Monthly Archives: September 2013

My “First Pig”


My “First Pig”

We set out late morning on a miserable day, after no success on the first hunt I was more than keen to see some action. After discovering someone else had stolen our plan A we moved on to plan B – we aren’t avid planners so this took a few Wangan bakery pies (BEST PIES EVER) to come up with a plan B but none the less we got one. So there we were in the picturesque Far North Queensland rainforest (my arse!) in typical rainforest weather, no the rain in rainforest is no coincidence. We just stopped the car to let the dogs out of the cage and they took off straight away nose to the ground and into the scrub. After a few minutes of silence waiting for a bark Lachlan let off a whistle to call them back when we heard the bail. So off we went down the road until Lachlan disappeared into what has got to be the thickest rainforest I have ever seen.

The few moments that followed where defiantly my defining ones. There I was staring at the hole I’d seen my boyfriend disappear into, wearing tight 3/4 cargo pants, admittedly picked for arse roundness factor rather than hunting appropriate factor, one of his hunting shirts and crocs, yes crocs, pretty pink flowery ones mind you, and here I was contemplating running in after him. Towards a feral pig, that was probably a little bit pissed off having been interrupted having its lunch by a team of rude dogs, never having seen one up close and having no idea what to do once I got there – so naturally I thought “well if you don’t go in, he will think you’re a pussy,” and went in after him.

So there I am running through the picturesque FNQ rainforest ( again – a load of bullshit) at the speed of light – and by running I mean stumbling (stealthily of course) and by speed of light I mean one of those really annoying ones that flicks on and off – and I was getting caught up on everything. Within the first 20 meters I had learnt the hard way not grab anything, I had thorns sticking out of everywhere and I couldn’t see more than 3 metres in front of me, let alone Lachlan, I had no idea where the car was and I couldn’t see where I had just come from, all I could hear was the dogs barking so I made my way towards the barks and praying to every hunting god they didn’t stop.

I eventually got there, the rainforest was so thick even 5 metres away from him I could barely make out the blue on his shirt. I called out to let him know I was there and the first thing he asks is “Are you ok?,” he is the one face to face with a less than happy feral pig and he asks if I am ok?! I wasn’t all the great to tell the truth, but at that point I was more concerned about him, so I called back that I was all good and climbed up on to a fallen tree to try and see better. I hear a bit more of a struggle and then Lachlan pipes up again “hey babe, did you bring the spear?” it was this point I realised how utterly weaponless I was – I had just ran into the rainforest with the intention of meeting a feral pig without any sort of weapon, let alone a spear. I didn’t even think to bring a knife and he is hoping that I’ve brought a spear, what spear? I wasn’t aware we even had one – needless to say “No,” was my reply. “Ok babe, well I have to go back to the car and get the spear, you stay here with the dogs,” he calls back calm as ever, like we are having a late morning brunch and he is going to get a scone, he then adds, equally as calm “but stay where you are babe, because is pissed the f*** off!” and then all I can hear is him crashing through the rainforest, I assume in the direction of the car to get the infamous spear.

So there I am crouching on a fallen tree listening to the dogs bailing a pig that is “pissed the f*** off!” with no weapon to speak of. Which was all well and good until I hear the pig break further into the scrub, the dogs pull it up for it to make another break towards me, crouching on a tree, weaponless and it’s pissed the f*** off… What am I supposed to do if it gets to me – throw my hat at it? Jump up and down? Sing to it softly to calm it down? Should I try a strip tease? Luckily the dogs pull it up 5 meters before I have to cue the sexy music, and my fallen tree is still a safe vantage point to sit and wait for Lachlan to return with his spear. After 10 minutes I decide to start passing the time by pulling all of the spikes out of my hands, dogs still bailing, and I was thinking about how relaxing pig hunting would be if the dogs where just a little bit quieter as well as deciding between roast or steak for dinner. After about 30 minutes I am starting to wonder if he is ever coming back when I hear him crashing through the scrub brandishing his infamous spear. “hey babe, you ok?” he is breathing pretty heavy now “yeah,” I answer from my perch, “alright, well you wait there, I’ll get it and then you can come over alright,” this of course is fine by me in my weaponless state. So I stand up on my tree and watch the flashes of blue as he goes in and brings down the pig.

After a fair bit of commotion the dogs stop barking and Lachlan calls me in. So I finally relinquish my perch on the fallen tree and go in to see what I’ve just spent the last 45minutes listening the dogs bark at 5 metres away, and in my extensive pig hunting experience (which is nada) this thing is huge and there is Lachlan puffed as ever with his spear in hand standing over it and he says with a victorious smile “good first pig babe, good work!” is he kidding?! I literally just sat on a tree contemplating what we are going to have for dinner and giving myself a rainforest manicure as he has run back to the car got the spear and run back through thick scrub and brought down a sizeable “pissed the f*** off” boar with a spear, and he is saying its my “First Pig” – I may not have much experience but I’m pretty sure you have to kill it to claim it. None the less he assures me I am wrong and by sitting on a tree I have in fact contributed to its death and therefore it is my first pig. Not only that, but it is a decent first pig estimated around 85kg dressed – at the time I had no idea what this meant and I assumed he didn’t know pigs don’t wear clothes, but he could be delirious from all the running he has done so I chose to let it slide – we cleaned it up and I posed for the photos with my “first pig” then we set out back to the car.

Lachlan being used to crashing through the scrub is hard to keep up with and I was quickly reduced to army crawling to keep up. About halfway out my cheek starts to sting, but I keep going trying ignore it and we finally made it back to the track. Lachlan runs up to get the car (because sitting on a tree is hard work and he doesn’t want me to have to walk all 200m to the car – yeah I’m spoilt) as I fall unceremoniously arse over tit out of the scrub. At this point the sting on my face is on fire but I don’t want Lachlan to think Im a pussy so I got in the car and joined in his excited re-run of the last hour, hearing his commentary is insightful, his part in the whole thing sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than sitting on a log – but he is still talking about pigs that wear clothes “weirdo”. Ill admit at this stage I was in a lot of pain and all I really wanted to do was wail for sympathy, but now I have a tough pig hunter reputation to up-hold so I suck it up and settle for saying “babe, pretty sure I have been stung by stinging tree on the face,” to which he replies after a moments pause “Nah babe, would’t be stinging tree… You would be in tears if its stinging tree! It’s just burning vine, I got some on my hand, ignore it, it’ll go away soon.”

Twenty four excruciating hours later a lot of consideration had gone into amputating my face and taking up a career in running the Australian labour party. I was in pain and I was willing to do anything to get rid of it – I do believe I may have even likened it to labour once or twice. So I put the question out there to my Facebook friends and was bombarded with advice – I quickly realised there where a few things that I wasn’t willing to do to get rid of it, some people need serious help! Among the countless suggestions of getting someone to pee on my face there was a suggestion from a friend of mine to use wax… I settled for duct tape, turns out it really does fix everything. I have never been so happy ripping anything off my face. And so with sweet relief my first hunting experience was over, it was nothing short of interesting even sitting on a log for most off it, but despite everything – even the stinging tree – I was addicted and I couldn’t wait to get back out there and do it again, maybe even bring one down myself, my man by my side and duct tape in my pocket.


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Friendship on Fire


The view from the hammock

The next few hunts went smoothly. Lachlan and I proved to make and excellent team. Work out on camp is hard and the days are long, Down time is non-existent because professionalism is key. We are both very passionate about each and every client walking away with a smile on their face and an experience worth raving about, but instead of being hard it was fun. I loved when both Lachlan and the clients would return from their day of hunting, always with an exciting tale to retell and a tally of trophies they where more than happy to rave about. Lachlan was often just as excited as the client adding snippets from his point of view and explaining terms or things that he knew I wouldn’t understand. They would hand me the tusks they had acquired with pride their smiles growing each day as they brought home more or bigger tusks than the day before. Then they would slump in the camp chairs cracking an ice cold beer and sharing even more stories around the camp fire, as I cooked them dinner enjoying the camp and the bush. The transition from day to night in the bush is a truly magical time, the bush “music,” gets louder and its not uncommon to see big trophy boars or feral cats mosey on down to the river, the sunsets are amazing and best seen from the comfort of the hammock, all of this adds to the clients experience because it is unique.

There is something exciting about sharing that experience with someone, when you can see the pride and excitement in their eyes and you know that you are going to be a part of something they will most likely share with their grandkids.

I found myself looking forward to the transitions between camps when Lachlan and I had time to catch up, the drives in and out of camp were always filled with good conversation and when I wasn’t at camp I looked forward to being back out there. Our friendship soon developed from friendly work colleges to good friends and it wasn’t un-common for either of us to text the other on the days we weren’t at camp.

Although it was defiantly one of the more exciting times of my life out on camp, it was one of the hardest times of my life at home in town. I was still healing the broken pieces of my heart and trying to find my feet as a young single mother. I felt I was being judged by those around me, I was ashamed and felt that at times I failed my daughter and the worst thing was I felt so utterly alone in this big old world. I am not the type to scream out for help or confide in someone but at that point I just wished for someone to grab me by both shoulders look me in the eye and say “its all going to be ok,” or just ask me how I was.

I kept yearning for the sanctuary of camp, where I could take my daughter and escape from the pressures and failures that were constantly being thrown in my face but most of all I yearned to be with Lachlan. To be able to talk to him, to share with him and to confide in him. Perhaps then I had developed stronger feelings for him and I just hadn’t acknowledged them, perhaps I had feelings there since the first moment I met him. I really can’t pinpoint where they started however I can pinpoint the very moment those feelings and my crush stopped being small.

It was one night, Lachlan and the client returned completely exhausted from the last few days hunting and the client decided to go have a few hours sleep before dinner. Lachlan helped me make dinner and we sat around the fire drinking a few beers having a good conversation, he has a wicked sense of humour and I had forgotten what it was like to laugh so hard. The few beers developed into a few rums and the conversation got deeper, I started telling him about my struggles at home and I am not sure how the conversation went or developed but at some point he turned to me, grabbed me on the arm and said “Carly, it’s all going to be ok! You are such a strong, intelligent, charming girl. Look at how many people said you wouldn’t last by yourself and your out here in the Australian bush flourishing. Never have I met anyone so capable of taking on the world, you are a wonderful mother and absolutely beautiful anyone would be so lucky to know you, I know I am.”

They are by far the most beautiful words anyone has ever said to me and it was that moment I realised why they call it falling in love.

And then I farted – possibly the worst response ever!

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A Whole Other World


One of the many resident Crocodiles that make our river home.

A few short weeks after falling in love with the camp Lachlan and I where heading out there together with our first clients. To say I was excited would have been an understatement, I could have peed myself if it weren’t for the fact I was in my very attractive bosses car, I am a firm believer that one should not pee in attractive bosses car on your first day on the job.

So there we were driving the bush beaten track that leads to camp and Lachlan behind the wheel and the conversation is flowing easily, very very easily. By the time we are almost at camp we have delved into each others life story, Im finding myself accidentally telling him really personal things, things that I would think twice about sharing with my best friends, yet with him its as normal as talking about the weather. I will admit I was developing a little bit of a school yard crush.

I was mid-sentence when we drove into camp, not only did it take my breath away, but also my words (and thats a big deal, because I very rarely loose words!). It was still deserted, bare, barren, rough and unforgiving but over the past few weeks Lachlan has made a few upgrades and it looked a lot different.

There was no longer just four posts, instead there was what we have affectionately come to call the “shack”, simply four sturdy steel posts with an iron sheeted roof. There were several camp tables set out, one off to the side to create a kitchen bench with the gas cooker set up next to it and a bucket for a sink. A rock fire place with a plate on top and a fire pit dug out next to it had been built 3 metres to the left. Two tin sheds had been built a good 100 metres out to the right, one of them was the long drop toilet and the other would be the solar heated shower, for now it served no purpose other than adding structure to an otherwise vacant landscape and it was the landscape that had stolen my breath and words.

The river sparkled brilliantly in the afternoon sun, the breeze blew softly rustling the dry leaves, carrying a soft scent of tea tree mixed with dirt up the ridge and cooling the sweat on our brow. Kangaroos drank tentatively at the waters edge and a big old salty sunned himself on the opposite bank fat from his years of being the king of the river. It was mesmerising.

“Beautiful spot, isn’t,” Lachlan said and when I looked at him I could see it, the same love, the same awe and the same respect. He knows this land, it’s in his blood. He has been hunting in the Australian bush for his whole life and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of admiration. The old world knowledge he knows just doesn’t exist any more. Yet here he was completely in his element, completely at home and I wanted so much to learn everything he knows and here was my chance.

I was going to be working and living in one of the true frontiers on earth, with no running water,no electricity and living in tents. It was the lack of convenience and comforts that appealed to me so much. How many of us truly know and understand the true value of water. We turn on the tap and out it comes, hot, cold or whatever temperature we please. That convenience doesn’t exist out there, you have to work hard to draw water and carry it to camp and if you want it hot you need to heat it. You start to respect the land and the gifts we so readily reap from her when you have to shed some sweat to earn it. You want to eat you have to go find the fire wood, light the fire and let it burn to produce the coals to heat your pot. A lot of you will read this and think that you prefer your way of life with your convenience and comfort, and your not alone, there is a reason convenience and comfort won out. Sometimes I wish I could flick a switch and have light or just turn on a tap. The Australian bush is a hard place, it requires respect and you have to earn your way in it or risk loosing your place at the top of the food chain… for me thats part of its beauty.


Having an afternoon fish a long our river.

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Scoring the Gig

In February this year (2013) I became a single mum at 21 with a 6 month old baby girl, just out of the relationship from hell. Looking to start a fresh I decided to move up to Karumba, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, far north and a bit to the west Queensland. Otherwise known as the end of the road, it is a small fishermen’s town with a population of 600 on a good day, rough as guts and full of people that have earnt their salt. If I said it was my sense of adventure that made me decide to leave the comfort of a city, I would be lying. In actual fact I was broke, lonely, exhausted and my Mum being a pro fishermen had a house that was practically vacant for most part of the year. So I packed our lives into my Suzuki Swift, a feat in itself, and made the 700km drive from Cairns to Karumba.

It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.

A month living in Karumba I was trying to find a part-time job that would coincide with being a full-time mum and hopefully help me get some much needed funds together. It was proving to be a difficult task and I had pretty much given up trying. The local pub had work, but the hours didn’t work in with daycare and the fishing season was in the dumps because of a “next to nothing” wet season so jobs on the warfs where few and far between. I was treading the fine line of becoming one of those single mums that sit on facebook bitching about everything and blaming it on their ex, lets face it you all know one, but someone has to do it. Funnily enough it was on facebook that Lachlan Cooke, a mutual friend of my ex and I, asked me if I wanted a job. I cant write my reply because there could be children reading this, so lets just say I jumped at the chance. I didn’t even know what the job was, but I was fairly certain he wasn’t a pimp and I was pretty desperate not to live my life through social media, so at that point I would have cleaned sumo wrestlers arse cracks! After a few more very quickly, grammatically incorrect, desperately written “Yes, I would love a job,” and “I can do anything,” messages I was informed I was the lucky (not so sure at this point) successful applicant (there was only one) that had landed the job as the new cook (AKA. Camp Bitch) for Cookes Hunting Adventures on a self contained semi-permanent camp on a station just outside of Normanton. Ironically I celebrated with a facebook status and a hell of a lot of hashtags, nobody is above hashtags.

A couple of weeks later I drove into the station with the intention of meeting my new boss and seeing where I was going to be living for 3 weeks of every month. When I got there Cooke was MIA so I nervously introduced myself to the station owner Matt and together we quickly worked out I had been stood up by my new employer, awesome start boss! Matt kindly offered to drive me out to the camp, so with my baby girl on my lap, we bush bashed in the run down station ute for what seemed like hours worth of random tracks to find ourselves on the edge of a ridge overlooking a fresh water river.

The camp at that point consisted of 4 steel posts sticking out of the ground, yep 4 sturdy tall steel beams thats all. Of course these beams where all unceremoniously put through their paces by a few quick kicks curtesy of Matt, a nod of approval indicated they were secure. Even though at this point most people would have had the sense to walk away, the cool breeze running down the river, rustling the dry leaves of the trees that lined the bank and the sun baked earth, the smells of the bush, and apart from the three of us, not another soul in sight. This was the kind of place you could live your whole life and not know the stresses or worries that lie in the outside world. It was beyond the reaches of the rat race, beyond even the reaches of the humble hustle and bustle of country life. This place was deserted, is was bare,barren, rough, unforgiving and absolutely stunning. I was in love with this little patch of land with its 4 steel posts and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

The view from camp – taken the first time I stood there

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