Nancy and Timo Sippala

Pictures - page 11 - Cairns - January - May 2006

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The little ducklings that were born in mid November grew up. One of the six of them disappered soon after it was born. The daddy Elvis had injured it so it hurt it's leg. We made a mistake not taking the injured baby inside to heal but just let it be with the rest of the duck family. Our Bluey dog had carried the baby to us in her mouth when she saw something was wrong with it. Well, 5 of the ducks grew up and it was time to give a few of them away. They got their new home not far away from ours. After Elvis started really bullying the babies and Mavis no more cared about them but started laying new eggs, we gave the last one away to the same Finnish family. Now they have four corgeous ducks, 1 male (the black one) and 3 girls wandering in their back yard. One of the ducks had disappeared at night. Most likely taken by a snake or a dog.
In February (2006) Nancy went to Singapore to celeberate Chinese New year. Timo stayed home to look after the animals. Also he didn't want to leave work because he hadn't earned his paid holidays yet. Despite he is so much looking forward getting our own house so he wants to save all his holidays to renovate the place. While Nancy was away he used to cycle to work. It's only about 7 kilometres to his office so it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to paddle there. Later when Nancy was back and her family visited, Nancy's mother thought Timo has committed an offence and doing community service. That's because of his orange west and helmet. Though those things are just for safety here. Traffic is so heavy on the way to work. He was to ride along Captain cook highway that is full of crazy tourists, big tucks and busy local commuters.  
It definitely was exceptionally dry here since June-July 2005. In the beginning of March 2006 it looked like we are not going to get a proper wet season. Usually the big rains should have occured in December - February. This image is from mid March when it finally was raining a bit more. We even got minor flooding. It showed us how vunerable our village road is. It will cause us getting cut off from rest of the world when there's a cyclone or major flooding.
During the second half of March Nancy's mom, nephew and niece were visiting. In this picture they are seeing the Tjapukai museum and culture centre that presents Australian indigenous culture to visitors. They learned how to operate boumerang, spears and other weapons of the aboriginal tribes.  
They also took a train on scenic railway from Freshwater Cairns to a small mountain village Kuranda. The train climbs up to the mountains offering the passangers corgeous views over the walley where the beaches and the city are. Our house in Machans beach is somewhere near the horizon in the upper right corner of this picture.

The quests were having look at the places and we were working, except Nancy had a few days off.

At first we were not taking very seriously weather forecasts and warnings about a tropical cyclone moving towards North Queensland. Cyclones here are quite unpredictable. They might turn into whatever direction in the last minute before striking. That's what we told each other on Saturday March 18th.  
But this one kept it straight line towards us. It was named The severe tropical cyclone Larry. On Sunday it was already category 4 and was expected to strengthen into the highest category 5 that is an extremely dangerous storm. We started preparing. Timo cleaned the yard and took inside items that might be blown away by the wind. He started collecting drinking water in bottles, brought gas stove inside the house and build a shelter for the ducks in the laundry room.  
On Sunday Nancy and family went shopping for food and batteries in case we would be flooded in and have to live without electricity for a few days. We were not very concerned about the house since it's a low set tile house surrounded by trees that'll protect it from the hardest winds.

Then, early Monday morning 20/3/2006 the cyclone hit. The map showed that we were in the edge of the most critical area and could expect severe damages too. We were lucky this time and got only very strong winds that ripped of branches and leaves from the trees. Only a few trees feell in our area. We were without power more than 30 hours but didn't suffer any damages. The storm went away quickly and didn't bring the heavy rains that we expected.  
This picture has been taken when around 11.30 on 20/3 when there still were some strong gales in our beach esplanade. It was actually difficult for me to walk. I was a bit worried that a wave or strong wind might through me or Bluey to the ocean. As seen not much damage here. Instead in the small town of Innisfail, about 100 kilometers (1 hour drive) from us to the South there was major devastation. Whole houses were blown away, lots damaged, roots flown away. About 80% of the banana grops gone.  
For us it was much softer experience, can say even a gentle lesson on live in tropics. This picture was taken after 11.30 am on the storm day. I let Bluey run free as usual to follow me for her walk. As usual we went to the Redden island that is attached to Machans beach. There is a little forest and a beach for dog walking there. Not too many people, only a few fishing or catching grabs. Now there were quite many cars trying to drive to the island. Here we see a reason. There were fire trucks and police blocking the way. We turned back as did the cars too. Later we read that a house caught fire of a candel that the residents were burning because of the power outage.  
One lucky thing that happened on 20/3 was that we signed selling contract of our apartment in Melbourne. Deal was not very good because it's extremely difficult to sell small units in Melbourne. There are more of them them for sale than potential buyers. Prices have gone down because of that. So we couldn't expect to get the price that we paid for it 3 year ago. On the other hand house prices here in the North have gone up, almost doubled during those 3 years. We try not to think about it too much since we didn't know at the time. We even were not sure whether we can or want to stay in Australia that long. Well the house prices are not expected to go down in the near future. They even might go up a liitle bit more.  
While waiting for the contract to come in effect we continue hunting the "our house" In this picture there is one of those that we are seriously thinking. Have been looking at it already since october last year. We know what we want. We would like to get a small farm not far away from our jobs, a place we could keep lots of cats and dogs, chicken, roosters, ducks. We want to live in a place where there is public transport available, a place that is close enough for cycling to work and back. Acreages in the city are too expensive so we have to compromise a little bit. Defining and finding the best compromise takes time. Or then we've already found it. Never know until we're living it.  
Exactly one month after Larry there was the cyclone Monica hitting North Queensland. This time it wasn't threatening us but crossed the Cape York peninsula more than 300 kilometres to the north from us. So we didn't expect to feel it much more than just as rain. Though we've been getting lots of rain during the past month even without a cyclone.

We got lots of rain and the mountains above us (towards Kuranda direction, see above) got even more rain and all that water was coming to us via the river. Barron river started flooding in the afternoon of 20/4. We were worried that our road will be blocked and we can't go home.  
Indeed the road from Captain Cook Highway to Machans Beach was blocked. Fortunately there was the old road that we could use to go past the point. In the evening of 20/3 we were warned on TV and radio about possible evacuation of some parts of our area. We were not very worried since our house in on quite high ground and our street has new sewage system that sucks all rain waters quite well.  
We went to bed and woke up without anybody having been knocking on our door to ask us to prepare for evacuation. Later we heard that evacuation had been quite near after midnight but then the rain had been eased.

In the morning we went to have a look at the flooding Barron river near our villages boat ramp. There were many villagers driving to the site in their utes or four wheel drives. They were trying their wehicles by driving to the low water and back.  
Time to go to work. We could past the first bad point by using a detour. But then closer to the highway there was a little lake on the road and cane fields. No point trying to go past. Though there was one ute that had tried. Only a glimpse of its' roof was seen now. Villagers were not very sad about being cut off access to the rest of the world. "We can't go there and they can't come here. Let's go to have a party!". An extra day off. Party or not there was happy music coming from some of the houses. Elsewhere children were playing on the streets.  
People were driving cycling and walking around having look at the waters. As far as we know no houses had suffered from flooding though it was very near.

It was party for dogs since the city council animal management couldn't come to us. Lately they have been driving around the village and catching dogs that are not in a leash. We think it's not necessary. Old residents of the are keep telling 10 or 20 years ago all dogs were running free and nobody cared. Times are a'changing. So sad. We like the place as an old hippie style village and wish it would remain such.  
Latest addition to the family is Sumi a little beagle cross dog that someone had abondoned. A lady from the local shop had offered her a temporary home and was looking for a permanent one. Nancy and Bluey happened to see the dog at the shop. It was very friendly and Bluey too seemed to like her so we decided to take her home.  
Bluey is very nice dog. She never wanders far from home or us but wants to stay near. Sumi instead she is young and wild. Wants to go an say hello to every dog she sees and starts following even strange people. Though she still comes back to us after a while. We just have to try to be extremely careful when taking her to places where there are cars so that she could avoid Maxi's fate.  
In May we failed to get the old wooden house on Machans beach. The house failed building and pest inspection and also the bank's valuation. There were lots of old termite damages. One of the walls was half-eaten and also some structures supporting the roof. We started looking for a new house, not only on Machans beach but also further away. We went to the south to Edmonton, Gordonvale direction but were not happy with the flat landscape with just houses but not much places to go for a walk. Traffic and crime rate are higher in the south so we decided to stay in the northern side. Freshwater, Redlynch, Caravonica, Lake Placid are suburbs, a few kilometres away from our beach. There is the river and few greeks there. Mountains begin in that area, and a huge national park, as well as the skyrail to Kuranda.  
If we would have a free choice we would move further away from the city but we have to compromise because of work. For several months now Timo has been cycling to work. He wishes the new house to be within reasonable distance (max 20 kilometres) from his office. After seeing a new promising area he did a test bike trip there and back. This bicycle track is built for the students of James Cook University in Smithfield. It goes under the James Cook higway. One possible route to go from the city to Caravonica. Looks like nobody is using this track and the builders also left it unfinished. Already before Yorkey's knob crossing the track just stops to a side of a sugar cane field.  
About 15 kilometres away from the city centre there is Caravonica/Lake Placid area. We found a cute little house there. It's just on the right from this picture. This is the view from it's front gate towards the west. There is the national park and there is the Barron river, there is the lake Placid that you can swim in. The mountains and rainforests of Barron Gorge national park start here. If you go for a bush walk you could walk all the way up to Kuranda, Mareeba, even to Western Australia if you want.  
On the left is the house itself. As said not the big dream but will do. It's private enough to be a city house. Size of the block is 800 square meters.  
The house itself is a block (brick) house, about 17 years old in very good condition.  
The owner moved away and left everything behind: the trailer pictured above, washing machine, dryer, furniture, white goods, dishes, tv, stereo, fish tank ...  
Details of the back yard. With little adjustments you can make it private enough so that you can even walk naked there.  
The house is somewhere behind the palm tree in the middle, about 3 minutes walk towards the mountains. There is this big field to walk your dogs and for kids to play. There's a little creek and pond there. The river and lake are a bit further (to the front left in the picture).  
The river here is too high for most of crocodiles to climb to. A crocodile is spotted here only once in 10 years. Water is clean and fresh. It comes from up Tablelands and lake Tinaroo. We went there to have a look on a Sunday afternoon. Nancy was fishing and Timo found a spot between the stones to be his private little massaging spa. The dogs just enjoyed exploring the place. This wonderful retreat would be about 10 minutes walk away from home. Timo plans to do his early morning walks here.  

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