As we prepare to depart the Cairns region, and head west there are a few things that I have learnt and many things that I will miss. While on the other hand there are some things that I am very much looking forward too… actually quite a few things.
Some concerns we will take with us on the road, such as the reality that we are crossing crocodile country. This was bought home to us succinctly the other day while we were fishing in a local river, barely thirty minutes from a major tourist centre. We were just out of Port Douglas, a lovely resort town with a country flavour and we were perched high on an old remnant of a bridge alongside the main road artery casting a line just for the fun and enjoyment of it.
On the bank across from us we had been watching the water, the mangroves, the birds and the logs when one of those damn logs moved. It was the resident croc and it had been all stillness for hours. Basking on the sunny mud bank the tide had caught up with its morning snooze and she decided it was time to shift. I say she, not because I looked personally as determining the sex of a croc is a very personal talent, but because she has something of a local reputation. This area suits her, she nests nearby and the daddy croc patrols the river here about visiting his harem as it is his territory. She was maybe three metres or so in length. I have heard that he is some five metres plus and a formidable foe. Both these wild animals were more than capable of making an easy meal of any of us.
We had a friend with us while we were fishing, someone we had met along the way. He was a personable and friendly Frenchman who was making his way around Aus. discovering the land. At first I didn’t think he understood that the log was actually a croc, I really don’t expect he thought he would ever come across one so close to a major port and tourist hub but it was a great delight and in relative safety we both got into the happy snaps.
There were other things out there that day, some around us and others not so evident. One was the poisonous puffer fish that we threw back carefully every time we hooked him. Others are the stone fish and it bought home to all of us that you really need to understand what you are dealing with when in a strange country.
We all know about sharks and up here in the north you are generally made aware of the seasonal Irukandji jellyfish, a dangerous and deadly stinger that invades the northern waters through the summer months when you most want to cool off with a swim. I wont go into the snakes and spiders as anyone who comes to Aus has heard of them, suffice to know that they hibernate generally over winter and the warmer months are the fastest and most dangerous. Not that I would ever recommend that you approach or even try to move one of these guys… just leave is the best advice.
Emu, kangaroo and our favourite ’emu in drag’, the beautiful cassowary are all killers. They can fight well and will gut you in a second with their strong defensive toes if you try to approach them in the wrong season, their breeding season in particular. They also can stand as tall as a man fully grown and are very capable of killing one.
All this aside however, most tourists think that anything that can hurt you generally swims or walks. Not so… there are some things in our forests, which just sit around and wait for you to pass by before they will attack. Notorious is the stinging bush, which has the tinniest prickles and all you need do is brush by without care and you’re the latest victim.
Don’t think that this is a complete list, it is not by far but another tree that lay in wait and which is quite common is the tar tree. They are prevalent throughout the forest and shorelines. This big bugga has both dangerous leaves, sap, bark and fruit. The sap from this tree will leave painful and burning blisters so ratting through the rainforest is never a good idea unless you know what you are doing, or have someone who does.
All this aside, I do love Australia. All her dangers, challenges and the variety of her land that is simply breathtaking. You do need to take a sane look at your world though and I consider that there are more dangers present in day to day life that you also learn to avoid. Traffic for one, you don’t need to be reminded about road fatalities.
Then there are the foods… yep one thing I am going to miss access to plentiful fresh food, that is healthier, natural and locally produced. The fresh food dept. will grow smaller inland but the local market opportunity will be larger. I love the local markets, Rusty’s which run in Cairns central from Friday through to Sunday has been a favourite haunt of mine lately. Fresh, seasonal and local food abound which you just can’t find the like of in the supermarkets. Lets face it, supermarket foods, particularly fruits and vegetables are cold stored, procured for shelf life value and generally pretty bloody tasteless.
I gave up getting fruits and vegies from the supermarket chains years ago as their shelf life at home and quality in flavour is sadly degraded and processed foods are boring and often full of quite dangerous stuff… it is all about shelf life and profits. I grew tired of tomatoes that tasted of water, potatoes and pumpkin that went off in four or less days and strawberries that don’t taste at all but are more a textural experience. Ohhh.. the complaints I have are multitude.
There is absolutely nothing available on a supermarket shelf that compares with banana’s or tomatoes that are naturally ripened or other seasonal fruits in their prime such as custard apples and mulberries, rarely available in supermarkets. I stumbled across the aussie lychee the other day… what a delight. Known as the longyan or longan and it was bought into Australia by the Chinese gold miners Finding this fruit is a rarity as well as a trip into history, simply delightful.
I love to hunt out breads that are baked not for the mass market and shelf life but for their crusty, taste and fresh flavour. I adore local markets, not the type that offer overpriced Asian trinkets and clothes, but those that offer produce from the locals that has been locally made or grown. Now there is a real treat! I am really looking forward to the offerings of the little town bakers… yumm.
Yes… this is what I am looking forward to gathering as we venture into the smaller communities and towns on our trip across the top. It is spring… and spring has sprung all along the track. The wildflowers are blooming and we are headed west. What could be better?
Jan is an Author and you can find out more about her books here under the tab ‘The Dreaming,’ for fiction tales of the Ancient Aboriginal Lore woven through contemporary times. Tales of the Kadaitcha, or the Featherfoot of a truly unique Lore.
You will find her on Facebook where you too can become part of the adventure. You never know… you might just catch up with her and The Man around the ridges somewhere.