Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cyclone Hamish


After I went “out west” to Richmond to work in a pub at the tender age of 19 (as mentioned yesterday) I returned briefly to Brisbane and even more briefly resurrected a romance with my first love. But he didn’t ring me on the day he’d said he would and I decided I had finally had enough of his crap (I never have been known for my patience), searched the papers that night for another job “somewhere else” and within a week was on a train to Proserpine, in North Queensland. Knew absolutely nothing about the place except it was on the coast and the Sunlander train went through it. What else do you need to know when you are 20 and eager for all life can throw at you?

I certainly didn’t know I would return to there three more times over the years. In those days sugar cane was cut by hand by hardworking, fit young men – it was gruelling work and most of the canecutters not only worked hard (nearly always 6 days a week) but played hard too, especially when it rained and work was off for a day or so. About 2 weeks after I arrived it rained for four days straight. By the time the sun came out again I had met and was dating the man I would marry about 6 months later. The cane season lasted from June/July to Dec/Jan depending on the size of the cane crop. We wanted to be together and I didn’t want to “live in sin” (such was the attitude of the time) so it was either get married in June or wait till the end of the season. As I said, I’m not known for my patience.

Bryon joined me back in Brisbane and we both worked there until our wedding, then it was back to Prosperpine for another cane season. By the end of that season I was pregnant (let’s be honest it happened on the honeymoon) and we decided this seasonal life would not be the best of futures for our child so, as friends of ours had lived and made a lot of money in Mt Isa we headed out there.

Seven years later, in May, we felt we had saved enough to pursue Bryon’s dream of a farm in NZ. I may be impatient but I’m sensible when it comes to my bodily comforts and there was no way was I agreeing to moving to NZ in winter. Not after living in the heat of Mt Isa. I knew for a fact I would die.! What to do till summer then? Do another cane season back in Proserpine, of course.

Having settled in NZ it never entered my head that I would return to Proserpine. 21 years later I found myself separated, my youngest child about to finish school and Aussie was calling me. By then I was working in Human Resources and knew little about Australian HR law so had difficulty securing a job. But, finally, I was offered a good job….guess where? Yep, at the Proserpine Sugar Mill. I’ve always felt that if we have to repeat our life experiences it’s because there is a lesson we didn’t learn the first time around and my circle kept coming round to Proserpine. I decided this time around the lessons I needed to learn was tolerance (associated with patience, yes?).

Proserpine Sugar Mill

Geez, why did it take me so long to say I’m thinking of my time in Proserpine as Cyclone Hamish approaches the area? Hamish is a big brute, a category 5, which is the top of the scale and is being described as one of the most powerful storms ever to threaten the Queensland coast. South Molle Island and Long Island resorts have been evacuated, Hayman and Hamilton islands are in lockdown.

Hamilton Island

The Whitsundays are the third most popular tourist destination in Australia and there are always heaps of tourist there, even during cyclone season.

Daydream Island

Good luck, you guys!

Tomorrow I may write about my near cyclone experience.

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