Whitefella Walkabout

Barrens Beach, Fitzgerald River NP

WA_61316_FitzgeraldRiverNP-Edit
On the beach before dawn taking photos with the sea washing around the rocks and up to my knees. At my back is Mount Barren, same name as the beach, and I keep an eye on it to get some warning of any rain. Strong westerly winds are driving the clouds against the western slopes of Mount Barren then out to sea where it is raining heavily. Sometimes the swirling winds bring the rain back onshore in a shifting grey curtain that blends sea and sky. At other times, yellow sunlight shines between the cobalt clouds forming rainbows on the horizon.

Thankfully the water is not cold but I’ll leave swimming until later. For now I’m enjoying the slow motion of the sea swirling around these jagged rocks and against the smoother cliffs where Mount Barren dives into the ocean.

Meeting Peter from Warwick, and finding a camp spot for the night

Just met Peter at the Palace Hotel in Warwick, Queensland. He came and sat next to me at the bar and asked me about the feathers in my hat, then proceeded to talk about the birds he knew in the local area, starting with a flock of a thousand or so Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos that cause a lot of damage around town. Peter then went on to talk briefly about the various other types of birds he knew.

We talked some more and I showed him the feathers from my hat. The Sulphur-crested cockatoo, the Red-tailed Cockatoo and the Brolga feathers. The last two are not found this far south so he didn’t know them. Then we got to talking about Dollar Birds, aka Happy Jacks, aka Apostle Birds, depending on where you are and who you are talking to. Peter explained that the local Apostle Birds are a smaller variety. I have only seen the bigger ones from Charters Towers and areas north of there. I think the name Happy Jacks suits them best, the way they run around you looking to see whether you will feed them, and otherwise paying you not much attention at all, but happily running around foraging under your feet.

Peter told me that his father, who died in September, had tanned the skin of a Red-Bellied Black Snake and made a hat-band out of it. Around the hat-band he had added the feathers of some cockatoos and lorikeets that he shot. “People just don’t do that anymore” said Peter. He was referring more to the tanning of snake skins. He explained that once they were tanned you needed to use some boot polish to bring the colour out which is lost during the tanning process. The red colour of the belly is unfortunately lost. Peter was with his dad when he made the band and added the feathers. He had especially asked to have his Dad’s hat when he passed away. It was obviously something special to him, the way he spoke about it, and because it was his Dad’s ‘good’ hat. Peter has since given the hat to his daughter and warned her that she must never lose the hat-band.

Peter described how the Red-Bellied Black hunts and eats other snakes and that its venom acts differently to most other Australian snakes.

So it seems he came over to talk to me because of those feathers in my hat, and they remind him of his dad.

Peter, together with his wife Jo, run the camp ground at the nearby lake and said that if I wanted to stay there for the night I was very welcome. This is not the first time my choice in hats has helped introduce me to folks in new places.

Hampton, a small village in Queensland

Passing through a small village just before Toowoomba. Nice, friendly young folks at the Gallery come Coffee Shop, come Pizza Shop, come Organic Food Shop, come Patisserie … you get the picture … and they seem to do it all pretty well …

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