Published: July 13th 2009July 13th 2009
Shout if you can see anyone
my last day, crawling around in the bush, trying to be invisible
Well, here I am in Australia and settled into my project in Bathurst, near Sydney, (only four hours away). I’ve been in Oz for twelve days now and I’ve got another four weeks to do. Still, the convicts had to stay for a lot longer, so it’s not so bad. Up to now, I’ve just been doing the tourist thing with Anna, which has been a wonderful time.
Where to start on my first Aussie blog? I know, South Africa. There were a few interesting things that happened after my last blog, (well they were interesting to me, anyway) so behave and listen up while I tell you about them.
On the Saturday night before I left, had a very disturbed night as something was digging around m caravan. After twenty minutes, the dogs started barking just outside my door, so I decided to let them tackle the intruder and I would get the edited highlights in the morning. However the dogs decided that maybe they would leave it alone after all and all went quiet except for the persistent loud scratching that appeared to be coming from my caravan. Eventually, I remembered I was British and summoned up the blood
The invisible man
check out the hat appearing over the top of the log. How was I ever spotted?
and stiffened up the sinews (Shakespeare) and went outside with a torch, ready to do battle with whatever was stopping me from sleeping. I shone the torch in every nook and cranny under my caravan, without success and went back to bed. Hooray, all was quiet at last. It wasn’t scared of the dogs, but big, tough, brave me scared it away. In the morning, I saw that the roots of a small tree about five yards away from my door were dug up and chewed through by a porcupine. All the time I had been searching under my caravan, it had been behind me in the dark, laughing its head off.
After breakfast and a good old whinge about how tired I was due to the inconsiderate behaviour of my spiky opponent, we all camouflaged ourselves for a bit of a game in the bush, to see who could get closest to Adele, a fearsome bush women able to see a snake from two hundred yards. I would have won except for being so tired from lack of sleep. Honest, please believe me. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable way to spend my last day in the South African
Keith and meerkat
This little fellow was kept as a pet by the owners of the cafe we called at. The other one is a meerkat.
I arrived at Sydney airport to find that all my money and travelers cheques had been taken from the money belt which I had foolishly kept in an outside pocket of my carry on luggage. The thief had kindly returned the money belt to the correct pocket, so as not to alert me until they were out of range of my retribution.
After an overnight stay in Sydney, during which I got two hours sleep due to jet lag, I met up with Anna in Cairns. She immediately took charge of me and got us a taxi to the caravan park we were staying at.
The Thursday was spent exploring Cairns, sunbathing and swimming in the lagoon, which is a big outdoor artificial pool and beach at one end of the esplanade. The beach at Cairns is a bit of a let down, as it is basically a mangrove swamp with the mangrove trees all pulled up. It’s very good for shore birds though, and I got some good snaps. The next day more of the same, and we booked our tickets for a couple of trips out.
On Saturday, we caught the coach to Kuranda and the Rainforeststation
The gang on the baobab tree
The Hoedspruit giant. An enormous baobab tree, the second biggest in South Africa. The cafe nearby make wonderful pancakes.
Nature Park. First stop was the Rainforeststation, which is really a small zoo, where you can feed the kangaroos and wallabies and see some of the local animals, plus some aboriginal blokes give demonstrations of spear and boomerang throwing, plus a bit of a show with dancing and didgeridooing. We then went on what was billed as a rainforest tour in an ex army DUKW, an amphibious lorry. This was a bit of a disappointment, because we just travelled through a bit of a pond. Anna’s fears about a crocodile jumping onboard were unfounded, because, apparently, the only croc in fifty miles is in a pen back at the zoo. Back onto the bus and we headed for Kuranda village, which is an old outback town by the river. It was very touristified and although the buildings were genuine, they had all been turned into souvenir shops and cafes. We had a nice walk by the river before taking our seats on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This snakes its way down the Barron river gorge, past some stunning waterfalls and scenery until it gets into Cairns, 25 miles away and over a thousand feet lower down.
The next day we
Jackel at the waterhole
The last mammal I snapped in South Africa.
went on a coach trip with a difference, as our driver and guide “Kiwi Matty”, not only drove and guided us, but led the swimming in the icy pools and waterfalls of the various Tablelands rivers. He had a dry sense of humour, which he demonstrated in his commentary, which he kept up almost the whole way over the coach loudspeakers. All in all, very good value for money as we were out for twelve and a half hours, during which time Matty never shut up.
On Tuesday a certain grumpy child would not get out of bed, so I toddled off to Cairns with just my camera for company. The big white lens on my camera is certainly an ice breaker and I had chats with a few interesting people while I was out. A young woman from San Francisco, then a girl from Canada both walked with me a while. I suppose it’s a bit depressing to think that they didn’t see me as someone who might start to pursue them with amorous intentions, just an old guy, doddering about. I then met a real old guy, John, who was a birdwatcher and had been, until his retirement,
It's a wonderful swimming pool, to make up for the rubbish beach
one of the first wildlife guides in Cairns. He pointed out various crabs, fish and birds as we walked along, until we went our separate ways. After five minutes walking, I heard a slurred greeting and turned around to see what could be described, with a bit of generosity of spirit, as a local character. I didn’t quite get his name, but it didn’t matter as he went on to tell me about his days as a sheep shearer and gold prospector. He tried to use my zoom lens to pick out his little house buried in the forests at one end of the bay, but gave up. He told me how isolated it was, “with no neighbours, thank God.” A very interesting old bloke, but I found that about ten minutes was more than enough, as he punctuated his conversation with ribald comments to every woman that caught his eye, before taking a swig from the coke bottle, that obviously did not have coke in it. And so, back to our digs as the light faded to find Anna getting ready to go out for our evening meal.
I had told Anna that our boat for the barrier reef
Me at the lagoon
Swimming on our second day at the lagoon
left at 8.00 the next day, Wednesday and so we were able to get there at ten past eight on the dot. The real checking in time was 8.30, but I thought it was too risky to tell her that. What a marvelous experience we had as the big fast catamaran took ninety minutes to get us to a huge platform moored on the outer reef. As soon as we landed, myself and the only other certified diver were hustled off the boat before everyone else to get kitted up for our first dive. It was good for the ego when the tannoy asked for the certified divers to go for our briefing and they were talking about little, old me. I felt very posh.
The dive itself was amazing, only eight metres of water, but so many things to observe. I saw fish of all colours and sizes, including Wally, who is a Maori Wrasse, about five feet long and built like a prop forward. He is trained to come up to see you, so that a handily placed photographer can snap you for a souvenir. I was too tight fisted to shell out the seventeen dollars for what
The bus took us up to Kuranda and the train took us down.
was, admittedley a nice snap.
Before my next dive, I snorkeled with Anna and we took snaps of each other with the underwater camera that she had bought for my birthday. She was having a wonderful time snorkeling in the calm shallow water and also in the submarine type thing that she went in to do some underwater viewing.On my second dive, we went on a small boat to a reef a couple of hundred yards away. This was a bit deeper and I got down to sixteen and a half metres, with the reef wall towering above us. The visibility was not as good as the shallower reef, but the 45 minute dive was still amazing, as we were at one point in a huge shoal of silver, open water fish, that turned and flashed in the sunlight, just like you see on the telly.
We got off the boat at five o’clock after a wonderful day in the clear blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
On Thursday, it was time for me to go back to Sydney and Anna decided she would fly back to Perth, as jobs were a bit hard to come by. Cairns
Anna and Skippy
Anna hoping that someone would give her a handful of Kangaroo food
is a magnet for backpackers, and Anna’s CV was put on a large pile of others. Anyway, I flew off at seven o’clock and got to my hostel at 11.30. The key was, as promised, in the mailbox and I walked in to see a Japanese guy walking about in just a bath towel. He had locked his room key in his room and didn’t know what to do. Luckily there were two beds in my room, so I put him up for the night.
The next day, I was on my way to Bathurst for my project. It’s only this far on the map; imagine me holding my finger and thumb two inches apart. The journey took four and a half hours by train and coach and then we were met by the local ACV rep who took us to our quarters.
Here I am in chilly Bathurst, ready for some hard work and hopefully some nice kangaroo snaps. See you soon.
There are more photos below