Of Crocodile Dundee and Tarzan.


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Of Crocodlile Dundee, Tarzan and The Highwayman
Crocodile Dundee.
Most of us, in Oz at least, have seen Crocodile Dundee. What’s not widely known though is the film was based on a real life character, Rod Ansel. Although Dundee’s storyline is different to Ansels there are some similarities. Unlike Dundee though, Ansel’s ending was quite tragic.

Ansel was the quint essential bushman, buffalo hunter, croc poacher, ringer, stockman. Ansel set out in his motorboat sometime in the 70s on what was supposed to be a two month fishing trip, accompanied by his two bull terrier pups. Later it was revealed to probably be a Croc poaching trip. Not unusual for Ansel, as he did these trips frequently living mostly off the land. Previously he’d been out hunting and catching wild Buffalos, again mostly living off the land, and Buffalos of course.

Apparently his motorboat was charged by a massive animal he claimed to be a whale and sunk. He lost most everything except a small tinny, an oar, rifle, a few other bits and pieces (probably a really big knife too) and his two pups. Drifting in his tinny, he eventually was left stranded miles away from the nearest settlement. Being the wet season he was unable to extricate himself from his predicament and remained in situ for many months, living off wild cattle, buffalo and crocs and sleeping in trees to escape the crocs. Eventually the wet subsided, he hoofed it out and was seen by a couple of aboriginal stockmen and rescued.

His story was not believed by all, but a film company did a documentary on his ordeal putting him up in a fancy hotel in Sydney. At the hotel, apparently, he slept on the floor in his sleeping bag and was mystified by the bidet. Supposedly, Hogan saw his story and adapted it for the screen, at one time Ansel tried to sue Hogan, but nothing came of it.

Ansel started up a buff farm, but tuberculosis infected his herd, they were all shot and Ansel lost everything, including his wife. He then started growing and selling marihuana, to which he became addicted, eventually moving on to harder stuff. Drug addled, he ambushed police along the Stuart Hwy for some reason, shooting one of the coppers. Reinforcements were sent in, a shootout ensued and Ansel was shot to death by the police. At the time it was seen as odd that he didn’t just disappear into the bush, instead choosing to stick around to shoot it out with the police.

Queensland’s Tarzan.
Qld also had an odd adventurer, Michael Fomenko, often reported as a Russian blueblood, his family fled Japan and ended up in Sydney in the 40s. . Michael was a natural athlete and it was hoped he would compete in the 1956 Olympics. But, Michael had other ideas and instead around 1950 he fled and headed for NQ, working for a short time as a cane cutter before fleeing to live in the QLD jungle. At one time he frequented the waters between NQ and New Guinea paddling a dugout canoe.

He lived for 60 odd years in the QLD jungles and was often seen wandering the QLD highways, then just disappearing into the Bush for months on end.
His mother had him locked up in a mental asylum at one time. When released he headed for the Jungles of NQ again and spent the remainder of his life living in the bush.

He was eventually tracked down to a retirement home in 2013 where he died aged 88. Most of his life a mystery.

I remember my father telling me the story of a QLD Tarzan when I was a kid in the 50s.

The Highwayman.
John Cadaret left his job in the bank in 1977, intending on taking a short break. He started walking the roads of Australia’s Eastern states and 46 years later he is still wandering the highways and byways. John does not claim unemployment, instead living of food he finds on his travels. Making camp in the Bush or along the side of a road he travels 10-15 klms every day.

His range extends from North Queensland to Victoria. The ABC did a story on him and since then he is often stopped by people who give him food and take selfies with him.


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Tazans story is a bit different. and more strange. I arrived in FNQ in June 86, 4 months after cyclone Winnifred, a Cat 3 cyclone that devastated the area. Winnafred caused more devastation than the 2 bigger cyclones in 2005, (Larry), and 2011, (Yassie), which were both thought to, and reported to be cat 5. Larry, (2005), was downgraded to a very high cat 4. after they done checking all the wind gauges, that got blown away, but they must have found some evidence to down grade it, or was just misreported.........winnafred took 9 hours to cross the region and stripped all vegetation off the trees and any leaf that did survive died pretty much straight after it passed, the sun came out and cooked any green that was left. Didn't rain for 3 weeks after the cyclone. This was Feb the 20th, height of summer and 1 month after the longest day. I wasnt here but heard about it.

Back to Tarzan. I first saw him not long after i arrived in the area. He was walking along the road in shorts and boots, (no socks), no shirt and a hessian sack thrown over one shoulder. He was a big man, Tall and fit beyond belief. Not an ounce of fat with sinewy well defined mussel and tanned, as one would expect being out in the Tropical sun all day without a shirt. I was going to cairns, with my sister and remember when i saw him asked what wa that idiot doing walking on the side of the road with a sack. in the middle of a scorching day, I was told of his escaping, (not a good decriptive example of his reason), his heritage of royal Russion blood fleeing to FNQ, (did hear he worked cutting cane, in those days it was cut by hand), to live in caves and walk the highway between cairns and Innisfail...........His sack always had something in it it was aid he would scavenge the road side to pick up anything of any value. Being the hermit he was there were more mythical stories about him than the truth of a guy, who lived by the bearest of means but he did have a very selective support system of one or 2 people that helped him when he needed it. proberbly from them making sure he was kept tabs on rather than him seeking help. One thing that was true, he had given up all material posessions except for his hession sack

Mission Beach is 60klm from Innisfail and another 80klm to cairns. Back in the later part of the 80's the road was not much better than a goat track, tar-sealed but mostly single lane where you had to go off on to the shoulder when passing oncoming traffic. Especially trucks. Here was a guy walking on the shoulder in the heat of the day dodging cars and trucks. More to the point he walked and cars and trucks dodged him.

He had a routine of walking from either cairns to Innisfail every day then walking back to cains the next day. he would sleep, (it was reported ), where he knew but not anyone else, in some cave somewhere. Believe it or not He did this every single day. From what i remember and heard he was taken in by a woman in his later years when he was getting older. She would feed him and gave him shelter when it rough weather and i think he got him housed in a home when he was no longer able to live the life he chose.

Over the next 25 years in my travels on the Bruce highway between cairns and Innisfail I regularly saw him walking the highway Rain hail, (oops no hail up here), or sunshine. When it was raining he would wear a beat up Parker but i never saw him wear a shirt when it wasn't raining. Kinda sad when he was getting older, his pace slowed and he looked old but to anyone first encountering him it was hard to gauge how old he really was.

Not to long, (a year or 2), before he gave up walking the road there was a write up in the local rag on him and his background. he was one of the last of the hermits or the colourful people who escaped to the far north to live a life away from the hustle and bustle of the city and made the Far North a haven where they could be their eccentric selves and be accepted for who they were and left alone.
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Michael Fomenko.


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