Published: April 27th 2011April 27th 2011
Sunday was Easter! And the Easter bunny was very keen and visited everyone! I wasn’t expecting anything from the Easter bunny, but Heather was very nice and included me in the holiday tradition. The night before she had come to me asking for my hat (technically it was her’s but I was using it) and that I could have it back in the morning. I was quite confused what you would need a hat for in the middle of the night, but I wasn’t going to ask questions. My best answer was that she was worried about a bat roosting above her. As it turns out possums like to get into candy and people here have a hard time with keeping the possums out of the Easter candy and have to put out the candy right before the kids get up so that the possums don’t get into it. So Heather put all of our Easter candy in our hats and then hid them, and her plan worked! No possums came and stole our candy during the night!
We were up and all of us were going caving that morning, luckily I wasn’t too bad off
from the day before and wasn’t that sore (very surprisingly, but had plenty of bruises starting to spring up on my backside, even as I write this they are quite big, but I can’t show anyone since they are on my butt, which if I was to land anywhere I guess that is my most padded spot!) I had been told to watch out for the stinging tree on our trek to the cave, now what exactly the stinging tree looked like was not covered very well, all I know is that it had heart shaped leaves. With that in mind I tried to avoid any leaf that I possible could, for in my mind all were dangerous! We were going caving in the Carpentaria cave. It took a little bit to find because there weren’t any signs leading to it. Simon and Heather had been caving here over 10 years ago so they kind of knew where they were going. The entrance was only about 3 feet high, so we had to get dirty right away! It was Laura’s first time really caving as well as the kids and mine and it was quite something. We were trying to
find a cavern in the cave called Snake Pit, but without a map we were very lost. Luckily after about an hour wondering around in the cave we came upon some people who did have a map and it turned out we were wondering about on the wrong side of the cave, so we back tracked and found where we were supposed to go. This particular cave was very cool and humid, at a few points along the way to Snake Pit we had to get all the way on our stomachs and wiggle through. If anyone has seen the movie The Decent, then you know that it crossed my mind. We all made it to Snake Pit and what makes it so special is that it is very hard to get there, there is a small hole that you have to crawl to get to and then once you get through the hole it drops straight to the ground. Once we were all inside we turned off our head torches. Even if your hand is right in front of your face you couldn’t see it, we were in complete darkness. Max got a little worried at one point but
once I held his hand he was cool with it.
Another fun thing that we did in the cave was that since it was Easter Sunday, Heather put money in the Easter eggs and hid them along the way in the cave. We are walking through the cave and all of a sudden the kids start freaking out that there was an Easter egg! Soon they started to squabble since after collecting several Easter eggs and getting a few dollars, they had never seen so much money! Heather then made the ruling that they found the Easter eggs and then at the end they would divide the money equally. A few times Max would go somewhere that Heather had not been yet and determinedly say that there was an Easter egg in that part, and Heather would kindly tell him that she didn’t think that was the case.
After spending a few hours in the cave we headed back to the entrance, it was a great experience to be able to see a hole and go I want to check that out and just scamper off and have a look. Not to many things live in
caves, the thing we saw the most of was the Huntsman spider. They are quite large, about 5 inches in diameter and are beautifully stripped black and brown. Laura pointed out that whenever you saw a red dot as your headlight passed over the walls of the cave, that those were the spiders’ eyes, other than that they hide very well.
We all went back to the clubhouse and Simon, Laura, and Hunter went about setting up the bat traps. The traps are composed of several rows of fishing line type strings, strung taunt with a bag underneath it all and the point is to place it right outside the cave at dusk and the bats fly into the strings and slide down into the bag at the bottom and then they can’t fly back out. This trap takes a good bit of time to set up so Heather, the kids, and I went back to the swimming hole. This time without injury!
After a good swim we met back at the clubhouse to pack up the trap and head out to the cave where we all were going to help Laura catch bats for her
research. We also packed a dinner of a roast chicken and bread. We set up the trap and then waited and had dinner while the bats decided to fly out of the cave. We ended up catching 8 bats total in the 3 hours that we were there and of those 8 we caught 3 different species, luckily we caught the most bats of the ones Laura wanted to study. Simon and Laura were the only ones able to hold the bats as they were vaccinated for rabies (even though its not found in Australia, but its precautionary), we took their weight, forearm length (this is one of the factors in determining which bat it is), temperature, and sexed them. At one point we were waiting for more bats to fly into the trap so we all turned off our head torches and lay down and looked up at the stars. It was an incredibly clear night in the bush with out any lights for miles. It was some of the best star gazing ever.
After we got all the data we needed we packed up and headed back. Which brings me to a funny story. On the
way out I rode with Laura and Hunter since the thought of being cramped in the Robson’s car again sent chills down my spine. I was told earlier that is was tradition for the American’s to open Australian gates. The reason was that Australians use whatever they have at hand to make a gate. So when it was time Hunter and I got out and opened the gate just fine, but spent several minutes closing it. It was made of barbwire and metal posts. We unhooked it and let the cars through but we had a tough time getting the posts to set down just right to get the loop over the gate, we finally did it but I cannot tell you how we managed. On our way back out Simon opened it and closed it in a matter of seconds! Really showing us up. While I was riding with Hunter and Laura, they were pointing out some cool plants and animals to me as we went along. Hunter pointed out a bird called a bee-eater. At which point he said “it eats bees . . - yeah I have a Masters” we all laughed, I told him he spent
his money well for his education.
Sunday night was much more calm as we all just sat around the table down stairs with the kids asleep upstairs and chitchatted for about an hour.
The next day was ANZAC Day – Australian New Zealand Army Corps – and it was a holiday to remember all of the Australian and New Zealanders who fought and lost their lives in the First World War. The tradition is to go to sunrise service (which is before the sunrise – 4:15 am) and then do a march around town. Hunter and Laura were doing it, I told to them to have a great time. There are also these things called ANZAC biscuits that you are supposed to eat on Anzac Day, they are quite yummy and taste kind of like an oatmeal cookie.
Simon had thought about doing the later service for Anzac day (which is also Easter Monday, but since there were two holidays on one day the Council decided to make Tuesday a holiday as well so as not to miss out because of the coincidence) but we decided to get on the road early at around 9:00a.m which
was a good plan since the almost 7 hour ride without stops turned into an almost 12 hour ride total. Which is a lot when your butt is bruised and scraped and the kids have to be in booster seats so you are stuck in the middle, yay! Overall it wasn’t bad at all except for the fact that when we pulled in the driveway and parked the kids didn’t see any rush in getting out of the cramped vehicle, meanwhile I can’t wait to get to freedom! On our way back home we stopped and had a swim in the rainforest at Lake Eacham, which is home to a species of fish that isn’t found anywhere else in the world (some sort of rainbow fish). We also stopped and saw a large curtain fig, which is a beautiful tree that grows off of the surrounding trees, ultimately killing them, and sending its own roots to the ground. This thing was enormous. We also stopped at the Tolga Bat Hospital where we got an up-close and personal (we were the only visitors there) view of bat rehabilitation and care, we were able to see the bats eating dinner made up
of apples, bananas, and a banana smoothie. There were a few bats that were permanent residents, but they try to release as many as possible back into the wild. One of the enclosures had bats that were being treated for a wing fungus, and in order to tell which one is which they place little plastic bands of differing colours around their legs, if the bat manages to get that off they tie a bit of wool around their leg, and if they get that off then they paint their toenails different colours, it is so cute to see a bat hanging around with neon pink toenails! Jenny was the operator of the hospital and she was absolutely lovely and very down to earth about what she does. A week ago Simon, Heather, and I were watching Dirty Jobs on TV and they went to a bat hospital, where the lady there brushed one of the bats teeth, Simon thought this was preposterous and from then on it has been the running joke if we were going to be brushing any bats teeth on the trip.
We finally arrived home at around 8:30 p.m and unpacked the car (after
the kids finally let me out) then we all crashed, with the adults having Gin and Tonics (now a favourite of mine). At multiple points while we were in Chillagoe I thought to myself that never in a million years would I think that I would be where I was at that point.
There are more photos below