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The land of flavoured milk AKA Perth

Editor note: I’m definitely a bit slow on this blog, especially now I’m back in reality but I’ve just got to finish it now. So please excuse my lack of haste.

We line up several meetings at potential rental properties and navigate the Troopy through the chaos of Perth. None of them are great. We finally get through to Kate, she wants just one other lady to move in but somehow we twist her arm and she agrees to let both of us move in. Kate, Amelia, her 6-year-old daughter, and the charming Whinstone live in a retro little brick shack in the swanky suburb of Swanbourne. Lucy’s contract only last for 2 months and we may keep rolling if nothing comes of the Internship. Kate’s cool with that.

We introduce ourselves to Fremantle by pillaging all the Op-shops in town, decking Luce out in some classy second hand office threads and scouring all the fruit, veg and whole food shops around. Freo is a classy little heritage port of Perth, surrounded by shipping containers and cranes there is a vibrant, bustling art, music and food culture within.
We give the rusty Konya a well-needed service. Pumping the tyres, loobing up the chain and washing off the plastered pindan dust. Lucy sets off on her 12.5k cycle, along one of Perth’s many superb bike paths, to start work at Yamatji Malpa, Native title representative body in the midst of Perth’s CBD.

So Lucy’s got work and I’ve got nothing. All of a sudden two months of unemployment in a city totally foreign for to me seems a bit daunting. So in answer to my worries I head to the beach, with my fishing rod and lure just in-case. Now I’ve fished for hours with not even a bight in some of the remotest parts of Australia and then I step onto one of Perth’s busiest beaches and within seconds I’ve pulled in a plump little herring??? So that’s me new Perth hobby, hanging with the o’l fishos and learning about breading maggots and making sugar prawns for bait and catching herring, whiting and flathead.

Perth is full of Poms. Don’t ask me why, I asked many poms but they had no idea how they got there either. There is also a large population of dune buggy lovin’ bogans who you’ll occasionally bump into if your lucky but they spend more time in the outer reaches of Perth tearing up sand dunes and fighting with aboriginals. Perthanites obsession with flavoured milk and reticulation is also worth mentioning. I have no idea where or why this milky obsession came about but they sure do love it. Reticulation, haven’t heard of it? Neither had we until we arrived in Perth and found it’s talked about as frequently as the weather. Reticulation or ‘retick’ is the underground watering system installed in every grassy suburban yard. The reason they need it is because Perth is built at the base of a very large and sandy desert along the banks of the Swan river. Water seeps through sandy soil in the blink of eye. Needless to say our veggie patch was limited.

Friendship with our new famb’ly grows; we take arvo walks to the beach, ride into Freo, hit up cafes and pubs and generally have a good time in town. I score a part time gig moving furniture, and some work with a production company. First job, fly to Brisbane for 4 days to interview the CEO of the Super-retail group.

We meet up with our friends, James and Peter who take us out to Rottnest Island for the weekend on the luxury French catamaran. We fish, dive and SUP around the pristine Indian Ocean with big Noahs never leaving the mind. James brings in a bag full of lobsters for dinner and we feast.

The following weekend the new Famb’ly head into Freo to take part in the Boom Box Bike festival. Basically it’s a music festival on wheels. There is a stage, on wheels towed by bikes and the audience ride with the stage all around Fremantle. It is epic.

We’ve made some amazing friends in Perth, Lucy learnt a lot from her work but unfortunately yet maybe fortunately they haven’t the funding to keep her employed so we sadly say good by to our friends and family of Perth and head south into the forests of WA.

King Waves Kill

We take the coast road south. Corrugated, slow and exposed. We pass Yardie Creek, help a new Zealand couple out of a bog, go through an army bomb zone, Pass a few homesteads and pull up at the gates of Warroora Station. A friendly gnome-like Dutchman politely enquires about our imaginary chemical toilet then directs us on to camp as the sun sinks back into the ocean.

The wind continues to howl.

Its Lucys birthday and its not much of a party, tucked behind the dunes, huddled around a small fire. There is little protection and the direction of the wind is all wrong. What are we doing here in this bone-chilling sand storm? Only a day ago we were in tropical bliss! The morning reveals a sloppy turquoise mess of reef and whitewater. We move on to a beach further south where the wind is on our backs but no surf. Our lunch is sand seasoned by a willy willy and half our stuff is strewn across the dunes. I spend the day unsuccessfully fishing. Dinner is shared with a family of friendly sheep and noble roos around the spirit cleansing flames.
The morning is ripe and chilly, donning nothing more then a jacket I hoick a bit of old squid on the hook, run up the beach and cast over the shorey. Within a minute my first Spangled Emperor is being waved around Lucy’s face. There are many myths and techniques in the fishing world, I can now add another – fishing without ones pants may increase the chance of catching a fish.

Canarvan lies on the banks of the mighty Gascoyne. A big, dry river, surrounded by desert.
As we drive into Carnarvon the harsh Mallie scrub is replaced by green crops. The occasional sign saying “Fresh fruit and Veg – No work available”, quickly stifles our hope for some quick cash but Lucy insists on trying anyway. At least there is fresh fruit and veg. The day is spent asking for work in vain and stocking up, tasting as many gourmet jams and chutneys as possible. At the register of the last shop of the day we casually ask the friendly middle-aged French sounding owner about work. Shockingly he responds, “funny you ask, this morning we didn’t but now we do. Bring your boots and hats tomorrow”.

Our bosses for the week, John and Dorris Morrell are actually from the Seychelles and are the most warm, welcoming and generous humans.

Because of Carnarvon’s climate and access to underground river water, the Morrell’s can grow almost every cold climate and tropical fruit and vegetable one can think of – Papaya, banana, mango, star fruit, custard apple, black sapote, avocado, broccoli, cucumber, capsicum, rocket, mandarins, lemons, limes, strawberries, tapioca, cabbage, pumpkins, beans. You name it they grow it. But they did not need it picked. Instead, it was the end of there winter season and they needed irrigation hoses pulled up and new ones laid back down. So we spent a week doing this. Lucy worked much harder than I did* (the editor seems to have made a mistake in regards to how much i worked). At the end of each day, Doris and John insisted we take home an abundance of fruit and vegetable and try there selection of amazing fruit icecreams. Even Lucy couldn’t manage all the fresh produce.

Feeling sore but replenished we were now ready to take on Red Bluff. The rough, sandy track follows the coastline north for 3 hours. The sandy camp is based beneath the barren escarpment, which curves around seaward to form the Bluff. It gradually tapers into the ocean at which point a fast hollow, mechanical left-hander continuously rolls over a sharp limestone reef. It handles from 2-foot upwards. There are several huts to camp in but the first few days were booked out so we sat it out in the wind. Our kitchen bench caught on fire when a tea towel flicked into the stove and went up like a torch. Luckily we scored a hut. Lucy chased out a large roo in the middle of the night, whilst I lay in bed screaming ‘intruder’. He ate most of my fish burley.

We score fun waves, we score big waves. We watch Gnarloo, with the rest of the campers, do its thing. And as the sun sets we meet an interesting fella from Margaret River who tipped his twirling kerosene into my freshly fire roasted baba ganoush and almost burnt all of us.

Lucy scored an Internship with native title representative body in Perth, forcing us to get a wriggle on. We check out shark bay on the way and head up into the depths of Cape Peron National Park. About two hours along the sandy track, 1st and 2nd gear become dislocated, turning me into a sweating ball of stress. We manage to turn around and drive the entire track back in 4low 3rd gear to Denham where the local mechanic passes me a socket set and tells me to pull the top of the gearbox off. The problem isn’t too bad but we get stuck here for a four days. Fortunately NRMA hooks us up with a cabin and car. So we check out around shark bay then when the car is fixed we madly plow through Kalbarri, stopping shortly to heave, from the ocean, a very fat silver drummer the size of a small child, all the while madly trolling Gumtree.com and ringing anyone and everyone to find a rental property in Perth.

The Indian Ocean

The intensity of the pindan disappears. The vastness only grows. Large quantities of decomposing road kill welcome us along the last 50ks of bitumen before we hit Exmouth.
Exmouth is a sleepy town perched atop a finger like peninsula. There is a large gulf on the east side and on the west is the Cape Range National Park. Ningaloo reef lies a meter or so beneath the Indian ocean, stretching 260kms south from the tip of the peninsula. One can pull on a snorkel, jump off the blindingly white sand into the water and drift for hundreds of meters over beautiful coral loaded with a plethora of tropical fish. Not only that, if you’ve got a small tinny you can go and surf the waves on the outer reefs. This is what makes this park so special.
The first caravan park is literally overflowing with cars. The line of traffic has back filled onto the road. We hear of a quieter option 14kms down the road closer to the NP and head strait for it. We pull in as the office door is being closed for the night. Fortunately the lady gives us time to check in and we set up in Yardie Homestead. A cosy little camp with a few trees offering some wind protection.
The wind howles.
Apparently July to August the weather is bliss. Outside of these months, it is a different story. The sun continues to cook the desert but the wind wants a piece of the action and hammers in everyday turning even the gnarliest wind surfer into cowering, confused mess. There is no escape, no natural or geological protection. Its just flat desert with a roaring seabreeze 23/7 blowing fine sand into every nook and cranny you can imagine. But there is, if you are lucky, the Champagne Hour. 1 hour of glassy, blissful conditions.
The Swell wraps in.
The charts show massive low-pressure systems smashing south-west WA. Fortunately for us this means 3-6 foot swell and a week of offshore mornings. Our paths align with Georgie and Lisa, our fellow Austinmerians and we surf the local setups and score some pretty nice waves. We squeeze in a bit of snorkeling and fishing with them and celebrate Lucy’s birthday over a Yardie Homestead Sunday roast.
One particular morning out hunters (a long wall-ee right hander), the clock had struck the champagne hour and we scurried into the waves. There were some solid 5-foot sets pushing in. Sitting well deep and a long way from shore I was keen to pick off a couple of bombs. A set loomed up and I stroked further out. With no around I let the first one pass, knowing that there was at least 3 more behind. As I paddled over the crest I had enough height to see past the 2nd and onto the 3rd wave which had already walled up, filling the horizon. Within that wall of deep Indian Ocean blue was the unmistakable shape of a very large shark, powering beneath the surface of wave. Surfing it much more gracefully than I could ever dream of doing and coming strait towards me. I spun my board and paddled as fast as I’ve ever paddled, trying to keep as much limb out of the water as possible. I wanted to catch this fish free wave so bad. It peaked up and I began to feel the power of the wave lifting me for just a moment and I scrambled, but not enough. It quietly shrugged me off the back. Leaving me with a face full of spray and a big freaking shark on my tail. I did not look back, just paddled. I felt the wave surge, lift and began to accelerate down the face. I set a course straight for shore and rocketed in. Making some feeble attempts to warn the others as the foam rolled over. At shore, breathing relief, I mention the shark to a couple of sun smooched locals. They suggest that there is no need to worry, they’re always there and they’re well fed.
Now we point the troopy into the wind and head south, the emus prance into the scrub and the desert pea waves goodbye.

Beers and Bacon

Early spring in Broome is a seething mass of fully loaded 4wd’s, much like our own, all trying to get everywhere at once. There is a constant flow of traffic often taking several minutes for a pedestrian to cross the road. Apparently by late spring it’s a different place, half the population has moved back south to escape the summer heat. And that’s exactly what we do sadly leaving our comrades Nagle, Madz, Jimmy and Foxy to hold the fort.

The red pindan frames the smoldering bitcheman. The road rolls out into flat dry desert and we take aim for port headland to catch up with my cousin. We drive all day and find camp on the banks of the degray river. The full moon rises and we retreat upstairs to sleep. In the still of the night I am woken by the sound of bottles clanging, a wet snufflegrunt sound is directly below us. “What’s that” Lucy whispers. We quietly re-adjust, peaking over the edge of the ladder. Under the moonlight we can make out the massive bulk of what at first looks like a large brown and black spotted cow, as our eyes adjust to the moon light the bulk reveals a very fat pig the size of a sofa. Hissing “oi… piss off… go on, git” the pig stubbornly ignores us. Losing interest in the empty beer bottles he waddles over to our soap and in one-mouthful swallows the lot! He then continues contentedly back into the bush.

The next morning we clean off the pig slobber and head in to port headland. Turning to the second page of the local paper behold, a picture and article on Swino, the international beer swilling pig of the Degray river. Apparently on several occasions he’s been known to go on midnight rampages through the campground and polish of entire cases of other peoples beer. And now he’s made headlines around the world… cheeky bugger.

Graham, Sandy and Jonathon kindly give us the grand tour of Portheadland, a massive mining town. Everything is big. Really big. The cars, the trucks, the trains the boats and the money. Not exactly my cup of tea but its what makes the world go round… right? Spending the day with them we now head south for Karijini.

There is a lot of chat about this place on the road and its exciting to finally get there but there’s one problem. The winds are blowing offshore and that means the waves in Exmouth could be on. And not having surfed any substantial waves in the past 4 months, the calling is terribly strong. So the 3 or 4 days planned for Karijini quickly get condensed into one. Amazing place but the waves are calling so we head west through a blur of Pilburra colours. An iron rich landscape in full wildflower bloom.

Saltwater Mob

Words by Lucy Farrier. Repost from famb’ly at http://treehousescapesandshapes.com/blog/

Standing out on the rocks surrounded by clear blue waters glistening in the sun, the energy is buzzing as eager, young and old Bardi Jawi people pull in one coral trout after another.

We are at Deepwater Point on Bardi Jawi country. We have journeyed here to take part in a 5-day biodiversity survey coordinated by the Bardi Jawi ranger group. Lofty has offered to film and put together a short documentary about doing the survey. Basically, the aim is to observe animals and plants that live in the area and collect as much data about them as possible. To do this we use traps and cameras, observe tracks and scats, listen for birdcalls and spotlight at night. And when we get the chance, we go fishing.

Reflections

This week was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It is so special to be on country with Traditional Owners, learning Bardi Jawi language and cultural knowledge about local animals, plants, land and sea.

The Bardi Jawi mob are no strangers to tourists because of the beauty of their country. Cape Leveque is a major attraction to any tourist that can muster up the confidence to drive the 90km of sandy pindan track. The Rangers (male and female) are a warm and welcoming bunch of characters. At first we were shy of one another but after a few days of working in the field and a couple of shared meals around the fire, we were joking and sharing stories.

What really struck me after these 5 days was the richness of Bardi Jawi culture and how different Indigenous culture is to non-Indigenous culture in Australia. I felt an element of culture shock and surprise at various cultural protocols. Equally, the intimate knowledge that each ranger revealed about plants, animals, land and sea blew me away. They showed a living connection to the land and sea and a passion for caring for it.

In my time off, I was lucky enough to learn how to use a hand line by the master herself, Bernadette. As the saltwater mob pulled in fish after fish (blue bone, giant mullet, mangrove jack and bream) I looked on in awe with my line in hand, no idea how to use it and too intimidated to try. Bernadette, a Bardi Jawi elder with a cheeky twinkle in her eye and a witty sense of humour, showed me how to tackle up and launch my line. She was nimble with her fingers and threw the line with such precision, putting anybody with a fishing rod to shame. That evening we feasted on a large coral trout (caught by Bernie). Later, Kevin (also a Bardi Jawi elder) took me under his wing and furthered my hand line education. I am eternally grateful that I can now fish legitimate, Bardi Jawi style.