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.

1 comment:

flashgordonnz said...

It's a southerly here today (Wellington) and the draught is giving me cold feet. Thats. All. I. Have. To. Report.