So following on from our fabulous couple of days in the Goldsborough Valley, Alex and I headed up to Lake Tinaroo. Also known as Tinaroo Dam, this giant lake was constructed in the 1950’s on the Barron River. The dam traps enough water to create a lake 3/4 of the size of Sydney Harbour and with 200km of shoreline provides a watery playground for sailing, water-skiing, house-boating, swimming, jet skiing, and fishing. The lake is quite famous for its barramundi, and these fish can grow to epic proportions due to a lack of natural predators (other than the occasional speed boat!). A lack of access to salt water however leaves them unable to breed in this environment. To combat this the Walkamin Research Station is responsible for stocking the lake with fresh baby ‘barra’ each year, keeping the fisherman very happy!!
The scenic surrounds provide a beautiful backdrop for hiking, treking and camping, although with constant rain and drizzle I wasn’t too keen on venturing too far from our tent. The first camp site we inspected was down close to the water. It was on the edge of the campgrounds and secluded somewhat by a nice grove of tall trees and scrub to one side; and although it would have been a spectacular setting for a few lazy summer days by the water, our light afternoon breeze resembled more of a choppy, blustery harbour gust, one which wasn’t going to make for anything quiet, comfortable or warm.
We pushed on to a campsite further around the lake and found the perfect balance of seclusion, open space, wind breaks, lake views and trees. We positioned ourselves on a flat clearing in between two rows of trees, about 100m from the waters edge and the amenities block up on the other side. Perfect. Being experienced tent-pitchers we had our house up in no time and thanks to recently evicted tenants the fire pit was still smoking and my Teddy-Bear Grylls had it lit up in no time!
I made myself a delicious tin-foil “plate” of nachos, and Alex wasted no time in getting beer and fishing gear to the water. Drizzle persisted throughout the afternoon, as did Alex, and I kept myself amused reading, attempting to boil the pot of water on the fire, only to have it tip over, extinguish the flames and cover the pot in ash; (which I took as the Universe telling me to just pour myself a glass of wine instead!), taking the time to sit and draw for a while with said glass of wine and some chocolate, and just generally relaxing.
I wandered to the noticeboard at the site entrance which is where I was first made aware of the native “giant white-tail rat”. Yuck. That just sounds horrible. Giant and rat in the same description doesn’t sound very appealing, not to me. Apparently these creatures have been coming into the campsites at night, presumably seeking food and warmth and there have been reports of them crawling into the engine bays of cars and eating through various plastic and rubber engine components. Great. “Rangers are investigating”. One way to potentially combat this is to leave the car bonnet open at night (and as we found out after night number one to leave a light on in your camp as they prefer complete darkness).
That second bit of information would have helpful a little earlier, but hey, we go with what we’ve got! I have found throughout this trip that the first night is always the hardest to sleep. New noises. Different animals, sounds, wind direction… everything wakes me up as I attempt to distinguish possible danger from the unfamiliar wilderness. My already restless sleep was punctuated with moments of vivid lucidity, then my eyes would snap open and I’d be left wondering if I had really heard those strange noises, if the animals I’d seen moving beside the tent, on top of the tent, those trying to find warmth and food were really there or not…..
The unknown was taxing to my system. I lay still, very still, very quiet, and I waited. Unfortunately I wasn’t dreaming. Between the rustling, the scratching, the scuffing and the wind, the shadows on the roof confirmed my fears! RODENT ON THE ROOF!
Unfortunately for him/her what followed would have been a rude shock as a waterproof torch was thrust somewhat fiercely directly underneath its body by one weapon wielding man who was woken from his slumber! The next day I did feel for the creature, hoping it hadn’t been too badly damaged, I was the only one who felt any remorse mind you!!
As if these hideous sounding mutant rodents aren’t enough to contend with, my problem one-o-one here was kookaburras. Kookaburras I hear you ask?? Is she mad?? Nope I’m not, and yep, kookaburras. I for one have always loved these furry little cuties. What is there not to like about these happy, fuzzy, jolly, laughing birds?!?! They just make me laugh! Usually. My first kookaburra incident took place the following morning…
Alex made a delicious cooked breakfast (his single hot plate juggling skills are more like a well choreographed dance, many performers on a very small stage, all coming together in perfect timing!) and I took a seat outside with my food. Realising that I left my tea sitting on the bench I took four steps away from my plate turning around just in time to watch a flight of wings descend towards my food! GET AWAY!!!!! I manage to scare everyone away, no damage done to me or my breakfast. PHEW!
So we eat. What I haven’t noticed however is that I am being stalked. From the branches above there is someone who really wanted to eat my breakfast, apparently more than me, because as I get to my last few bites of muffin from the corner of my eye I notice movement, and in the last second I duck my head as a kookaburra swoops down over me…. are you for real?!?! I call out to Alex and point out the bird now sitting in a tree opposite me, glaring down at me with contempt. In the next moment he squares up my gaze, wiggles his little booty readying himself for flight, lifts his wings, and with his sights fixed on my head comes straight towards me. NO SHIT! The damn bird opened fire like a squadron! I ducked again and as he narrowly missed my head his claws came forward in an attempt to snatch my last bites of muffin from my very hand! BASTARD!
During the day we undertook an expedition to get more firewood. We drove out of the National Park to the closest little town where we also picked up a few new food supplies, one of which was a carrot cake mix that Alex was very excited to try. In preparing for the trip I had read about “orange chocolate brownies”. It involves making the brownie mix, cutting open an orange, hollowing out the middle, filling one half with brownie mix, closing it up, wrapping in foil and putting on the fire to bake! YUM! Without any orange ‘baking trays’ I fashioned one out of a small metal grill tray and al-foil. Alex made the mix, spread it out and although I warned of putting it directly on the flames, (opting instead for hot coals), in his excitement and race to eat cake he went for the ‘faster’ option of cooking on flame. OK. I’ll sit back and let you cook your cake.
I enjoy campfire cooking. Last night we had enjoyed vegetable parcels. Basically a double wrapped foil packages containing a medley of chopped veges, chinese greens and some satay sauce. The water from the produce naturally steams creating juicy, succulent veg in a yummy natural (or satay) sauce.
We did the same with roast potatoes; cutting them and adding butter, cream cheese, fresh garlic, and herbs, and Alex wrapping his in bacon! They take maybe 20minutes for the veg, potatoes a bit longer. Dessert was foil wrapped choc bananas, one side was peeled and the banana was cut down its length and dark chocolate was pushed in the centre before it was wrapped up and roasted!! MMMM!!!!!
15minutes passes…. “do you smell burning cake??” um… yes I do darling! With a nice charcoal bottom we leave the cake covered to allow the top to finish cooking, Alex makes the frosting and we’re nearly in business.
I was really looking forward to warm cake with melty frosting and a hot cup of tea for my afternoon. I prepared all I needed, made the tea, plated the cake, stepped outside the tent, and as I paused to pick up a spoon that (expletive) kookaburra started its descent from above… in the blink of an eye it had its claws around my entire piece of cake and was climbing towards its lofty hideaway. Literally in the time it took to turn my head around and back. Gone. The whole (expletive) thing. To say I was annoyed is a dramatic understatement. Dramatic understatement! Suddenly I don’t feel so much like cake anymore.