Monday, July 28, 2014


This is the townhouse I rented...on the corner of Clifton Beach Rd., and Arlington Esplanade, Clifton Beach. It wasn't painted white when I lived there. The sliding upstairs door led from the main bedroom onto the narrow deck...looking out to the beach and ocean across the road. Downstairs is the kitchen-living area. My unit was the one shown...on the right. There were/are only the two units in the block.
Upstairs and downstairs view from the above townhouse.  Great spot!

Courtesy of Surf Lifesaving aerial view of the main beach on Newry Island where the resort used to be.
Giant White-tailed Bush Rat (Placenta mammals)

The much smaller Marsupial Bush Rat

Pied Oystercatchers


Pushkin was an adorable cat.  He came into my life as a wee kitten Nov. 1987, and he was in my life until November, 2002.

Although it was good in some ways to return to the mainland after my time spent on Hinchinbrook Island, on reflection, I didn’t settle in completely to all aspects of mainland living.  I missed the island and its carefree lifestyle. It took me a while to get used to having my feet planted firmly on ground, not being surrounded by water on all sides.  Life was so much different to that on the island. However, I compensated by living as close to the beach and ocean as I could. 

Upon leaving Hinchinbrook for the tropical city of Cairns I rented a townhouse a few metres around the corner from the beach at Yorkeys Knob, and then later another at Clifton Beach in the Northern Beach area of Cairns.   

At Clifton Beach, when living in the townhouse at 97 Arlington Esplanade (pictured above), situated on the corner of Clifton Beach Road and the Esplanade, the beach was only a few metres away, across the road. I only had to take a couple of hops, steps and jumps and I'd land on the beach. There I'd enjoy the sand between my toes before allowing the salt water to wash it off at will.  From my bedroom and from the downstairs living area I had a clear vision of the ocean with only the palm trees and a few other coastal trees to interrupt the view, in a nice way. Night after night the sea gently lapping the beach was my lullaby; and each morning the orange glow of the rising sun across the ocean my alarm clock.

But I was floundering, even though I wasn’t aware, not consciously, anyway.  However, somebody else noticed. 

When I was living on Hinchinbrook Island Jesse Peach operated the Dunk Island barge that ran between Mission Beach and Dunk Island.  Often Jesse visited the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, which is about 53kms (33 miles) south of Mission Beach. By sea Dunk Island, which lies out front of Mission Beach is only 44kms (27 miles) from Hinchinbrook; and Dunk is only 10ms (6 miles) off shore from Mission Beach. 

I’d gotten to know Jesse quite well from his frequent visits.  He loved Hinchinbrook and he got to know all my staff, too. He was well-liked. 

Coincidentally, when I was property manager/receptionist/secretary/chief dog’s body and bottle washer at Inner Circle Realty, Smithfield, on Cairns' Northern Beaches area Jesse and his lady owned and operated a fish and chips shop in the same shopping centre at Smitherfield…just a couple of shops diagonally across and up from our office. Jesse had given up driving the barge, and he, too, had moved to the "big city" around the same time I had made my move.

The very astute Jesse paused for a chat one morning when our paths crossed at the centre's newsagency, which was situated opposite his shop, and a few metres/yards up from my place of employment.

“You don’t seem very happy, Lee.  You’re not the same person you were on the island,” Jesse declared, not holding back.

“It’s a whole different ball game, Jesse.  Island living is completely different to this.  It was free - you know what it was like…we were free know what I mean…” I stammered, a little taken aback by his unexpected, direct observation.

“I know, but I sense you feel as if you’re boxed in…trapped.  You don't seem to be very happy. It's as if you’ve forgotten how to be…” He continued.

“Yeah…” I sighed in resignation.

A couple of weeks later, again early morning before the rest of my co-workers appeared (I always arrived at work before everyone else) Jesse burst through the doors (they were open) filled with excitement, eager to share the information that was the reason for his visit.

That morning Jesse alerted me to Newry Island; to the fact that Willi Litz, the lessee of the resort on Newry Island was desperately searching for someone to take control of the reins.  He needed someone to look after the small, basic, down-to-earth resort for him because the previous manager had left Willi in the lurch, and he was in dire straits. Jesse knew someone who knew someone who told him about Willi Litz’ predicament; and Jesse immediately thought of me!  Of course, why not?  The Lone Ranger to the rescue…

I'd never heard of Newry Island until then.  I had no idea where it was, so a quick visit to the newsagency to grab a map soon put remedy to my ignorance.

In a way, I was the “Lone Ranger”…still am… nothing changes, and nor would I want it to.  I lived alone with only my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky as my “roomies”.  I was tied to no one or nothing.  I was beholden to no one. So with little further ado, I did what I felt I had to do! What I wanted to do.

Newry Island smiled back at me in welcome the first time I laid eyes on “her”.  As I approached Newry across the waters between Rocky Island, Acacia Island and Outer Newry Island my face spontaneously broke open in a wide smile; a smile I couldn’t contain.  I had no desire to contain it.  The feeling I experienced that morning was one of pure joy.  I felt as if I was “coming home”.

After my arrival to the island Willi remained only long enough to “show me the ropes”.  Ten days later I was on my Pat Malone (I was alone to those not familiar with Aussie slang)…and loving it.  A few weeks after setting foot on Newry my furry mates, Pushkin and Rimsky arrived, having endured a rather hairy trip by four-wheel drive from Clifton Beach to Victor Creek, with a blue heeler (cattle dog) to keep them amused.  They weren’t the drivers of the vehicle, of course; they were safely ensconced in a large cardboard box.  In the same sturdy box they were transported across the ocean to me.  Finally, we three were together again…and very happy to be so. The Three Musketeers never celebrated a reunion the way we did!

I’ve written the above details or words to similar effect previously, but I rekindled the description of my arrival on Newry Island for some amongst you who may not have read my other posts about my time on the island. The above prelude is to give the uninitiated a backdrop to my island background.

The times I spent on the island alone – alone other than having Pushkin, Rimsky as my companions, and whatever native animals and birds with which we shared the space - were perhaps my favourite times on the island. Living within the plentiful abundance of peace and tranquility, with only the sounds of Nature as our accompaniment, there was nothing left to be desired.

Pushkin, Rimsky and I shared the island with koalas, echidnas, possums and the white-tailed bush rats, along with bandicoots and, no doubt, numerous other nocturnal creatures that I never set eyes on. The native residents who’d called the island home long before my two furry rascals and I turned up welcomed us, innately aware we wouldn’t harm them.

Each night the possums played on the sloping roof on the left-hand side of my bedroom, raising an unholy row.  I think they held football matches. They sounded more like a herd of elephants than a passel or posse of possums.   

The top half of the stable door on the side bedroom wall leading out to the roof I left open most of the time, weather permitting, of course. The existence of the stable door leading to nowhere other than onto a pitched, corrugated-iron roof mystified me.  I never did discover its purpose or why it was inserted when the building was originally constructed.

The first night Pushkin and Rimsky heard the possums running around on the roof out from my bedroom , in tandem, they lept through the open top half of the door to investigate the ruckus.  Within seconds they returned, in surrender, each with a “Whooooaaaaa!!” look on his face. They never ventured forth out onto the roof again, not at night, anyway.

When on the island alone I switched the generator off early evening rather than  waste fuel unnecessarily.  Once everything was shut down I’d go upstairs to my bedroom. I’d read in bed for a while by candlelight, flashlight or, sometimes, by lantern glow. Mostly, I’d cherish the stillness, the quietness of the night, people-free.  At those times, Pushkin and Rimsky made the most of their freedom to move around downstairs in the bar and dining area uninterrupted by humans; by annoying strangers with whom they weren’t keen to mingle.   

The bar was of particular interest to them.  Once they knew I was securely nestled in upstairs, I’m sure they shared a shot or two of Scotch. It was their “Happy Hour”. A few times I did discover what they used to get up to down there.  They’d made a few friends, and enjoyed catching up with them when they had the chance.

Pushkin and Rimsky’s night time playmates were the native giant white-tailed bush rats. The white-tails are nocturnal rodents. They play an important role in the northern rainforest communities in the Wet Tropics where they’re quite prolific. The first time I’d ever seen a giant white-tailed bush rat was when I lived on Hinchinbrook Island.  It’s been recorded that they originated from Papua New Guinea about four million years ago. They grow to the size of a domestic cat or a rabbit and can weigh up to a kilogram. The giant white-tailed bush rats are placenta mammals different to the much smaller, daintier little marsupial bush rat that frequent the coastal areas of Australia.  The marsupial bush rats are much smaller than their larger cousins, weighing in at around a mere 160 grams (about 5 ounces). The white-tailed bush rats have formidable teeth and are able to cause damage to all sorts of materials, including PVC piping, leather, tin, canvas – you name it, and they’ll chew through it.  They’ve been known to bite through cans.  If you see a coconut on the beach with a hole in it, drained of its juice, nine and a half times out of ten the hole was caused by a white-tail biting through the coconut to get to the juice.  However, they’re not dangerous to humans…and it became obvious to me when living on Newry Island, they weren’t a threat to cats, either; or vice versa.

Whenever I went downstairs to check the progress of their party I’d discover my two furry mates nonchalantly sitting on the bar, their mates, the white-tailed bush rats, scampering around on the floor in front of them.  My two cats didn't twitch a whisker; nor did they offer me a drink!

 I constantly berated Pushkin and Rimsky about their failure as cats; about it being their job to keep guard against nocturnal visitors and to chase their feral mates away, but to no avail.  With a yawn and eyes cocked, they just poo-hooed my suggestions.  Their friends were their friends, and no one, not even I could tear them asunder.  Their loyalty knew no boundaries.

Because of that unfailing friendship there must have been an unspoken pact or truce; or one I was unable to translate or understand because the white-tailed bush rats never seemed to cause any damage to the buildings, pipes, etc; not any I could see.  Perhaps the buildings were so old, it was impossible to notice any damage!  There was nothing I could do to keep them in check, even if I wanted to do so.  I never locked any doors, windows, or anything else on the island. There were no locks, no keys. I had no need to lock anything up or away.  Living on the island I felt no threat from any living creature, including those of the two-legged human kind.  Only once was there a threat from a human…and that was from me towards a fellow human, but more about that in Chapter Two.

My Newry Island reminiscences kicked into gear in earnest after reading Stewart Monckton’s post on his blog “Paying Ready Attention”. Stewart is to blame. It’s his fault. He mentioned and pictured Sooty Oystercatchers…the birds.

At Stewart’s mention of the oystercatchers I was reminded of the Pied Oystercatchers that used to frequent the main beach in front of the resort on Newry Island. I loved watching them stroll along the beach.  Their not-a-care-in-the-world attitude was contagious. They weren't wary of me, mostly they ignored me as they enjoyed their day. Rarely did they fly away if I drew near.  There was enough room on the island for them and for me. So often I stopped whatever I was doing to leisurely watch them while they went about their own business. They were always in pairs.  They were never very far apart from each other. Amused, I’d watch them as they splashed about in the shallow pools of water left behind from an ebbing tide. 

Obviously, there were a few pairs rather than just the one pair, but as they all looked alike to me, it was difficult to my untrained eye to know which was which, who was who, or how many there were unless they all congregated together at the same time. 

I loved watching their antics when they bathed in a water pool oblivious to all else.  I’d sit quietly watching as one bird attended to its ablutions. After a few minutes of sole bathing the bird would look along the beach towards where its mate wandered about a few metres away, either in search of something tasty to nibble on, or it had chosen to take a casual stroll with no purposeful intention as it pondered the world through the eyes of an oystercatcher. 

Spotting his mate, the bathing bird would call out to it, beckoning the other bird to join him; and then, the two of them together would frolic freely.  Not wanting to disturb their fun, I didn’t have the heart to move until after they’d completed their gratifying pleasure.  Watching their daily ritual was a gratifying pleasure for me, too,

Witnessing the joyful antics of the oystercatchers was just one of the many things I loved about being on the island alone with only Pushkin and Rimsky for company...along with our co-inhabitants, the wonderful native creatures.

One afternoon I went for a stroll up along the beach towards the northern point when I noticed, a few metres up ahead, a tern was acting in a very distressed manner.  It was crying out in a mournful, yet frantic wail while flapping it wings and moving around in a most agitated way.  As I drew closer I noticed its mate was lying motionless on the beach in front of it. The surviving tern was in such a state.  I crouched down on my heels onto the sand. What I saw upset me very much.  Tears flowed freely down my face.  There was nothing I could do, so I backed away slowly, sobs racking my body. The bird’s anguish was palpable. Whether I was right or not, I believed the bird had to grieve in its own way. I didn’t feel it was my place to disturb the scene at that time, so I let it be.  The following morning I returned to the site and buried the dead bird, above the high water mark.

 I will never forget the incident; and I know some may think I’m silly -but I don't care - to this day, about 24 years later, it still upsets me when I think about that afternoon. 

I'm one of the biggest softies in the world ("sooks" as we're are referred to in Aussie slang)... but, on the other hand, I don't suffer fools easily - or at all, as a matter of fact.

Chapter Two will follow….


  1. How lovely that Jesse knew you well and was concerned enough to enable you to 'go home'. Somewhere where you could breathe again.
    And, as a fellow sook, my eyes leaked at the death of the tern. Animals feel attachment - of that I have not the slightest doubt.

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who cries easily, many things can start me off...and most of all, anything to do with animals and birds...our fellow creatures.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  3. It's so good when a friend knows you so well.... In some ways better than you know yourself. Sounds like you were very comfortable alone on your own little bit of heaven.

  4. Hi Helsie...I'm always more comfortable on my own. I think that's how I'm meant to be. And island living suited me well. :)

    Nice to see you as always. :)

  5. A wonderfully honest post.

    I'm still working though my reaction to being "home" for the last month - and then getting on a plane and coming home!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  6. So where is Newry island exactly Lee?

  7. Lee ~ this is for you ~ it was in my blog newsfeed. Enjoy!

  8. Hi Stewart...and after you sort through your reaction to coming home from visiting'd better hurry up and sort through your photos! :)

  9. Newry Island is north-east of Mackay,'s north of Seaforth...and Seaforth is 44kms north of Mackay.

    The island is only 5kms from the boat ramp at Victor Creek...and Victor Creek is just a couple of kilometres from Seaforth. The boat trip from the ramp to the island took about 20 minutes depending on conditions.

    Oh...the Yowie is just need to worry! ;)

  10. Fabulous account! Do oystercatchers actually catch oysters?

  11. Yes, Jerry. They also crack open pipis (aka eugaries...similar to clams)

    On Fraser Island which is off the coast of Queensland the eugaries/pipis are called "Wongs"...and there the oystercatchers are called "Wong Birds".

    Thanks for coming by, Jerry.

  12. Not happy on the Aussie Mainland, yet Australia is also an island; it seems you are a "small island" girl at heart, which makes me glad Jesse noticed and thought of you when Newbry needed someone.
    I wouldn't mind living on an island as long as there was internet, but I don't think I could handle teams of possums playing footy on the roof every night.

  13. Possums and their night games don't worry me, River. I have a couple of football teams of them here where I live now. They crash land on the roof and tear along it almost every night. They're fine.

    These days I, too, would prefer to have internet access if I again lived on an island. My computer and access to the internet is of utmost importance to me. My island days are long behind me now.

    Nice to see you, River...thanks for coming by :)

  14. That's so sad about the tern - you were sweet and loving to bury it. That would have broken my heart to see its mate grieving like that.

    And Pushkin was a lovely kitty! Love that stripey tail. What memories you have - such good times.

  15. Hi Lynn...Pushkin certainly was a lovely cat. He was very special to me...and me, to him. He was so very loyal and so very affectionate. My heart was broken when I lost him...and I still tear up when I think of him leaving my life.

    My pets have all been very special to me.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  16. A lovely island to be on, without people!
    The animals sound OK.
    Shame about the birds trauma, but we have all seen similar and can do nothing about it. Very sad.

  17. Yes, we have,'s the circle of life for everything that inhabits this earth, but that doesn't make it any less sad. I think I need to trade my heart in for a harder, colder one. :)

    Thanks for coming by.

  18. I must be a "sook" too, and I think the whole world should be as well.
    What a beautiful part of the world, your photos are wonderful.
    My sister lived there or near there years ago and I remember that she said that you pronounced "Cairns" like tin "cans" that correct?

  19. Yes, Kay...that is pretty close to the correct pronunciation of Cairns...but it's not a nasally "cans" if you know what I mean.

    I think it's fine to be a softie/sook, too. The world has become far too cold-hearted these days...on so many levels.

    Thanks for coming by, Kay. :)

  20. That sounds like bliss to me. I'm impressed that the cats made friends with the rats too!

  21. Oh, they made friends with everything, RK...except the humans! They weren't too keen on forging friendships with them! lol They only time they were half pleasant was when I was cooking up the seafood barbecues at night...then they'd sit off to the side away from everyone, waiting for their share.

    My cats, including Remy & Shama, my furry rascals who keep me company these days, have never been interested in hunting etc. They're on a good thing living with me, why exert themselves catching their own food.

    Hell...they won't even get jobs to go out and earn their keep!

    Cheers...good to see you. :)

  22. Thanks for letting us see inside of your love of that time. I think it truly shows in your descriptions of each event. I love the scene you painted in words of the cats sitting on the bar and watching their friends at play. This post made me feel as though I was standing along side of you as you moved to a happy place. Bless Jesse heart. Peace

  23. Your cats sound like ours. One time we noticed traces of a mouse in the house so we actively tried to trap it. One day, the mouse scurried across the kitchen floor right in front of our cats who couldn't be bothered to get up from their naps. They just watched it go.

  24. G'day Lady Di...I enjoy sharing my stories, my memories...and it pleases me others enjoy reading them. Thank you. :)

    Nice to see you. :)

  25. Hey there Dexter...I half expect these two of mine to jump into the car one day and head off to the supermarket to buy their meat and canned food; but then...why would they bother, when they have me to do it for them? ;)

    They sure do have a good life. Thanks for coming by. :)

  26. We tend to forget animals have feelings too.

  27. Hi Cosmo...I don' two wouldn't let me, even if I tried! ;)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  28. Stopping by to say hello!
    Those bush rats look scary - but the regular rats do here too.
    Pushkins was a beautiful cat.

  29. G'Day,, the white-tailed bush rats aren't scary, and they're different to regular rats.

    Pushkin was a wonderful cat. He was so loyal to me. He worshiped me and I, him. It broke my heart when I came home from work one night and found him dead, here in my cabin. It brings tears to my eyes writing about it. He was very special.

    Thanks for coming by...great to see you, as it always is. I hope all is going well with you. :)

  30. A delightfully readable account. I feel I got to know you a lot better through this post - your independence, your valour, your resilience and your softness. Thank you.

  31. G'day Yorkie...thanks...I'm glad you enjoyed this post and found it insightful.

    Thanks, too, for coming by. :)

  32. Lovely post, Lee and what a lovely friend. I cried too!

  33. Hi there Pat...nice to see you as always...thanks for popping in. Hugs to you and Simi. :)