Monday, September 29, 2008

“On the road again”

A full day doing cattle at Bluerock,Wendy operating the run and brent on the crush.

Well the busy season has been on for the last few months. It has been cold here but because it is the summer school holidays in the northern hemisphere people tend to travel. We have had several big groups of American kids, some polite, some rude, some with lots of money (parents credit cards) and others with no extra money. Unfortunately I have to say that the bad rep’ Americans have is duly deserved. This was reinforced for us when we recently went to Cairns on holiday. On one occasion we were given instructions about how things were going to happen during a trip to a bat cave. These instructions were repeated twice. There were several different nationalities there who didn’t speak very good English. However, guess who got the instructions bloody wrong, you guessed it the noisy, arrogant Americans. What is worse they spoke good English, this I know because they were loud enough for everyone to hear them.
The groups that come to Kroombit do horse riding and bush walking and seem to really enjoy themselves. Our groups that have been in are the regional schools for their yearly camps; they do things like abseiling, ropes course, orienteering, and horse riding with bush dancing or campfire as night activities’. Johnathan has been very busy during the day working with kids. As per usual I have been in the kitchen coordinating everything so meals all go out on time.

Cassandra meantime has been working very hard at school she has been doing ok and seems to be enjoying herself; she is a typical teenager in that she talks really fast about things that interest her. You should see her at the library pizza group with other girls her age. Basically I don’t know how they hold a conversation because the chatter just seems like a blur. They eat pizza and talk about allsorts of things but especially books the library should consider buying. Cassandra continues to be an avid reader, although I suspect this may change now as she just got a laptop computer for her 15th birthday.
Can’t believe she is 15 years old. Everyone keeps telling us she will start to show an interest in boys, oh what a scary thought. She just had a social outing at school where they went to Rockhampton to the movies. They are planning a final day one where she gets to go to Lady Elliot Island, offshore from Gladstone, for the day sounds like an awesome time. This is great because of where we live she doesn’t really get the opportunity to do things with her mates.

Cassandra just helped out with some puppies we adopted for a week. The park here has Meremma guardian dogs which look after the goats.

Mereama Puppies

Anyway these dogs had 10 puppies between them and Johnathan was given them to get rid of or sell. They were stinky, smelly ‘hell devils’ when they arrived because the dogs are essentially wild. They had had no contact with humans and were terrified but we persevered and washed and cuddled them and they came right. Man they were cute and fluffy after we got done with them, but they had very sharp teeth which Cassandra found out the hard way, when one little bugger bit her to show his appreciation of his bath.

While we are on the subject of Cassandra, she occasionally has driven the car around the park and sometimes home from town. Recently she was in the car on her own and was returning it to the carport. Your basic 4 uprights and a roof, we park our camp trailer at one end of it, you guessed it she hit the trailer head on, her first accident. She put her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. Thankfully, there was no damage except she managed to move the trailer off it blocks and bunt it about a foot.

Now Cassandra is getting older we decided to go out for a date and leave her at home. Miley Cyrus was on TV and we would have had trouble taking her with us anyway. We decided to go into the big town of Biloela and have a night out. We choose Saturday night, you know the biggest night of the week. We headed into town and went to the restaurant, only to find it was closed and never opens Saturday. WHAT, who ever heard of that? Any way we went to a second location and you guessed it closed again. Saturday night in Biloela is no big deal. Any way the third place was open and as it happened we had the place to ourselves the whole time. As one of the locals said to us you could have fired a cannonball down the main street that night and not hit anyone.
So that was our big night on the town.

Biloela is quite small but not so small, it has a local show, and this is a big deal in Biloela, all the locals can enter their wares in various competitions. Like best chook, best marrow, wheat, cow, cakes, baking, I think you get the picture. Well Wendy certainly did, she entered a number of photos in different categories and got 3rd place and two highly commended. She was on cloud nine. As well she should, they were great photos.
I am now an award winning photographer if I may gloat, haha. I also won $1.00, that is, one dollar, yeha.

We have just come back from our holiday in Cairns and we had an awesome time. The first night in, we went to the local safari park and had a night tour amongst the hippos, lions, rhinos, and bears. It was cool seeing these things at night as generally we see Australian animals. Johnathan loved the Syrian bears; you should have seen the claws on them. What an excellent way to start a full-on holiday.

Syrian Brown Bear.

We rented a car so organized to travel inland to Cobbold Gorge 6+ hours driving, a place we almost got a job at before deciding to stay on at Kroombit. There were lots of termite mounds and it was hot. We went on a 4wd tour and small walk before hitting a boat to go down the gorge and look at fresh water crocodiles.
Very cool place but no regrets about not going to work there. Kroombit continues to offer us so much.

Cobbold Gorge, Crocodilus Johsoni. Johnsons Fresh Water Crocodile
A split second after this shot he bolted for cover into the water in a microsecond, the boat was less than a meter from him. He is about 1.2 meters in length.

From Cobbold we headed back towards the coast, to the Undara Lava Tubes, these are the longest lava tubes on the planet, we did a couple of tours there to soak in the experience, a day visit through the tubes and a night animal sunset tour, the location was amazing. Johnathan wishes he could be more complimentary about our guide Tim, knowledgeable he was, but dynamic he was NOT.
Undara offered railway carriages as accommodation. The bloke who purchased the place saw theses carriages rusting in a Brisbane rail yard and purchased them and had them trucked on site and refurbished into rooms. After buying the property (including the lava tubes) and the train carriages and turning the lot into a tourist park, the government forced a sale and turned the place into a national park, so now there are other tourist operators working at the place.

The next morning we were up at 4.45am because of the long drive ahead and because it was Cassandra’s birthday so we wanted to make sure we had at least the afternoon in civilisation. We went to Port Douglas and the Daintree, we however did not swim in the ocean as it was windy and beach was all muddy and rough. The Daintree River was not swimmable either as salt water crocodiles live there. So instead we did a boat cruise down the Daintree. This was relaxing and super cool as we saw both big and little crocodiles in the wild on their turf.

Then we went back to Cairns, we took in the Skyrail ride (cable car/gondolas) which travel over the rainforest for 8 km to Kuranda. We did all the tourist markets and watched hard rock candy being made. Basically they put all these coloured stripes of soft hot candy together in lengths and then rolled it together making it smaller and smaller as they stretched it out like spaghetti. The end result was a stick which said ‘I love Cairns’. Everyone watching could not believe it.

One of the highlights of our trip was a drive to a national park with waterfalls, Josephine Falls and Babinda Boulders. We had to walk a short distance in the bush to rock pools where Johnathan and Cassandra went swimming. At Josephine they went down a section of the waterfall, Cassandra was so brave and looked cool doing it. At Babinda, Johnathan met 3 locals who were jumping into a boulder strewn gorge and floating down a couple of sections. There are warning signs not to swim in this section and the brochure has a big warning on it, also on the left as you walk in is a commemorative plaque for a soul who came to visit and never left. Any way Johnathan was tempted by this adventure and decided to follow these locals (one of which had been drinking) so he proceeded to jump the 10+ metres, into the gorge below and floated down the two sections. He said it was an exhilarating buzz, and until the last day of the holiday it was the highlight of his trip. That was until we went out on the reef. Cassandra & Johnathan Under the Reef Magic dive platform.

We left the reef to the last day because the weather had been windy and the travel agent suggested it was going to be fine by Saturday. It turned out to be an awesome day. A full day at the Great Barrier Reef, it’s hard to put into words the sheer enjoyment we all had all day. That is if you don’t count the boat trip out there. Cassandra the smart little monkey had her head down reading, claimed she didn’t feel a thing. Johnathan walked around and ate all the time and I sucked on ice because apparentlyit cools you down and makes you feel better. Well at least I didn’t throw up on the way out. Lots of other passengers did. HA. Oops, I suppose I should not mislead you because truth is I loved those fish on the reef so much that on the way back I thought I should feed them. Not by choice I admit, my stomach was heaving on its own. Man I felt seedy. However this did not destroy my day though.
The reef is one of the coolest things we have done since being in Australia. When we got out to the reef we did a heli flight over it to get a birds eye view, it was awesome. We had planned on only snorkeling on our own but we ended up signing up for all the paid activities for an all-round experience. There were only 53 people on board so made it easier to access activities.
Johnathan and Cassandra did an introductory scuba dive while I went on a guided snorkel. Cassandra was amazing and took to Scuba like a duck to water, no issues. She also went on an advanced snorkel trip with Johnathan on the outer reef and loved it. We all loved the day it was awesome and I would recommend it to anyone who loves water and doesn’t get seasick!!!

For our last night out in town we walked the waterfront eateries looking for a place to eat. I (Johnathan) was astounded by the shocking prices and was damned if he was going to pay $30:00 for a steak. At Kroombit we eat a steak most days cut from the slab, and these prices were damn disturbing. We spent an hour walking and driving around and eventually gave up and went to McDonalds. Macca’s wins again. So don’t eat out in Cairns.

When we arrived back home we were greeted with a scene of destruction. It appears while away we had a visitor up to the verandah and he has torn up the grips and seat on Wendy’s exercise bike. Boss (the cockatoo) had missed us and decided to visit, not sure if his destruction was vindictive or just him being him. Usually he comes up and pulls all the screws and nuts out of Johnathan’s tool box and then runs for shelter if he is caught in the act. Apparently he went missing for 2 days while we were away. As soon as he saw us last night he came a running. It is nice to be home.

Well, as updates go that is it. We now have to save for our trip home to NZ at Christmas.

The great Barrier Reef.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guess What!

No real surprise we have signed up to remain working at Kroombit till Christmas 2009. We are staying to enable Cassandra to complete her all important exam year at school, next year. She has settled well to her new school, Biloela State High, and has made a few friends so it seems prudent to take advantage. She has been for a sleep over and went to a rock festival and she tells us her friends made her put on a little bit of make-up before they went out. She is growing up, but not too quickly. She is doing really well at school, and recently received a Certificate of Merit for Engineering Technology. Proud parents are we.
She has decided she might change her subjects for next semester (last half of year), she wants to look at Biology so might have to drop chemistry. She is considering marine biology as a career, but has changed her mind a couple of times so will wait and see. It is quite exciting seeing her considering her future.

It is currently the school holidays and we went to Rockhampton, we explored the Capricorn Caves a rare above ground cave system,
Wendy then found another Animal rescue sanctuary (she has a knack of sniffing them out) we spent 3 hours feeding the animals and flattened the batteries on the camera.

We have been to Rockhampton a couple of times, shopping and relaxing. One time we went, we fished and I caught a turtle. Just as well we have a personal catch and release philosophy, as it was kind of cute. We are missing our pets now we have stopped for a while; however we are not allowed any pets here, because the boss says so. We have to be content with the farm dog, which lies around all day doing nothing and the cockatoo “Boss” who is currently being a real teenager; he is loud and showy and has a tendency to bite people for no reason at all. He also is less cuddly as a result. We have considered taking home a “stray” but don’t think the “stray” ploy will work.

We would like to share stories of our adventures but given we have decided to settle here for a while we have become domesticated so haven’t really been out to do much. We have been working long hours so the money is good as it will allow us to save to come home for xmas.

We are all well currently but this has not always been the case.The mind may remain young and vivid but the bodies are beginning to show the wear and tear of being in our forties. Johnathan has been wearing a wrist brace for a couple of months now. He was chasing wallabies on the motorbike but they have better turning dexterity than Johnathan had on the bike so he bit the dust, dislocated his thumb and hurt his wrist. Now he has some troubles lifting significant weights, or doing certain maneuvers with that hand. He also went for a cat scan recently because when he tips his head forward he gets tingles up his leg. I’ve told him to stop tipping his head forward, and that will solve the problem. Results from scan indicate nothing wrong, but his leg still tingles. He is going to go to chiropractor to see if they can help. He really wants to ride at the Biloela Rodeo in May but I have told him not until he is all fixed up.

I have been helping out with the stock work on my days off. For my efforts I’ve had some lovely black bruises, the size of baseballs, three; one on my upper arm, one on my hip and one on my thigh. This was the result of me getting too close to a kicking cow that caught 3 areas of my body with just one kick. I had my revenge though and she got the jigger (shock thingy) on her rump, good job that’ll teach the bitch.

Wish we had something exciting to tell you about but we are just like everyone else now settle into a routine. Johnathan still dreams of hunting and is excited about coming home at xmas as he thinks that is all he will be doing. We shall see.
A couple of cassandras holiday shots from her time in NZ.

Cassandra on holiday in New Zealand, catching up with Sean & Iokepta.

Sean & Cassandra at rainbows end hitting the slots.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Luxury of clean toes.

Let me just say we are proud to be Kiwi’s, but on occasion when we meet other kiwis, that are travelling the Oz Experience circuit we almost want to deny our heritage, only because some people we have met are complete and utter dicks. Mind you it is not just the kiwis, there are lots of idiots travelling, and I think it must be a generational thing, perhaps I am getting old?
Putting that aside it is interesting to hear some of the fears and uncertainty from a lot of the backpackers. They think that suddenly because they are in the outback they will see more snakes and spiders; it is great fun to take the piss, because we don’t think there any more out here than anywhere else. Anyway, we show them to their rooms (bush cabins) which are a bit like stables (unlined, with big gaps between the roof and the wall), which allows for airflow. You hear gasps and squawks when instead of spiders they see little geckos, big eyes and suction cup feet, and then exclamations of “I’m not sleeping here”. They are absolutely delighted when you inform them they should be glad they have geckos because that means there are no spiders. One girl even tried to go and claim geckos from other cabins for her room. Not sure why they care, as most of them are so drunk when they go to bed they wouldn’t even know if a spider or snake nested in their bed.
The reality of it all is there are some incredibly poisonous animals here. On the ground you occasionally see little perfectly round holes with webs over them. Of course the curiosity is peaked (Wendy’s’ curiosity) and out come the sticks and the poking starts at a good arm length away. There have been some really big spiders in those holes, poisonous hairy ones with big fangs. I have stopped doing it now just in case I accidentally piss one off that can jump. The other day one of the staff girls came to kitchen carrying a t-shirt which she had left on the line (for a long time), attached to it was a big spider, when it was poked with the ever handy stick, the f***** thing took off really fast shooting a ½ cm web out its bum. That was really freaky, especially given we decided it was a funnel web spider, very deadly. Scary, because I thought they only lived in holes in the ground, now I will have to check clothes that aren’t used for a while, like raincoats.
Since our December blog about Johnathan’s bronco ride there have been subtle little hints about when he is next going to ride, nothing is planned just yet but that is mainly because of scheduling. We are currently on holiday on the Sunshine Coast after dropping Cassandra off at the airport, she was nervous about flying on her own but also very excited and it was interesting to see our little girl spreading her wings.
She in fact kept asking us when we were leaving, so she could go it alone. In the end we stayed until it was 20 mins prior to her flight beginning to board.
We have a luxury of an apartment with a bath and a shower. Johnathan has had several baths as we only have showers at home. You can luxuriate in a bath in way that you can just not do anywhere else and you feel clean and relaxed. This brings us the point of clean toes. It is amazing how little things can provide such enjoyment. At the farm there is so much dust and when not in work boots we all wear scuffs with holes in them as they are easy to slip on and off. Problem with these is your feet and toes get very dirty. Johnathan came back one day saying “look clean toes” to which Cassandra and I beamed back with smiles of full teeth. Now don’t picture this wrong, we all shower daily, but this standard routine does not get all the dust off that builds up round your toe nails. We don’t have to worry quite as much anymore though as we have moved out of the tent and now live in a little cottage with a big verandah. It is beautiful, as although we all still live in the same room, we now have our own shower and toilet. So our feet don’t get dirty walking from the shower to our home. The best thing about having a house is Cassandra now has a formal area to study which doesn’t get dusty and she won’t have to put everything away between uses to stop it getting dirty or wreaked from the elements.
While on holiday we also have a TV and have found ourselves watching that a lot. One of the highlights of this holiday was “The Police” concert we went to in Brisbane. Johnathan was in fine form and being a big, big fan of them he knows all the lyrics. He even suggested his singing voice was as good as Stings, I was quick to inform him this, may have been purely because we couldn’t actually hear him (Johnathan) singing over the music from the speakers. Oh, how deluded some people are! To finish the evening off we had a visit from the actual men in blue, back at our hotel, at 1.30am. The neighbouring room had had a computer stolen and had been verbally discussing (in loud voice) it for about 2 hours prior to the Police coming. They had heard our computer shut down and must have informed the Police during their visit so they came to check, sucked in, ours was a different brand. The police and the Hotel both apologised to us. Oh the city is an exciting place, not. We could never live in one again.
Not sure if you have been keeping up with the weather or the current affairs of Australia but big things weather wise have been happening, big floods and damage costs in the millions. Anyway it is hard to put into words which will evoke the emotions we have about our area. We have not personally had floods but we have had what would be close to a miracle. Imagine a mind-boggling experience which is almost unbelievable. We have for a long time joked about Australians not knowing what a creek is because all the creek crossings here are dry, just empty sand beds. Anyway we have one of these empty sand beds running through the park, where the horse trail ride and walks happen. There are trees and Lantana growing everywhere and this sand bed has been this way for over 4 years. Anyway we have had no rain except for about 11 mm over the last 3 weeks; everywhere has been getting storms and floods. We are in a bit of a valley and the rain goes around or dumps itself on the range about 12 km away. We had no inclination of the amount of water which had been rained on the range. Johnathan went to take a couple of staff members up the creek bed to a water hole about 6-9km from the park the other day. The track crosses over the dry creek bed several times to get to the place. Anyway Johnathan had got only about 2 km from the park and there was water flowing down the creek, he crossed that one, but by the time he got to the third one he had to turn the 4WD around and come back. When he called the park on the 2way radio to tell them, he was not believed. The boss’s son in law rushed out to check for himself. Back at the park the water was not running, so Johnathan and Andrew went out on the motorbikes following the creek bed backwards to see where the water was. They met the water coming down about 1km from the park. When they measured its speed by placing a rock in the water and one in front in the dry it was travelling about 1 metre every 30 seconds. Later in the day they visited the wharf at the park which when you stand under it you can not touch it and the water was slowing coming toward it. Standing under the wharf Johnathan said the water on his right was ankle deep and the area on his left was dry as the water hadn’t yet reached it.
This wharf is at least 7 feet of the ground, the following day the end was under water, 20 minutes before this photo the creek was bone dry.
When we got up the next morning the water was running past the park and this meant another visit to the wharf was required. This is the amazing thing, and I wish I could describe it so your heart wells up like ours did; the wharf was covered in water. We are talking about a creek about 10 metres wide and over 6 feet deep, appearing from nowhere, all within 24 hours. It was the coolest and most exciting thing I have ever experienced. We went for swim in that water, off the wharf. Johnathan even took a horse in for a swim with another staff member. He and Cassandra also headed back into the farm up to the first river crossing, which was now too deep to drive through. He suspended a rope across to help them cross then they went up stream and rode the rapids down using the body board. Cassandra said it was better than the Wet’n’Wild theme park.
We have been told the water will last most likely until about June and once it seeps into the ground it will provide water for the park for about 18 months.
Coming from NZ I had trouble comprehending it. What is also amazing is the floods that happened inland are going to cause floods on the coast but they have had 10 days to prepare for the torrent of water that will eventually make its way down the rivers towards the coast. It is like waiting for clock ticking, they estimate the flood will hit Rockhampton on Wednesday morning and the river will peak at 8.5 metres above its normal level. The water has had to travel approximately 400-500 km. Incredible!
Australia keeps giving us new experiences and we continue to love it.
We have a new addition to our family, his name is Boss and he is cool. He is cockatoo that fell out of a burnt tree and couldn’t fly. He was found before he was old enough to feed himself and we looked after for 10 days when he first arrived but have since inherited him because the girl that had him has left the Park.
Cassandra has the job of feeding him mostly. He has the coolest personality and normally walks around the place picking up bright and colourful things. The other day he picked up a beer can and tilted it to his mouth. Boy, the backpackers loved that photo opportunity. He eats muesli and fruit but especially loves peas. He has been a bit adventurous lately as he is learning to fly. Unfortunately he has got lost a couple of times as he can get up but can’t get down from trees. It is silly as Johnathan and Andrew have been climbing trees to get him down as he looks really sad and pathetic after being up there for a while. To save ourselves the grief the boss trimmed his wings the other day to stop him flying off, this upset some staff but in reality he can not look after himself yet and his wings will grow back in about 8 weeks. We really miss having animals and Boss helps to fill that gap, but we are trying not to get too attached although I think it is already too late.
See you next time.