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I found the black hole of Calcutta in Cairns

There are plenty of dangers in Far North Queensland, says Ann Rickard, but some are just more obvious than others.
There are plenty of dangers in Far North Queensland, says Ann Rickard, but some are just more obvious than others. DAVE HUNT

THIS is a story apropos of absolutely nothing, other than that I worry about the Great Barrier Reef and the hundreds of people who rely on it for their livelihoods.

My daughter has worked in Cairns in a job with a reef connection for two decades.

When she first moved there as an 18-year-old she lived in decrepit shared house with many others.

Conditions were as unhygenic and chaotic as you might imagine in a household where young backpackers came, went, sometimes came back and often went again.

Her bedroom had no wall. Just a flimsy piece of holey netting protected her from a jungle-like back garden where a swimming pool had obviously received no care for the past century, but made for a very welcoming home for mosquitoes.

An old torn bus seat resided on her bedroom floor, an ugly useless thing if not for the money it made when she sub-let it to anyone who wandered in and needed a bed for the night.

Her father and I visited and while he hid his shock at her terrible living conditions, I did not. 

It did not help that someone had left the remnants of a curry in the "kitchen" the night before and a couple of large ants were busily moving a pappadum to their nest in the roof.

When we walked in it looked as though a pappadum was walking itself up the wall. If two ants could move a pappadum into the roof who knew what an army of them could shift?

"Anything could live in that jungle backyard," I complained to her father on the quiet.

He told me to stop being silly.

"What if an oversize python slithers fatly beneath that flimsy net and strangles her," I went on.

He didn't answer. 

"Those killer ants could eat her in her sleep, or a mosquito from the pool/swamp could give her dengue," on and on I went.

There was much to worry about in and around that crumbling house. 

The next day we took our daughter for a drive through Port Douglas and beyond to Cape Tribulation.

All the way, signs warned of impending dangers: pictures of cassowaries that could disembowel a person with one swipe of their deadly claws, crocodiles lurking in muddy creeks and gathering malevolently in cloudy rivers.

"There are so many creatures that could kill here," I kept on nagging until finally her father had had enough.

"If she lived in a city she could get run over by a truck, so will you please shut up," he said.

I'd been told.

When we arrived at the ferry, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, to take us across the crocodile-infested Daintree River to Cape Tribulation, there was a line of cars waiting. Something was causing a hold up.

"Go and see what's happening," I suggested to my husband.

Off he went and came back 15 minutes later, pale and pained of expression.

"What is it?" I asked.

"A man on the ferry has been run over by a truck," he said.

This is a true story. An unlucky local from Cape Tribulation had stepped out of his parked car on the ferry and stood in front of a large truck.

Unfortunately, the truck driver had failed to put the handbrake on, the truck rolled forward, crushed the man.

I restrained from saying "I told you so". 

Topics:  column humour


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