January 6

Been awhile since my last post; we’d been out camping in the remote bush at a place called the Gorge and there was definitely no Internet. Mobile phones don’t pick up a signal either! The Gorge is a multi thousand acre ranch way up the Clarence River and the owners have opened the flat open places to camping. They offer the camper many things. First, our site had sweeping views of an amazing canyon/river landscape and it was a pleasure to just sit there on the bluff and watch the landscape breathe. Second, we had a metal porta-potty that had seen much better days (and we wished that we had thought to bring our own TP). Third, we could swim in the Clarence River which was pretty clean and just a short five-minute hike down a gigantic grassy slope, through a bit of thistle, and over some gravel deposits. Fourth, we could swim in a beautiful spring ten minutes walk up the hill through open eucalyptus woodland and cattle paddock. Fifth, we could get a bucket of clear water from this spring and boil it on an open drum barbecue with hot burning eucalyptus wood to supplement our drinking supply. Sixth, we could venture anywhere on the property from ridge line to river, up and down as far as one could see. Seventh, we could hunt for bowerbirds and their bowers (and we did find one). Eighth, we could snuggle our Avan camper trailer right up to a line of mango trees (which did have huge, but not yet ripe, mangos) that afforded protection from the hot afternoon sun, a luxury that most campers did not have. Most of the campsites were in the flood plain of the river containing only scraggly willow trees with no way to park or pitch tents near enough. Ninth, our site, being up on the bluff like it was, generally had a nice, cooling breeze. And tenth, cows galore; I’ll say more about these!

Yes, this camping opportunity is on a working ranch and even though it says so on the website, we didn’t actually expect to be living amongst the bovines. Sara once read a review on a Trip Advisor for accommodation on a tropical, coral island on the Great Barrier Reef in which the guests complained because there was a bit of sand on the floor of their cabin. Well, we thought that amusing for what might you expect when living on a beach! So we were careful not to complain about all the cows. We had ample opportunity to complain to Neil (owner) for he often parked his truck underneath a big fig tree nearby so that he could assess his holdings, both cows and campers, up and down the river, but we didn’t. We did talk a lot about the cows to one another.

We discussed things like, “Oh, watch out, you’re about to step in another fresh steaming pile of cow poop!” There really was a lot of it around and at night when the cows seemed to congregate around our car and camper trailer, I’d hear the unmistakable liquid-like sounds of plop, plop, plop coming out of the rear of another uninvited guest. It was always exciting in the morning to get up and see if anyone pooped on the 6’x8′ piece of fake carpet we have as a floor mat just outside our “home”. No one ever did, thankfully! What I found most amazing was the habitation of bright green flies (non-biting) that smothered each fresh pie throughout the day. What were they doing there? There might be two hundred flies on a big one and if you walked by too close they would all take off in a noisy rush that resembled the rattle of a gigantic rattlesnake. Sometimes it would scare you if you were not paying attention to where you were going. But mostly we did pay attention where we were going for it was a virtual mine field of possible unexplored ordinances.

We discussed other things like, “Oh, did you hear the cows last night?” Yes, this was a problem, especially during the first night for many of the bovine beasts showed up to moo us lullabies throughout the long night. I got up several times and yelled at them to get away and shut the __ __ __ __ up. I was tempted to throw green mangos at them but wasn’t sure if that might make them charge! I learned how to mimic the most horrible sounding animals of the herd so that I could get back at them the next day. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and no matter how much I mooed at them, they didn’t seem to mind.

And then there were conversations that ran like this: “Why do the cows always come over here!” Odd, they got like twenty thousand acres to roam and they show up at our place to chew their cud. I must admit though, from our perch up on the grassy bluff, when we saw the mob milling about some other campers’ local (as the sun was getting low) we loved it and hooted for joy. To get a cowless night, meant a solid night’s sleep for us, a major victory!

We learned that Neil hoped to build a new house on the bluff and so I asked him if he’d make a fence around the yard to keep out the cows. He said, “No, mate. That’s just nature!” To him having cows pooping anywhere they wish is no different than to me having bowerbirds building bowers behind the garden shed. Personally, with so much land to use for cattle, I’d fence off some areas here and there for the camping public so that they don’t have to worry about where they step. On second thought, maybe that’s the wrong kind of thinking; I don’t want to be quoted on Trip Advisor of saying something like “There is sand on the floor of my bungalow.” After all, if it weren’t for the cows about this blog would be very different! I do have a couple other things to say about cows in general.

Cows eat grass and people like to eat beef, so I guess that is one good way to harness the sun’s energy and turn it into food. I don’t think one could grow anything else out here on this ranch. So cattle ranching is taking advantage of an otherwise untapped resource. But cows do cause a bit of erosion and I wonder if cow poop and river water is really as benign as we are all led to believe. Where do all those nutrients really go? To the sea? Then what? It is staggering to estimate just how much land in Australia is used for beef. Hard to believe that there really are that many people on the planet who need to eat! I crave to know what the country looked like before Europeans came and started their industries. How many wild things have suffered for our love of meat?

Well, there are many amazing things to describe about the Gorge. Stay tuned!




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