Going Troppo

After travelling 1600 kilometres in three days, our caravan has moved only 15 kilometres in the last two weeks. It’s a pace much more suited to the ‘less is more’ holiday experience I prefer.

Though the distance is small, the change in the landscape has been dramatic. The wet tropical rainforest has been replaced by open savannah, woodland and gullies of paperbark rainforest. Judging by the bird life it’s a kind of east-west transition point of high diversity.

The move took us about 40 minutes west of Cairns, to an 80 acre farm outside Kuranda. Hearing about my bush year experience, the young property owners Marc and Madi who have an equal interest in bushcraft and self-sufficiency, invited me to visit for a couple of nights.

Marc immediately reminded me of the Bush Tucker man in his early years. That was before he announced that Les Hiddens, the real Bush Tucker man, also lives near Kuranda and has visited the property. Ron Edwards too, author of the classic Australian Bushcraft series, was also a Kuranda local, I was told. Birds of a feather it seems.

A tour of the property and its bush food and medicinal treasures was a lovely rambling affair, involving wades back and forth across the Barron river. While there were a number of old friends like lomandra, sandpaper fig and lillypilly, there were many more surprises such as Mimosa, a groundcover with an edible flower commonly known as the ‘sensitive plant’ due to the way of shrinks on contact.

Bushfood is also interwoven in the vegie garden. Having only seen yams the size of a pencil in the wild, the football-sized native tuber in the garden had me wide-eyed. So too did the two foot long ‘new guinea beans’ hanging overhead with gourds and pumpkins, while raised garden beds overflowed with summer vegies and leafy greens on steroids. Winter is the chief growing season up here; summer too wet and mildewy.

The rest of the ‘family’ made themselves known in various familiar sounds – pigs, milking cows, goats, horses, chickens, geese, turkeys, dogs and a cat.

I don’t know if it was just the dreamy sun, the turquoise of the river with its wide sandy banks, or the view of the forested hills from theQueenslander verandah, but it was one of the most beautiful properties I have visited.

The vision they mapped out was equally inspiring – both productive and yet regenerative in design, both a quiet home and a place alive with guests, travellers and the neighbouring community; a gathering place for learning and sharing knowledge and skills.

There was a real sense of the creative joy in the process, of work being both passion and play. It’s an outdoors life rich in intimacy with the interplay of people and plants and animals. As I packed ready for departure a part of me wanted to switch places with them, and instead of the traveller, be the one sinking my roots deeply into one place, and calling it home.