Sunday, June 03, 2007

Australia (Part Three): squeaks and raindrops

It occurs to me, belatedly, that wee Ben had his birthday while we were in the air, en route to (as Zina says) Roo Land. I wonder if it was the invisible, unfelt day that happened when we crossed the date line? Either way, I hope it was a simple, loving day - and happy happy to the no longer boy-containing mum and her Ian-man.

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, there is only ONE sleeping child in my apartment ('scuse me, flat) tonight. The Eldest is having his very first sleepover with my mum, and in the morning will go with her to fetch my dad from the airport.

It's odd not having him here. I'm almost...sad. I've spent so many nights curled around him, knowing he was just down the hall (and curled around the Man), I've gotten up so many times to check that he was still breathing as he slept..his absence is striking in the patterns of my little world. But nice. I'm glad that he's ready to do this, though I half-heartedly hope for a phone call at, oh, 3 a.m. Or not.

Tuesday, May 29th:

Grumpy? Who's grumpy? Certainly not me...we were up in time for the dawn today, and I have a blurry photo with a pink background to prove it. We bounded out of the house (insofar as we ever bound, okay, I ever bound at 7 in the morning - I think I staggered slightly, and I'm sure there was coffee) to go and see kangaroos. The kangaroos tend to cluster on the Wilsons Prom landing strip, you see, a grassy flat bit which is chokkers with 'roos until it get light (don't know any slang for 'light' - sorry). Of course, by the time we got there, the sky was no longer quite so pink, and the kangaroos no longer quite so there.

Phooey. Or possibly bloody 'ell.

But what the hell, we were up, I was caffeinated and, being me, there was food packed. So we headed off to Squeaky Beach, a beach whose white sand (extremely white sand, by the way) actually squeaked under our shoes. Except the wet bits, which sort of squelched. Quietly. It was a dream of a beach, with big rocks that made a sort of maze, waves washing in, wind whipping spray off the top of the waves, and tide pools and tide-rivers that looked weeks old, their routes and currents carved into the sand.

The Eldest seized the moment and led us through the maze of rocks. The Toddles, less inclined to play follow-the-leader, decided to chase the birds that hovered. The shrieking Toddles would chase a bird, which, offended, would fly off. But the birds always came back, hovering hopefully in case we'd drop a bit of our snack. One particularly bold character strutted around near us, snapping at the others when they got too close. His proprietary air attracted the Toddles attention, the kid ran at the bird, the bird freaked and flew off, squawking, another snatched the moment and on and on.

We walked the length of the beach, the Eldest and the Man collecting cuttlefish - just as my great-uncle used to do, on this same beach. Their hands were full, their pockets grew heavy, and finally, reluctantly, the Eldest had to trade one delectable bit of dead fish for another, more immediately desirable one. It was tough, let me tell you.

We hiked back to our cabin in Tidal River, a total of 3 km - a distance that gave me hopes for the morrow...if the kid could handle 3 km of steep up and down (we'd skirted some cliff edges, gone around a bluff), he could definitely handle a gentler and longer distance. Hikes danced in our future, and I had a date with a map.

Wednesday, May 30th:
6 a.m.
The alarm went off, and I popped up in bed. Kangaroo time? Um, no. Rain was coming down in buckets. In sheets. In great galumphing bathtubs-full. Bugger.

Unfortunately, by this time the Toddles was awake, so I was stuck for it. I grumbled my way into the main room of the cabin, where I was met by my equally sleepy and bewildered family. I stuck a finger in the air.


They looked up, listened to the drumming of the rain on the roof, and nodded solemnly. Rain. Clearly, there was only one thing to do: I made soup.

By 11 a.m., not only were we all thoroughly awake, the soup was finished and the boys were driving me nuts. I checked the map, and said, Right. Gear up boys, we're going out. And we did. To be fair, the rain at this point was a light one, instead of the Noachite torrents we'd been having all morning - but truly, they were driving me completely bonkers. So out we went.

The only people who didn't give us pitying, half-unbelieving looks was the school group, huddled in their pup tents. So much for a drought. I was impressed by their respect for authority - after a soaking night, I would've been half-way back to Melbourne. Or at least Meeniyan.

We hiked, more or less happily, for about 30 minutes, crossing the Tidal River footbridge (Is the water level higher? it looks higher! Well, let's see (this from the Man), it would take 9 million drops of water, assuming a drop of water per 4 square inches, falling at a rate of...what? what? you asked, no? NO.), hiking up one of the mountain paths towards Lilly Pilly Gully. The water carved it's own trail, heading down the mountain.

Once we'd crested the mountain, I could see the grey-blue clouds clustered at the top. Almost immediately (trying to prove a point, are we?) big, fat raindrops started to fall. Behind me, the Man cleared his throat.

Um, we could head back whenever you are ready.
Good to know, hon. Good to know.

By the time we made it back to the footbridge, the rain was coming down steadily again. We piled back into our cabin, only moderately soaked, and definitely soup-oriented.

The rain pounded steadily on the roof for the rest of the afternoon. The boys read books, played games, and built a cubbyhouse out of a pair of bunkbeds, pillows and some artfully draped blankets. They were absolutely lovely (except when they weren't), to the point that when the rain stopped, shortly before sunset, I was ready to kick everybody out again.

We went to Whisky Bay, where we watched the world's shortest sunset. The sun dropped below the clouds, we discovered that wet sand and wet rock isn't fun to sit on, the sun sank towards the sea...and slipped behind a nearby island. Start to finish: 20 minutes. Frankly, the highlight of the whole thing was the pair of rabbits and the bilby-like creature that ran away when we headed back to our car. Or, and the little black kangaroo (wallaby?) that we nearly ran over on the way out.

Rainy Day Soup
serves 4 cold, wet hikers

3 carrots, cut into thin half moon shapes.
3 onions, roughly chopped
1 can cannelini or other white bean
2 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
salt, pepper to taste
1-2 Tb mild curry powder
3 Tb olive oil (less if you have a nonstick pot)
3? cups water

In a kitchen lacking things like measuring cups/spoons, heat oil in a pot. Toss in the onions and garlic, and sautee until the edges of the onion start to brown a bit. Add carrots and curry powder, stirring until the aroma of the curry powder rises up to hit the back of your nose. (If you have a cold, assume this will take maybe 3 minutes). Add beans and enough water to cover the veggies by about an inch. If you have a bay leaf, now is a good time to toss it in. Same goes for other luxuries in your woodland cabin, like the end of a bottle of wine (white is better for this recipe), a leftover sausage or bit of chicken. Cover loosely, turn the heat down, and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Check the pot: does it smell good? Add salt and pepper until you are happy. If the smell of the soup is a bit dilute, let it simmer a little longer. Serve with a bit of crusty bread if you have any, salad on the side. Try not to slurp.


dykewife said...

except that you didn't pour it over rice it reads a whole lot like my curry soup :) well, that and i also added celery.

i always knew you had good taste :D

Anonymous said...

Despite the rain, it still sounds like a wonderful trip.

mama o' the matrices said...

dw, it is like that - this is a what's in the fridge kind of soup. And I bet it's great over rice!

Thanks, Lois - we've dried out now, but are still having fun...