Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).

My Home Town

Cleveland was the traditional territory of the Koobenpul clan of the Quandamooka.

European settlement of Brisbane and surrounding areas was banned from 1824 until 1842, due to the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement ( where convicts were detained on an island named St Helena, infamous for its barbaric cruelty) though the area to become Cleveland was first surveyed in 1840, and in 1841, was recommended for a maritime or seaport.

In 1847 the Government planned for the new town, and on 13 December 1850, Cleveland was proclaimed a township. The first land sales of the new township took place a year later, with early purchases primarily around Cleveland Point, at the time an early candidate for a major port to replace Brisbane. 

Low Tide and The Lighthouse Restaurant, famous for its fish n chips.

However, when Governor Sir George Gipps visited Cleveland in 1842, it is reported that upon disembarking his boat, he immediately sank into the mudflats up to his waist. He was so annoyed by this that he changed his mind and suggested an alternative site.

The views across Moreton Bay to North Stradbroke Island and the sandy Moreton Island are spectacular and attract many visitors, local and otherwise.  Movies filmed using this stretch of water include Unbroken ( when gossip had Angelina Jolie staying at the local pub and eating chicken schnittys) and Narnia’s “Dawn Treader” was built and located at the end of “the Point”, only to be dismantled at the end of filming much to the chagrin of locals.

In 1852, the first large buildings were built in Cleveland including what is now known as the Grand View Hotel, which just just happens to be my local. On a hot humid summer day nothing beats the beer garden of The Grandy.

Many of the traditional “Queenslander” homes have been retained and renovated and command big bikkies which adds to the Point’s charm.

And then there is “progress”.

There is a secret development application in the works for Toondah Harbour, where the ferries depart for the Islands, which will encroach on the Moreton Bay Marine Park and a Ramsar wetland of international importance that provides important habitat for: 

  • Threatened migratory shorebirds 
  • Dugongs 
  • Whales and dolphins 
  • Sea Turtles 
  • Koalas 

The area is also used by the Critically Endangered Eastern Curlews to feed and fatten up to prepare for their 10,000 km trip to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.  

This development of 3,600 units and harbour facilities including mooring for private seafaring vessels will mean the loss of beautiful parkland at Cleveland Point and the mangroves will be reclaimed for high-rise apartments.

Ferries travel across the channels
Photos taken from the Beer Garden.

I guess it would be churlish to hope that they all sink……..

A New Year – A New Decade

Haven’t managed to stay up till midnight for over forty years. It’s one of those quirks for being a bright eyed, bushy tailed morning person. 

Don’t set New Year Goals nor Resolutions though I am ruminating about some new projects. Despite being retired I like projects. I have a need to achieve or create. Little things. Little things are okay.

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin

So let’s share something chilled and wet to bring in the new decade together. Join me at my local waterhole, the Grand View Hotel in Cleveland, Queensland.

Built in 1851 the Grand View was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. It is well regarded for its views overlooking Moreton Bay to beautiful North Stradbroke Island ( AKA Straddie – because we’re a lazy lot), and its alfresco dining in the beer garden, regularly voted one of the best in the state. The tucker passes muster too.

G.J. Walter Park is situated between the Grand View and Toondah Harbour ( where the ferry terminal carries passengers to Straddie) and is one of Queensland’s oldest parks being gazetted as a public reserve in 1889. 

This area is home to koalas and many bird species that depend on the mangroves and mudflats for survival. Of course this means that it has been targeted by Developers for the construction of 3600 units and a water park. Apparently this is called progress.

Said farewell to 2020 at lunch with my youngest daughter sitting amongst the frangipanis. She reminded me that I’ve always been one to question progress. Sounds like another project, doesn’t it?

365 new days. 365 new chances.

Cheers!

A Walk Around IndigiScapes

We’re on the tail end of winter which means that the possums visit nightly carrying babies on their backs, the magpies are pinching the matting from my hanging baskets to build their nests and the Australian natives are just beginning to flower for Spring. Perfect weather for a walk around our local bushland gardens based on the original flora of the area – IndigiScapes.

IndigiScapes is also home to a variety of fauna including Koalas, and the birdlife is quite extensive, encouraged by nesting boxes high in the tree tops.

There are picnic grounds, bush walks, and different themed gardens featuring native plants. An Explorer Centre encourages the Little People to identify points of interest in the bush, and the Cafe serves light meals featuring native ingredients such as Wattle Seed and Lemon Myrtle.

Attached to IndigiScapes is a Native Nursery where many volunteers prepare seedlings for purchase. I’m a big fan as I live next door to a Koala Corridor and assist with the revegetation of the area with saplings which would have originally existed in the area.

Pre Covid the gardens were popular with families over holiday periods for the array of educational bush activities such as worm farming and basket weaving, and as the perfect venue to wear the little blighters out.

I’ve also attended some of the the weekend workshops they’ve run on attracting bees to your garden, composting, wildlife journalling, wild flower arranging and encouraging bees.

Entry to IndigiScapes is free. Take a bottle of water and just keep walking – you never know what you will stumble upon.

Located in Capalaba, suburban Brisbane. Fancy that.

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ” E.B. White / Letters of E. B. White

NY, Errol and Bushfires

Just over twelve months ago my first task upon retirement was to head to the New South Wales South Coast, my old stomping ground and source of many wonderful memories.

It was an opportunity to revisit this part of the world as well as reconnect with two beautiful lasses who played a major role in my life some forty five years beforehand.

Highway along South Coast

The beautiful south coast has been under siege for days. New Years Eve saw the residents and holidaymakers of one coastal township flee to the beach for safety from the raging bushfires. The battle continues with the navy enlisted to relocate people to safer shores.

My South Coast

So frightening, so compelling, so awful. I had to switch off the tele for some respite from the news.

Thinking of one of those childhood friends I put the same Errol Flynn DVD that we watched together just twelve months earlier. * Errol, chocolate, and pink champagne – what a way to spend a day together.

Again. Again.

This beautiful friend still has no power connected and sleeps on the couch watching for embers. Two houses in her street were lost to the fires and despite a call to evacuate this brave, headstrong woman chose to stay and defend. Vision impaired and a widow. No snowflake this lass.

My other friend still has no power. Food and fuel are low, but positivity and kindness are abundant. She can’t get out of her pocket of the world as the highway could be closed for weeks.

Another heatwave looms this weekend. My thoughts are with those doing it tough, and the firies and emergency service personnel who have been kept on their toes for weeks. To my two gal pals, to a blogger friend with the chocolate labs, and to all those affected……….no words. Just hang in there……..

*I also wanted to share a traumatic scene involving crabs with my daughter which to this day frightens the bejesus out of me and caused lifelong scars. I’m pretty fearless, except for seaweed which is where octopi and crabs lurk. Blame Against All Flags and Reap The Wild Wind and a lack of parental guidance.

But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and my adrenaline loving child was only interested in recipes utilising crab meat. My neurosis was quickly sideswiped. And yes, my Thai Crab Balls were a success.

Child minding.

The Day The World Came To Town by Jim Defede

When I announced to the daughters that I was heading off to Melbourne my youngest, the one who was a showgirl in a previous life, immediately told me that I must organise tickets for the musical Come From Away. Didn’t happen because I was too busy with Handel’s Messiah and other things.

Waiting for me on my return home was a copy of Jim Defede’s The Day The World Came To Town, the book on which the musical is based.

It recounts the real-life events that took place in Gander, Newfoundland, in the hours and days immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Hundreds of passenger planes were en route to the United States when the first of the Twin Towers went down that day. When the US Government closed the country’s airspace, those planes were diverted. Many were sent back to Europe, others to Canada. Gander, a town of around 8,000 people, took in 38 flights carrying 6,000 passengers and crew in the 24 hours immediately after the attack.

Gander’s population almost doubled overnight following one of the worst tragedies the world had ever seen.

Defede, a journalist, profiled passengers and pilots from several planes diverted to Gander. In doing so, we learn about the town mayor who declared a state of emergency, of the air traffic controllers and customs officials who safely brought in the most traffic the airport had seen in 40 years, and of all the citizens of Gander who donated clothes, toys and bedding to make the passengers feel safe and welcome. Residents found 4000 toothbrushes, clean towells, hot meals, and made the showers in their homes available to the influx of visitors who were unable to access their luggage.

In amongst the cargo were nine dogs, ten cats, and a pair of rare monkeys earmarked for a zoo also requiring constant attention. The local vet and a band of volunteers can most certainly hold their heads up high for their achievements over this period.

What a heart warming little book and a timely reminder of all that is good.

With the east coast of Australia deemed  to be in “catastrophic fire danger” today my thoughts are with the many, both in flight and in the fight. If its not drought, it’s flames, and in some of our country towns there is not enough water to even fight the fires. The air in Sydney and Brisbane is poorer in quality than in Beijing thanks to the smoke.

This morning I walked along the edge of the koala corridor just as the sun was arising. It was just wonderful to see how many of my neighbours have taken to putting bowls of water and bird feeders out for the wildlife. 

I’de love to comment on the bum fight currently happening between our pollies, scientists and the greenies, but the lesson to take from Gander is to take care of the people (and animals) first.

Hope the show comes to Brisi……

Possums and Owls

I’m not good with neighbours. I like space.

So when I downsized  it was imperative to live near some Open land. Which I found. My pocket handkerchief property borders a wildlife corridor, and more importantly due to their declining numbers, a Koala corridor. I have wallabies that visit, blue tongue lizards and water dragons, drongos, scrub turkeys, magpies and kookaburras that drop by for the fresh water that is left out for them.

Swamp Wallaby

I had lived only three kilometres away for over twenty years and it wasn’t until I went for a walk through my back gate that I discovered a nearby platypus sanctuary. I kid you not. Platypus. Long time locals are still unaware of its existence!

And then there are the possums. 

I have always had a soft spot for possums having grown up in a bush setting in a little Sydney suburb since destroyed by progress with its inclination for fountains with urinating cherubs and concrete lions by the front gate. Memories of my mother, who died when I was a kid, include feeding injured possums that escaped the bushfires by braving sharks and swimming across the river to safety. I’ve been putting out spare fruit, vegetables and sandwiches ever since.

It’s Springtime now and the possums are carrying their babies on their backs. I’m continuing to put out feed though not every night as they  mustn’t become dependant. 

But our weather is playing havoc and we are still suffering drought. Three hours away the country towns will be without water for Christmas. An hour west the creeks have turned to mud and people are busy trying to relocate turtles and eels to save their lives.

In my own piece of bushland there is little blossom on the trees thanks to the lack of rain. This means that there are more possums (and flying fox). My local council also carried out a huge chemical spray operation to avoid any legal entanglements once bushfire season started so we lost many of the scrub mammals and lizards that live amongst the undergrowth. (And no, I’m not a mad greenie though question why we are still using pesticides banned in other countries, but I digress……)

When I retired one of the first things I did was sign up to assist a study being undertaken by an academic from the local university into Powerful Owls. All these years and I’ve only ever seen one of these owls once. So why not? I’m surrounded by Bush and enjoy learning from our environment.

Powerful Owls ( minoxidil strenua) are listed on the Nature Conservation Act of Queensland as vulnerable. Ever seen one? They are massive with a three foot wing span and talons. And you know their favourite tucker? 

Possums.

The past few nights I’ve spotted half a dozen Powerful Owls sitting on the back fence awaiting the nightly arrival of possums. It’s their equivalent of a smorgasbord.

Second day of Spring and it’s expected to hit 33degrees Celsius tomorrow.

No need to panic. The neighbours are all out washing their cars on their driveways.