How to Gut a Goanna

Ron Moon — 17 October 2019
And other things I've recently learnt on a trip to Cape York. You never stop learning, no matter how experienced you are.

I've just got back from a quick trip up to Cape York with my son and his latest Moon Tours expedition (see and while we didn't stay too long in any one place along the way, we tackled all the tough tracks including Frenchmans, the OTL track and the more technical Old Coach Road between Laura and the once thriving gold town of Maytown. We had a couple of campers with us on the trip and they tackled everything the group did and in fine form too, with no panel damage to any of the rigs. 

We did, however, have quite a few electrical issues between the eight vehicles, which meant we replaced an alternator on one, stripped and bush fixed a starter motor on another (it was a two-person job to easily start the car after that), refitted a fuel tank that near fell out, replaced a UV joint in an IFS vehicle (that was a big effort), and replaced a battery on another. 

We also sorted out a few charging issues which seemed to stem from each of the vehicles and the campers having their own battery management systems, or way over-complicated management systems where the vehicle unit wouldn't talk to the camper; you can guess how we fixed that!

Credit for lizard image: Ken Griffiths/Getty Images.

We all learnt a lot – most of it in the evening as we worked on vehicles.

But the funniest thing that I now know didn't have to do with the vehicles or the camper, but came from a completely unexpected source. My new knowledge includes how to gut a goanna and how to get the blood out of a turtle. I'm not too sure when I'll be able to use these gems of information, but for many of the locals of Cape York it is second nature and important survival info.  

Interestingly, while the green turtle is highly regarded as a food source, the Hawksbill turtle is poisonous to eat (did you know that?), but as we also discovered, you can eat the Hawksbill’s eggs.

Where did these gems come from?

Well, Viv is a confirmed cookbook collector and, while she has her fair share of coffee table books by fancy and famous chefs, she goes out of her way to pick up local cookbooks. On this trip she picked up a beauty.

This small cookbook was titled, ‘Kai Kai and Minya – Cape York and Torres Strait Bushtucker and Recipes’, and was written and produced by the local Bamaga State High School Year 8 students. 

Once the book was printed the girls came around the campgrounds flogging the book to us tourists. We loved their friendliness and their vitality and Viv was the first out with the dollars for a copy of the book. Only after they had left did we realise the gem we had picked up.

While there was info on how to hunt dugong and how to clean clams, there was also more ‘normal’ stuff, such as recipes for chicken vermicelli, cassava damper, deep-fried scones (gotta try these!), oysters socorro, 'Namus' (which is a raw fish) and 'Sumble' (which is cooked squid). That’s just brushing the surface. Illustrations were hand-drawn sketches by the kids, which, while basic, got the point across.

And while I'll probably never need my new-found knowledge of how to gut a goanna or hunt a dugong (I'll stick to rabbits and wild pigs), the book makes a fine, different and relatively cheap memento of our latest Cape York jaunt. And I'm looking forward now to trying the deep-fried scones!


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