Monday, April 12, 2010

Tassie Part 5

Sat 6th, Day 4:
From my notes, it looks like we had the morning off, but AHA! We visited the colonial manor called Highfield that is on the crest of the hill just west of Stanley. It is a really good museum - lots of information boards throughout the restored house. Most of the other buildings (barn, stables, sty, wool shed etc etc) are also in good repair and annotated.

We had lunch back at the cabin.

PM. Allende gardens. Attacked by Emu.

Allende Gardens are beautiful. This is a private project of a landscape gardener/arist who twenty years ago bought a beef cattle property and started converting it. She must have planted the stand of Californian redwoods first. She's continually added to it with her stoned gardener partner ever since. He looks like the most laidback bushranger in history - big flowing beard, and the physique of one starved out by the authorities.
A creek flows through the property and seven bridges cross over. The entrance is very pretty reception hall/summer house: lots of light; nice furniture; six small angry terrier dogs in various states of exhaustion.
You pay your money, talk to the bearded dude who looks like he stepped out of a Henry Lawson poem, get a map and then exit the building to where an edenic paradise awaits. You are immediately greated by a pair of black swans and a bunch of peacocks, peahens and even peachicks. One clutch is too young to have the crest of three decorative feathers, but the other two chicks are old enough to have them. Suitably enchanted you wander the gardens.
Such colours! Such verdant growth!
It turns out that the Aunt likes Dahlias. This is a good thing as there is a profusion of cultivars that surely covers all colours and petal form - spikey sunbursts of yellow to tight spheres of soft pruple. There is an exemplary colection of decorative trees including a weeping spruce/pine from the Himalaya where the needles hang vertically from the limbs, such that all the foliage is presented as draped curtains.
There is an avenue of silver birches that leads to the Mother Garden - which is the newest, and still being developed. This avenue cries out for a bride to walk down and indeed their brochure has such a picture. The mother garden ssurrounds a decorative pond and includes the newest arrival - a Huon Pine. We disturbed a flock of guinea fowl.
We meandered through the apples (Caroline compulsively tasting them), over the creek, past the dovecote with proper white turtle doves, and into the rose garden where there was an even greater variety than the dahlias. It was the very epitome of peacefulness. Then we entered the shade of more decorative trees and stopped at a bowered avenue where I said 'Huh! There's an emu.'

The emu approached.
And got closer.
And then he got close enough to hiss in my face.
I didn't know that emus hissed. And I also didn't know if they peck ones eyes out or, like Cassowaries, they kick.
Not eager to find out I suggested that we move on.

Perhaps we should move a bit more swiftly: the emu was following at a disconcertingly close range.
Being the gentleman I am, I interposed my taut, hairy body between that of the fearsome emu and my sinless Aunt, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid getting kicked or pecked. I figured that this behaviour was territorial and that all we need do was leave his area and we'd be fine. After all, they have freakin weddings here!!! You can't have an emu strut up and kick the crap out of the groom now can you?!!!
The emu started charging. I turned ready to do, um, I dunno, maybe take a kick to the guts and then wade into the bastard, fists flying, til he fled defeated. I would them collapse - bleeding from the exploded kidneys - while my Aunt thanked me and asked for the carkeys to drive me to the nearest hospital 560km away.
The emu backed off, but kept following. Then thudthudthud of him charging again. His head was reared back like a cobra ready to strike and that simply can't be good! It looked like he was prepped to take out my eyes (of course, now, I can see that maybe he was interposing his chest between his eyes and the kick of a rival emu).
Summoning the ghost of Hemmingway I suggested "I think we should move a little faster!" - my voice quavering just a little.
"Is he still behind us?!" asks the Aunt still inspecting vegetation - albeit at a trot.
"What do you think?!!?!?!" Women!!!
At this point the track diverged.
The Aunt went right and, thinking he was following me, I went left. The emu hove to the right like the fat bully locked onto the smaller kid with the lollies.
'No, he's following you! Back this way!'
The Aunt swung back to the left asking where we were going.
'To the house!' I said, mostly because I actually knew where we were going.

The guy seemed genuinely surprised that the emu had chased us, but then again, by the look of him, he was probably amazed every time he woke up.
'He was just playing' he stated.
I believe I only spluttered in incredulity internally.
Apparently you aren't meant to look emus in the eye.
'Didn't I tell you about the emu when you came in? Oh, it must have been the people before you.'
Yes, you stoned freak! You somehow neglected to tell us that amidst this sanctuary of light and shadow, and the whispering hymn to the Womb of Nature that there was a DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THE DINOSAURS!!!
What you are meant to do is hold your arm up with a beaked fist like it's the head of the Loch Ness Monster emerging. Hold it up high so that you are taller than the emu. It will them back down.
The same thing works with Galapogas Tortoises.
Stupid emus.

'Steph? Yeah, it's Harry. Bit of a problem. Your mum's been kicked to death by an emu.'

That evening I walked up the steep slope to the top of the nut and walked around in the gloaming. It was forested with redgums til they were all cut down for firewood by the colonial townsfolk. Now there are not-quite-trees in a protected gully, but the rest is scrub and grass. A ton of pademelons call it home and there is a mutton bird colony amongst the thickets.

Note on Stanley: this is the first town that we accidently managed to miss the main street of. Caroline came back from a drive on the second evening saying that there wasn't much to this two at all, and where exactly had I bought the booze? I explained that Church street was a main street with all those nice stone and wooden buildings on it. She replied laughingly that she hadn't seen such a street at all!

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