in a circle on soft sand with a trailer on the back when you're loaded up.....  I thought I might have to be pulled out when the Navara's new turbo proved worth it's weight and I finally got some grip in the sand and turned around.  There was no stopping now, I had to just go for it.  The vertical incline was not going to be possible so I attempted the winding, vertical hill instead.  I got half-way up and my windscreen was facing the sky, tyres thudded back to earth far slowly than I was hoping for but then I had to hook it to do a vertical 3 point turn to get up the last bit and almost jack-knifed but made it without a scratch....just.  My whole body was shaking and my adrenaline was pumping through my skin.  It was after this I also decided that I will definitely be keeping my hubby around - even if it's just so he can do these types of jobs instead of me.
There is no way I think I could ever do that again.  Needless to say we all cracked a beer at the top and checked all our knots before making the last heading for home.

As for the Wenlock river, Thank You for another fun-filled adventure.

Until next week...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

September Shenanigans

The countdown was until the September school holidays and the big fella had a list of jobs to fix on my truck before he left for his Cairns TAFE safari after the hols. There was no way I was going to sit around the house for two weeks, with the outlaws Nanna and Pop, and the very thought of being housebound without 4WD whilst he was away for the 7 weeks after the hols was my worst nightmare for sure.

Luckily for me, after a good 8hrs on the hoist after work, it was a green light.  We picked the visitors up from the airport and headed up to the falls for a few days.  Fruitbat falls did not disappoint and we wallowed under the first lot of rapids and waterfalls for about an hour before moving around to Twin and Eliot.  We set up camp at our secret "no tourists allowed" spot and enjoyed our own private waterfall and wild sanctuary.

The boys headed out to visit another crew about 10mins on quad but there were too many of us to squeeze on if we included the essential esky and snacks so I opted to drive around with Nanna.  We almost got into Canal Crk's entrance but the last water barrier was a big sticky so I went to put it into 4WD and it was stuck. No 4WD.  There were a few F bombs out the window and a quick mental punching session and finally another car came past with a young group in the front and I asked them to tell the quad camp up the road that I had no 4WD and had headed back to camp.

Everyone that knows me knows very well I don't like to miss out on fun so going back to camp to wait was not going to be pretty.  The fact that I had no 4WD, four hours from home, was a slap I also wasn't prepared for.  The first hour I waited I was cranky. The second hour I waited I mellowed out a bit and wallowed in the creek. By the third hour I was thinking "hmmmm, I don't think they got my message."  My hubby had found another tourist up the road from us who'd crashed their trailer to pieces and his stomach starting churning when he couldn't find me.  My sense of direction is poor at the best of times but he always seems to find my track and come get me but this time it took him a bit longer; no harm done.

We spent another couple of days swimming, jumping and washing under the crystal clear water and then headed back into town so hubby could go back to work.

The next day we washed our bags and refilled the Trailblazer with more beers, cheese and camp oven roasts and headed this time up to Pennefather for the full moon in the hope we'd get to see the turtles lay.  We stayed in the 5star shack on the beach and the weather was spectacular to say the least.  The camp set up quickly and we filled our bellies and filled the quads ready for the night ride up and down the beach.  It was about 6:30pm when we came across our first mumma turtle on her way up the beach.  She was magnificent and very patient.  The kids crept close enough on their bellies to touch her flippers as she dropped a few dozen eggs from her own.  This close encounter will stay with them for life.  The first night we saw plenty of tracks up and down the beach.  Ghost crabs were in full force and there were also quite a number of roosting birds on the beach this trip too.  Turtles were laying all over the beach and some had climbed more than 70m up the beach, over the dunes and were laying on the road.

The local council has just recently graded the entrance to Pennefather beach and every "tourist-nufty-idiot" now spits out on the soft sandy beach rather than going the swamp tracks behind the laying areas which means we saw at least a dozen cars churning up and running over nests all day long. It was heart breaking.  Many nests have been posted with signs or have debris marking them but it didn't seem to make any difference. Hopefully the new ranger up there can sign or rope off the entrance for awhile to help them.

We woke up early to flick lures up and down the beach and feed the many large pelagic's scaling the crystal clear water. It was too tempting for me and I had to get in and have a quick swim.  We saw a little 2.5m croc on the beach who hung around us for awhile but that was about it.  We chased the schools of mullet and blue salmon but they weren't interested in our smorgasbord of soft plastics or poppers.  Xavie had a ball with his overhead but I learned that you pay a dear price for cheap line. Never, ever again.  For every cast he got right there were at least 5 that birdied which meant that no one on the beach could fish until he could.....

For lunch I made a camp oven pork belly and veal roast with the best vegies. It was divine.  I also realised that I was down the big fella this trip and still had another roast in there by mistake so we cooked it up too and dinner was yet another reason why my pants were growing tighter and tighter.

That night we saw three mumma turtles within an hour walk up the beach and lay. The kids kept saying "mum, we're the luckiest family in the whole, wide world hey mum?!"  Yes we truly are.  One turtle had a big croc or shark bite out of her shell leaving her left back leg completely exposed but it had healed over and she was obviously ok.  The second turtle had her back right foot eaten and it was flapping around like paper so digging her hole was a mammoth and frustrating effort for her. Three holes later she decided it had to be good enough and we left her in peace to finish her business.  The last turtle had been turned around too many times and had gotten herself disorientated with the fire lights in the distance so the kids used their torches to guide her back to the water which I'm sure she was grateful for and Mak and Xav were stoked.   By 8:30pm Xavier was heard saying, "Mum, I'm busted" and fell asleep on the quad and Mak's eyes were in the back of her head shortly afterwards so we headed back to camp.  As we drove into camp my headlights spotted a track right out the front of the shack and we followed it up, past the debris, over the dunes and up near the road, then back down again.  We found her buried beneath the sand half-way back down the beach and she was in the middle of laying so we watched her finish and then headed to our swags ourselves.  There must have been dozens laying that night as the beach was filled the next morning with the best writing a kid could ever read.

62 days, I think, it takes for them to hatch.  We saw them laying from July so I think I've got this weekend at the Wenlock then back to Penne for the new moon and hopefully be lucky enough to see the full cycle begin again.  What a true miracle.

A big thank you to Nanna and Pop for sharing in this adventure.  You will be surely missed x


Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Mid Year Madness & Monsters!

Since my hubby no longer has school holidays off any more it was just the kids and I off on our adventures this time.  Quads hooked up, rods restrung with new line, lures stocked up and ice aboard we started our first week at Pennefather beach where we shacked up for a week of shenanigans.

On the first morning we woke up early to watch the sun come up over the back to find the manta rays feeding and cleaning in the shallows in front of our camp.  The mother had her babies in toe again and there were a few shadows following them – maybe cobia.  They were almost close enough to touch and we loved eating our shake-a-pancakes on the sand and watching them.

For the first few days the kids practiced flicking lures with random success.  Mak picked up a nice blue salmon and then some sharks.  Xavier hooked up some queenies and trevally but spent most of his time hand feeding our mullet to a small black-tipped reef shark that kept beaching itself in a frenzy for more. I think he fed it at least half a dozen when Mak decided to put a hook in hers and flick it out.  Within a few seconds she was on and her reel was screaming.  A 2m+ shark launched out of the water like a barra and almost spooled her little rod when the tip of it snapped off.  Mak was squealing with excitement and fear and a few tourists up the beach came down to watch as she tried to haul it in.  She did her best for about 10mins when the shark busted her off with one last jump. .. 

By then we were on a real fishing frenzy high and were hoping to get something else when in the middle of the channel appeared something brown and large like a manta ray but had a girth like a whale; gliding just under the water. It had no fin and I racked my brain to think of what it could possibly be. There was only one explanation…… it was a monster.  As soon as we saw it, it disappeared and we didn’t see it again.  Maybe it was a dugong? Finless whale or shark? I don’t know…

The turtles had started to make their way up the beach at night to lay their eggs and we took both quads up and down the beach each day looking for their tracks and making up stories about what must have made the tracks and what they were doing.  The kids loved this game and there was such a variety of tracks that some of them really stumbled me.   

When we weren’t fishing and it got too hot we quadded up to the tunnels for a swim and a picnic.  We ‘smashpooed’ and conditioned our hair and washed all the sand and bushman off before heading back to build up the fire and whack the camp oven on for tea.  Each afternoon we watched the sun go down over the water, ate some cheese and crackers, washed it down with cold drinks and played endless games of “I spy” and story telling in the hammock.  One night we saw what looked like a ‘pirate’ ship cruise past us and I thought it might have been a junk boat with boat people on it but then it was gone.  We later found out that The Duyfken, an endeavour looking ancient boat, came into Weipa for the weekend for everyone to view.

It was the last morning when I went out the front to stoke the fire when I noticed very clear slides in the sand at the front of our shack.  Excitedly I woke the kids to come look at what I thought were turtle tracks. They ended just a few metres from our swags with the fire in between us.    On closer inspection I thought to myself that the girth wasn’t as big as a normal turtle track and dismissed it as perhaps a small turtle.  Then I noticed there wasn’t a hole where the eggs should have been and I dismissed it thinking the turtle mustn’t have been happy with the spot and turned back.  It was at least 50 – 60m to the water’s edge so it was a long way to come and just turn back.  As we followed the tracks back towards the water, the sand got more moist and it was very clear to see the claw marks and it was at that moment I realised a large crocodile had walked up to us in the middle of the night….  The footprints were bigger than my outstretched hand.  It was a bit close to home for me so I packed us up and we came home for the night. Friends of ours that came the next day said they saw the croc still waiting out the front the next day and it loitered in the shallow waters hoping we’d return I’m sure. It was a dinosaur about 4.5m long. Another monster…

We spent the weekend at home with Az and washed off our gear, filled up the ice again and set off on adventure 2 on the Monday out to the Wenlock river to wallow in the fresh water river.  The kids flicked soft plastics into the deep holes and got some Togas and Bass. 

On the second morning I dragged the kids across the river so they could reach the deep hole as it was up to my waist and the current was too strong for them.  Halfway across we saw a shadow coming towards us in the water and I grabbed the kids and hoisted them as high as I could out of the water until I could see what it was.   It was a barramundi just cruising on past us up the river and didn’t give a second look.  It also didn’t give our lures a look in either…..

After the Penne croc incident I used the spotty each night to check the water as there’s big saltwater crocs in the Wenlock and just as many stories but saw none.  Thank goodness. The camp just up from us had a small one hanging around their camp their whole trip but it was much deeper and we could see the bottom in our spot.

The kids spent the next few days running their cherubim pots and using them as livies or eating them.   Both of them were getting good with their flicking and from the campsite I noticed a friend of mine walking towards our camp with a backpack on.  He’d gotten bogged a few hundred metres up the track and needed help. I quadded up with my shovel but it was past that point in the sticky mud so I had to go back and the get the truck.  Snatching him out backwards was easier than we both thought and before we knew it he was out and ready to continue.

We quadded up the many tracks around the Wenlock exploring for new spots and hidden treasures.  We looked for croc spots and when we stopped for someone to wee we heard the weirdest noise coming from a billabong.  Every few seconds there was a high pitched squeal like an elephant….or a monster.  This was going to be too many unexplained monsters for me so I convinced the kids to be brave while we investigated the noise. We followed it up the bank and around the back corner and found an old windmill that was the culprit.  Thank goodness!

After 11 nights camping outside, several monsters, a croc in camp and a belly full of cheese,  we were all starting to crave a hot shower and our own beds as well as a squeeze or three from dad and headed home, batteries charged and ready to plan our next trip.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Grunter Run!

There's nothing more exciting than when the Grunter start running.  Every man, women, bunch of kids, cousins and anyone that can possibly hold a line is down there. Baits, livies, lures - it doesn't matter. It's like people are completely taken over by a blindly exciting feast just waiting to be caught.   With Mak on my left, Xav on my right we launched our assault early at about 6am and I threw the cast net and got a good selection of bait.  Dad had gone hunting so it was just us today.  We had a bag of squid incase my throwing arm let me down....My dad taught me to throw them when I was about 8 but he's a lefty so I throw lefty too with a technique no one up here would recognise lol.

We started off the wharf and it wasn't long before Xavie hooked up.  I set his drag pretty loose as he only has 12lb line so pulling up a 50cm grunter looked like he was hauling in a marlin. He was squealing with excitement and at one stage I thought his rod was going to snap in two.  We got it to the surface and this fish was enormous...... too heavy to pull up onto the jetty and the weight of it snapped the line about a metre from the hook.  Devo'd!

Mak was next and her fish was about 45cm but fought like a jack hammer and the same thing - PING as we tried to haul it up onto the jetty. 

Right! That did it.  I launched our last resort - my rod with a 40lb leader.  Grunter number 1 landed aboard but only just....

The tide started to change and the bites were few and far between so we knew they'd moved on.  We grabbed our gear and esky and piled back into the red racer to our new spot (via the servo to get an icecream).  We threw the mud crab pots in our secret spot with some stinky-ass mullet in there and wished them luck!

By 9am we went across the refresh our bait supply and try our luck off the point.  Nothing but snags, catfish and a croc there.  Time to move on.

We launched our attack at Red Beach.  Within 5mins of my live mullet hitting the water, my rod was running!  I had 15lb line on it with a 40lb leader and live fish.  Barramundi - come on!!!!!  This fish was a heavy bastard and wanted to run.....but it didn't jump so I was beginning to get sceptical now.  From behind the bush, Scott our Chemist popped out and I couldn't contain my excitement.  On the verge of snapping the line or yanking the hook from its mouth in sheer adrenaline, I took my time and adjusted the drag on my reel.  Please, please, please just let me see what it is before I stuff it up and now at least I had a witness if it was a record fish.

20minutes later I'm still fighting this monster and as soon as I think I'm winning it'd bloody run again.  A shimmer of silver glitter and what look like black lines down the side appear running parallel to the beach - ooooooh it could be a threadfin!  Yah, that'd be good!  It runs one more time then I wind like crazy!  Both Mak and Xav are frothing at the mouth and I'm yelling at them to hop out of my way - yes it was going to be their fault if I lost it for sure!!!

With Scott still next to me, eager to find out what this monster was too, we finally got a good look at it. 

A stinking Queenie about 75cm long.  It had taken my mullet then spat it out and hooked itself underneath it's carriage so I was hauling this thing in on it's side.   Devo'd.

By 10am it was getting hot and the kids wanted to check their mudcrab pots so I gave my Queenie to a lady down the beach and off we went again to find better luck.

1 small Jenny in the pot and our others were empty with the markings of sharks so I packed up the pots and put them in the boot. 

It was time for the big guns.  Little red car is like a go-cart that gets smashed, crashed and can go through mud puddles with the agility of a 250cc quad.  I took her, loaded with the lines and pots and kids out to Red Bank and from there launched our final assault on the Grunter.

Both Mak and Xav are competent casters now so at least I can put my line in the water without having to stop every 2mins and re-cast them out!  Wooshka, first line took off and I had a good feeling about it.  Yep - a good size grunter.  Then it was the kids - 1 catfish and another grunter.

It was on like Donkey Kong!

For tea we had fresh grunter in the pan with garlic, butter and salt.  Even the dogs got fresh fish for dinner!  Yee Haa! 

(P.S I couldn't find a hat so the fluffy santa cowboy hat had another outing x)

A Sunday Morning Chase - not for the faint hearted!

The Sunday morning drive started well and around 5am.  We piled into a friends Ute and locked the dogs into the cage on the back until we got out of town. Dorothy knew the minute I put the harness on her what she was in for and she could hardly contain her excitement.  My mates brought their two dogs too which are experienced hunting dogs so we hoped some of it would rub off onto our gollute.

We crossed the bridge which is temperamental on the best of days during the wet season but considering I had packed a chook and a bag of fruit, we weighed up the risk and it was worth it.  About an hour out of town we slowed down and let the dogs out to ride on the back of the tray.  It wasn't long before Rarney was keen and just infront of the car we saw a lone boar, completely unaware we'd pulled up behind it.  We all jumped out of the car and the chase was on!  One of the blokes went left of the fence, the other went right and I went under and over into the mud in the sheer excitement.  Dorothy learned her first lesson about barbed wire and, needless to say, was a bit nervous about running at full pelt behind this boar.  Judging from the warn in pig track along the creek, this boar was well ahead of us and he knew every hiding hole.  I picked myself up off the ground at least 3 times chasing Dorothy without a collar and hoping she'd stick with the other bloke who were far quicker than I was in the pursuit.  Close to spewing with exhaustion, I stopped running and splashed my face in the creek trying to catch my breath.  I spotted the other bloke about 100m from me and made my way to him before I got too lost.  We heard a gunshot and then the car horn and thankfully made our way back to the car. They'd double backed chasing the pig and were waiting for us.  The boar was nowhere to be seen.

Boar 1, Hunters 0.

The dogs were keen as after their first run and it wasn't long before one of the boys spotted a mob on the side of a dam.  We pulled up down-wind of them and snuck up from behind.  I was carrying my hubby's knife and it's too big for me so running with it is like running with a light-saber so I strapped it to my leg and over my pants.  The dogs could smell them but they were near the base of the hill, the dam water cutting off their only escape.  One of the boys cocked his rifle and before the pigs knew we were there we were on top of them.  Trap sprung.  He shot two instantly and Dorothy took one with Gypsy on the other side.  One of the boys called out to me and I stuck it quickly.  "More pigs, More pigs!" we hollered out to the dogs who responded by chasing down the mob over the other side.  One of the dogs double backed as the mob turned on it only to see the other two lugging dogs in pursuit as well and the three of them together took them all down like a well-oiled muscle machine. We were all on an adrenaline rush by now and the dogs washed off in the dam and cooled themselves off.

Pigs 1, Hunters 3.

Twenty minutes down the road we saw a dark shadow and recognised it's shape before it lunged into the long grass on the side of the road.  There were puddles and holes everywhere and before the car had pulled up to a complete stop, the dogs jumped off and the boys took off after them.  "Mob! Mob! Mob!" I heard one of them yell out.  This boar, instead of running away had led them all back into another mob.  The dogs were barking and bailed up a big sow and as I ran my fastest through the grass another sow ran in front of my legs and I went ass over in the mud again.  It took off in the opposite direction and I made my way over to check out Dot and the boys.  One of the boys had stuck a sow and I yelled out "More pigs! More pigs! Gettem Dotty"  Rarney and Dot took off on the scent trail and caught up with it about 250m away.  By now I was convinced I was going to break my leg, get bitten by a snake or vomit from sheer exhaustion but once they're on, they're on and you have to be fast.  I caught up with the dogs and my other friend and got my second pig for the day.

Pigs 1. Hunters 5.

The sun was starting to bake up now and all the dogs needed water and to cool off.  We started to make our way back to town and the two of us rode on the tray on the lookout for one more to make our half/dozen.  The wet season grass was high and visibility is much harder so the more eyes the better.  Almost back to town, Rarney got keen again and we stopped to let them have a smell.  Dorothy and Gypsy were all chasing Rarney and were ready to go again.  They took off into the bush with the two of us in pursuit when Dorothy went right and Rarney went left.... Oh shite! without a tracking collar and with only a few successful hunts under her collar it could have gone badly.  I followed my friend and hoped we'd catch up with Dot soon when I saw her galloping at fall speed after a big sow.  Both her and Rarney took it from either side and they bailed it up in a mud wallow.  Gypsy came in as final straw and one more Cape hog bit the dust.

Pigs 1, Hunters 6.

We were home by lunch and overall it was an awesome way to spend a Sunday morning!

For Valentines Day this year I got conjunctivitis and a new hunting knife. My hubby got a new hunting collar for our Dorothy and a new chest plate as the last one got a bit damaged when our galloping dope learned the hard way how to get through a barb wired fence at full speed in chase of a boar....

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Tried our luck at Triluck!

Hubby had to go out to Cairns for a few days PD so the kids and I said yes to our mates who were going to throw a swag into their tinny and head up to Triluck Crk for the night for a fish. 

I threw some beers and snags in an esky, wrapped up a swag for us to share and the kids and I were set.

The shack is on a sandy bank in between "Crocodile lake" aka Triluck Cr and the ocean.  There's a dog cage up in the tree and the whole shack is enclosed with sheet metal about a metre high as the crocs walk across the bank in between. (you can see their tracks and they are tracked online).

We flicked some lures, got a couple of fish then settled in for sunset over the ocean.  A few rolling clouds of a monsoonal storm began to encroach on our turf and the wind was building quickly which was great cause it blew the mozzies away but we strapped down in case. Lucky.  The kids jumped into the swag off the ground and it wasn't long before the rain came down hard.

They checked the boat a few times to make sure it was tied up right and not taking on too much water then we settled in for a few reds and solved the problems of the world.

Squished in between my two rats in a swag I was awoken at 3am with my girlfriend shouting "The boat's going under! Cass HELP!".  I leaped out and ran down to see that the transom had gone under with the weight of the rain water and angle it was tied up to when the tide went out further than expected.  My mate was in the boat bailing like mad but the water and rain were coming back in two-fold.  HOLY SHITE! This was not a place you wanted to be near the water let alone at night or worse - stuck here for days until someone came looking....

My girlfriend held the spotty while I climbed into the boat too and used my weight (who knew my ass would come in handy one day lol) to balance out the boat while my mate bailed.  At one stage the boat swung out into the middle of this damn creek with me perched on the bow like a human sacrifice. I was hoping to God not to lose my balance in crocodile lake cause there'd be no coming back.

Have you ever heard a crocodile up close?  They sound like the GRUDGE aagggaagghhhaaggghhh and he was not happy with us in his bed.  He popped up a few times then we lost sight of him but you could hear him and he was way tooo close for us who were now knee deep in his home.

My girlfriend kept the spotty on him while we bailed like crazy, balancing and hoping luck was on our side.

About 20mins later the boat was looking better and we came closer into the bank, tied her up and took it in turns to check her.  The rain was pouring and we all knew the croc was next to the boat so there was going to be no chances taken on repeating that exercise ever again.

The following morning the kids woke up and we headed back into shore with my rats none the wiser of the events of the past few hours.

We tried our luck at Triluck and, if anything, came home safely with another good story to tell.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

NYE is swamps, waterfalls and open country

Loaded up with sparklers, glow sticks, party hats, fuel and poppers, we set out for one of our favourite spots with friends to bring in the new year with the typical muddy shenanigans that a campout brings during the wet season and this one did not disappoint. 

We spent the first few hours swimming in the creek then moved up to the waterfall to wash our hair and get a natures-own fully body massage.  We flicked some lures at the base of the waterfall and picked up a couple of barramundi but nothing big enough to eat for lunch. 

In the arvo we set off on quads to check out the swamps and see if we could pick up a few pigs in the marshland.  The kids strapped on their capgun rifles and day packs and dad loaded his .308 to his bike.  I'm certainly not the best quad rider and have had more near misses than anyone in our group so I like to take it fairly steady but when you've got two keen-as ratbags hanging on the back, the esky, and trying to keep up with the boys who only know flat-out, there's going to be issues.  I hit 1 bog hole in 2nd gear and quickly lost traction which meant I had to get off and push myself out. Lucky for me, Mak took the control and she drove us out while I dragged my legs through the mud and grass to catch up.  Xavie was on croc control and after spotting one in our local fenced in sewer pond this week, I wasn't taking any chances.   As we rounded the swamp, the water was getting higher and we noticed the black clouds heading straight for us and we were at least an hour away from camp so thought it better to head back.



It started to rain within minutes and every creek crossing was deeper than the last.  Some of them I had to walk the kids across then tried to negotiate the rock bottom blind and hoping for the best. God I love manual motorbikes!

What came next was one of the biggest storms this season.  The dogs went crazy in the mud and so did our kids.  Mud angels, mud slippery slides into the creek, dad's skiddies and doughies, rain showers and shenangians.  One minute the water was at my waist and within minutes it was up to my arm pits. The creek was swelling and swelling fast.  We pulled all the tubs off the ground and the creek burst it's banks and the water flowed through camp.  There was nothing to do but give a good ol' cheers to the clouds and make the most of the cool weather. 
3 packets of sparklers, 50 poppers, glow necklaces and glow sticks hanging from the tarp, music pumped, drinks flowing and we saw in the new year with all the grace that 2011 could muster.  The rain stopped about 4am this morning and the river bank receded slightly but not enough to swim in safely so we packed up and headed on home after a last minute quad ride.
So many wonderful memories and adventures were had in 2011 with fantastic people but it'll be nothing to what 2012 will bring I'm sure of it!

Bring on 2012!

Friday, 30 December 2011

A Cape Christmas!

I think the best part about Christmas is the anticipation and lead up. From barge delays to cyclone warnings, postal service sorting issues to spotting Santa and of course then there's the food...... This year was no exception - absolutely memorable in every sense of the word. 

A Cape Christmas means you will continue to receive presents for approx 5 weeks - one present at a time. Our parcels only come in once a week so if it misses the barge then it goes to no-mans-land for an undetermined amount of time and is only recovered on the odd occasion....  When only one of our bikes arrived a week before Christmas without it's partner I was beginning to panic. Oh oh  who was going to get coal this year?  I'm sure our kids now think that the postal service here is only to provide them with more gifts.  Thank goodness, the other bike came on the Friday before so we were set.

The barge came in late and the mad panic to get food before others was ridiculous.  Forget the Boxing Day sales in myer, up here it was more like a whole heap of muddy scrubbers fanging for some fresh fruit and vege before the rush....that was Woolies!  I grabbed my vegies and lamb and got the hell outta there before I too was stampeded.  We got our cartons off the pallet and erected the 'Christmas feature wall' with yellow bricks, bicardi and wine cartons, stuck on the tinsel and we were set.

Christmas Eve was priceless.  For weeks we've been talking about Santa coming and how he would find us wherever we were on Christmas eve whether we were camping or just at home.  They'd baked for Santa from a recipe my girlfriend had suggested; processed tim tams with philly cheese, rolled into balls and stuck on a stick affectionately called by my son "Poo on a stick!". They were his favourite.  Santa was given milk and beer, "poo on a stick" and the reindeers had a plate of lettuce and carrot. Perfect.

At about 6pm the excitement really started when I was positive I'd heard a thud on the roof.  Makayla went bizurk with excitement and they both ran outside to have a look to see if the slay and reindeers had finally found us.  It was too dark so they ran in and got their torches.  (Their pack torches have a swiss army knife on the base of them).  Xavie went armed.  We listened intently for 'bells' when you wouldn't believe it but a flock of birds took off from the tree sounding like a stampede in the sky and leaving us covered in raindrops.  It was too much for them and squealing in fear they ran inside for safety.   After a few more minutes of 'hearing bells' they were convinced to go to bed and wait for the big fella to come in.  I tucked them in and handed them their torches in case they heard or saw something then they could check - they were so frightened and excited and bursting out of their skin in anticipation.  I opened up their louvers so they could see what was happening outside and we sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer again.  It wasn't long before there was a thud on the roof, then a red torch light moving outside their window through the garden.  It was too much for them and they were hysterical.  "Santa" ran up the street, leaping around in the darkness making it look like the reindeers were on the street and our garden....  I thought Makayla was going to cry she was soooo convinced they were there. Xavie on the other hand was beside himself with fear and was trying with all his might to convince himself it was anything but Santa. 

What followed next was priceless and I'll never forget it.   "Its just a crocodile eye mum! It's not Santa.  Go AWAY SANTA! It's not Santa is it mum???? Its not Santa, maybe its just a bird with a red singlet! Is that right mum, just a bird in a singlet?".... What do you say to that? 

I told them that Santa wouldn't come until they were asleep so they ran into bed, Xavie more out of fear than anything else, and hid under their blankets.  "Please mum, don't go, go away Santa!" and for the second time tonight he went to bed armed....they were cared out of their wits but asleep shortly afterwards.

Dad and I stayed up and put together their bikes. I supervised the work like a great foreman should, with a Christmas beverage in hand and holding the spanner.  "Santa" wrote a lovely letter of thanks to the kids for the "poo on a stick" and explained it was his favourite snack as well.  Xavie would be pleased.

Christmas morning came and the kids, after their exhausting night, got up around 8 o'clock.  Xavie came in first and I asked him what Santa had brought him as I could hear him playing for at least an hour in his room.  "Nuffing" he replied.  I asked him had he gone out and checked yet in the lounge room?  Looking very concerned he asked "Is Santa out there?"  I laughed and told him to go and check.  He woke up Makayla and they went out together.  It was on like Donkey Kong! 

Makayla at one stage told Xavie that she had too many presents and started to give him everything in her Santa sack that was green or blue.  When he realised he too had the same presents in his sack, they exchanged colours again.  Once they opened the cap gun rifles it was over.  There was no need to open anything else until that night and the next day as the only thing they wanted to do was ride their bikes up and down the street with the other kids (who'd all gotten bikes as well) with their cap gun rifles strapped on the back.  At one stage Xavie went and got his camelpak and made himself a little picnic with his knife/torch, all his caps, a wrapped up "poo on a stick", a museli bar and a water bottle.  He was ready for anything.

Our Christmas Day consisted of bike rides, pig hunts out the back, community BBQs, sharing a drink with our beautiful friends, skyping with our families back home in BrisVegas and stuffing our faces with Christmas cheer.  I couldn't think of anything better!

For Boxing Day we all went out quading in the mud and spent the day sitting under the waterfalls and swimming in the now full 'crocodile lakes'.

Cyclone? What cyclone? ...... 

Makayla put it best "Mum, this is the best Christmas EVA!"

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Mozzies or Marchies?

We packed the truck up and loaded the quads on and were ready to re-explore Mapoon and the surrounding beaches and swamps.  The other car loads of friends rocked up to our place so we could convoy together through the mud and try to navigate our way around the potholes.  It's about an hours drive from here and the landscape looks like tropical palm trees, highlighter green grasses and backs onto the water's edge. Truely a beautiful place.

We drove up onto the point and I jumped out.  Dot was anxious to get out and was bouncing around in her dog crate so I let her out too and she proceeded to pig root with excitement and run her fastest around all the cars, bowling over anyone in her path.  I slapped a black mozzie from my arm and thought about getting out the can of aeroguard before we started to unpack.  The kids got out with me and then the boys decided they'd check out the area to find the 'perfect' camp spot.  I slapped a few more mozzies and walked behind the car wondering where he wanted to go as the tide was bloody high and we're already in croc country - no need to serve ourselves up too easily... 

I noticed the kids were starting to slap themselves and fight the imaginary foul.  They were big mozzies, I'll give you that!  The boys disappeared around the bend with the spray and we had no other option but to run through the sand towards the car with flailing arms in a bid to ward off the little vampires.  We got around the bend and got a glimpse of the boys having gone way beyond flailing arms and were slapping themselves frantically as the swarm of billions of mozzies pulled their ambush to swallow us all.  The flying disease were thick and thirsty.  On the verge of panic and ready to sacrifice the children in a bid for itching relief, we clambered back in and floored it until we got the hell outta there.  Flooring it behind us in the rear vision mirror was our giant bounding live-bait, with wild eyes as if to say, you bastards have left me again.  We did paper-scissors rock for who was going to get out and let her in her cage.  Hubby lost - it's 'his' dog now...

So where were we going to go then? None of us wanted to go home.   The creeks weren't full enough yet and we'd already been travelling an hour, so it was back to Penne we went.

Over the sand dunes we got the first glimpse of the rolling blue ocean and the smell of salt water and rained-on dirt was sensational.  We tossed up whether to chance going to the hut and getting kicked out when someone else was booked or just biting the bullet and throwing up the tarp.  We went the tarp option - nobody wanted to set up for the third time today.  The tarp is huge and can fit our cars underneath so we just had to roll out the swags on the back tray. Too easy.  The tarp went up, the chairs went out and within 10mins we were set up.  A green march fly bit my leg leaving a welt and I took pleasure in slapping him relentlessly off my leg and then again while he was in the sand.  Experience has taught me that marchies don't kill easily and he was not getting a second chance on drinking me.   We cracked some beers and I put a lamb in the camp oven for lunch.  It was as if I'd sent up a flare for all black and green marchies to call their mates as Christmas dinner was about to be served.  They came in a multitude of colours and stings....

Aeroguard boasts that it lasts up to 6hrs.  I think I should write to them and send a photo of my elephantitis swollen legs, face, neck and every other soft spot I have.  One layer  of aeroguard lasts approx 11mins and 20seconds before you need to reapply.  

The other solution is this...  Open a coke zero can, spash out the top 2cm as you slap the side of your face and swear at the flying beast that has bitten you...again... then top it up with bicardi until it's clear and filling the top of your can.  Drink the first gulp really fast, squinch through the unpleasant burning sensation, gulp again.  Reapply aeroguard with a nice layer of sunscreen over the top. The blowing sand in the wind will help it all stick together. Swig the last half of your can then repeat the whole cycle from the top.

Neither mozzies nor marchies can resist this concoction and you'll be safe.

As for children, the same applies but instead of bicardi let them ride your quads fast enough that they don't get bitten or care if they do......

Mercinaries, Missionaries and Misfits

Someone told me yesterday that there are three types of people and that Cape York is full of them. The more I thought about it, the more people I could relate it to. Some of us have elements of some or all. Either way, an amusing thought for the day....

Mercinary - someone who lives up here because they make a lot of money and they don't care how.  They work hard, long hours, do what needs to be done and often at the expense of others around them or the environment.  They have little regard for the wake they leave because they know this is not their 'home' and they can leave when it gets too hard for them. 

Missionary - someone who comes up here and thinks they can fix all the 'problems'.  They're often Christ associated and ready to convert the next person in need of a labottomy with the intention of making everyone live and beathe like they do.  They don't see people for who they really are but as either like them or in need of 'change' in an eternal quest to convert the world to their beliefs, values and way of life.  They pave their way with great intentions and, in their inexperience and nieveity in life, walk around with blinkers and a one-track mind. 

Misfit - someone who comes up here because the rest of the world chewed them up and spat them out and there's literally nowhere else for them to go. They can be reckless, wild and impulsive or the complete opposite, either way, only their own mothers could love them.  They're here because someone said they should 'try it' and are now appreciating the thousands of kms between them.  They can't fit inside any 'normal' box and are the square peg.  People might love them because they can't believe they do what they do without blinking an eyelid. 

So which one are you?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

When you live 12hrs from the closest city, thousands of kms from your family and old friends you have to make a choice.  You can sit at home in the air con, facebooking your friends and family about how much a small, remote town sucks and count down the days until you go back to the 'coast' or you can suck up what life throws at you and make the most of every day with the people and places you have right now.  What's doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Over the years I've seen people do both.

For the past three years we've been so fortunate to make lifelong friends with people who have come and gone through this small town and over those years there have been some big highs and lows.  Some of which I know I stand taller for.  What's different about this place is how hard it is, after awhile, to let people back in when you know that they too will eventually leave.  There's many people here who can't do that anymore because when you invest so much time and energy in developing a real relationship with other people, couples and families, you share in their memories and entwine your lives, then you have to stand at the tin shed airport and wave them off; you can't help but feel they're taking a little piece of you with them and it hurts.

Social networking, Skype and the occasional phone call are as close as we've been to family over the last 18months which can be hard on the heart-strings and on relationships.  Christmas is the hardest.  I'm not proud of this but I'm yet to hold my niece or nephew and the price of flights for the whole family is often too much for us to afford to travel.  We've been lucky for some of our family to visit us for short visits (our spare room is affectionately named for our kids after the last person to sleep in there) but it's not the same as ducking down the road for a cuppa with that person who knows you better than you do. 

Important milestones and accomplishments are the best excuses for celebrating with great people and this town will do that for you. You can be as bored or as socially engaged as you want.  Sometimes we don't even need an excuse to party.  We regularly just go down and watch the sunset and enjoy the peace, or share a meal together. You can make an external family that can fill that void and be there for you when you need it. To fill this primal need to connect with real people in real conversations you have to force yourself to make the effort and open up to an extended family here.  Opening yourself up is hard.  Everyone needs someone to talk to and you can find yourself unloading some of your deepest thoughts and feelings with these people, often in a creek or over a beer. Whether it's a work decision that has left you reeling, a choice that doesn't go your way, a mistake or two that 'everyone' knows about, a fight with your family, a marriage or family issue or something you're ashamed of; where we live is where you can always find a confidential and reassuring breathe of confidence to pick yourself up and keep going. Doubt about why you live here or the choices you make can be made easier if you share it with others and bounce your ideas off a friendly face in the same position as you. For these people I will always be eternally grateful.

Being away from family and old friends also makes you rely more on yourself and on your partner. Being remote or 'alone' does not mean you are lonely.  It forces you talk it out, share in each other's dreams and aspirations, be supportive and listen every day without the interference of others.  Going through the hard times, especially living remote, makes you stronger. 

If you want to make it in this place then you have to be strong.  You have to make a conscious decision to overcome your fears and tell yourself "yes I can do this". You have to get in there and just do it!  You will make mistakes. You will find it at times really hard.  Whether it's standing up for what you believe in, overcoming the fear of putting yourself out there all over again, learning to be independent and stand on your own two feet or taking the initiative to do something about your situation,  the risks are worth it.


As Kelly Clarkson's new song sings "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,
Stand a little taller....."




Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dogs versus Wenlock Monster

There are a few types of dogs living up here but 90% of dogs are itsa-bitzas and they're all huge.  Everyone has a dog or 5, especially if you're into hunting.

Hunting dogs are usually trained to be bailers or luggers.  A bailer is a dog that has a good nose, is fast and 'bails' up the pigs by barking or nipping at them.  Think of a sheepdog style of rounding up and holding them in an area, waiting for you to come in and finish the job.

There there are luggers.  Luggers are dogs that can have a good nose, have to be fast but they're strong and they bite.  Luggers are dogs like our current breed - great dane, bull arab cross. Her name is Dorothy and she's the size of a small horse.  Our other dog, Dolorus, is 6 weeks old but will be stronger and taller...  They hang off the pigs ears or face to stop them running. Some, like our dog's dad, just bite over the top of the pigs neck and press them into the ground, heldfast until you come.

My first dog up here was a Golden Labrador.  She was sooo hairy you could make a jumper out of her dropped hair on a daily basis.  She was a good guard dog and kept many people from jumping our fence and helping themselves - unless you said "hey sandy" and then she'd just roll over and ask for a pat while they robbed us...  Sandy went camping with us everywhere. She wasn't just a pet but part of the family. In fact, I dont think she knew she was a dog because she just expected to be treated like a queen.  Sandy was bitten by a snake while we ran her around the lakes and now she overlooks the ocean sunset at RedBeach.

One time we were camping on the banks of the Wenlock River gold mines with friends and were enjoying a few festive drinks around the fire when, out of the darkness, came this ear-piercing scream like a T-Rex roar from just outside the light of the fire.  To say I was scared was an understatement.  Think of my face-completely drained of colour and life, lots of body movement flailing around but not actually moving, mouth-wide open to scream but only something maternal from deep that came out like a grunt. That was me.  Standing on my camp chair, like that was going to save me, pearing over towards the kids lying on their swags next to the car tossing up whether to sacrifice them or hope that their father would come to all of our rescue.   "What the hell is that?" I managed to squeak out.  I'd never heard anything as loud and ear-piercingly dangerous in my life....

Our friends dog, a great dane/arab mix, black as the ace of spades takes off up the bank in the direction of the roar.  Gone.  Our other friends dog, a cattle dog cross, took off into the pitch black also, barking and carrying on like they were going to kill whatever monster lurked beyond the shadows.  Our Sandy girl had dug a hole under my camp chair and was litterly shaking with this pittying look in her eyes like "mum, what the f%*k is that?". No one was going to move her anytime soon. 

She was not a hunter.

With the other two dogs, who at the time had never hunted before and were more like giant dopey cats, were gone. The boys had no choice but to go after them.  One of them picked up the closest thing to him - a pocket knife.  My hubby dug around in the camp box and tossed up which would be sharper - the plastic butter knife or the rusted piece-of-shite machete. He went with the machete.  The other bloke took his steak knife off his plate.  No time for shoes or protective clothing and off they ran into the bush hollering after their dogs and hoping to god they didn't come across the newly discovered, carnivorous dinosaur that had come across us on their track to water in the dark. 

A few minutes passed and my girlfriend and I, still cowering around the fire and hoping the Gobin/Human-eating Monster would eat the boys first when in ran the dogs. They'd chased whatever it was, most probably a giant boar, until they lost it in the thick scrub.  Thank God. 

What on Earth they would have done if they'd come across that man-eater will never be known but my bet would be that anything would be able to put up a decent fight against three pleb hunters weilding plastic knives, pocket knives and a rusty machete.....

Beware those that camp on the Wenlock River. That monster has not been seen since......