TI Times: Crays and Champers.
Yet another amazing trip up to the Top End –
with thanks to the fabulous TI team!
It takes about 2 days to get from the bottom (Bruny Island, Tasmania) to the top (Thursday Island, Queensland) – some 2,286 miles and a change in temperature from a 10 degree Tasmanian winter evening to a balmy 24 in TI.From Bruny Island, home to the little building that is Bligh’s Museum of Pacific Exploration, and following in the footsteps of the man himself, Brunyfire and Co found themselves back on Thursday Island to catch up with the family several weeks ago. Thursday Island (more correctly known as Waibene) received its Anglicized name in 1789 when the Bounty, commanded by Captain William Bligh, was on the tail end of a breadfruit collecting trip in Tahiti. Only Bligh and some loyal crew members found themselves in a seven-metre long boat in the middle of the Pacific, having been set adrift by the mutinous Fletcher Christian – the delights of Tahiti proved greater than the lure of Bligh’s heavy handed command.
Bligh, being the navigator of renown that he was, set a course for the Timor Sea, passing through the shallow channel in the Great Barrier Reef, to arrive on the east coast of Australia. The first island he came to he named Restoration Island, and as he sailed up the coast, he named the islands from the calendar, beginning from Sunday – hence Waibene was named on the 5th day. (nb: Bligh had visited Bruny’s Adventure Bay at least four times – 1776 with Cook, then in 1788, 1792 in the Providence, and the 1802 – hence our ongoing connection!!)
Waibene or Thursday Island, is one of over 100 islands amidst the Torres Strait and became the region’s administrative centre back in 1877. The only way on or off, or around for that matter is by boat…….……..arriving from Horn Island – the region’s transport hub – and heading off to one of the outlying islands for a day’s picnic and exploration.
Torres Strait Islanders are a unique bunch with a proud culture that is quite different from those of PNG or Australia’s indigenous people. After an evening of celebration – dancing and eating up a storm of kup murri pork, chicken, rice cakes and sweet potato at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre – we were ready to discover new territory.The following morning saw us aboard Dirk’s water taxi and on our way for a days exploration of Goods Island or Palilag (with a little Miss who’s none too keen on boat travel).But once on dry land, Little Miss Unhappy became Dora the Explorer…………Having set up the picnic gear in the palatial ‘guesthouse’ on the beach……..……..we proceeded to feast like kings.The fresh crays came from just down the road, a 5 minute walk from the Torres News editor’s desk. This is a commercial fishery that has been in existence since 1966 where these beautiful creatures………………….. the ‘painted crayfish’ or Panulirus ornatus………….………. are harvested by hand – not Brunyfire’s incidentally!
The tails were lightly poached (they can be tough if overcooked) and then served up with a potato salad…………….………..followed with a very nice drop of champers…………..Then for afters, a hike up to the top of the hill to check out the lighthouse – a bit of bush bashing, the occasional brush with an orb spider the size of saucers, a brief encounter with a startled wild piglet who darted across our path and strange, dangerous looking fruit. A signalling station has existed on Palilag (Goodes Island) in Torres Strait, since 1877 and has been a key element of the maritime history of Torres Strait, ensuring the safety of vessels in Prince of Wales Passage and Normanby Sound for over 110 years. The lighthouse itself was an odd little building comprising of an 18foot conical structure made with a hardwood frame and clad in white painted corrugated iron.The island also played an important role in the days of World War 2, when Torres Strait was a vital location in Australia’s defence against invasion by Japan – the top of the hill is littered with the remains of concrete bunkers. Apart from the sense of achievement in hiking the hill in the heat, it was good to catch the breeze and take time out…………
……….those crays were damn good too……….