It’s another of Barry Edge’s entertaining memoirs and this time he recalls a memorable trip to Kalumburu, Western Australia.
Barry Edge writes…
It’s mid afternoon Friday 7th December 1984: Port vale were back in the old 4th Division – having been relegated end of Season 1983-4; John Rudge was in his first full season as manager – charged with the task of rebuilding the squad; and my employers asked if I would go north to the Kimberley, Western Australia on a short secondment with the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation.; by late afternoon Monday 10th December 1984 I was walking through the small town of Wyndham Port nestled in the Cambridge Gulf.
In one corner of the transportable was a very large fridge/freezer stocked choc-o-bloc with packs of meat…
Now it’s 0500 hours Tuesday 11th December, 1984 and I’m waiting at Wyndham Airport – 3,300 kilometers north of my home in Perth – destination Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation – a further 210 kilometres by gravel road north west of Wyndham.
My arrival in Wyndham the day before had been known well in advance by its small community with the good folk of the town more than generous both in their welcome and overnight hospitality (a memoir for another time perhaps).
Although it was early morning the rising humidity signalled the beginning of the monsoonal season. The night before Mother Nature produced an electrical storm the likes of which not previously experienced by yours truly. To the locals ‘It is what it is’.
There were three passengers for Kalumburu: yours truly and a gentleman who would introduce me to the Community Elders; plus a rotund Aboriginal man travelling to meet up with members of his family. We were greeted by our pilot with a request to help him push a small aircraft from a nearby building onto the passenger loading zone. An unforgettable character to say the least dressed in clothing and headgear similar to a WWII Spitfire pilot.
Kalumburu is Western Australia’s most remote and isolated Aboriginal community. Following the election of the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 there was a concerted move to grant Aboriginal people rights to their lands. In recognition of this, the Bishop of the Kimberley relinquished control of Kalumburu, effectively giving the ‘Community its independence in 1981.
Our flight to the isolated, idyllic Kalumburu went without major issues. However, when we were in the air our pilot nonchalantly expressed a concern that the repairs carried out the day before were up to scratch. Bush humour perhaps? Who knows, but I was glad when we were back on terra firma.
For the first few days I shared accommodation with an electrical contract crew – three scrawny looking men who worked hard, had huge appetites and loved a beer or three. Our home away from home was a large transportable located on the edge of the ‘Community and near the King Edward River with its nosey nocturnal crocodiles (by early morning they usually retreated back to the river banks or nearby marshes). In one corner of the transportable was a very large fridge/freezer stocked choc-o-bloc with packs of meat – green labels beef, lamb etc., red labels other assorted. When the contracting crew headed back to the Big Smoke I was invited to help myself to the meat packs with a caution that some of the red packs may be a little too gamey for me.
Duly cautioned, and somewhat cautious, it would be several nights later before I plucked up the courage to BBQ one of the red packs of meat – with my own garnish of garlic topped with capers. Now I know they said ‘gamey’, but what I ate was truly awful. Even my side salad could not remove the sickening bilious feeing – on top of which I had a sleepless night consequence of a lingering stomach ache.
At daybreak I gave breakfast a miss and headed straight to the Community Centre. Several visits to the toilet plus numerous cups of coffee helped to improve my humour and by lunchtime I was just about to eat a cheese sandwich until – wait for it – I shared the reason for my earlier malaise.
According to mine host my repast the night before was more than likely feral dog.
And no, I didn’t eat my cheese sandwich. Instead I made a quick dash to the toilet.
See you later…
February 8, 2019