During the afternoon we ventured out by ourselves within shouting distance of the camp. Low scrub and spindly trees covered most of the hillsides, and further down on the flat, open spaces were criss-crossed by pathways across the yellow grass. A few cows ambled around beneath the huge dark trees and a dog or two sat and contemplated the distance. A family worked near the small, temple, building something made of bricks. A bus rumbled into view, deposited one lone passenger, groaned around the loop at the end of the road before meandering back to town. The passenger, an old man in a long lunghi, head scarf and tweed jacket, plodded slowly down the track with his shopping bag and shiny billy. Voices carried to us from a nearby, broken down, scruffy house. Two people, a woman and a girl, were washing from a bucket in the yard. A boy, riding an enormous bike, glided quietly across the grass, heading for the village in the trees.
The tourists arrived back, voices loud and harsh as the evening settled in. I had quite a lengthy talk with Jungle Hut John and a young boy who lived nearby and did odd jobs around the grounds. They told us about the electric fence which is turned on as protection for guests and animals inside, from the wild animals outside. Apparently this fence was quite a joke as any animal could easily get through the gap for the gate, or "over the top,' they said. We wondered what or who we were being protected from. I still don't know, though both told me tales of panther, tigers and even a large brown bear, sighted up in the hills. I wonder how Thulasi felt about this situation, coming as he did from the city. There are villages hidden all around the hills.
During the late evening and throughout the night we hear loud bangs like gunshots. Joe, the proprietor, who gave us the "pleasure" of five minutes of his valuable time, told us that the noises were from crackers set off by villagers as protection for their crops and animals, from deer and other creatures in the jungle. I asked about the evidence of fire in the eucalypt plantations along the roadways. They acted as a fire?break apparently, though he is of the "school of thinking" that the natural annual fires are the best form of protection against a larger bushfire.
The natural fires burn only the grass, he said. They happen during the dry season, burning just the fallen leaves and the scrub, killing pests and insects, leaving the soil ready for the next season. Apparently it takes just three weeks for the new grass to show through.
We ate more delicious baked potatoes and soup by the fire and were served home-killed roast pork for dinner, roasted vegetables and apple pudding to follow. All for the benefit of the tourists from Austria! Ann didn’t believe us when we told her what we had eaten for dinner. She hadn’t come over as her stomach was a bit upset from eating some really spicy food. We had gone over to our room and told her there was roast pork for dinner and did she want to change her mind. She didn’t believe us and made do with dry bread moistened with cool water. When we told her later how delicious the meal had been, she again refused to believe us. In fact for years after, I don’t think she ever believed us.