Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yeha, Cowboy Johanthan Rides

Remember we told you Johnathan had something in the wind we would share with you.

Well YEHA, he completed it. Johnathan rode a bronc’ horse in a rodeo.
The commentator introduced him, saying “I’ve just been told its this guy’s first ride”; “I don’t know if he is brave or crazy”. The reason for these comments was that Johnathan when initially asked was going to do a ‘Station Buck Jump’ (the semi tame version). Basically you take a regular stock saddle and strap it to a horse with a little gumption. However as luck would have it, the Rodeo season was nearing the end and Johnathan missed the Station Buck Jump so the alternative was a 2nd division Saddle Bronc’ Ride, (not so tame). But fate was to intervene and the Rodeo closest to Kroombit only offered the big boys ride, 1st division, and (the extreme ride for the professionals). Now remember Johnathan only learnt to ride when he came to Kroombit, so he had about 6 months experience under his belt, so is far from being called a professional. Anyway, he decked himself out in serious boots, spurs, chaps and ‘Bullzeye’ rodeo shirt, (At least he looked the part), Johnathan got in the shute and lowered himself onto to a horse. The commentator called for some gate pullers and he was away. Up, down, up, down, up, down, “Johnathan stay in that saddle” yelled the commentator while the crowd went wild. He managed to stay on that bucking horse for 5 seconds before being bucked off, yeha. He says he had the most amazing exhilarating ride, and “when can I do it again”. The smile is only just leaving his face now 2 weeks later. We have attached some photos taken from video so you can get an idea of his triumph. Yeha, cowboy Johnathan will ride again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Well we're in no hurry

Wendy took this shot at the Callide Dam, in the background is the Callide power station and coal mine.

The temperature here is hot, that is 24c+ by 7am, which takes some getting used to and cancels any ideas of having a sleep in as the tent radiates the heat and heats up like sauna. On the reverse though it is equally weird to find yourself hunting out a jumper in the evenings because it has cooled down to about 22c from the 30’s it was during the day. Sometimes we find ourselves missing the crisp cold air of Taupo.

Work has slowed down a bit at present so we just had 4 days off and went to the beach 2 hours away to do some fishing. We have bought a 4 person pup tent as it is difficult to take the trailer tent down for such a short period. Anyway we got to the beach and were putting up the tent when we got attacked by midges, not like ours at home. Remember here in Australia they do things by extremes, usually on the enormous side, however on this occasion, the buggers are smaller than a pinprick (not a pinhead, but the smaller end). They are so small you can hardly see them with the naked eye. Anyway they bite quite severely but don’t swell up for about 6 hours and only get itchy after about 10-12 hours. These little suckers are not discriminate either because Johnathan was covered in bites within about 30 minutes and insects don’t normally bother with him. The story however does not stop there. I have had mosquito and sand fly bites before but they are nothing compared to these. These bites got incredibly itchy and it is very hard not to scratch. Cassandra could not resist and is now all poxy looking as the bites get infected quickly because they form a blister and when you scratch they pop. The worst of it is they don’t get better, in fact, they got worse after the first few days. It is now day 8 and the buggers are still really itchy but at least they have lost there power to drive you crazy. Our beautiful NZ skin is covered in scabs; that is all of us, not just Cassandra and Wendy. A hint if you come over put insect repellent on as they don’t like it but we didn’t know this and by the time we put repellent on we already had a few dozen bites.

About the fishing it was incredibly windy so ocean fishing was off for one day but the next day we persevered and fought the waves. We caught nothing but saw a few big turtles just 20 metres from the shore. Johnathan had a couple of good bites but the fish got away so all we can do is exaggerate the size of the fish we reckon bit the hook. The beach we stayed at had stinger warnings for later in the year, and shark buoys which have baited hooks and supposedly keeps the sharks away from the shore. Quietly, I had no intention of going in, but Johnathan and Cassandra put on wet suits and frolicked in the water. Its like all those nature documentaries, the likeness to seals was incredible and they must have looked delicious to anything swimming past, but on this occasion obviously the sharks were on a daytrip elsewhere because both of them left the water fit and well. Oddly enough a few weeks after we left this beach 2 crocodiles, 3 metres long were spotted in the surf and the beach was closed. Apparently it is breeding time and they might have been looking for extra food.

Apart from the stinger and shark signs, we saw signs at the local tidal estuary which advised that there were crocodiles about so to stick to the path. Yeah right, why would you even enter the path if there were crocodiles? I have seen those things move when there is food around, and personally I could not run fast enough. (Johnathan was not worried; he says he can run faster than me). It kind of worries me that there were no crocodile signs at the beach, which was some 5-10 kms from the tidal areas, but there are obviously crocodiles given the recent sighting. I think I am going to remain hot and sweaty for the rest of my time in Australia because it isn’t safe to swim anywhere.

You would have heard me moaning about the kitchen work a bit recently, it has been wearing a bit thin and we have passed our original commitment date we gave the boss. So I have been slowly whittling away at him asking to be trained on the horses. Finally my perseverance has paid off as today I went for my first ride as a guide. I learnt how to saddle etc. The biggest thing to learn will be identifying horses as they have over 30 horses.
I feel it is a bit of an achievement as I can be seen as more than just the ‘kitchen bitch’ now. Horse riding doesn’t really feel like work yet either, I guess once I have repeated the process a few times I will feel like I am working. Johnathan has been experiementing with different horses as he increases his horse riding skills. He has just started riding a horse called Buster (name earnt after he busted another staff members arm). Interestingly, the more experienced staff are scared of this horse, not sure what this tells us about Johnathan? It should be mentioned this horse was a wild brumby caught in the national park and can be very flighty and scares easy. Maybe Johnathan's brain is being addled as he has already been thrown (twice) off a horse just one step less mad than Buster, called Grasshopper.


Talking of horses we had a new addition to Kroombit yesterday, nah not a horse but a donkey foal (not sure if a baby donkey is a foal but never mind). The most prominent thing about him are his gynormous ears, I guess he will have to grow into them. Cassandra was doing her morning chicken feed run and spotted him shortly after he was born. She feels cool because she got to see him first and was able to spread the news.

The boss needed some money so decided to muster in some of his Brahman cows to see if they have fattened up after all the rain. Anyway it was all going to happen over a couple of midweek days apart from the initial muster. Given I was working in the kitchen I asked the boss about going and he told me they would be mustering by helicopter on Saturday. Unfortunately the helicopter can’t take passengers but that didn’t worry me. Instead the boss and I, with a couple of others, went out in the 4wd drive to help with the muster. That was getting gates open and holding stock in position while the helicopter flew around. It was an awesome experience. I commandeered the front seat so I was the “gate bitch”, but it also meant I had access to a door to get out and take photos. Australia keeps opening up new experiences.

One of the eperiences offered close to Kroombit is the crash site of a WW2 Liberator bomber on the Kroombit Tops.The site is only 9kms as the crow flies or a 63km 4WD track over farm country and rugged hill terrain. Johnathan had the opportunity to go with Alan (the park owner) to check the track out before they started taking tourists up this season. This is Johnathan's account. Basically a day trip we headed up early and saw a host of Aussie wildlife along the way. When we finally reached the site I was filled with awe and found it a very solemn experience. I had heard the story many times, read about it and had even told the story to all the groups I had taken on the sunset hill walk.
In 1943 Beautiful Betsy rolled of the production line. Due to the recent bombing of Pearl Harbour the Americans sent about 34 planes to Australia to protect them from the Japanese. Beautiful Betsy and a few others were based at Fenton close to Darwin. They would fuel and load bombs there then fly to Darwin, refuel then fly to Indonesia to bomb Japanese fuel sites. The distance was at the outer limits for the plane and no combat could be engaged. On Beautiful Betsy first flight she landed heavy at Darwin and damaged her tail, she was repaired and went on to do many bombing runs. On one run she ran into weather difficulties and the plane went into a spin, the pilot corrected it and brought her home. The plane on inspection had a twisted fuselage. (The plane was never designed to fly upside down and this was the only reported case of a B24 bomber being flown inverted) Due to this she was converted to a Parachute jump practice plane and later used for supply flights inside Australia.In 1945 on one of the flights to Brisbane from Darwin, She had a crew of 8, 6 American Airmen and 2 British Spitfire pilots, one going to be married, and the other his best man. This was a “Fat Cat Mission” basically to pickup Coke, Chips & Ice cream for a function for the 308 Bomb Group. During this flight Beautiful Betsy encountered a storm, flew off course and crashed into the Kroombit Tops (a mountain range). She was looked for many times but remained hidden until 1994 when discovered by a forest fire warden. A combined Australian, British & American team checked the site and only recovered 7 of the 8 identity ‘dog tags’.

Alan and engine
The site has been left as commemoration to those onboard. As I walked the crash site I was amazed by the ruggedness of the terrain and the destruction of the plane most of the fuselage has been destroyed and burnt up, the wing and tail sections being the only recognisable bits. There have been stories of souvenir hunters coming to the spot (which is not easy to get too) and removing parts of the plane. Apparently one lot sawed off half a wing, (what would you do with it? and why do you need a wing?) There are some real low lifes in the world. I was moved by this day trip but it was not over yet’ we then took an extremely rugged section of road down to a dry water fall in a very narrow gorge with rock escarpments either side. Absolutely stunning. Visit for more info. We made a commitment to coming home in 2 years time but I feel that prospect is getting further away as we have not really done any travelling yet. We could be working and travelling for the next 10 years. Not sure Cassandra would be in agreement with this but who knows, she seems content enough. We have bought her tickets home for a holiday in January she is really looking forward to going home for a week. We have joked about making sure we get her a return ticket. While she is away Johnathan and I will have a holiday and explore some more, and also go to The Police concert. Yeha, a tent to ourselves.
We have decided to stay in Biloela until Easter and put Cassandra in school for a term and get her socializing with kids her own age. She needs to get back into it as she is very content to be on her and read. She is worried the uniform will be a skirt, but she is lucky because I know it is shorts.

Watch this space, Johnathan has some news after December 1st. Although it is not as exciting as the fact that my birthday is soon.

Visions of the past

These are the photos we were not able to post previously, so a bit of a catch up.

In Rockhampton they had a myriad of these giant bulls around the town, look ath the set of 'jatz crackers' on this boy.

The tower on the left is the abseil tower Wendy dragged her ass up, 'YEHAA'

Australia Zoo visit with Trish & Bruce, Trish here feeds one of the Australians that did not refer to her as "darl'

This guy was crossing the road and was 75% the width of the road. And he was as round as a drain pipe. He is the bastard that lunged and hissed at Wendy as she drove by.

This is the blackboard that Wendy painted up for Al's bar.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pot that chicken

Have you ever stood behind someone on a video game or a side show and been quietly thinking you need to do this or that etc, etc. Well most of us can relate to this and most likely most of us would be somewhat discreet about our unsolicited advice but apparently not for my sister Trish. We have just been to Brisbane to catch up with her and Bruce and son Terry and his wife Amy. Anyway, we had a lovely few days and a few laughs as the saying “pot that Chicken” was bandied about. As the story goes (my accuracy may be a little off). At Dreamworld Trish found a woman playing in a sideshow type game and stopped to have a look. There was a rotating platform with pots or buckets on it and you had to throw a rubber chicken into the container to get a prize. Trish apparently thought she wasn’t doing so well and was giving advice (but not as quietly as she thought it seems) anyway Trish suggested the woman did it a little harder the next time, still a miss so then the advice was just a bit gentler, which was followed and a bulls eyes was achieved at which time Trish let out a “yahoo, pot that chicken” and a “you beauty” (or something similar). This allowed for some frequent piss taking by Terry and Bruce during our visit. Funnily enough Trish also took a liking to the saying made infamous by the Crocodile Hunter “CRIKEY” and when she wasn’t saying “pot that chicken” she was spouting that. Although she also picked up another euphemism which she absolutely loved (not), which was the word “darl”(darling), I think by the time she went home she was ready to slug the next unsuspecting shop assistant who addressed her as “darl”. We had lots of fun in Brisbane and it was lovely to catch up. However it was nice to return to the farm and away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Country life is very relaxed, yet tiring at the same time. We have been very busy with school groups. Kids are a drain, although Johnathan has enjoyed doing activities with them, of which Cassandra has joined in a few. Wendy and I are the mainstay for the early breakfast routines.
Staff have been a bit touchy and there is some conflict which can be very tiring. Management made us try a team building exercise the other day and I (Wendy) climbed a tower which was extremely hard work and I surprised myself and achieved the rock climb which would be about 15 metres. Pretty scary stuff, Cassandra has also done it on another occasion. I was not brave enough to abseil back down though.

Life although peaceful and calm is sometimes a little scary, we hit a kangaroo one day and were very lucky because it hit the front fender but didn’t leave a mark, but out hearts aged about 6 hours in that 2 minutes as they were pumping very hard. We have seen all sorts of animals on the roads here, echidna’s, snakes, roo’s etc. One day Cassandra and I saw a big python crossing the road and when I stopped and called out the window at him to get off the road he turned around and lunged and hissed at me. Another 6 hours of my hearts life. Actually there are days my heart ages more that it should. The weather has been really hot here and the snakes have come out of hibernation and started to feed. We saw a 1 and ½ metre red belly black snake (they are poisonous) fighting with a bird and then 3 hours later we heard this weird squeaking noise and when Cassandra and I went to explore we found another snake with its jaws spread around a frog and the squeaks were his death call. The snake refused to leave and had to be removed. But the bastard came back the next day. PS. I forgot to tell you this was right outside the kitchen, and when he returned I jokingly told the boss “I quit”. My stress levels and vigilance has just gone up now snake season has started. Bloody slimy bastards appear to be quite common here.

Yay, it is Cassadra’s 14th birthday and we have come to town so she can go to a movie
“Hairspray”, she thoroughly enjoyed it. I went as well because it was 9pm at night and didn’t want her sitting on her own. Oh, the things we do as parents, it was a rather torturous experience although John Travolta did look very authentic in his wobbly fat suit. She is growing up really fast and seems to be doing well. She gets on really well with staff as they are only a few years older than her.

A few weeks back Cassandra and Johnathan went to a local rodeo in a town called Moura, (pronounced Mara, that Australians for you). A couple of staff were competing so most of the other staff & guests were travelling out to watch and support them. Wendy was not going so Johnathan took a car full of staff and headed out early. Good thing he headed out early, as he went the wrong way and ended up travelling for 5 hours to get to a destination 50 minutes away. Get this we got there 30 minutes before the first event so all we missed were all the stalls and sideshow attractions, bloody lucky.

We are still doing the odd excursion and recently visited Rockhampton, We loved the place a nice mix of history and quaintness. Rockhampton is touted as the beef capital of Queensland because it produces most of the beef in the state. It should be the fiberglass cow capital as we have never seen so many bull statues around, every other building had a bloody cow on the roof looking down and the main centerpiece coming into town was a giant bull.

Snakes and bovines aside we are all still doing well and enjoying our relaxed lifestyle. Keep in touch.

Will add photos later as this current connection will not allow.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kroombit Life

We are all adapting well to life at Kroombit Park in Biloela, and we could give an account of it all, but you could be reading for a while, and our aim is not to bore you. We have been at Kroombit now for about 2 ½ months and things are progressing well.
We have been busy getting involved in local life as well as taking breaks away to explore.
We attended the local Biloela show/rodeo and were impressed, the rodeo was huge with bull riding, bronco horse, single and double roping events (where the cowboys jump from moving horses and wrestle horned steers to the ground). The bulls here are a lot meaner looking than the ones we have seen on the NZ circuit, so made for an exciting evening.
Cassandra got a chance to be a kid and drove Johnathan round on the dodgems, and then tried her luck on the rifle target shooting (complete with dodgy sights) she did really well, but unfortunately due to dodgy sights didn’t walk away with any of the tacky show prizes. Only thing missing was ‘hangi’ which has always been part of our NZ rodeo experience.

We have had a couple of occasions where we have had time off and taken road trips. One trip, we went to Gladstone on the coast, it rained for 3 days. Gladstone has very little going for it. It lacked some basic things for a big coastal town, for starters ‘atmosphere’, a bookstore (despite having a population of 20 000 people, apparently they are not readers so the bookshop closed down), an internet café and a host of things you would expect in smaller towns. Even the locals we met spoke disparagingly of it. We shouldn’t be too scathing though as we actually had a good time, we did an industry tour and visited the Aluminum Smelter and the Alumina plant. Cassandra later did a school project about them. Cassandra and Johnathan also had a go at archery at an indoor Archery café. It is quite interesting to watch the father daughter competitiveness.Other places we have visited were Cania Gorge, about 140 km away. The Cania dam is only at 5% water and the gorge was powder dry. We did a few of the walks through the rock escarpments and caves, the place is amazing. This weekend we have come to Emerald which is about 4 hours away to catch up with our friends Lyn and Gary. We were only 30 mins from Sapphire where you can fossick for real sapphires so we went for a look. We did a mine tour which was interesting, and then attempted to fossick but ran out of time, as we needed to dig a big hole to get to an old river bed, which is where the sapphires are if you get lucky. We will come back one day and have a real go at it.
It has been really cold here in Australia with temperatures dropping well below zero even in places where it is completely unusual. What’s news worthy is the death of thousands and thousands of barramundi (which can be as big as 1+ metre long). Barramundi are warm water fish so they died because of the extreme cold, and they have washed up on the banks of heaps of dams around Australia. At Emerald we saw them and it is such a sad sight to see all these gynormous fish just lying on the beach of the dam/lake. They reckon it will take up to 18 months for the dams to recover.

Sometimes when we have time off we just stay at the park and go horse riding and walking. Other times we work on the farm on our days off sometimes, (although it doesn’t feel like work because it is still all really new and we are having the opportunity to do things we didn’t at home.)We have watched Brumbies being drafted, wild horses which have been rounded up by helicopter from the station; they breed in the Kroombit National Park which borders the station. They were drafted into 3 lots; one lot to be re-released, one lot sold for dog meat and the rest will be broken in for guests to ride. We have watched branding and then Johnathan helped draft 400 odd Brahmin cows, Johnathan had the chance to jump in the yard with them and push a few at a time, into the drafting race. I had a “Claytons” job (you know the job you have when you’re not really working, that is I worked on the overflow gate, to stop those that accidentally get drafted the wrong way. Of the 400 cows I only worked once). Johnathan reassured me I did a very important job, even though I almost fell asleep just standing there. The next day Johnathan had the opportunity to muster the drafted cows into their new paddocks; they need to be lead to and shown the water source, the paddocks are so big they have been known to die of thirst without finding the water. Johnathan clocked up over 20km in the saddle. Johnathan says this was by far some of the coolest days he has had in Australia. He continues to say he is definitely retired and never going back to fulltime work like we did at home. He gave us a laugh one day when we were discussing the possibility of staying on in Australia longer than originally planned. He was reminiscing about school and the parents making a big point telling us to do well at school or you could end up cleaning toilets. Guess what, he is cleaning toilets, and absolutely loves our lifestyle and what opportunities are availed us as a result of his willingness to clean up after people (some of which are complete pigs).

Although Johnathan started at the park with less than 4 hours work a day he has now got his finger in almost all facets of the park life. He has been riding horses and taking guests out on goat musters and assists with the goat rodeo, clay bird shoot. He has been taking groups of American students for an ecological walk up the local hill, cooking their breakfasts at 5am, and teaching them how to throw boomerangs and use bullroarers. He has been learning to ride a motorbike. He is doing boy things with the owner’s son in law (30’s), like blowing up things. They put 4 small gas canisters together with a small fire within a couple of feet and then fired a shotgun at them. Apparently it was spectacular, heat wave, mushroom cloud and laughter as 20 backpackers witnessed the madness which is Kroombit. They also convince these backpackers that cattle prodders don’t really shock that much. Therefore they all grab hands and count to 3, aha, suckers, at Kroombit we only count to 1 so they are shocked before they have a chance to stress about it. The odd backpacker has got their arse out for the crowd to laugh at as he gets shocked. Johnathan and Cassandra are having lots of fun. Cassandra is a regular participant on the goat muster and rodeo circuit and has been brave enough to join in the shock circle. Cassandra went on a muster one day and during the ride riders have to yell at the goats to scare them into moving. We usually use “aye up up up” but one of the guides Joe decided to get everyone to yell “Wendy” at the goats, so they did. The goats mustered well that day and Cassandra thought it was a great joke. She has ridden the mechanical bull and did well; she hung on for 3 seconds. No photos yet unfortunately.

There are lots of animals here, Cassandra feeds the donkeys Ned and Kelly, and they can be a bit naughty sometimes. One day they got through the gate when they weren’t supposed to and other times they wander the park, licking breakfast dishes and knocking them off the tables. They visit our tent site during the middle of the night licking our fry pan and making lots of noise. Cassandra gets to play with different animals that are here, Monty the baby python, Harry a ring neck parrot and some newly born kids (goats), Trigger and Princess. She is doing really well with her schooling and recently sat some mid year tests and scored 83% in a Math, 68% in English & 74% in Science, we are very pleased with the results. She is reading Harry Potter at the moment, she gets very deaf and we need to yell at her to get her attention. She is trying to get it read without other people telling her what happens, 2 of the staff are reading it and can tease her a bit by giving away bits.

We are letting our presence be felt and want people to know we are he, so have placed a signpost atop the local hill. There is a tree up there that has signposts marking local places of interest. Our sign marks Lake Taupo NZ and a directional arrow with distance, and is the biggest and most colourful. Already tourists have curiously asked what a NZ sign is doing up there, so it is getting the desired effect. Well on a final note Johnathan turned 42 the other day and a couple of staff gave him a birthday present. Some “velcro gloves”, strange present you think, not really as it was only part one of his present. Johnathan then got presented part two, a dorper sheep, red party hat and ribbons included. She has since been added to the rodeo event as a novelty. Oh the sheep jokes can be very funny sometimes. What was even funnier though was that the sheep got out of the paddock overnight and wandered around the park the next day with her party hat and ribbons still attached, all the guests thought it was a great joke.

Betty the Sheep

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Working Stiffs

Well we have left Gayndah, which was with some relief. Johnathan reckons it’s likely to be a feeling many a traveller has experienced after leaving the place, or at least those who have had the privilege of staying in the camping ground.
We took a roundabout route to Biloela, doing a detour to the city of Bundaberg. Which was incredibly green compared to Gayndah, this is mainly because of the sugar cane which is grown there. The soil is really red, the sky and sea really blue and the cane vivid green, we really enjoyed the bright colours after 6 weeks in dry, brown Gayndah. We took in the colour contrasts and the sights of the city by scaling the ‘Hummock’ (tiny hill) it is the only bit of raised ground for miles.
We stayed at Mon Repos` beach, which is a famous Turtle rookery (where the turtles come ashore lay their eggs and then 6 weeks later hundreds/thousands of little turtles attempt to make their way back to the ocean). It is a stretch of beach less than a kilometre long. Unfortunately we saw nothing, our timing was out, as this process happens between November and March. We did a couple of tourist things, Bundaberg Ginger beer, a working Cooperage (they make traditional barrels). We found a brochure promoting some mystery craters so we went to see them. They are hard to explain but basically it is 35 odd craters in the ground that scientist can’t explain, there is speculation they might be alien, meteoric or volcanic. Now 35 odd holes in the ground may not sound interesting at all, but having seen them they are quite odd and very interesting. They sit in a patch about 10 metres by 50 metres, with no sign of anything similar anywhere else.
After leaving Bundaberg we headed in land to Biloela.
Having now arrived in Biloela (Aboriginal for White Cockatoo) and working we are beginning to understand the Aussie urge to drink. We are situated about 500+ km North of Brisbane and about 180 km from the coast and the weather is dry and hot, temperature between 25-31*c daily. By the end of the day you are very thirsty, and wanting a drink. This place has it’s own bar so it is slowly becoming a ritual to sit and socialize with anyone who is around. My main concern is about developing a beer gut which seems to be common place with many Aussie drinkers (male); some guts here would be the envy of many heavily pregnant women.
We need to make an observation here, the culture here is a drinking one, perhaps we were a little sheltered at home because we weren’t a social couple and never really went out. It appears nearly everyone drinks, usually starting early afternoon. The pickers we worked with in Gayndah all appeared to be heading to pub at completion of the work day. Also noticeable are those that drink and then drive, remember the drunks from the camping ground in Gayndah, well they had a habit of drinking and driving and it always astounded us. Johnathan found a story in a local paper which he found humorous and wanted to share with you. It goes like this “A police officer is keeping an eye on the local pub at closing time intent on catching drunk drivers. Whilst he is sitting watching, a guy stumbled out the pub door and fell over; he got up and staggered to the car park where he tried his keys in several cars. When he finally finds his car he promptly turns the lights and windscreen wipers on, it was a fine night. He starts his car and reverses back a bit then finds a forward gear and moves a bit forward and stalls, at which point the cop thinks he’s got a right one here and pulls up in front of him. During this time other patrons have been filing out of the pub going to their cars and leaving. The cop gets the guy to do an evidentiary breath test. The cop is stunned when it is totally clear. He asks the driver to hop into the patrol car so he can take him to the station for a blood test as his equipment is faulty. At this request the guy says I don’t think so, “your equipment isn’t faulty mate, tonight I am the designated decoy.”
This article/story was titled Queensland where drinking and driving is considered a national sport.”
Back to Biloela, this place is very cool and rustic, we have our tent set up overlooking a gully of trees (Johnathan saw 2 deer about 40 metres away his first morning and almost had conniptions, he is chomping at the bit to go for a hunt now. The deer were domestic stock, let loose to feed and have never returned). There are trees everywhere within the camp grounds, the backpacker/guest cabins are situated under trees as well, which acts to keep the sun rays down a bit. The kitchen, dining hall (outdoor) and bar are all situated together. The cooking for the main meals is either done on BBQ or by camp oven, and the menu is repeated several times a week. The guests generally stay only one to two nights so hence the ability to repeat the menu. There is a saying here in response to the question “what is for tea tonight” and that is “beef” as that is essentially all they serve, either beef stew, beef roast, or corned beef or steak(beef). Along with this is soup (yes, ‘beef’ and vegetable) and damper. The damper I have made a few of and am getting quite proficient at making, so as long as we have flour we will not starve once we start travelling. It is a really easy recipe, 6 cups of flour, 4 cups of water and salt and that is it.
We have really settled here, we have all been on the horse ride, Cassandra has taken to the horse riding, and really enjoys it, she seems to have a natural ability and confidence for it. The horse ride involves a muster, where we round up goats and then they put them in the yards and guests do a mini rodeo with them. A team of three goes into the ring and one catches the goat, one tips it over and one mock brands it. This event is timed. Johnathan got on a team with a couple of guests and he was the catcher, (apparently he was shit at it, his team took over 50 seconds to complete the challenge), I saw three girls do it in 25 seconds, Johnathan reckons it was because they gave him a big goat. It is really funny to watch the goats first run around the pen and then once caught; get all passive resistant when the catcher starts pulling on their horns to get them to the tipper. I will attempt to get some pictures at some point.
Johnathan has had lots of fun since he arrived here, a school of 80 kids stayed (they were about 10-11 years). Anyway one of the little darlings left Johnathan a gift in the bathroom, which he didn’t find until after they left. Just remember Johnathan is the resident toilet cleaner. Johnathan has a very busy day ahead of him because he has 2 extra blocks of toilets to clean. So imagine his delight when he gets to the toilets the boys used and finds his gift, shit smeared all over the wall. (Johnathan told me he used to gag just changing Cassandra’s nappy when she was a baby). He was not amused and was ready to string the little bastard up.
Now he has spots of some unknown origin, and they are all over his body. He has been cleaning a dorm which has had bedbugs in it and we wondered if it was this, but Johnathan says it isn’t because he hasn’t felt it biting him. Hopefully it will disappear soon or he might find himself sleeping in the hammock outside.
They have a mechanical bull here which Johnathan reports he had a go on the other day, (my day off so I was still in bed and I missed his first attempt). Anyway he claims he mastered it really well (not) and he came straight of the front every time the bull started. Next time we write he might be able to actually ride the thing.
This place is close to paradise in some respects, but there are some pitfalls to the job as shown by Johnathan’s experience. For me, the kitchen bitch (as Leanne would say) the biggest issue is the age and maturity of some of the workers here, they are between 17-21 years old but some of them behave like kindergarten kids, lots of sulking, backbiting and a big lack of common sense or consideration for anyone other than themselves. They stand in the kitchen and get in the way when they aren’t on duty, either that or they are on duty but just don’t do any work. However, I will have it all sorted out soon, either that or I will turn into an alcoholic to deal with stress of it all. Nah, it’s not that bad, at least I don’t have little gifts left for me.
We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves here it is a cool place to work and live.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

These mandarins have no stickers

All I can say is “give me a desk job any day”. We have left the relaxed week in Miles with an aim of finding work to supplement our finances. I initially opted for a job in a Roadhouse (café style truck stop), unfortunately we didn’t score that job so decided we should start seriously looking for work. This would see us traipsing around farms to see who needed labour. We are in Gayndah “The citrus capitol of Australia”. However, as luck would have it, 20 minutes after this plan was formed a guy literally came and knocked on our tent asking if we were looking for work. We scored a job without lifting a finger. This no finger lifting lulled us into a false sense of security though, as now we are picking Mandarins and let me assure you, we are lifting every finger, and every branch of every tree looking for the little buggers. These are not the mandarins you and I know back home, (for one, they don’t have any little stickers attached to them), and as with everything Australian (remember the insects) they are upsized. The mandarins here are the size of an orange. They are also bloody hard to pick because they are so temperamental. We have to cut them off the tree with little clippers as you can’t pull them or you rip the skin, and you have to be careful not to nick or cut them with the clippers as they bruise and then get chucked on the reject pile.
From this point, I send out a plea to you all, next time you eat a mandarin, spare a thought for the little people who picked them. We are, together, picking 2 bins a day @$75 per bin; unfortunately my back can only handle 2 bins. Some pickers here are absolute machines picking 2-4 bins by themselves a day. We have been picking for a week now and are completely over it, but will persevere, only another 5 weeks to go, until we are rich enough to move on.
The last time we wrote we were at the Lyngary Homestead and had been for 9 days. We had a brilliant time. We had a chance to perfect camp oven cooking over coals and open fire. We did some running repairs and also added a low voltage plug to the back of the truck in preparation for a 3 way camp fridge. Gary helped Johnathan install a shelf in the rear of the truck doubling our capacity to carry more crap. It’s amazing how much crap you pick up. Apart from the chance to just rest and learn heaps from Lyn & Gary who have been on the road for years, they showed us round the sights. We had a chance to see the Dingo fence (Rabbit proof fence, Dog fence, vermin fence, call it what you want) it is the longest continuous fence in the world. It has a maintenance track on either side and has regular crews maintaining it. I was absolutely blown away by this; it is a real piece of living history. (Hire the movie Rabbit Proof Fence).
We also saw a 900 strong herd of cattle on a drovers run right down the main route. The cattle just walk down the road and the verges. There were only 3 people & 2 horses controlling the herd and no dogs. That’s how they get feed and water by sending them on the run. There is a series of designated water stops along the way, and several cattle droves will pass by using the route.
Whilst at Lyngary we found a spider (in a little hole in ground which makes us think it was a trapdoor spider, with very big fangs)(after an internet check we are more inclined to think it is a mouse spider). Anyway, I digress the reason I thought it relevant to share this with you, is this sucker was gi-normous. It was the size of a small mouse. Gary our host at Lyngary suggested we kill it. “Go get something to kill it with Johnathan”, Johnathan proceded to attempt to stone it to death, and then picked up the stone to check to see if it had died. Oh no, the bloody thing, decided it wanted a piece of him, we all jumped back in horror as Johnathan threw the stone at it and then took the shovel to it. As you can imagine my nightmares were pretty rampant that night.
It was rather a shame to leave it (Lyngary) all behind for the safety of Gayndah. Life here is slow like the locals. (Nah just jesting) But must comment on the Australian women, a lot of them seem to have very high pitched squeaky voices (which is very irritating when you live in a tent and your neighbours are only 5 metres away). Talking of bloody neighbours, we are ensconced in the local caravan park and we lucked it (not) with our site. We got the one next door to the drunks, they go to bed, turn their TV up loud because obviously when they are drunk their hearing doesn’t work so well. Anyway, because they are drunk they then fall asleep with their very loud TV blaring only 5 metres from my head when I am trying to sleep. I tell you, I could bloody well near kill them, instead I resorted to only turning their power off in an attempt to reset the volume of the TV, thank god it worked or you might have seen my face on TV for some other heinous crime. Oh! With this travelling lark, you need to have a sense of humour and a pair of ear plugs.
Resident next to the park is the local Sasquatch or so we initially thought, so much so we snapped a blurry shot of it moving through the trees, it’s that kind of place. In fact it is just a very big and very, very hairy man.(photo attached) (Like I said you need to have a sense of humour).
When we aren’t breaking our backs with mandarins we have been fishing in the local river. There are Barramundi, Catfish, Perch and the oddest of all is the prehistoric Lungfish (Ceratodus). We have all caught one; they are over metre and really put on a good fight. They are protected due to their rare status only 3 locations in the world they exist. The Burnett River seems to team with them here.
Seen as it has taken us so long to post this blog we now have an update. We are still in Gayndah, but not for long. The Mandarins on the orchard we were on have all been picked, we picked approximately 29 bins over 2.5 weeks). Wendy is now focused on Cassandra’s schooling and I am working 8 hour days packing 18kg boxes onto pallets in the Gayndah Pack house. (Mandarins, oranges, lemons, grapefruits. limes & lemonades, it is apparently Australia’s biggest pack house) You will love the company name Gaypack, short for Gayndah Packers. (you can imagine the jokes about the place) Apparently a few years ago, some hoons came to town and defaced the town sign. They removed the “n & d” and left a sign announcing “Gay ah”, we’ve been told it made the newpapers as the locals got in an uproar.
On the weekend just gone ( April 22nd) We travelled to Biloela (3.5 hours, NNW of Gayndah) for a job interview on a farm stay. A dream job.
Kroombit Park – the real Australian Outback the farm is called Lochenbar Station and it is a real working cattle station. We start in 2 weeks, both of us will be working, good wages and free accommodation and a chance to do all the activities.
It offers outback horse trails, goat mustering, lasso roping, whip cracking, goat rodeo, clay target shooting, mechanical bull riding, among a host of other things. Cassandra reckons best of all it has a pool.
I have to prepare breakfast at 5am for up to 200 guests (bacon & eggs) then I become the cleaner and general handyman (yes, toilets and pool included) and Wendy becomes the Kitchen bitch/cook.
The cooking is all traditional in the sens,e it is done camp/outback style, in giant sized cast iron camp ovens, the owner was saying the fire underneath has been burning continuously for more than 9 years.
The place is really busy as it has 2 conferences per week this season, a bus tour stops daily with backpackers & weekly a group of kids from Catholic schools, so a diverse daily group. (Anywhere up to 200 patrons a night)
It is hard to explain the rustic nature of the place, not 5 star, just basic camp accommodations in a rough and ready farm style. The surrounding forest is so dense that in 1994 at Kroombit Tops (National Park only a hop, skip and a jump away) they discovered a lost WW2 plane.
We are very excited to be moving to this new job as it is ideal and we get to take part in all that is on offer, real working holiday stuff. We plan on being there for 4 months. Allan, the owner was saying they have just gone through the wet season and did not get any rain. The drought here is really affecting everyone.
We start this role on May 9th and will try and get some photos up shortly afterwards to let you know where we are. Yes, Trish it has been a while since our last posting, sorry we will try to be more punctual.
One thing about moving from Gayndah is we will now have to cancel our Video membership and our Library card, this is how entrenched we were in this little town. I must say though I won’t be sad to see the back of this Caravan Park, it is definitely a lifestyle for some people which I can’t really comprehend, (that is, living permanently in a small van, at least I feel that I am going to move on soon. Lots of people live in caravans here).
Ok another update, we sent you all an email saying we updated our blog and we saw 30 odd visits and no update from us, SORRY! We sent the mail first and went to do the update and the bloody computer we were using was useless.
Anyway more news. We went for a flight around Gayndah in a 4 seat Cessna. The orchard (Yellowstone Citrus) owner Ritchie whom we were working for took us for a flight around town and over the next town of Binjour. We all loved the flight, most impressive, (and free). The dry brownness of Australia is massive, we saw entire creeks dried up and really low rivers and farm dams.
Ritchie owns and runs Yellowstone Citrus; he bought it 5 years back from a lady that was a bit loco. She had claimed to have seen a bear on the property and it made headline news, and the mayor and all got into it, people flew in from America to look for it and all. Local legend has it that a mobile zoo/circus vehicle had an accident in Binjour in the 50’s and the bear escaped. So when she made the claim, the legend propped up her story, anyway Ritchie called the farm Yellowstone Citrus after the Yogi Bear cartoons where Yogi lived. There you are a nice piece of local trivia for you.
Oh my god, we just found our own resident redback spider in our tent awning. We (Cassandra and Wendy) sprayed it to get rid of it and then left it hanging in the web thinking it was dead, we could wait for Johnathan to come home from work to get rid of the remains. BAD, bad decision, we went out for a short while, and when we came home the remains are gone?? We have no idea if it is dead and the ants have it, or if it has crawled away to lay eggs during its last dying breath. Oh, give me the innocuous spiders we have back home any day.
Soon we will have saddle sores and housemaids knees, but will post another blog to let you know if Kroombit lives up to expectations.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's tiring being this relaxed

Since our last posting we have been busy as you can imagine; relaxing, fishing, sightseeing. We moved on from Maleny because the rain didn’t look like it was going to let up much, so we packed up the tent whilst we had a dry spell and went about 40 minutes up the road. This move gave us better access to the coast, Noosa, Maroochyadore, and Moololaba.
We were so taken with Noosa Harbour we decided to rent a small boat for a few hours and go fishing. Cassandra and Wendy caught fish called Tripods; this was in reference to the aerial type protrusion sticking out of its head. After fishing we headed to a local surf beach, this swim for Johnathan and Cassandra was a chore and a half, as the current was really strong and the gap between the swim flags was only about 5 metres wide. Every time you went under a wave you came up almost outside the flags and had to try and get back in. This type of swimming is outside my ability and likes (I dislike surf beaches) so I didn’t swim. So later we found out about another beach where you can float with the current. So we headed to Bulcock Beach at Caloundra and because it is the outlet to sea it is sheltered and has no waves but it has a good current. Basically we walked up the beach, got in the water, floated down to the entrance, got out and did it all over again. Was fun most of the time with the exception of the fish fleeing? I was contentedly floating when all of a sudden the fish (little tidlers) come towards us in schools, but leaping from the water (like a Mexican wave). I got very scared as Johnathan said they were doing this because something bigger was chasing them. My immediate thoughts went “shark”, but Johnathan assured me it wasn’t that big. I am still here, so whatever it was, it obviously didn’t like the look of our backsides floating in the water, ‘oh what a relief’.
We have found another walk through quite different forest again, this one was right in the middle of a populated area but you would never have known it was in the ‘burbs’. It followed a creek and was very peaceful. Some guy was swimming in the rock pool and it was obvious he didn’t see us as a few minutes after we moved up the track he let out a Tarzan call to which Cassandra and I to burst out laughing. We tried to encourage Johnathan to reply but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

We have even jumped on the tourist wagon and decided to spend money doing the tourist thing, so we visited the Ginger Factory, which was very interesting and informative and very impressive for presentation.

We have since stayed privately; basically we stay with a host who provides accommodation, food and ablutions etc in exchange for work. We were lucky as the host was only working us a couple of hours a day which freed us up to do our own thing later in the day.
Johnathan was gardening and I painted. Cassandra did her school work so this was good as it doesn’t interrupt our own time later. There was also a young Korean lad staying there and we took him fishing, his first time and he landed a big fish. The look on his face was classic.
Our host Andrew turned tour guide and took us down to a set of lakes only used by locals, 4WD access only. Beaut, we were the only ones there in the middle of a forest. Driving back we encountered our first kangaroos in the wild when two bounded across our path. On the way there we also glimpsed the rear of a dingo escaping the scene too.
Andrews place was set on 30 acres of eucalypts about 35kms out of Gympie, the place just teamed with wild life, he had King Parrots coming down to feed on seeds he left out and he had a resident python that lived under the floor.
While in Gympie we went panning for gold and Wendy got gold fever when we struck gold (tiny flecks, but gold it was).
From there we travelled to Kingaroy. While there we walked the Bunya Mountains, where Bunya trees drop 10kg seed pods, carrying up to 100 seeds bigger than walnuts. We went skinny dipping ("no Johnathan, only you went skinny dipping") at Coombar Falls, the falls were dry but the rock pool was very deep, it looked very ancient with some weird grass trees. (Photo attached).
We walked an abandoned train tunnel at Muntapa, well not totally abandoned as it is now home to 8000 micro bats. They let us know they were there too, flying all over the place swooping very close to heads and faces so we quickly retreated. It was so dark it was just a case of pointing the camera towards the roof and pushing the button. Some photos turned out really well.
Next place we stopped for the night was at Archers Crossing on the Condamine River. The river looked like a shallow thick chocolate milkshake. This was 10kms down a dirt road, free camping, yeeha, no power, toilets or water, no cost. It was fantastic, teaming with Wallaroos. (Cross between Kangaroos and wallabies)That night we christened the outback toilet and outback shower we had got, sheer luxury. (Dallas the shower runs off a boats bilge pump) We did not see or hear a single soul the whole time.
The next two nights we free camped at the Chinchilla Weir. Love this free camping, this site was luxury as we had toilets and even got power (all for free).
The drought has really hit hard here and the weir was only a patch on its former glory, gone are the fishing and sightseeing tours, the ski lane had 6 foot of weeds growing in it.

Oh forgot to mention, we went fossicking again whilst in Chinchilla and found Jurassic aged fossilized trees (petrified wood). Way cool, we now have our own pick for fossicking. We might strike it rich later as there are sapphires and all sorts of gems to be found here in Oz.
Chinchilla was a neat little town, we went into town to fill up our water supplies free at the info centre, swim at the local pool then use their hot showers and use their library and get free internet access, we also took advantage of the numerous picnic tables in town to eat our cereal breakfast once we got fresh milk.

We have reached Drillham our destination on this our first leg of the trip and we are stopping here for a week to rest and visit with Lynn & Gary, more free camping.
Don’t bother looking on the map, you probably won’t find it.
It is 27 odd km’s out of Miles and it is called the ‘gateway to the outback’.
Today we watched a flock of Emus graze along the plains.
The cast iron camp oven has finally been christened, Wendy & Cassandra made our first batch of damper. We all sat round the fire and ate it under the stars, what a life. The sky out here where there are no street lights is expansive; you can see the Milky Way and millions of other stars. We have been also looking for satellites which travel across the sky like moving stars.
Life is becoming very relaxed and simple and we are learning heaps of things which will assist us in the future. Today we found out how to use that grubby brown water (picture runny chocolate instant pudding) from the rivers, drop a teaspoon of ALUM in the water let it settle and pour off the clean surface water, then you can do the dishes and shower in it.

Well it’s time to look for some jobs now to supplement the next leg of the journey, which we are yet to plan, possibly further into the outback. We will write again soon.