“Americans! Out of the car!” cried the drunk dove and duck shooter, iPhone camera at the ready.
I’d never seen such enthusiasm for a small bush wallaby. It’s not like it was a koala.
Or a polar bear, which would have been awesome.
But that’s what a day tour in the hunter valley gets you.
For Valentine’s Day, my uber-patient boyfriend booked me a surprise day trip to go wine tasting in the Hunter. I’d like to think it was because he refused my repeated requests to visit wineries on our last road trip and was therefore making it up to me; but it might be more to do with the fact the he has never been there and I’d been talking it up as a side benefit of moving to Sydney for months.
So, a day off from work later and a seat on the mercedes benz bus with four silver rinse ladies from Tasmania, some Americans and Chinese and we were on our way.
The tour got off the a great start courtesy of our driver, Tristan. He told us everything I ever wanted to know about Lindy Chamberlain but was afraid to ask:
“Lindy Chamberlain’s ex husband lives around here,” he announced proudly to the bus.
“We got Americans on here? You know, that dingo ate my baby.”
An hour later we were at Cessnock, which meant Tristan could finally change subjects and tell us about the history of bikie warfare from after World War One to the 1980’s in Cessnock, when “bikies would just burn down your business, and you usually didn’t have insurance. The best thing about Cessnock is leavin’ it.”
On that note, drinks at 10am were welcomed enthusiastically.
Eight hours and one bush wallaby later, we were drinking scotch overlooking the lush green vineyard of Lambloch Winery and our relaxing day was nearly complete. Until:
“Had you ever seen a kangaroo before?” I asked one American couple.
The female American shook her head and opened her mouth to speak but was beaten to this privilege by her loud and increasingly tipsy boyfriend.
“No! We’ve eaten kangaroo though <insert long story about how best to baste a dry game meat>.”
“Hmm,” I said.
“I baste duck like that actually, for my girlfriend all the time, mainly because my father and I go hunting pretty regularly and ducks are easy to shoot.”
[At this point I probably had the same horrified face I wore years ago when a former gentleman caller from a farm told me in detail how they shoot their sheep. My horror face got worse when I recounted that tale to my mum, and MaryLou said “Of course! I’ve shot a sheep before. Right in the head. That’s what you do in the country, love.” ]
“He’s a hunter!” I whispered to my boyfriend, with the low urgency of revealing to him that I was, in fact, sitting next to the duck hunting version of Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek.
“Duck is good, but doves are better,” the American hunter continued. “They’re delicious. Their breasts are so tiny though, so you have to kill a lot of them for a meal.
One person can eat seven or eight doves.”
“When doves cry!” I gasped, feeling only quoting Prince could prevent further dove massacres.
“When doves die, babe,” my boyfriend helpfully corrected me, taking a casual sip of scotch, prompting the American to laugh and pat him on the back.
So, that’s the great thing about talking to random people. You hear things you can never un-hear, and later that evening over a sip of Tawny Port, googling Lindy Chamberlain, I found myself wondering exactly what basted dove would taste like.