TIWI Islands trip – John Simpson, Sam Bourke and Josh Michel

Monday 14th March to Friday 18th March 2016

Monday 14th March

Left Sydney at 10am and arrived in Darwin at 2pm. We then met up with John at Darwin airport. At 3pm, we were off on our 20 minute charter flight to the TIWI islands in a small 5 seater twin propeller plane to the schools own airstrip. The trip was going really well until 15 minutes in we pretty much flew straight into a big black cloud and then circled the airfield as Jason tried to get the majority of the rain off the dirt airstrip. But, to no luck, we were diverted to the top of Melville island at snake bay which has a sealed runway and the expert pilot Luke absolutely nailed the landing (after an hours flight time), what a legend J.

Unfortunately we were now 45 minute drive North of our destination through red mud drenched roads and Jason (An absolute legend of the college) came and picked us up and drove us back to the college.

The school basically runs on four 75 minute quarters (Modelled on an AFL match) and we quickly learnt how important footy is up here, especially with the big NT grand final this weekend. We then had a quick tour of the kitchen and cooking facilities, and all of the other areas prior to a quick dinner and a late night wildlife exploration. Nothing too exciting except a number of owls, a wild horse family and some buffalo hiding near the airstrip.

Tuesday 15th March

First morning was pretty wet and a nice welcome to peaceful Pikka as they called it. We were treated to the honour of driving the John Deere Gator, which had plenty of fun memories to come over the next few days as our form of transportation. Sam was also taken down for the “barge run” and helped Jason bring all the food and supplies in for the week. Luckily there were no crocs down there today, just lots of crates which were divided up between tractors and troopers. We then met some of the students over a few quick games of basketball, footy and chats with the staff. Our first cooking session began at 12:30pm where the students were welcomed into the kitchen to smell of Sam’s nicely roasting lamb shoulder. This session was for the middle school boys, who loved the fresh bread “Damper” we made them. Sam quickly explained how he did the lamb and put another shoulder in the oven to be made into a salad for tomorrow. John then amazed the students with his amazing knife skills and knocked up a quick tzatziki and raw vegetable salad. The session concluded with a number of students tasting lamb for the first time, some great food and most importantly a lot of fun by all involved.

We were told we brought the rain as we were stuck down in the outdoor kitchen for a little while till the storm had passed, and were treated to more of Phelans dancing as he tried to drive the rain away and entertain us with somersaults at the same time. The night was once again a bit wet, prior to a quick barbie for dinner and an early night.

Wednesday 16th March

Another wet morning at Pikka, but another full on day. We went down to a number of classrooms and helped with the reading classes in groups for 30 minutes then off to get the prep done for our second class. Today was a highlight with the Senior boys, who we learnt from the first day how to structure the lesson and immediately got the students involved and had them eating food within 15 minutes. We once again made some fresh bread and some meringues with lemon curd for the extended session. The boys were so impressed by the coulis and poached fruits that nothing went to waste as everything down to the leftover cooking liquid was turned into a tasty and quick cordial by the boys J. As a thank you we were treated to a dance by the boys and lots of handshakes, hugs and fist pumps. We were also shown some acrobatics through Jason’s well manicured garden with triple somersaults through the banana tress and standing start somersaults by all the boys. A few boys had also managed to track a wallaby down on the oval next to the kitchen, and recipes for wallaby soup may have been discussed. Fortunately for the wallaby, we were talking too loud and it got away.

Wednesday night involved a trip to the family group home 6 whereby Josh worked with 5 different middle girls to make some profiteroles (like they had seen recently on MKR). We also made some crème Chantilly and custard to fill the profiteroles and quickly filled these treats (And a few mouths at the same time). The profiteroles were worthy of a 100 on MKR apparently and the girls had plenty of fun topping the profiteroles (and lots of other surfaces in the kitchen) with chocolate.

Sam and John helped to prepare some ribs and pizzas for the students on their rewards night. Students who had 4 “Green light weeks” where they had perfect attendance, participated well in classes, put in a good enough at afl training or helped at their group homes were recognised and invited to this prestigious night.

Thursday 17th March

The weather started to clear up a bit as unfortunately the humidity returned. At 9am today we started off with our youngest group ranging in ages from 3 years to 9 years old. We started making some “magic” lamingtons that only were going to work if each person read an item from the ingredients list and then one of the other students placed it in the bowl. Once again all students had to mix the icing otherwise it was not going to work (they were told). And then it was on to the competition to see who could get as much chocolate and shredded coconut throughout the clean kitchen as we could. A major advantage of open weather kitchen was seen here as within a few minutes all 3 chefs got it back to perfection and ready for the next session.

The next bits of prep to get ready for the day involved making some surprise hot cross buns for Jacobs (one of the students in our Wednesday groups birthday) and then get ready for the senior girls cooking class at 12. Todays session opened up with a basic cake mixture made from scratch, and a quick frittata using eggs and a number of items found commonly in their fridges such as cured meats and vegetables. The eggs were laid within 10 metres of the kitchen earlier that morning. A quick baked ricotta as also thrown into the oven and Josh gave a chat about how cheeses are made (they were a bit freaked out about where rennet comes from J) The cake was allowed to cool with the students told that the quicker they got back from the break, the bigger their slice was going to be.

All arrived back from the break on time J and the cake was filled with some warm strawberries and fresh crème Chantilly. Their favourite part was to come as the cake was topped with chocolate ganache and surprisingly the bowl went around the class and returned spotlessly clean. The cake went down a treat, even with Jason’s apprentice Phelan joining in at the end.

Jason then had to fix up the airstrip for a few hours ahead of the Fridays planes arrivals to the island. John and Phelan also went to check how he was going, and managed to drive past a friendly black snake on the way. We were then off to family group home 2 and John and Josh managed to knock up a quick beef and chorizo stew for the nights community dinner. A number of the boys got involved in cutting all the vegetables, whilst they snacked on some freshly baked white chocolate chip hot cross buns.

Whilst this was stewing on the stovetop, the boys also helped make a large batch of chocolate brownie as dessert for the dinner. Sam then worked a treat creating some fantastic flavours with Jasons fresh barramundi, mangrove jack and rock cod, baked to perfection. A quick salsa verde was made to go over the fish by John and then we were ready for the night.

At 6pm, all the food was picked up in the back of the trooper and taken down to the basketball court. As we were the visitors we were invited to eat first and it was such a great experience to be served by all the middle school boys and everyone sat down as a community for dinner (whilst watching a number of the students perform backflips on the trampolines in front of us). The night finished off with a basketball game of all 3 of us on the staff team verse the reigning champions family group home 2, who once again smashed us.

Friday 18th March

An early start with a game of AFL which kicked off at 6:30am with about 8 of us on the field. Within minutes the whole field was filled with over 50 plus players, kicking and marking and leaving us all for dead. After a quick breakfast the single propeller plane returned with Captain Luke and we were back on our way to Darwin. A fantastic flight as we just beat the weather and landed back in around 8:45am to lots of emails and facebook posts. Thanks to all involved, as it was a great experience for 3 very appreciative members of the NICI program