You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

My New Home is in Sugar Cane Country

They grow sugar cane in Queensland. Lots of it. There's even a bit in the Grasshopper song about it.

Oh, they grow sugar cane in Queensland
They grow sugar cane in Queensland
They grow sugar cane 
And they load it on a train
'Til it's syrup in a tin in Queensland.

I loved that song when I was a kid. I've only just discovered right now, as I looked for a link to give to readers who may be unfamiliar with such obscure Australiana, that the version I learnt at primary school had been abridged and altered a little for the benefit of our tender young ears. Turns out, the giant grasshopper wasn't drinking pineapple juice all over Queensland after all. He was spitting tobacco juice. Well, learn something new and all that.

I'm from down south, and I'd never been to Queensland, or seen a sugar cane field, until I was 22 years old. I was on a bus from Darwin to Brisbane - that's three days straight on a bus. On the third day we started driving through fields of some plants that looked distinctly sinister, somehow ominous, and really quite ugly to me. I thought about what these strange beastly things could be, and soon realised, ah, this is sugar cane country now. This must be sugar cane.

Maybe it's something to do with my deeply passionate love-hate relationship with sugar. I've been terribly addicted to sugar all my life, and yes, I know, it's really bad for me. Looking at the plant it comes from, it's easy to believe it's a bad thing. I mean, they look exactly like bloody Triffids, or just like how I imagined them when I read the book. Now just look at them. Don't they look like they're just about to sprout venomous mouths out their tops and go forth and destroy the world? Or is it just me?


I don't actually live in Queensland, but close enough that the climate and agricultural conditions don't notice the difference. This land is in sugar cane country. A lot of the view on the way to town looks something like this.


We drive past a sugar refinery on the highway, and some days, the smell of burning molasses hangs so thick in the air it seems to stick to your clothes. Now, when I open a jar of raw sugar, I recognise that smell.

And, of course, where you have sugar cane, you sure as hell have cane toads.

I'd never seen a cane toad in real life until a couple of years ago, when I was visiting up around this area. Yes, we have cane toads round here. Wander round in the evening and you're very likely to come across a couple. They seemed to go away over the brief winter, and now they're back with the spring. I'm always surprised by how skinny and scrawny they are, the ones I've seen. I'd seen dozens of pictures of cane toads in my life, of course, and they all looked nice and round and plump, like this one pictured above. The ones I see around here manage to look more pathetic and less impressive than I imagined they would be. They also seem to me to be strangely apathetic toward human presence for a wild creature. Every other creature around here, the birds, the lizards, the bush turkeys, wallabies, goannas, everything, will move away quickly when they sense humans approaching. The bloody cane toads just waddle along as if they couldn't even be bothered to get out of the way of your footsteps. I sometimes think I should be a responsible citizen and kill as many of them as I can, but then I'd be left with cane toad blood and guts all over my walkway paths. You'd think there couldn't be anything uglier than a cane toad, but I reckon that the inside of a cane toad just might qualify.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see you around blog and posting about your new house condition. I have heard that song. Is this included to country genre? Actually I'm interested to see how they make it into sugar although i can search it in internet. Anyway I think my country grows sugarcane too and I don't know if they have specific area about where people usually grow it or if they have a song about sugarcane:)