Fading Memories

Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

It's the strangest thing.

 

I've already mentioned that I'd never harboured a burning desire to return to T.I., although as the years have passed, my curiosity about the place where I had learned to read and write andyy where my grandfather was laid to rest was becoming less dormant.

Here I was, with just half a day up my sleeve, trying to re-live as much as I could, of a time when even little kids were pretty much free-range, and a place which apart from snakes, crocodiles, sharks, and open vents to underground tunnels, offered few dangers.  

Curiously from the moment I set foot ashore it was as though I'd never left.  We walked straight to the little lane that Lily's great grandfather had hewn from the side of the hill to give her grandfather and his siblings a safe shortcut down to town and school.  

We found our house too.  That wasn't difficult, as it was exactly where we left it, although there's a car there now and a solar hot water unit, but the tank stand I jumped off the time my parachute failed to open was still there, as rigid as the emotional scars which have stayed ever since.

As we explored all those familiar places, the others were clearly getting as big a kick out of my memories as I was out of remembering them, but I still couldn't get a handle on why I actually felt the way I did, or even what that feeling was.

I had given it no thought until now; for my parents leaving here was "going home", to a place I had never known, in those formative years perhaps that same journey for me was "leaving home".  

Since that time I have attended five schools, lived in more than a dozen suburbs in eight towns and a couple of States, and have never felt a connection with any of those places.  Perhaps it's just until now that I haven't thought about it.

For me, "home" will always be somewhere in a warm climate near a bright blue sea filled with deadly things intent on taking one to a better place and where the sun's cancerous gifts are brought through a sodden atmosphere filled with tropical fungus.  

I can't help it, What’s not to love about this place?

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Monday, December 06, 2021

My Island Home


 From the moment she asked us if we'd like to come on their family adventure to the Cape (we ARE family after all), Abbie was determined to get to Thursday Island, doubtless to find out a bit about her old man's roots.  While I was curious to see what it looks like now and always happy to go along with any plan someone else makes, I can't say it was on the top of my must do list.

Never-the-less it was with growing excitement and enthusiasm I boarded the ferry from Seisia that morning, with the other of us, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in tow.

From the instant I set foot on the jetty, turned in the direction of our old house on the hill, some sleeping emotion wakened inside me and caused a monster lump to appear in my throat.  

That was nothing if not disconcerting.

There's a myth on the island, that anyone who eats the fruit of the Wongai tree (a kind of plum native to the Torres Strait) will one day return.  Well over half a century ago, like any kid tempted by low hanging fruit, I admit I may have consumed one or two from that old tree on the beach over the years.  I can't say I am at all superstitious though, and had given no more than passing thought to that legend in the intervening period until that very moment as I stood on the jetty, completely bewildered by whatever emotion was sweeping through my being.

Welcome home...

Island boy!

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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Battle Stains

 

Every Four Wheel Drive vehicle has either rock slider bars fitted just below the doors, or long running-board style steps, which look as though they are there to assist entry and exit, and if the enterer or exiter are contortionists with double jointed knees and ankles and pivots in their shins, they probably do.  For normal human beings they are almost without purpose.

They do enable simpler access to the typically overloaded roofrack where all the stuff that wouldn't fit in the already overloaded vehicle and overloaded trailer can be put, but their other purpose seems to be to collect dirt and to stamp it on the back of the legs of every person who alights from said vehicle.

In red dirt country, and this IS red dirt country, that stamp looks like a giant nicotine stain on the back of every leg.

They laugh at us as we wipe our door sills clean at the end of every day but our legs are thus far devoid of that tell tale stain which, as if driving a white van wasn't enough, sets us even further apart.

I suppose in a way, it's a much more authentic souvenir that one of those very expensive cheap tee shirts. 

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Saturday, December 04, 2021

The slightest tinge of regret.


Wending our way back to our camp after our visit to the "Tip", we wondered briefly how we felt about not taking our van that final forty kilometres. 

It wasn't that we were overly concerned for its well being, but it just made a bit of sense to take one fewer car and who wouldn't relish the chance of day-tripping in a back seat shared with an eleven year old granddaughter.  

For about thirty seconds we thought that it would be a shame to have come this close and not actually take the van to the very end of the journey, but then we realised the van didn't care.  

We were starting to think like those "conquistadors" and that would never do.

It was far more important and far more satisfying and so much more fun to share the experience with our Lily, and as it turned out, the van didn't seem to mind having the day off one little bit.

So we put a cross in the box on behalf of the van, and no further questions will be entered into.

⌧ "Been to the Tip of Cape York".   (almost) 

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Friday, December 03, 2021

There's a sign!

 


For those wondering how they'll know when they get to the very Tip, don't worry, there's a sign.  

Surprisingly it doesn't say "Road Ends", it just tells you where you are standing or if you think about it, where you are not.

It's a little bit deceptive because if you are indeed standing reading it, then clearly you are not standing at the Northernmost point, because that's that little bit on the other side of it.  

That of course is where we stood in every combination of personkind imaginable - all of us, just the boys, grandparents and grandchild, just the girls, grandchild alone, grandfather alone, and so on until there had this been happening a decade ago there would have been a very real risk of running out of film.

Curiously, for those who were paying attention back in September  while all around us were ticking that particular box off their bucket lists, as a person who spent some formative years a little further north than even this, I really felt as though I was among a bunch of southerners.  

Our journey north was not yet complete.


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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Pilgrim's Progress.

 


You think you've made it through all those obstacles.  You've driven for days on the roughest roads some people have ever seen, and the car is covered in red dirt and you are almost as red.

You've found the last carpark near the already busy access track.   You're finding the going a bit challenging over rocky hill and down rocky dale in the heat and the humidity but you know you've only got a kilometre or so to go. You can soldier on.   

"It's just over that hill" you think, almost there, and you notice way up in the distance some of the other pilgrims falling by the wayside.   The are either standing still as though they've been turned into a pillar of salt or sitting as though resting on whatever horizontal surface they can find, all of them heads bowed apparently in prayer.

It's very odd.

As you get closer to them the phone in your pocket dings that little ding that lets you know that you have a message and you too fall under the siren's spell.

By some quirk of geography there's a tiny area at the very tip of mainland Australia which receives full 4G signal from both major service providers overflowing from towers on the islands beyond, yet remaining in shadow everywhere else on the mainland.  Suddenly the quest is forgotten and we all stop to check a fortnight's worth of messages, update our playlists, send selfies to Insta, and of course make that call to anyone we can think of:

"Hey Mum, Guess where I am?"

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Conquistadors?


We're sitting happily in our camp at the very top end, a crocodile-safe distance from the water, as insurance apparently lest a hungry monster arrive beside our van in the depth of the night armed with a tin opener.

Surely there'd be tastier morsels in tents I argue, and easier to get to as well, but the other of us has deaf ears when it comes to nocturnal safety and we have to be content with our twenty metre walk to the sand.  

The legion of "superheroes" wearing $80.00 sunshirts proclaiming them to have "crossed the Jardine" (it's a ferry), or "made it to the Tip" are a little puzzling to us.   Recently our National Broadcaster referred to the journey we had just completed in quite concerning terms:

"The "trip to the tip" is the ultimate pilgrimage for conquistador four-wheel drivers, "

It's a dirt ROAD for crying out loud, and I'll bet not one of them were without air-conditioning, or a frig full of cold beverages, a sound system (because you don't have radios anymore) with their playlists happily on shuffle, and often towing vans filled with all the luxuries of home, perhaps exactly like the conquistadors of old.

To be fair, we are at least five hundred kilometres from accessible telephone or internet services so the playlists can't be updated, which adds measurably to the challenge.

There are others too, who think the logical and sensible "bypass" route is for "chickens".  They, for some reason set out on the most difficult of tracks, in some sort of competition with their mates to see who can unleash the greatest damage on their machines, the furthest distance from home carrying broken parts as some sort of manly souvenir of their feat.

The view is the same for all of us, whether conquistador or tourist, and either way it's worth the trip.


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