Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. -Maya Angelou

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Top End

Lovely Loquacious Lorikeets ..........it just rolls off the tongue.
My love affair with the Northern Territory started in Katherine our first stop in the Top End. A long hot and dusty journey from Kununurra took us through some spectacular escarpments and across the Victoria River. Termite mounds as large as dinosaur droppings covered the landscape. Not so far fetched as you might think. This whole area from Broome to Kununnura was once an vast inland sea and the first fossils of invertebrates that copulated and gave birth to live young as apposed to spawning have been found here. Another piece of useless trivia for you but the scientists get excited about the fact that this is one of the first places on earth that we got down to some serious nookie. The temperature has been climbing steadily and I am slowly becoming dessicated in the Australian heat . I have developed an obsession with water and all I think of is the prospect of a swim,even if it means Katherine's warm thermal springs.  There is only one way to rehydrate this mermaid and that is total immersion. We set up camp on some grass, a welcome relief after all the dust bowl camping of the last few weeks,and  in the shade of some tall red gums.  A crowd of candy coloured lorikeets like flying Smarties joined us to take advantage of a sprinkler and were soon squabbling over who got to bathe first.
Rare sighting of African Bushducks at thermal springs

 The true blessing of our stay turned out to be a pair of welcoming Welsh neighbours who set up camp next to us. Some people you feel you have known all your life even if you have just met. Chris and Terry O' Laughlin from Melbourne,were that rare breed. Their love of South Africa where they had spent many years endeared us to them and we had many happy hours around our respective tables reminiscing and  exchanging stories, in the company of delicious food and fine wine.

Katherine Gorge
Nitmiluk (Cicada Dreaming) is the aboriginal name for Katherine Gorge which winds along for twelve kilometers.We spent a couple of nights in this spectacular park and took a cruise up the first two of thirteen gorges with sheer rock faces seventy metres high. Bolung-the Rainbow Serpent is said to inhabit the deep water in the second gorge where in the wet season huge whirlpools form and  suck everything into their depths. Maybe that  is why the local Jawoyn people fear the place and wont fish or enter the water at this point. I found it a peaceful and tranquil place. Hundreds of little Fairy Martins build their bottle shaped nests under the overhanging ledges and the silence is palpable. A cute wallaby visited every night for some tucker. I wish I could have taken him on board.
I was excited as we drove into Darwin. I had read so much about the city, the bombings in the second world war by the Japanese and the total devastation by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.  It is a colourful, tropical, laid back city with a real sense of place which is definitely more Asian than Australian. Beautiful colonial buildings with wide verandas and palms and  frangipani trees line the streets.Its a haven for backpackers with cheap accommodation and  endless watering holes.The street markets lure you with the tantalizing aromas of food from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. I tasted my first "crispy fried duck egg" a hard boiled egg coated in a spicy anise batter and deep fried, stuffed chicken wings,(surely life is too short to stuff a chicken wing?!) spring rolls the size of my little finger filled with aromatic pork and a sweet coconut Cambodian rice cake steamed in small baskets.Half the time I didn't know or care what I was eating, it all tasted delicious.But I drew the line at Roo........anything that says "Outback" on the menu features Roo or Croc. Not for me and besides I have an ongoing  love affair with  Roos of all kinds..........it would be as terrible as eating dog!
At the Darwin museum you can view an exhibit of Cyclone Tracy. You wander through furnished rooms filled with memorabilia of northern territory life in 1974. Radios play the weather broadcast, but no mention of the impending disaster.Finally a door shuts behind you and in a pitch black room you discover first hand how terrible the sound of it was from actual recordings taken at its height on Christmas day. You emerge to unbelievable photos of the total devastation of a flattened city.The sheer scale of the disaster is mind boggling.But true to form there are the Aussies with their indomitable optimism waving merrily from the ruins with placards "No worries mate" !
By the end of the week the humidity was soaring and a pall of smoke hung over the city,bush fires were raging and a total fire ban was in effect. It felt time to leave, you couldn't even escape the heat with a swim because of the danger of the deadly box jellyfish at this time of the year. We celebrated Tommy's 37th birthday on Mindil Beach watching the sun set over the Timor Sea,eating fresh mango and satay prawns on a stick. A Japanese Didgeridoo player moaned at the moon and we knew we were on our way down........down to the red center of Oz and another lovely lady, a town called Alice.

Sunset at Mindil Beach

Soul Food Kitchen

We had so many exotic gastronomic delights in Darwin its proving difficult to choose a recipe for the Soul Kitchen but perhaps this will tickle your taste buds. This is an authentic Aussie recipe "hearty tucker" probably went down well after the Cyclone........

Burdekin Ducks  (fancy name for corned beef fritters!)

1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 cups diced corned beef
2 cups assorted diced veggies,(corn, potato, pumpkin,peas or any left over cooked veg)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together Add eggs beaten with milk. Stir in meat, veggies and melted butter. Fry in large spoonfuls in hot oil turning once and cook until golden brown. Serve warm, but they are great cold. Tomato sauce is an ideal accompaniment. Best drunk with a bottle of ice cold beer.........Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Diesel, Dust and the Dreamtime

Aboriginal Sacred Site Winjana Gorge Dreaming

                                       When you stand and gaze at Winjana Gorge
                                               its easy to understand the Dreamtime.................

 Some two thousand generations of men and women have lived and died since the first Aboriginal walked upon the soil of this land , now known as Australia.  Forty thousand years since the beginning of the Dreamtime.  In the beginning the earth was featureless, flat and grey. There were no mountain ranges, no rivers, no billabongs, no birds or animals, in fact no living thing...........then came the Dreamtime. Giant mythical Beings rose up out of the great grey plains where they had been slumbering for centuries; they looked like animals or plants or insects but they behaved just like humans. As they wandered in search of food and water they dug huge ravines and rivers,pushed up mountains and gradually the earth as we know it today took shape. Aboriginals believe their ancestors were taught by these mythical Beings and how as their descendants they should behave. Then the Dreamtime ended, and they were left with rites and ceremonies to preserve this heritage. Tribal lands and all forms of life contained within it are now held in sacred trust. Land  has a very special meaning to Aboriginals for all over the land are features which remind them of these Beings who had a part in their creation and the truth of the connectedness of all things, both living and dead.

These are our last weeks in Western Australia, and the diversity of the scenery in this state is remarkable. The road from Broome to Derby and Kununurra in this part of the Kimberley region is so like Africa,especially Kenya or Zimbabwe. Savannah doted with Baobabs and yellow flowering kapok trees. It made me very nostalgic. I keep scanning the bush for buck, zebra or giraffe but alas only the odd Roo. 
A day trip to Wyndham , the northernmost town in Western Australia . Its dry, dusty and has a dubious claim to fame for the most beer drunk per capita in the whole of Oz .......I  can see why.  Not a lot here, but at the Five Rivers lookout you can (predictably enough) see five rivers at one time. The homestead scenes in the film Australia were filmed here and the local museum was a wealth of quirky information. In its hey day it was the center for the meat processing industry and Johnson's Fluid Beef aka Bovril was made here in HUGE quantities.........if you could see how they made the stuff (the old photos were pretty graphic) you would never touch the stuff........VEGEMITE RULES!


Dawn fishing on the Ord
Derby will be remembered for the meal the sand flies had of Tommy's legs........ and a meeting with Margaret,a wonderfully colourful colonial lady originally from East Africa and editor of the local paper,The Muddy Waters. Then on to  Kununurra famous for  Pink Argyle Diamonds and a too brief friendship forged with Geoff and Kaye Brown, lovey people from Dalmeny NSW......... what a lovely daughter.....now they would be great in-laws................ well a mother can dream can't she!

A swim with a view

A last few days at Lake Argyle and  another memorable swim this time in the infinity pool overlooking the lake. Tommy caught and lost a HUGE fish in the Ord River..........he has witnesses.

Now its time to hit the road again and this time we are heading for the Top End................Darwin here we come!

Soul food Kitchen

Fresh Mango Salsa

Locals are always looking for new ways to use the over abundant supplies of mangoes in the Kimberley region,this is my version of a fresh and piquant mango salsa the quantities are really a matter of personal taste, I love the heat of fresh red chili but you can omit it
1 large mango peeled and cut into small dice.
1/2  Red onion cut into small dice
1/2 cup fresh pineapple cut into small dice
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
1 fresh red chili chopped fine
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
pinch of salt
Mix all together and chill in the fridge. Great with fish and seafood.and in tacos

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Broome and Beyond

Monument to women pearl divers

            If diamonds are a girl's best friend,
                                                      then pearls must be her sister...............

I had my birthday in Broome. "The town built on buttons" Once the pearling capital of the world. until the mother of pearl industry was almost wiped out by the invention of the plastic button .The red pindan soil, white beaches and turquoise sea are as famous as the pearl divers themselves that came from Japan and China, Malaysia and Makassar, as well as  local Aboriginals. The Aboriginal  men and women were sometimes lured onto pearl luggers with the promise of grog and then forced to dive. If you didn't come up with a shell you had to produce a handful of sand to show that  you had reached the bottom.The pearl beds were deep, often more than 27 meters and hundreds of divers died either from the bends or drowning. Broome has the largest Japanese cemetery in Australia, with rough headstones carved from local beach stone. A silent tribute to the men who dived for "the tears of heaven"

Japanese Graveyard
  The corrugated road out to Willie Creek Pearl Farm was teeth rattling but the tour was fascinating.The poor oyster "pinctada maxima" has a tiny piece of Mississippi mussel shell inserted  into its gonads.......ouch!   Over the course of  a couple of years it secretes enough nacre (mucous) to ease the irritation and produce that highly desirable pearl. Each oyster also has its own home help, a tiny pea crab. In exchange for protection it keeps everything neat and tidy. Apparently the skilled operators, mainly Japanese that do this delicate seeding operation earn in excess of $100,000 for three months work, not too shabby but a mere bagatelle when you consider the industry turns over $200 million a year. I got to hold a couple of prize beauties for a few minutes.............but alas too dear for my budget to take home.

Pearls of great price!


I managed a swim at the fabled Cable beach, so named for the first international telegraph line that linked Australia to Java and the rest of the world. Walked through Chinatown to covet the pearls and finally watched the sun set whilst feasting on crispy Barrumundi wings under a star studded sky. A time for reflection as I celebrated my journey of 58 years.I've come a long way.My travels have taken me to five continents,and more exotic places than I could ever have imagined. It has been a privilege to explore new horizons, meet fascinating people and discover myself in the process. The internal journey has been  far longer than the external one and I still have a fair way to go............I read somewhere "that memories are a cushion for our old age" I have managed to stuff a few duvets so far.......God grant me travelling mercies and a soft landing!

Soul Food Kitchen

Fresh Lime Cordial.
This has been the best thirst quencher on our travels. We pop some bottles of the diluted juice in the freezer overnight and have ice cold drinks for the road.

60 g citric acid
30 g tartaric acid
30 g Epsom salts
Juice and rind of 12 limes or lemons
2 kg sugar
2 litres of boiling water

Pour the boiling water over all the other ingredients.Allow to stand overnight, so that the dry ingredients are dissolved. in the morning strain and bottle. Dilute to taste. Mmmmm.................... could be good with a G&T too ?