Next time you have some time to kill in Bagoon harbor head to the general store and pack a hessian bag with as many cans of biscuit juice as you can carry, get a crab net, a compass, and a can of fuel. Then, come down to the harbor and hire yourself a tinnie for the day (or two days if you have a lot of time, trust me, if you can afford to take the second day you will want it).
This trip is not for the faint of heart, but for the self confessed "food warriors" such as myself, this could be the trip of a lifetime.
Head due south for about an hour or so and you will see the green branches of the mangrove trees reaching out of the water like the hands of children that are reaching out to their love of eduction while drowning in the waters of childhood obesity. As you approach the trees, you will start to see the tops of the houseboats above, but what we are really here to enjoy is not so much the sights, but the smells and the tastes of Marabon, the houseboat city.
From a distance the smell begins to hit us, it is like the smell of ginger that has been stewed underneath the bottom of the ocean in a shining blue liquid, and has now floated up to the surface in a bubble, somehow simultaneously incredibly strong and heady, but also light and refreshing.
Some of the more food conscious readers will have heard horror stories about getting to Marabon and finding the docks washed away or surrounded by house boats, but thankfully today the dock was in good order, and me and my partner's mutual friend Coate was there to help us tie up.
We got in at about 3pm, and after the long boat ride I am desperate to eat. I consider cracking open a can of biscuit juice, but coate convinces us that it will be worth the wait until 6pm when we will share a traditional meal with his family. I agree, and me and my partner decide to explore the city.
The city itself consists purely of houseboats, some of the bigger and more public areas are connected via gangways, smaller ones are connected with ropes and nets, and in other places the boats are not joined to one another at all, and if you want to get from one to the next, you must jump as the tidal rocking of the boats is opportune. If you choose the wrong moment I imagine it would be rather difficult to get back onto the boat, however, there is little danger of drowning since the city floats over a tidal mangrove island, and in fact for a few hours each day, the boats are marooned on exposed sand. It is a tremendously strange sight to see, as the roots of the mangrove trees protrude up from the sand floor like fingers that hold onto the bottoms of the boats, pulling them downwards into the soft, wet sand.
We step outside of Coate's modest boat, and step onto the next one, which had a sheet of green plastic for a roof. From this boat we could jump onto a thick rope net, and clamber onto a boat about twice the size of the last two. This boat is the store for this part of the city, where oil, pickled crabs, vegetables, and wine are kept. Here, the smell of the city does grow a little too strong, and we quickly moved onto the deck of another home. Upon this one the remains of lunch were still left on a little table, though the residents had gone inside and left it there.
The crockery in Marabon is always of a dark blue colour, with little adornment, and these bowls crusted with the last drops of fish soup were no different. A sight such as this was somewhat uncommon on account of the cost of crockery within the city. Because there is very little dry land, none of which can be used yet due to superstition, clay for crockery has to be dredged from under the water, which makes it quite difficult and expensive.
The city has come far to modernise itself in the last few years, but sadly there is very much that still has to happen, but I think that food warriors like us are making a real difference to show the city the material benefits they stand to gain when they eliminate the last traces of their absurd superstitions.
As I curse mankind's foolishness, I look up and see the royal family's boats over the top of the next few, and behind it the ghost crab island. Speak of the devil.
My partner and I manage to see the other corners of the city, and jump from a slightly rotten ship onto Coate's just as he had come out of the doorway to call for dinner. The smell is quite intoxicating, and I can think about nothing other than the food we are about to enjoy as he goes through his meal rituals. Because he has been such a good mutual friend to us we allow him these little rituals. It doesn't matter because the older generations will die soon enough anyway, I tell my partner later.
I stood in a yellow button up shirt tucked into my blue jeans which were tucked into my white shoes, to my right stood my partner in a green polo shirt and white short pants, and to his right stood Coate's unnamed elder daughter in a green and white dress which was checkered with checkers about 1 centimeter in width, and which ran to the level of her socks, and to her right was Coate's younger daughter named Kagel who wore a white dress which looked like a plain white tissue box, but the tissue was her head coming out the top of the box and to her right was Tabel, Coate's wife, and she was wearing a green sheet of plastic wrapped right around her like it was a dress, and to her right was Coate who was wearing a dirty brown tracksuit with holes which would allow me to look at his balls should the urge have grasped me, and to the right of Coate was me. Between the six of us rose a column of steam from the wonky table, and we sat down to eat.
Tabel opened up the little steam oven in the middle of the table and took out the first course which consisted of miniature onions stuffed with flathead pate. The miniature onions are made by slicing the root off a real onion ande then steaming it until it is quite steamed, at which point each layer of the onion is pulled out from one another pretty much whole other than the missing portion at the root which is thrown into the mangrove for the yabbies and flatheads.
Man this was so good I put the onion up to my mouth and sucked like I had never sucked before. Then when about 90% of the FUCKING pate was in my stomach I then ate the onion and it was so wonderful because it still had a slimy pate taste but it was riding on the nice smooth onion shell man it was so good it was so fucking good, and I turned over at my partner and he was going WILD man that was good... and that is before they brought out the salted wine even.
I turned my head around to look at Tabel and her eye had turned into a green orb so I turned my head back around but my neck was stuck so I just stayed like that. I had been sipping on the salted wine all through the second course of small dried yabbies and it was starting to make me sweat like a piece of meat wrapped in a cloth and then placed in the back window of a car as the car drives through the desert. My neck started to relax and it was so wet the rolls of flesh slithered all over each other as they tried to snap back to their normal positions.
Coate started to ramble on about how he and his daughters caught the yabbies themselves with some kind of suction tube machine and I had another sip of the salt wine and then I looked at tabel again but her eyes were still green but this time I had a real good look and they were like opals kind of like there was a bit of red in the EYE too but anyway I got my hand down to the yabbie container and I got another one and I ate it and then that meant it was time for the last and most dangerous meal of the whole meal..... the eel.
This meal also contained yabbies but this time they were inside the stomach of an eel. In this traditional dish the Maribon fellows get a bucket of live yabbies and then they stick an eel in there and let it go to town. Once the eel is real good and fat, they pull out of the bucket and chuck it straight into the oven. The yabbies from inside it's stomach are so damn good in fact I would say it kinda made the previous course of dried yabbies seem pretty shit in comparison. Oh well.
Man the juice coming from the eel stomach to the yabbies was so good it was like water coming out of an old pipe full of rust but instead of rust it was FLAVOUR. YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAA YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Man this was so good and the salt wine was really hitting my brain now and it was making my eyes cross together and it was so wonderful everything was happening at the SAME TIME. Me and my partner had been pretty quiet this evening I realised, so I decided to speak a little bit and I said "Man this food is pretty good hell yeah", and actually this was a bit strange but mr COAT was quite offended by this because he does not like people to say the word hell because he has obsessive compulsive disorder. That is the worst mental disorder and I know becayse I am on thrREE psichiatric medications to combat my sleep apnea.
And the rest as they say, is history!