The House at Tuckers Rocks

Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
Trip End Nov 31, 2005

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Monday, December 13, 2004

On Monday morning the Team Leader for the conservation project, Mick, showed up with a Landcruiser 4x4 and hustled Helen and I and our gear into it. While we were loading he asked us if we had much experience with "wading." Helen announced that she worked a bit with her local Landcare office and therefore, did. "Oh, good, I'm glad you'll know your wades," he said, and I was lost. So, I should be dressed for mucking about in the ocean?

We drove three hours north, to the town of Coffs Harbour, where we picked up three more volunteers: Sarah, an Aussie girl of the surf-and-dreadlocks variety; John, a lovely British lad; and Donny, an Irish fallen angel. Mick then drove us to the place we'd be staying for the next week. It was then that it became clear how wonderful the next five days were going to be. The house at Tuckers Rocks is out at the end of a long gravel track through dense eucalyptus and rainforest, right on the edge of Bongil Bongil National Park (the name means "the place where one stays for a long time due to the abundance of food"). The house itself is a large cabin with six beds, a kitchen, a bathroom, two sofas, and nothing much in the way of entertainment except what we could bring to it; but it overlooked a steep drop of trees down onto the longest beach I have ever seen, miles and miles of thick golden sand that lets out a screaming sound when you drag your feet through it. The surf was heavy and blue, the dunes empty as far as the eye could see, the water warm; the five of us were Kings and Queens in an empty land, with our own beachfront Kingdom.

Suddenly the prospect of doing a hard day's work to earn this place didn't seem so bad. We dropped our gear and headed out to a local headland where the ranger began to march about, pointing at various bits of greenery: "that one bad, that one good," and so on. I had a revelation: it wasn't "wading." It was "weeding."

We had an afternoon of hard weeding in blinding sun under prickly scrub bushes, and I had a headache and a fear of getting the red round-up, which we used to poison stumps after we'd lopped down the larger weeds, all over my skin. But while I was bending alone in a bush to pull out a particularly large example of lantana, a nasty weed imported from Mexico, a grey kangaroo bounded out of the bush beside me. It hopped quickly off and stopped at a distance to stare curiously back, flicking its ears and it considered the implications of my presence in the undergrowth. I stood still, afraid to breathe, until it hopped off and I rushed after to catch another glimpse. A kangaroo! In the wild! I let the weeds cut my legs in a stupor of relaxed happiness.
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