|Boardwalk through mangroves leading to beach at Ramsay Bay|
|Cape Richards Resort Cabins...Circa 1986/87|
|A Lace Monitor or Lace Goanna|
|Part of Missionary Bay|
When 8th March 1986 finally arrived our adrenaline flowed freely, beyond control. Not that we wanted to control it; the feeling was too thrilling to deny. The air was electric with it. We wanted to wallow in the fever of our excitement. We’d worked long and hard for the moment; for the day and for what lay ahead. A feeling of exhilaration, tinged with a certain amount of nervousness, of course, held us captive, but we were willing, happy captives. The emotion was akin to waiting for every Christmas and birthday to arrive on our doorstep – or jetty – at once – on the one day!
The kitchen pantry and cold room were fully-stocked to overflowing. There was little chance the bar would run out of supplies. The bar fridge was packed to the brim and back-up "just-in-case" supplies were taking up space in the store room.
Randall and I were prepared and ready. Our staff was eagerly biting at the bit rearing to go. The maintenance crew, which included my late brother Graham and Rin, calmly went about their jobs without drawing attention to themselves. Rin, the Dutch plumber was still temporarily employed. A few plumbing jobs needed his attention before he returned to Noosa.
Ted, the resort’s head maintenance fellow led a team of four at that stage. Ted and his one of his off-siders , Burnie, shared a two-bedroom cabin a few hundred yards from the house Randall and I shared. Ted had taken Burnie under his wing...almost playing the part as a father figure. They'd been previously employed by the leaseholder of the resort, Q. H. & M. Birt Pty. Ltd., and had worked together on other projects on the mainland, in the construction side of the business.
Graham, Rin and Maurice, the rest of “Ted’s Men”, lived in the staff quarters with the other staff.
The staff accommodation, as I’ve described previously, was quite a distance away from the little house Randall and I occupied. The quarters were a few yards up the track beyond the generator/machinery/work sheds.
Shortly before 9 am on the 8th March, Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” radioed from the boat when he was halfway across Missionary Bay to give us warning of his approximate arrival time. That was our signal to round up the troops or, at least, those who were needed to be at the jetty when the powered catamaran bearing guests and provisions arrived.
There were no roads as such at the resort; just narrow, vegetation-fringed, dirt walking tracks between the restaurant area, the guest cabins, and one leading up to the work sheds and staff quarters.
The resort had only one vehicle, a battered, but in good mechanical condition Toyota tradesman's ute. Its purpose was not only to transport the guests’ luggage to their respective cabins, but to transfer the provisions etc. from the boat to the main building and machinery shed. The ute was a good old work horse.
With a beaming smile and a cheerful wave - proof he was as excited as we were - Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture”, slowly drew the powered catamaran in close to the jetty. On board were our first guests, three couples, strangers to each other and to us; but that situation would soon change.
When it was safe to do so, Bob’s deckie, Royce leapt from the boat. Rope in hand he tied the boat securely to the jetty. Royce, a man in his early 60s give or take, was a retired bank manager. From his whole demeanour Royce obviously relished his new job. Who wouldn’t? It was miles away from sitting in a bank office all day, five days a week! Spending his days in the outdoors, cruising the waters of the Coral Sea and whiling the hours between 9 am to 4 pm in a tropical paradise wasn’t a tedious, difficult substitute job for him. Royce - a good-natured, well-mannered gentle man - took to being a deckie like a duck takes to water…or an egret!
While the luggage and provisions were being deposited to their rightful places, the guests were guided up the slope to the restaurant, and to pool area where they sipped on a cold juice, hot coffee or tea, whatever their preference was, while I conducted a “Greet and Meet”.
Always upon the arrival of new guests to the resort a “greet and meet” was given. It gave us a chance to get acquainted, and for me to give the inquisitive guests information about the island; meal times; what to look for; what to be wary of etc. There were certain things they had to be made aware of, the large pythons, for instance.
And they needed to know about the resort activities of which there were few compared to other holiday resorts. What our guests chose to do with their time was up to them as long as they didn’t go off and drown themselves!
Other than boat trips to Garden and Goold Island, to Ramsay Bay, Brook Islands and to Zoe Bay when the weather permitted, it was up to the individual to make his/her own fun. Some chose to hike to North and South Shepherd Beaches or through to Macushla Beach, while others preferred lazing around the pool, on the foreshore or sand of Orchid Beach, or on the deck of their cabins. Organised activities, rules and regulations were few and far between. Books were a popular exercise tool.
There was only one phone one the island…in my office…with a line running across to our house with a second phone attached. The staff quarters had a television set, and we had a one in our house. The guest cabins and main building had no television sets.
The “greet and meet”, which usually took around 30 minutes or so, ensured the new arrivals relaxed into the mood of the resort (which was extremely laid-back). Unnoticed, the ambience of the resort and the island soon enveloped them. It soothed their souls, and they were caught within its spell before they realised. By the time a member of the staff escorted to their respective cabins their luggage was already in place,
Time was no longer of the essence.
A couple of hours after our opening “greet and meet” on that initial day we had to repeat it again. It wasn’t a chore by any shape or form.
Around noon it was such a thrill to watch, for the first time of many more to come, the Grumman Mallard as it slowed to a landing on the waters of Missionary Bay. On board the seaplane was our second group of guests.
If the truth be known, we were probably even more excited than our guests, some of whom appeared to be a little white around the gills as they disembarked and boarded the punt that was to ferry them to the jetty.
During my time on the island I never ceased to be amused by the looks on the faces of guests as their climbed out of the seaplane. Some arrived with their eyes wide open, more from fear than wonderment.
Frequently, for many, the whites of their eyes hid the colour of their irises!
The excitement of others, the brave, fearless adventurers was palpable; and contagious.
Every emotion – trepidation, excitement, expectation, anticipation, happiness - was interesting to witness.
Appreciating being part of what was occurring, it was an enjoyable honour to be in the position of having the privilege of meeting and getting to know a diverse range of people, people who in a “normal” world, I’d never have met. It was fun being able to put them at ease.
The person who arrived at the resort, more often than not, was a totally different person upon departure.
As I’ve described many time before during my writings about Cape Richards Resort, Hinchinbrook Island – during my time on the island the resort buildings were not flash in any way. The guest cabins were neat, clean and simple.
Back in 1986 and 1987 when I lived and worked on the island there were only 15 guest cabins. The cabins were capable of accommodating four people, but in the majority of times it was couples who chose to stay at the resort; hence the “population 30” tag.
“Hinchinbrook Island….Maximum population – 30…where the only footprints you see on the beach will be your own. Where you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from everywhere else…”
That was our logo…our motto; and it wasn’t an exaggeration. We lived in a world of our own on the island. And in no time at all after arriving at the resort, our guests felt similarly. They rapidly fell into step.
Soon after Randall and I arrived on the scene we had the interior and exterior of the cabins painted. New manchester, including bedspreads to fit out the guest cabins was purchased. The old linen and towels were relegated to cleaning duties, either for the housekeeping crew, or for use by the maintenance men in the generator/work shed and elsewhere.
Exquisite, framed nature prints by the famed award-winning Australian photographer Steve Parish were carefully chosen and bought. The stunning prints were hung on interior walls of the cabins.
We’d purchased new weather-proof outdoor tables and chairs for each cabin’s small deck overlooking Orchid Beach.
Within a blink it seemed, Randall and I had become managers of an island resort; hosts to visiting guest. The joyful business of running the resort was our main priority. Guests came and went, leaving in far happier attitudes towards life than those they'd been burdened with when they arrived.
Easter was approaching rapidly. In 1986 Good Friday fell on the 28th March.
Along with our staff we were kept very busy leading up to the Easter long weekend. Much needed our attention in readiness for the number of guests who’d booked accommodation for the holiday period that extended before and after the actual Easter weekend. The ordering of provisions; food, bar supplies etc; extra of everything over and beyond the normal to cater for the increase in population took up a major part of my time spent in the office. Extra diesel was brought on board to ensure the generator didn’t run out of fuel; and extra gas tanks were set up to service the restaurant kitchen.
We were, one and all, looking forward to the busy – busier - time ahead.
Even Easter egg hunts were planned (adults enjoy egg hunts as much as children do; and all the expected guests were adults). The hunt would go ahead if, in fact, we could master how to beat the goannas to the eggs!
Goannas love hen eggs – perhaps they loved chocolate eggs, too! They’d not care about the wrapping; they'd not recognise it was just sparkling foil. Goannas are short-sighted…and greedy! Colourfully-wrapped Easter could be a welcome change from the boring old hen egg shells and their usual fare!
The lace monitors or lace goannas, the type that roam around the island, are the second-largest monitor/goanna in Australia.
“They can be as long as 2.1 m (over 6.8 ft) with a head-and-body length of up to 76.5 cm (2.5 ft). The tail is long and slender and about 1.5 times the length of the head and body. The maximum weight of lace monitor can be 20 kg (44 lb), but most adults are much smaller.”
Personally, my life was a paradox. Nothing had changed on the “home front”. Randall and my relationship remained strained, but we hid our discontent from the outside world and our staff. I think Randall’s head remained buried in the sand when it came to the state of our marriage. I could see the forest between the rainforest; and I knew the inevitable was inevitable.
With everything else that demanded our attention we had little time to ourselves, anyway. We were up at the crack of dawn, and then, other than a quick shower and change of clothes around 4.30 pm in readiness for the evening escapades, we didn’t return to our house until very late at night, or often past the witching hour.
On Good Friday morning, 28th March, 1986, Randall and I separated; 10 years and one week after we’d married on 21st March, 1976.
With Ted as skipper of the island boat, the yellow Abalone, which the staff had named “Lady” otherwise known as “Lady of the Island”, Randall headed back to the mainland and a new life. I remained on the island.
However, I was in no mood for people and I needed to have some space…some “time out” for myself. I could have chosen to stay over in the house, with Ruska, my ginger-furred friend and sole confidante, but I had a desperate need to get away from the resort proper; away from prying eyes and questions; away from staff and guests.
Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” was taking some of the guests on a day trip to Ramsay Bay, a bay on the eastern side of the island; departing the resort around 9.30 am. Access to the secluded beach at Ramsay Bay was by entering one of the numerous creeks that ran off Missionary Bay. Upon coming to the end of the creek to reach the beach one had to cross a boardwalk leading through the mangroves to the beach. The boardwalk had been constructed by National Parks’ people. At the end of the boardwalk were remnants of shell midden heaps, evidence left by the original inhabitants of the island, the Bandjin people.
Ramsay Bay is many kilometres in length. Its expanse would allow me to get away from people for a few hours.
And that’s how I spent my time…alone…on that bleak, sunny Good Friday...alone with my thoughts and Nature; and the sound of the ocean as my symphony of solitude.