Exploring Groote Eylandt with Dad
My dad came to visit me while I was on school holidays. He flew in on a Wednesday morning and left the following Monday; a bit of a whirl-wind trip, but then again, what is there to do on a remote island in the Northern Territory?
The below photos would indicate that there’s in fact quite a lot; if you’re prepared to go out looking for an adventure that is.
On the second day, I drove Dad out to take a dip in the fresh water river called Leske Pools. As we were nearing the river at the bottom of the slope, I made a fleeting and foolish decision to turn off the main track to avoid the soft sand ahead. In an attempt to try and dodge a potential bogging, I drove us straight into the very trap I was trying to avoid. Within seconds we were well and truly bogged.
Dad immediately jumped out of the cab to assess the situation. His voice remained relatively calm, although he couldn’t hide his slight frustration or the sweat that began to pool along his down-turned brows as his feet sunk into the hot, black sand.
We were hot, pissed off and hungry so we decided to abandon the car and go and eat lunch by the river.
|Dad failed to see the ‘adventure’ aspect of our situation at this point. If you look closely you can see the car off to the left and a grumpy old man under the tree.|
Once we got some food into us, we were no longer ‘hangry’ (anger brought on by hunger) at one another and agreed to walk to a nearby waterfall. We reached a section in the river where rapids formed due to large moss covered boulders. I convinced Dad to get in and enjoy the ‘spa-like’ sensation as we anchored ourselves in-between the rocks.
I happened to get out before Dad, only to realise I’d unknowably gained some friends who were keen to accompany me back to the car. Yep, I’m referring to leeches. As I was doing the heeby jeeby dance, I called out to Dad to warn him. Several times he shouted back “I can’t hear you!” That’s too bad, I thought and I focused on getting the little suckers off me. Dad eventually jumped out and I got the privilege of flicking the passengers off his back. I can only imagine what he thought of Groote Eylandt at that point, along with his daughter’s decision making skills.
We returned to the car and started digging. As it turned out, I’d completely buried the car’s axle, so we both had to get down on hands and knees and shift the scorching hot sand by interlocking our fingers and dragging our arms along like giant diggers.
|Once we’d literally dug ourselves out of the situation, Dad regained his sense of humour and we thought the moment deserved a ‘selfie’.|
|Dad at the cave paintings. I had to blur out the paintings; otherwise I’d need to get permission from the land council before publishing online.|
|Dad on top of the caves.|
When I found out Dad was coming to visit, I really wanted to take him fishing as a late Father’s Day gift. Although half the people on the island have boats, I was yet to be invited out on one. I asked a school friend to create a post on the Groote Eylandt community Facebook page, calling for any willing boat owners to take us out for the day in exchange for petrol money and good company.
The man featured in the below photo called me within hours of seeing the FB post and said we were more than welcome to join him and his 20 year old son on their usual weekend outing. He is the Vice President of the Alyangula fishing club and warned me that he was a ‘hard-core’ fisherman.
On the day, he stayed true to his word, keeping morale up for over 12 hours while being bumped every which-way by the waves and enduring the intense rays of the ever-present sun.
It was so chaotic on the boat, as two or more people were often hooked at the one time, causing everyone to scramble over and under one another to ensure lines remained tangle-free. Because of this, video and photo opportunities only presented themselves a few times over the course of the day.
Here is a short video I put together which gives you an idea of the fun we had:
|Dad caught the biggest shark on the day|
The following day we were invited by a traditional land owner to a stretch along the coast called Tamarin Beach. As we drove parallel to the sea, the land owner pointed out three tiny tin sheds, erected no more than 10 metres from the water’s edge. She said she lived there as a young girl. Throughout the day she spoke of her land with great fondness, explaining that whenever she visits, she is filled with happy memories of family members whom have come to pass over the years.
|One of the ladies explaining where to find the mussels & oysters buried underneath the mangroves|
|Here I am waiting for my pippie to boil and open on the hot coals|
I’m starting to believe that adventure always comes at a price on this island. Whilst wandering through the mangroves searching for some tucker, I became tucker for many UFI’s (Unidentified Flying Insects). By the time I’d returned to the others, I had developed a number of big welts on various parts of my body.
The next morning I awoke with two fluidy lumps; one on my arm, the other on my ankle. Later that day (of course I left it until someone forced me to see a doctor), I found out that I’d contracted a dangerous secondary infection in less than 24 hours. Luckily oral antibiotics started to work their magic over the 24 hours that followed, or else it was looking like an IV drip was fast becoming an arm accessory for the next few days.
Believe it or not, I took the below photo when some of the swelling had subsided.
Dad arrived home at midnight on Monday. He was straight back into the rat race the next day; his peeling nose as the only remaining sign that he even escaped city life for five days. Meanwhile, I’ve been ordered to stay home with my feet up. My week of school holidays has almost extended to two and I’m still daydreaming about fish and feeling way too relaxed.
It was so great to see my Dad and share my new life with him. I haven’t seen anyone from home in almost seven months now. Although I miss my family and friends, I know I’ve got something pretty special here. It was nice to hear that Dad agrees with me on that.