When you’re one of the uber-rich, you needn’t actually do all those mundane things like actually experiencing a destination, as AT gourmand Peter Russell-Clarke found out at Peppers Seven Spirit Bay.
When you’re one of the über-rich, you needn’t actually do all those mundane things like actually experiencing a destination, as AT gourmand Peter Russell-Clarke found out at Peppers Seven Spirit Bay.
“There’s big bloody green ants everywhere!” bellowed the resort manager. “CHEF!” he screamed.
I scampered from the resort’s kidney-shaped swimming pool into the kitchen. “They’re for tonight’s meal,” I spluttered as the manager swatted at the bulbous-tailed green ants, which, spindle legged, scattered over every surface of the preparation area. “Shit!” I exclaimed, throwing a towel across the floor to stop them escaping under the door and into the resort’s guest area.
I’d asked the staff to collect a goodly quantity of these lively little buggers with their amber green tails full of exquisitely sweet/acid honey, which could be served as caviar look-alike. My request had been actioned, but the result not corralled.
At the telling, the guests at Peppers Seven Spirit Bay were two male Americans who’d booked out the whole place. Both were multi, multi billionaires. One, the elder of the two, was a Yankee from northern America. His companion was a Confederate from the deep south.
They’d flown to Brisbane in the elder’s four-engine aeroplane, fully staffed with a US crew – except for the French female chef. The plane’s cargo hold was heavy with vintage Cristal. This and the rest of their luggage were transported to Seven Spirit Bay by helicopter, as were the two adventurers, but not their crew, who stayed in Brisbane.
The Yankee was in his 60s, bald, with a gut counterbalanced by his posterior. The Confederate, Dixie, after the southern song many have been told to go whistle, was chinless and as thin as a dingo’s dick. I found them extremely pleasant, courteous and interested in everything Australian. Especially food.
“We wish to be fed innovative food unique to the area we will be exploring,” smiled the elder, his chins cha-cha-ing. “We’re anxious to try the fish from these southern waters, which you Down-Under Aussies call northern,” grinned Dixie the good old boy, his face turning in the wind like a weathervane.
Seven Spirit Bay is on the tip of the Cobourg Peninsula, with Kakadu and Arnhem Land to the south.
To the early white settlers, there were only two seasons – the Wet and the Dry. But to the Aboriginals there are seven seasons to renew the land: Lightning (awakens the earth); Thundering (empowers the earth); Rainmaking (feeds the earth); Greening (is the celebration of the earth); Windstorming (enlivens the earth); Fire-raging (purifies the earth); and Cloudless blue (the waiting of the earth).
It was towards these ancient, unspoiled land-ruling attitudes that our two billionaires turned their eager, adventurous eyes and bankrolls. They sipped chilled Cristal flavoured with green ant tails and smoked giant Cuban cigars as they organised a shooting trip to one of the outlying islands. The taxidermist who travelled with them would take the chopper and shoot whatever was large – the goats had enormous curled horns and a buffalo head with its fiercely spread horns was a trophy worth hanging.
The elder and the good old boy raised their bubble-filled flutes as the whirlybird clattered off its pad to hunt for trophies for the wall of the boys’ walnut-panelled studies. Laughing and slapping each other on the back, they pulled their hunting caps down over their wise eyes, refilled their flutes, then called for the resort’s fishing expert.
The skipper of the elegant ocean-going plastic and glass fishing vessel bristling with electronics accepted a cigar and a burst of bubbles as he studied a map. His scarred finger pointed out the reefs where a variety of fish could be caught.
“Y’all enjoy your fishing,” Dixie enthused, settling back after giving the astonished skipper a handful of Cuba’s best for the crew. While they waited, I char-grilled them crocodile steaks made moist with a jam of wild plum and apple berries, served with sliced fresh female papaya and roasted long yams (ganguri).
“Y’all hear me,” chortled Dixie, “that meal’s got a good bite.”
“Boring, Dixie,” frowned the elder, polishing off a bottle of Aussie Grange ’04.
“We should know the hinterland where the crocs live,” suggested Dixie, relighting his cheroot, which had died as he slept off the Grange. “All well and good to gobble ’em down, but it must be alarming to them that we’re eating more of them than they are of us,” laughed Dixie, signalling for more bubbly as the wind strengthened, bringing with it “the breath of the spirits”, as I told them.
“Thankfully, the wind spirits don’t eat garlic,” laughed the elder.
As they poured more Cristal, the heavens opened and sheets of water poured from the clouds, forcing the two inside. “I’m told that’s the tears of the spirits,” laughed Dixie, pouring the bubbly. “Then why do they say, ‘It’s pissing down’?” replied the elder blandly.
The heavens erupted in a series of ominous rumbles, growls and booms. “Too many yams,” smiled Dixie.
Lightning flashed, splitting the air, as the resort’s tour guide walked in. “I assume that display was the Seven Spirits exhibiting their power,” puffed Dixie on his Cuban. Bemused, the ranger waited as clouds swept over the horizon, then spoke: “I’m told you wish to explore the paperbark forest and the home of our prehistoric crocodiles, the rainforest jungle.”
“Actually, sonny,” smiled the elder, swallowing a draught of Cristal, “you do the tour and report back by lunch tomorrow.”
I served the evening meal. On each plate were five six-cm squares of five different fish, all cooked exactly the same way. “Gentlemen,” I said. “Put out your cigars, look at what is served. Each fish is completely different in texture and taste. The green spheres are sweet ants’ arses, but that sweetness is counteracted by the garlic salt and pepper. You wanted education on the various varieties. Here is your education.”
Dixie rose to his feet. “We’ll enjoy the food, sir, but we have completed our education. We have explored this Peninsula from top to toe, having a record of the place par excellence. This is, of course, icing on the cake. So to speak.”
Smiling triumphantly, the adventurers produced photos that had been taken by resort staff of the hunting, the fishing and the trekking.
“We’ve also got photos of a burning sun dropping into the sea while, slightly to the left, a beaming moon springs past it to take dominance in the sky. All in the one shot.
“And here’s a photo of massive manta rays making love in the warm swirl of the bay waters. And this one is of ferocious Tiger sharks being fed at the end of your jetty.
“But right now we’ve decided to explore the ruins of the English Redcoats’ fort built to protect them against the French . . . So we’ll need a fit young bloke for that!” laughed the elder, holding his wobbly stomach.
“In the meantime, will you arrange for our plane to hop over to Cuba to top up with more stogies? And hopefully chef will hustle up a stew of Skippy with a bush tucker flavour . . . After all, a fellow has to get a taste of the land they’ve hunted out.”