|Eungella-Pioneer Valley, West of Mackay|
|Kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough|
“They behaved like animals”…the oft stated statement describing the misconduct of some homo sapiens/humans is way off base. It’s insulting to animals. “Homo sapiens” means “wise man”. However, there’s nothing wise about misbehaving humans.
Through the years, since I was a small child, countless special, memorable, cherished moments I’ve spent with animals.
An exceptional occasion occurred in early 1998 when I was living in Mackay. As an escape, if only for a few hours, often on Sunday mornings I visited Eungella National Park up on the Clarke Range at the end of the Pioneer Valley, 80kms west of Mackay. One morning, while sitting on the banks of a gently flowing stream in quite reverie absorbing the beauty and atmosphere of my surrounds, without warning, to my surprise, and utter wonderment, a platypus appeared before me. I dared not move an inch…not a finger, nor toe. Transfixed, I watched the magnificent, unique little creature. As one in a peaceful, magical world of our own, the Ornithorhynchus anatinus watched me in return, not at all concerned by my presence, nor I by its.
On Newry Island I lived alone. Holiday-makers visited, of course. Even when there were no resort guests, in truth, I was never really alone because my beloved furry companions, Pushkin and Rimsky, shared the island ambience with me. Other inhabitants of our water-surrounded corner of the world were koalas, echidnas, possums, eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, white tailed bush rats and marsupial bush rats. Much to my two furry mates’ delight the possums frequently used the awning out from “our” upstairs’ quarters as their evening playground. Pushkin and Rimsky never bothered the native fauna, and vice versa applied. All were good mates from a respectful distance.
My other island paradise, Hinchinbrook Island, was a wallaby haven. There were no larger-in-size kangaroos on Hinchinbrook. The wallabies claimed the island as their own, ensuring no guests arrived, or left, not understanding the fact. Randy Mr. B, the lead wallaby, had no shame. Mr. B frequently made unwelcome, amorous advances towards Flowerpot and Granny, two of his female neighbours. He didn’t care if his unwanted approaches towards the ladies were in front of blushing guests or not.
I never thought I’d rue visiting Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park Resort, but one Sunday I almost did. At leisure, a friend and I were enjoying morning coffees out on the ground-level deck. When my friend started spluttering I thought she was choking on her scone (of the baked variety, not her head). My arm was hanging over the back of my chair. I felt something tugging at one of my fingers. Turning, I received the shock of my life. A large kangaroo buck was doing his best to steal the ring off my finger! The roo almost caused me to rue my visit, but, instead, I laughed, and shoo-ed him off. Giving me a rueful look, “Skippy” signaled to his mates who’d been standing by witnessing the failed heist. Away the mob hopped, giggling, no doubt in search of other unsuspecting victims.
As I exited the amenities block at the Emu Park Caravan Park, a group of inquisitive emus, without forewarning, greeted me. Their presence certainly wasn’t what I expected during my visit to the Capricorn Coast.
A few years later, while driving a little Suzuki four-wheeler along the bush track between Collinsville and Glenden, another shock was in store for me. Lost in a world of my own, driving around a bend, I almost leapt out of the car when I came eye to eye with an emu at my driver’s side window. I’m not sure who was most startled, the emu or me. By the look on his face, it was clearly apparent, the emu, like me, wasn’t expecting company on the desolate country track. Old Man Emu tossed me a final shocked look; one that matched my own. Not taking a backward glance, with his long legs barely touching the ground, he rapidly sped off into the distance across the vast, open landscape. Upon reaching home, after catching his breath, I bet he had a feathered, tall tale to tell.
Through the years I’ve come across quite a few goats and asses, too…as well as some of the four-legged variety.
Pumpkin-Spinach Scones: Dice 700g pumpkin into bite size pieces; drizzle with olive oil; bake approx 20 min. Cool slightly; set aside. In food processer, whizz 4c S.R. flour and 100g chilled cubed unsalted butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place flour in bowl; using fingertips, rub butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Make well in centre of mix; pour in 375ml milk; mix well until just combined. Don’t over-mix. Add roasted pumpkin, 1c loosely packed chopped spinach, 1/4c chopped chives, 180g grated tasty cheese, and 1/2c crumbled feta; combine; don’t over-mix. Place mixture on floured bench; roll into long log, about 30cm x 10cm. Cut in half long ways down centre; then cut into 6 sections, making 12 scones. Place shaped scones on lined oven tray; bake 25-30mins.
Coconut Scones: Combine 1c desiccated coconut and 1c warmed coconut cream in small bowl. Let stand 20mins or until mixture has thickened slightly. Combine 3c S.R. flour, 2tbs icing sugar and 1/4tsp salt in bowl. Add coconut mixture and 1/2c milk. Use a knife to "cut" coconut mixture and milk through flour mix to a soft, sticky dough. Turn out dough onto lightly-floured surface. Knead briefly until smooth; shape into a 2cm-thick round. Using a 5.5cm cutter dipped into flour, cut rounds from dough. Place scones side by side on prepared tray. Brush tops with milk to glaze. Bake 12-15 mins, until golden, and well risen. Serve scones with jam and cream.