The quarantine checkpoint reared up out of the darkness – an ugly, ill-fitting, light-emitting beast, all insensitive lights and harsh shapes. I pulled up 150 metres short in a gravel siding at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning. Santa and I had brought in Christmas Day together and were celebrating JC’s Birthday (visit JC’s Facebook Page and become his ‘friend’) with an all-nighter road-trip along The Stuart and Victoria Hwys.
Exhausted after 600 kms dodging snakes, cattle, birds, frogs and toads (Santa doesn’t drive cars, only sleighs), and knowing I needed time to sort and eat potential quarantine contraband, we called it a night.
At 4 pm, after 11 hours during which I slept, repeatedly moved Claude (The Damn Van) to avoid being roasted in my mobile oven, and ate all I could of my remaining edible contraband, I rolled up to the checkpoint, knowing that I had been watched and quite possibly thought of as a loony.
I got in first with speech: “Finally made it”
“Whadaya been doin’ over there?! We weren’t sure whether to worry about you or whether you was a loony. We saw you move the van at least three times from place to place”
“Yeah, I’m from Melbourne. I was chasing the shady spots. The heat and humidity are killin’ me.”
“Oh, Toughen Up Princess!”, she exclaimed.
…And then we got down to business.
I mentioned that I’d probably have at least one of everything on their ‘banned’ list. This included fruit, veges, seeds, plant material, animals. She began peering through the windscreen to see what I had on the dash. “Right you can’t keep that” (pointing to the straw flowers collected while shooting an abandoned car on the Stuart Hwy south of Alice Springs ), “…that” (pointing to the bulbous, yet empty, seed pods off some tropical plant at Mataranka, where it really seemed the human world may have been overrun by nature (massive storms, thunder and lightning, spiders, oppressive heat and humidity, snakes, frogs….and thousands upon thousands of toads).
She let her eyes wander along a bit, then “that” (pointing to the dried banana skins, collected due to, um….laziness). “The used tea-bags are ok.” But I offered them up, declaring that I wanted to turn over a new leaf by having a clear-out, lest the Save The Kimberley campaigners in Broome think I’m a bone fide freak on wheels when I roll into town to see how I can help.
I asked if I’d have to loose the turtle and was told yes…until she realised it was made of stone.
And then came the hardcore confiscations:
Santa Claus – no fiction allowed in the frontier. Gone.
The Australian Flag and stubby holder – again, no fiction allowed in the frontier. Gone.
And the piece(s) de resistance that got me entered into the unofficial Quarantine photo album….
“You haven’t seen what’s on my roof yet.”, I proffered.
She looked up, turned on her heels, walked to the building’s door in silence, opened it and called out “Yep, he’s a definite loon. Come and check this out!” Clearly I had been the subject of some discussion prior to my arrival.
…It was parts of two dead emus. Emu I’s leg, collected somewhere in South Australia for it’s beautifully textured and padded foot; and the head, neck and torso one-piece (head still with hair) of Emu II – collected on the outback Arkaroola Rd, South Australia (near Flinders Ranges), for the rare curved beauty of the neck. I was going to get rid of the torso but…it was just one of those things you never get ‘round to; like cleaning the toilet…perhaps?
Emu II had initially ridden well, mounted at the rear of Claude’s roof and wearing a tinsel bower in festive spirit. But the tropics takes it toll on many things and Emu II only lasted a day in the tropics before he wilted under the weight of the humidity, his head now below his body, looking at the world upside down. And his B.O. was overwhelming depending on the breeze. His days were clearly numbered anyway so quarantine solved a slight dilemma – where to otherwise return him to the wild.
Finally ready for departure, we exchanged pleasantries and Christmas wishes, I gave her my business card and asked that she email me the photo she took of me with Emu II and Claude. And we parted. But once inside Claude I suddenly realised two items had been overlooked: a cutting from a Burmese plant; and what I believed was a native orange collected from Arkaroola in South Australia.
The plant’s tale was a tragic one. It had travelled with me all the way from Melbourne and despite severe injury on Day 2 of the trip (broken limbs) and again on Day 38 (burned on the windscreen glass) (both my fault – best not to leave your kids with me), it had just begun to really thrive (after 5 weeks of a struggle, stamina and determination) in the humidity similar to that of it’s native homeland. Alas, it’s journey ended here.
We did the handover, I jumped back in Claude and finally arrived in WA and THE KIMBERLEY!!
But a few hundred metres down the road something caught my eye – two daring cicada exo-skeletons, skilfully clinging upside down to Claude’s inner roof like characters in an Escape From Alcatraz style movie.
We rolled on into the last frontier. And what else got through undetected after all that do you think? Me, Hunter G – Let loose to wreak havoc in the last frontier. Stay Tuned.
And here’s an amusing clip about Escape From Alcatraz…
Bye for now,
An addendum: to protect Quarantine employees’ jobs – artistic licence was used for some items: Santa, the Aussie Flag and Stubby Holder were not confiscated. They still ride the frontier with Hunter and Claude to this day.
Images and Text Copyright Hunter G, 2013 and available for sale (FREE for not-for-profit activities – so spread the word widely – just include a link to this blog). All profits from sales will be re-invested in Save The Kimberley activities.
- “Why doesn’t Santa have heart disease?” (caterpickles.com)