It's just breaking dawn. From my bed, a wooden framed platform covered in a large soft down mattress above the forest floor and protected by a large mozzie net, I can see the ocean. It is like glass, tinted by the morning glow of the rising sun. My view is about fifty metres above the beach. I make my way down the steep narrow track that cuts through forest covered hillside to the shore below. Lorikeets, pidgeons and other birds fill the air with music. A lizard darts across the track in front of me, its bug hunt interrupted by a giant stomping through its domain. By now the local Tree Kangaroo will be asleep in the canopy somewhere. We've seen it once or twice at night when spotlighting the treetops.
About 50 metres off the beach is a small reef. On the high tide I fish from the beach with a rod. But when it is low, I walk to the reef and and hunt crayfish, or spear the odd fish from the outer edge of the reef. I usually catch 'lippers' or the odd Coral Trout. The fish are scarce this morning, but two fat crayfish aren't so lucky. My spear was made from a length of hardwood, slowly whittled and shaped, then hardened on the fire. A barb fashioned from a pig tusk is fixed to the point with twine. I cheated though. Instead of using tree sap, I used rod resin to seal the twine. It is the perfect shape for hooking crays and muddies out of their crannies and mudholes.
My soulmate is preparing a fire on the beach for breakfast. Today it is roasted cray, accompanied by a salad of Cedar Bay Cherries, banana and fresh Avocado, washed down with Green Coconut juice.
I set some traps up near the Mangrove beach yesterday. It's about two kay's North. Later on I'll head up and see if I've snared a pig. The Mudcrabs are abundant around the edge of the Mangroves this time of year, so if I don't get a pig, I'm sure to spike a muddie or two.
When we get pigs, we usually spit roast them, or if we're feeling lazy, wrap the meat in leaves and cook it Hungi style. That way we don't have to watch it for hours. We can explore the forest and the mountain and come back around sunset to a sumptuous meal of Pork and vegetables.
Muddies are best cooked in a large pot using sea water. If not, a short sear on the coals of a fire will cook them nicely in their own juices.
Every now and again we do a Stingray broth. Catch your 'ray. Tail it and carefully gut it, saving the liver and gizzard. Throw away the Pancreas, it's no good. Now chop the b'wings up and toss them and the guts into a pot and add seasoning. Simmer until the meat is cooked and the flavours have blended. Good tucker.
The shadows come early here, due to the high mountain on our West. We live at the very foot of it, cradled in a spot sheltered from Sou' Easters but with enough Northern sunlight to grow vegetables in the natural clearings.
We grow our vegies in spots where large trees have fallen and broken the canopy. We have four spots all within a few minutes walk. Stuff just grows here with minimal care. So long as we keep the vines from overtaking the tomatoes and greens, we do OK.
The pigs sometimes attack our Taro and potato, but we've managed to trap a few of the squealers as well, so it's a bit of give and take. A balance if you will. They get some good healthy vegies and we get a protein boost when we need it.
Water used to be a bit of a fitness exercise. Out of necessity, we had to make a small dam in a natural hollow about a hundred metres up the mountain. It was the only place where we could 'store' enough water to fill our 25 litre jerry cans. Once a week we'd climb the trail to the pond, fill the drums and cart them back down. Nowadays we have a hundred and fifty metres of poly pipe with a tap on the end. Lazy buggers we are. We've built another small catchment about two minutes walk across the hillside. It's our bath. We only use coconut oils and natural soaps to wash, resulting in negligible effect on the water. The 'tub' is big enough for two...and it gets full sun at certain times of the day. It's also a natural spa, due to the small waterfall that ryns in from upstream over the rocks.
Technology wise, we are pretty spoiled. We have two 150 watt solar panels set up in a clearing. They receive about nine hours of direct light a day. This supplies power to four deep cycle 12 volt batteries hooked to an inverter that runs our small satellite transmitter/receiver, the computer and some rudimentary lighting. You may think, "so what, anyone can set that up".
Well, we're not exactly close to civilization. It is an eight hour walk to our humble abode...over a mountain. It took about two months to carry all that gear in. One battery each at a time. One solar panel between us, negotiating a trail that at times is hard to see, let alone walk along it with a 6 by 4 lump of glass and silicon and aluminium. But we did it. We wanted our privacy, but we didn't want to lose touch with our friends and family.
Posting a letter would be akin to sending mail by ship to England. On rare occasions we head into town. This is what most people would call a journey. You see, as much as we have technology in our little bit of paradise, we still have to buy the odd staple. Flour, rice, yeast etc. all has to come from town. As I said, it is an 8 hour walk to civilization. That is just to a friend's property over the hill. It is then another two hours to any town of substance if you don't count the Pub and Trading Post half-way along the road. We keep our old four-wheel drive at a mate's place. It runs on a mixture of diesel and chip oil from the snack bar in town. It manages to get us to town and back with minimal cost and environmental damage. Plus, it smells like fish and chips :o)
So, posting a letter takes a full day or more just to get to the post office. It's then another two days before the receiver gets it. Now, if we don't go to town for a month or more, people worry. So we decided to marry the technology with the solitude. It's quite surreal sometimes. We are lucky to see another human here. The odd adventurous back-packer makes their way here from the National Park to the South, but not very often. But we can stay in contact with friends from as far away as Canada, or chat with people in realtime via video on a good reception night.
We are somewhat physically isolated in a number of ways. About three kay's to the South, a deep creek blocks easy access. To cross the creek and stay dry, one has to walk about 2 kilometres upstream through thick rainforest, and near a tidal creek that is home to a rather large crocodile. To the North, the mountains drop straight into the sea. It is difficult, if not impossible to traverse this natural barrier. Finally, the reef makes access to the beach possible only by small tinnies.
I know this place. It's in my heart and in my dreams. We'll be there one day soon.