Thursday, 24 September 2015

Just "kidding" around?

Turon Gates would indisputably have to be one of my favorite places on earth. It is located in the northern end of the Blue Mountains, just near a town called Capertee. This remote, beautiful and extremely rugged landscape has hosted many of my adventures.

Before I indulge in a classic "Josh-ism" episode, allow me to provide some context as to how extreme this place really is. Turon Gates reaches staggering temperatures throughout the year. In summer, a dry, scorching heat is capable of boiling the water in your camel pack. It would send Saharan desert civilians cowering for mercy, and Chuck Norris would even consider putting on sunscreen. On top of the temperature, the landscape is steep, rocky and rippling with attitude. 

Littered with cliffs, stinging nettles, thistles at waist height, snakes, rabbit holes, and fallen trees; everything wanted to roll your ankle and then stab you (in that order).

Fortunately, throughout the majority of the year, creeks and rivers flowed with water at the base of valleys to provide a refreshing swimming hole in the shade, or a swig of water guaranteed to result in a loose stool.

The diversity of this place is quite amazing, one moment you will be scrambling from an exposed rocky outcrop, and another you will be strolling by a tranquil river.

"Aside from the local flora and fauna, there are also lots of plants and animals." - Russell Coight

 Turon is home to more kangaroos than you could poke a stick at, and even more sticks. The local creeks are rippling with turtles, platypus, yabbies, trout, and the occasional bogan on an inflatable pool toy. On land, birds (when not flying), wallabies, wombats, ants, more ants, spiders, snakes, kangawallacrocafoxes, and drop-bears are always in sight. One animal that I forgot to mention happens to be the protagonist of this story: 

That's right, goats. There are literally hundreds of goats roaming the countryside of Turon Gates. Goats are an introduced species to Australia, and hence, are insensitively given the title: "feral". It seemed almost instinctive that I would try and catch one. 

I ran the plan by my family that night at the dinner table. The reaction was somewhat surprised, and somewhat dismissive. I think they were fully aware that I would indeed try and catch a goat, they just didn't think I was capable of doing it. I honestly prefer it when people doubt your goals, it provides more of an incentive to achieve them.

I woke up at sparrow's fart the next morning. Everyone in the house appeared to be asleep. I tiptoe from my bedroom, careful not to make a sound. Armed with a light backpack, hiking boots, and a can-do attitude, I felt that I could conquer the world. 

I quietly sneak into the kitchen to pillage the fridge, but am interrupted by a booming "GOODMORNING! WHERE ARE YOU OFF TO?!". It was my grandpa Frank. He was jovially perched on the couch, devouring his 43rd Sudoku for the morning, and munching on a bowl of muesli. Now let me clarify; I am not a morning person. There are 3 things that I can't stand in this world: Loud eating, loud/depthy morning conversations, and people who are intolerant of my loud eating and poor verbal communication skills. I eventually explain myself, surrender to a lingering offer of muesli cereal, and walk out the front door.

I am greeted by 4 lovely pooches, all desperate for an adventure. Who should I take?

Here are my options:
A. Dora (Border Collie) - Has a keen eye, is very obedient, loves exploring, rounds up anything, frequently blamed for household flatulence.
B. Ruby (Mutt??) - Will chase a ball all day, toilet trained, cute as a button, thinks she's a cat.
C. Bluey (Polar Bear/ wolf?) - Incredibly dopey, excellent fetcher (never returns), bites everything, only responds to excessive amounts of food, has poor control of her limbs.
D. Ralph (Wombat) - Is the cause of household flatulence, zones out frequently (see picture), isn't quite at his peak fitness levels, has more of an interest in food and snuggling.

I'm sure it seemed like a tough decision...A! So, off Dora and I marched!

We were making good ground, several hours had passed and we could make out a large flock across the valley. The terrain suddenly turned extremely rugged as we prepared for a descent into the valley. Goats are extremely flighty animals, and tended to hang out in herds of up to 20 animals. Within this posse, there was a diverse range of characters. There were the female does, hornless, medium sized stocky things. They typically protected the kids, who were smaller and more playful than the rest. Perched higher up on the hill, keen eyed and ferocious, were the billy goats (usually 2). They were effectively small bulls, brandishing large skeletal horns and rippling muscle. If there was ever a dispute between the herd, the billy goat was usually the instigator, and boy could they fight.

Dora had spotted the pack, and her sheepdog instinct kicked in. She instantly dropped to the ground and began stalking the animals. They were oblivious to our presence. I followed closely behind her (a lot less gracefully). We made it to the bottom of the valley, and could identify the herd about 50 meters above us, lounging on the side of the hill amidst a cluster of trees. 
Dora was remarkably obedient. With no prior training, she followed MOST orders. When I told her to drop, she dropped. When I pointed left, she skulked left. When I told her to come...she bolted straight at the herd!

Uh oh, better follow suit! We were still about 20 meters from the animals at this point, and I struggled to keep up with this lunatic of a dog that had a sudden change of heart. When she was about 10 meters from the herd, one of the goats noticed her, and let off a startled shriek. The entire heard simultaneously jumped to attention, and began fleeing via a remarkably well planned out escape route. One of the billy goats led the retreat, whereas the other stayed and waited for his squad to clear the area. 

By the time the goats had entirely assembled and almost fled the scene I was just arriving to the party. Dora was running laps around them with minimal effort, overwhelmed with euphoria. I quickly scanned the crowd in front of me, oh lord. Between me and the pack stood a billy goat, bleating threateningly, eyes locked. It seemed a lot bigger this close...

Without warning, the big daddy lowered its head and brandished a hefty arsenal of horns, it began to charge. I jumped behind a gum tree and ran round the trunk in the opposite direction. I felt like a B-grade matador, busking for a couple of pesos. The path between me and the other animals was now clear, and I began making some ground. I feel that if this endeavor was filmed it would be best suited with a Benny Hill themed audio track.

The herd was now within 5 meters in front of me. I noticed a critical flaw in their escape plan; they ran in single file. This meant that the goat at the end could only run as fast as the goat in front of it, and so on. In summary, I casually strolled over and picked up the last goat in the congested cue. 

I began to let off a triumphant "WOOOOHO-!" but was rudely interrupted by an impact to my rear end, knocking me to the ground. It was Billy. He had to have the last say, and let off a triumphant bleat, then skipped off after his gang cheerfully. I sat among a forest of thistles, Dora next to me. She was fascinated by the wriggling kid that was clutched in my arms. We all sat there for a few minutes, exhausted, probably looking like the 3 stooges after a physical skit. Now what?...I thought to myself. Well I still had to prove my catch! I wasn't going to be one of those story telling fisherman.

We began the return trip home, it was still early morning. The kid seemed especially pissed off. It wriggled, bit and kicked the whole way. Not to mention the foul stench emanating from it's matted fur. After a real struggle, we eventually made it back to the house. I burst in the front door, goat and all. Just as I opened the front door, the kid released an ear piercing scream. It was almost a perfect mimic of a distressed young girl, everyone came running to the front door in alarm. Alarm turned to hysteria almost instantly, and was replaced shortly after with concern. 

"What the hell are you going to do with it?!" everyone asked. As we stand there bickering, I subconsciously begin to pick at a small growth on the side of the animal. I notice that everyone's eyes begin to drift to my nervous hands, still scratching at the lump. Their faces were scrunched up in disgust. Suddenly, without warning, the lump exploded! Puss shot across the living room and dribbled down my shirt. "EWWWWW!" everyone droned in synchronization.

Yeah, the goat wasn't allowed to stay...

My little sister Isabella and I nurse a rescued Peewee that was caught in a fence (2008). 

Bushwalk with Ruby dooby-doo (2011)

Amazing camping trip with my second family, the Lumleys (2014)


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