Hope everyone had a lovely happy Christmas yesterday!
Continuing on from the last diary entry at Fraser Island………………..
We drove North after staying with some new found friends in Harvey Bay stopping at Bundaberg to slurp on some icy cold ginger beer and pick up some Bundaberg rum for sipping around the camp fire.
The tropical town of Bundaberg is quite industrial with large refineries and sugar mills towering over the adjacent small workers cottages which contrast the surrounding green agricultural landscape of sugarcane fields, tomato, macadamia and rockmelon farms with their burgundy soil.
Mango trees in peoples front yards dripped mangos, green tinged with pink slowly ripening on the trees. We picked some green mangoes to make a fresh and spicy green mango sambal to accompany our thai chicken larb salad or to have on biscuits.
GREEN MANGO SAMBAL
2 green mangoes grated
½ red onion
1 tsp of raw sugar
juice of 1 lime
a generous pinch of seasalt
We continued driving to the towns of Agnes Waters and Seventeen Seventy (1770) named after James Cook landing here in 1770. The village of 1770 is a very charming peninsular with gorgeous little cove beaches and a breathtakingly beautiful headland reserve, Joseph Banks Environmental Park. The local pub is fantastic and we were thrilled t0 find our favourite cider on tap, Monteith’s, a welcome treat in the steamy weather before finding our new campsite just north of 1770.
We camped at the National Park north of 1770 for 4 nights. The days were hot and humid and our skin was constantly beaded with perspiration.
During late afternoon the dark billowing cumulus storm clouds built up, followed by cymbal crashing thunder, electrifying lightening and large rain drops falling from the angry sky. The afternoon tropical rain storms passed quickly and then we would watch Mother Nature’s light show from afar in the evenings. Lasers of light flashed through the deep indigo sky illuminating the landform on the horizon and turning the pristine estuary water silver.
We made some lovely friends, Demi and Bianca, at the campsite who are also traveling around Australia. We shared travelling experiences, 4WD tips and a crackling fire.
Heat waves meant that campfires were a rare commodity so we utilized the fire by attempting a camp oven lamb roast. We are only apprentices but apparently the most important thing for a camp oven roast is to build up a bed of coals to cook on, so the cooking heat is consistent. Ours turned out well thanks to tasty gravy made with the juices of the lamb and veggies. Just as good as a home roast!
It was getting hot, steamy and stormy so we decided to head south going inland through Queensland and New South Wales. Our first night camping inland was on the upper Burnett River where we nervously crossed the fast flowing river with the water up over the wheels
As we approached our river side camp site we spotted thousands of sweet succulent cherry tomatoes growing wild! While picking cherry tomatoes we noticed half a water tank stuck 8 metres above our campsite. The night was spent sipping rum by the fire and imagining how much water runs through the river to lodge an enormous water tank in such a big tree. When it rained the next morning we didn’t stay to find out and left at first light. With no time for a breaky cook up, it was straight to a local diner in the closest town of Biggenden. Over a coffee the owner mentioned that in the floods the river rose 6m in 2hrs during the floods in February, so I was pretty happy we left quickly!
We then drove towards Dalby past many classic queenslander houses and came across the Australian Stock Horse Auction, an eye opener as I have never really experienced this side of Australia before. We arrived in the 35 degree heat, the carpark full, a sea of utes with RM Williams stickers on their back windows. As we approached the inside of the showground it was like watching a country and western film, tall cowboys and cowgirls wearing their wrangler jeans with large metal buckles, stripped shirts with collars popped, driza-bones and akubra hats in the stinking hot day- then us, the ‘havaianas’ brigade, we stuck out like sore thumbs. Horses were displayed mustering a young cow and there was a commentary about each horse and its mother and father and its training and experience etc. before the auction started.
We then drove through distressingly harsh, flat farming country where there were large commercial mass production farms of mostly cotton and grain. It was obviously after harvest and a lot of the huge fields were left looking barren, desolate and raped, with the soil exposed and blowing around in the wind.
We travelled quite a distance in a few days and came back across the NSW border popping in and out of a few charismatic country towns such as Inverell- famous for its Sapphire fossiking areas….. if only we had a few days up our sleeves! We then weaved our way through the voluptuous grazing landscape towards the New England and rivers that wove through the landscape carving lush rainforest valleys. We came across an amazing 1950s vintage caravan with matching car- someone is also living their dream! SO COOL!
The lush riverside camping area was surrounded by a grand rugged landscape with large swathes of wet and dry rainforest and rocky outcrops. Dusk brought platypus scooting around the river ponds and freshwater eels slyly slivering around the bank edges on the hunt. I prepared cherry tomato pasta sauce from our wild tomato harvest accompanied with some grilled Golden Perch Dan caught in Pindari Dam, while a family of blue wrens hopped around and loudly tweeting.
In the morning I woke up to Dan’s excited laugh- he had gone down to the river and spotted and netted a huge spiny crayfish, luring it from under a bank with the Golden Perch head! I could not believe what I saw! ENORMOUS LOBSTERY CRAYFISH! He then proceeded to catch another one! What a lunch we had that afternoon before we left camp! The trick with cooking yabbies is to add plenty of salt to the water you boil them in; 5-10 minutes is all you need depending on size.
We are certainly eating well from our gathered and hunted delicacies!
We headed back to Sydney for a few days and then to Margie and Ben’s wedding just outside of Kiama for a beautiful celebration and party.
Our journey and story has continued further south for Christmas! We will unveil more of our hunting gathering adventures in the next diary entry.