The Difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost.

This is my favourite of Frost’s poems.

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On My Way

The road trip has begun. We have left HC. Dave is flying in a helicopter over the bungle bungles and I have been talking to motorcyclists. The car is heavily laden with the detritus of my life. She is carrying her burden bravely. Tyre pressures @ 40 & 42. Onward Japanese Juggernaut!

Tomorrow I finally get to see lake Argyle by boat and on Thursday the long drive begins with no firm itinerary.

Wet and Wildlife

A quick visit to Halls Creek on the weekend to collect a backlog of mail and parcels.  I was almost caught out of town once again by the Wet.

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I set off home this morning just in time.  I ran into a storm that caused the Shire to close the Tanami Road even as I was travelling on it.   Rain and flooding added over an hour to my trip.

 

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I had to wait at one creek crossing for the water level to drop a bit before I could drive through.  I took this photo just before I waded the troopy across after waiting about three quarters of an hour, in which time the level dropped almost half a metre.  Even so, the water was over my wheels.  This is why it is advisable in the Kimberley to drive a 4WD diesel vehicle with high clearance and a snorkel.

Such is the pattern of weather here that though the first part of the road from the Great Northern Highway as far as Ruby Plains was inundated by the downpour, shortly after wading the creek I was driving on dry dusty road that had not seen a drop of rain for at least a week.   At Wolfe Creek and again just before I got to Bililuna I encountered more puddles and mud.  The troopy, which I had cleaned nicely after the rescue trips out bush last week, is all muddy again.

At one point I had the good fortune to spot some brolgas dancing on the roadside.  I stopped to take photos. Unfortunately my presence upset them and they headed away into the bush.  Shooting from the car made getting a clear shot through the trees tricky on full 600 mm zoom. Most of the best display poses of the dance were obscured.

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I have not yet mastered the new Sony.

Rescue

It is goanna hunting season.

Just over a year ago I wrote about a goanna hunt with some of my boys.  Trips like that out to the bush were a good way to get some  engagement time with the lads.

Unfortunately I can’t do it any more since the troopies were declared unsuitable for transporting people.  Once we were advised that insurance wont cover us unless passengers are wearing lap+diagonal seatbelts, facing forward, the CEO had to prohibit us transporting passengers in the troopies.   It was stressed that apart from being sacked, the driver will be personally liable.  Until we get more suitable vehicles I can only transport one passenger in the front seat with me. No more group trips out bush.

However, those same young men are a whole year older now, and they have access to a vehicle.  So they have been out hunting by themselves.  The other afternoon one of my young friends turned up unexpectedly.   He needed assistance, he told me, as the vehicle they were using out bush had got stuck, not far out past Lake Stretch.

We headed out there.   “Not far past Lake Stretch”  turned out to be about 30 km or so out in the bush.  It must have been about an 8 hour walk to come and get help.  I asked when they had got stuck.

“Yesterday”.

They had been out overnight, and no-one had raised an alarm.

I saw they had caught a goanna, but it had spoiled and was no longer edible.  I asked why they hadn’t cooked it while they were waiting.  They hadn’t taken a lighter with them.

Snatch straps are pretty amazing things and we got the other landcruiser out of the mud in no time.  The boys had not taken any water with them of course, so they soon drank my supply.  They piled back into and onto their tray back landcruiser and set off home.   I followed them out in mine.

You can see from the condition of my troopy what the bush tracks are like at this time of year.  The only reason I was game to go in to where my young friends had got stuck was that I have the training and experience, plus a better equipped vehicle, with better tyres, and most importantly I carry a spade and recovery tracks.

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These very expensive ($250) pieces of plastic are worth their weight in gold out here.  They virtually guarantee I can get myself out of anything I manage to get into.  Unless the car floats away.

Next afternoon, my young friend turned up once more.  They had done it again.  This time the trip out to where they were stuck was through mud and creek bed, and shallow lake most of the way.  And it was getting dark.  I have no idea where we ended up, but I remembered passing through one area I had been before.  This shallow lake was dry last time I visited it.  Yesterday it wasn’t.

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Those white dots on the horizon are brolgas.
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A Brolga

I sincerely would not have thought we could actually get to where we ended up.  Without my young companion’s assurance that the other Toyota had already got through, I would not even have ventured in there by myself.  It beats me how he knew the way and remembered the areas to avoid.  It also impressed me that he had walked all the way out to fetch me.  Again.

It was well after dark when we arrived where their Toyota had bogged down.  It seemed to me that the place they got themselves stuck was not any different to anywhere else we had already been.  This time extracting the other vehicle took a little more effort, particularly because I had to be very careful not to bog my own in the process.  But there were over half a dozen youngsters willing to help.   A bit of digging and manouvreing, and some enthusiastic pushing and out she came.  I love these kids’ cheerful confidence, which seems only to manifest out in the bush.   Out here they never doubt themselves.

“Bililuna people don’t help each other”, the driver, and oldest of the young men confided as we were tackling the problem of moving his Toyota without bogging mine.  “No one else would come out.  That’s why we had to ask you.  You always help”.

I didn’t know what to say.

This was the best bonding time I have had with my kids for quite a while.  I really need to get back out bush with them.  It’s where they open up and tell me things.   They really are different people out there.  More open, less shy.

Again they needed water, and again I lectured them on preparedness when setting out into Country.  It seems very strange indeed to me that I, a gardia, should be lecturing young aboriginal hunters about survival in the bush.

Once again they all piled into and onto their Toyota with complete disregard  for all the safety rules that I must stringently apply in the use of my vehicle.   I took one with me as a passenger and guide to be sure I did not get lost in the dark on the way back.  This time we had ventured way off the tracks, and in some places I might not have been able to follow my own tracks back where they were under water.

They got stuck twice more on the way back, crossing muddy creeks, but each time I was able to get past and get them moving again.   We were all covered in mud by the time we were back on the “road” to Bililuna.

They had caught three big goanna, so it was all worthwhile.

They  even remembered to say “Thankyou” before they rushed off to cook them.

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If you are wondering how goanna tastes:  check it out here.

Update: October.

I can’t believe how long it has been since I wrote the last post.  Two full months.  One of the problems with depression is that when it gets you down, you just want to hide away.    I make myself go out and do what I am paid to, and I take great care not to let people see that I have what is still a very misunderstood mental illness.

I don’t need the gratuitous comments and advice that have ensued whenever I confided in some people.  I don’t need to “just buck up”. I don’t need to “find a woman”.  And I already know I hide it well and seem so cheerful.  It is what I do.

I had quite a lot going on, and some of it was pretty interesting, even exciting, but I was waiting until I felt right before I wrote about it.  I still don’t feel right, but it is long overdue.  My future self will wonder what was going on.

The best  and most exciting news was the trip we took down through the Gibson.  The Youth team formed a convoy to accompany a traveller down the back road from Balgo to Kiwirrkurra. We used the opportunity as a team building exercise. Five 4WD vehicles across the Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts.  We travelled on tracks over desert and sand dunes, dry riverbeds dry lake beds, and rocky ridges, through spinifex and scrub.   It was a three day trip to cover the 540 km from home via Balgo to Kiwirrkurra community, and I loved every minute, every kilometer.

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We camped out under the stars. I believe it was the happiest few days I have had in a very long while. Some photos I took on the way are on my FaceBook page here.

Molly the dog was with me and we both had a really great time.  After Kiwirrkurra we drove out to the Tanami and down to Alice Springs where we stayed for a couple of nights before returning once more up the Tanami.  We were away for a week in all.

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Google maps’ claim that it is 36 hours from Alice to Halls Creek is quite wrong.  We did it in 12 with stops.  Mind you, It would probably have taken me a bit longer had I not been trying to keep up with the others.   I drove my own Landcruiser on the trip, because my troopy was in for maintenance, and because I really wanted to see how she would go through the outback.  She went great.   I was not the one who got bogged in the sand dunes!

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While I was away, A good friend in Halls Creek babysat the emulets for me.  Incidentally the two emus became became three since I last posted.  The last to join me was much smaller, indicating that he had not been as well fed as his siblings since being orphaned.

Shortly after I brought the chicks home to Billiluna I was given an orphaned Joey to care for as well.   It was male, and very young, just a few weeks old, and I soon knew I would not be able to feed and care for him.  I could keep him alive for only so long on honey water and electrolytes.  Joeys have special needs for hourly feeds and cannot be given cows milk.

So I contacted Kangaroo Haven in Kununurra and arranged to deliver him there.  I had also become increasingly aware that the Emus would soon be needing more care and protection than I could provide. In addition, I had been quietly advised that there were certain folk eyeing them up already for culinary purposes.  It was extremely unlikely I would be able to keep them until they could be released. So with some reluctance I took them, too, to the sanctuary. Once I got there, I had no regrets.  It is a wonderful place run by lovely people.  They will be safe and happy, and eventually released in an area where there is no hunting.

I finally cleared the last of my possessions out of the Halls Creek house.  Some of it is now stored at a friend’s house, in the spare room, the rest is here with me in my little donga.  Which means there is barely room for me to move here.   I feel like one of those elderly smelly old hoarders I used to visit with the public health nurse.  Surrounded by piles of crap I cant get rid of, making my way between rooms through little corridors in the rubbish.

The fact that this rubbish is all that is left of my past is the only thing that stops me throwing it all away.  I have a little bit more sympathy for those old former clients now.

Just before my last run home with the final carload of stuff, I lost Molly.  I let her out of the office in Halls Creek for a few minutes. She usually just sniffed around the trees waiting for me but this time she vanished.  I searched the town for hours with no sign of her.  I can only assume she got into someone’s car and went off with them.  There has been just one (doubtful) report of her since.  I think she is gone to another town or community.   This has not improved my outlook any.

Then, a real tragedy.  Just over a week ago, one of my young people, and two others were killed in a car crash. Another is still in critical condition in hospital.  This has naturally had a sad effect on the community here.

Then Sally had a close shave. She’s fine, but she is very lucky.

Since she started jumping the fence to eat the neighbour’s frangipani, I have given up keeping the gate closed, and she wanders where she will. She definitely misses Molly.  Even though Molly pestered the daylights out of her, wanting to play, since Molly has been gone Sally has been wandering around bleating for her like a lost sheep.  Sometimes she hangs out with Sadie the Camel, and if I am all there is she will hang out with me.

I drove the troopy to the other side of the village, quite unaware that Sally was trotting along right behind me. When I got to the seedy side of town where the nasty car-chasing dogs hang out, I found I was the centre of their attention.  A whole pack of them.

Except I wasn’t. Sally was.  She did not panic.  She closed in for my protection as she usually does when strange dogs are around. While I was shouting at the dogs and warning them off, she got too close to the troopy, which was still rolling along, and she went under it.

I was going really slow as usual. around 10-15 KPH.  Running over anything or anyone is my greatest worry here. It would be bad enough to bowl a dog, but the kids too tear about on foot, or on bicycles, quads and motorbikes without a skerrick of road sense.

I got Sally into the back of the troopy with the help of a couple of kids and concerned mums and took her home. I was really worried. However, she got up and climbed out of the troopy by herself. After giving me a reassuring nuzzle as if to let me know she did not blame me for the incident she limped off to eat some grass. I have been keeping a close eye on her in case of internal injuries but apart from a limp she seems ok.

She is not wandering far though.

I sold my motorcycle at last over the weekend just past. The money is in the bank, but I doubt I shall ever be riding two wheels again.   Since the long drive two months ago, the pain in my legs became worse and worse.

A fortnight ago I saw the GP on her Thursday visit to the clinic here. It was so nice to be taken seriously and not just fobbed off with “Yep- Arthritis”.  She did some tests, looked concerned and and did some more.  It seems the muscles are withered and I have no reflexes in the right leg.  “This is not your legs”, she says, “it is your back”.   She orders a CT scan.  I went to Kununurra last Thursday for it.  I shall be discussing the results with the doc. in the coming days.  However, from what the Tech says, my back is fecked.  It remains to be seen just how fecked, and what the implications are for my future mobility.

Food for Emu Chicks

My little emu chicks have already visibly grown. If I could find my kitchen scales, I’d weigh them. They are eating really well and today they ran around the yard very energetically. They are much more steady on their feet. They also tried eating grass and weeds. They found a little patch of quartz gravel and ate a few bits, which will help them grind their food in their crops.

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They already know what they are doing!

I have just prepared them a new food mixture which I shall freeze in batches. This mix is based on professional advice:

EMU CHICK FOOD MkII.

  • Dry dog food: 1 cup
  • chicken pellets: 1 cup
  • wheat: 1 cup,
  • Budgie seed, 1 cup
  • half a cauliflower,
  • half a broccoli,
  • 2 carrots.

All whizzed in the food processor, except the wheat which is too strong. That got pulverised in the blender then mixed in.  I am also soaking some wheat to let it sprout.

I don’t think they will be needing this for long, at the rate they are developing. When they are just a little older they wont need the food to be processed. For the Mk III version I shall just chop the veges for them and throw in the other ingredients.  I shall also add frozen peas and parrot seed mix.  .

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The reason for only half a broccoli and cauli is that they are bloody expensive out here, and I have to eat too.