Yes, I know I’ve been in Australia for three nights already but this was my first night under canvas, which sounds much more romantic than “under manmade, lightweight materials”.
We were awake at 05:00 for an early start at 06:00 to beat the Brisbane rush-hour. Local traffic may readily be identified: they’re the ones NOT doing Brisbane U-turns.
Phil’s first entomological encounter at the Ibis Budget Hotel in Windsor had been bed bugs. There being no staff to rail at at this hour, he’d smeared a couple on the wall as proof and left a note.
We headed north with Roy’s Brisbane driving experience of a whole three days guiding Phil to keep him on the straight and narrow aided my Mr. Google. Our hunting stop was at a place called Sippy Downs where we also found a Coles to buy supplies. Phil wanted cardboard boxes for loading the stuff in the car. Coles breaks down cardboard boxes the second they are empty and had nothing. I found a couple of staff restocking shelves and managed to intercept three boxes before they became flat packs. The car was laden; quite how Phil manages to do this with four people is beyond me. I have the back seat to myself, along with shopping and my camera rucksack; there’s no room.
My first experience of hunting dragons with these two guys: Phil, particularly, starts calling out completely unknown-to-me scientific species names as he spots them. Some are passingly familiar to me but mostly I haven’t a clue. It makes it all feel a little frenetic. Roy had been much more measured in our first three solo days. My approach is to snap what I can to be identified, if possible, later. In this case for me, later will be back at home where I can look through the difficult-to-use Ozzie field guide with scant information. I swiftly decide that I have to shut out the potential distractions and do my own thing as best I can.
With the car groaning, we continued to Ewen Maddock Reservoir in search of the very special and diminutive Australian Pygmyfly (Nannophya australis). This is a very targeted trip with habitat aimed at certain uncommon species. The habitat here was marshy and boggy so the guys donned their Wellies. Actually Phil lives in his Wellies which aren’t even posh, they’re just cheap Dunlops. In my boots I hung back looking for shade from the 34°C heat. There wasn’t much to amuse me in the surroundings. Then they encouraged me over – they’d found the quarry. It was near the edge where I had to get water only half way up my Peter Storm lightweight walking boots. I got it, a delightful little male only about 1in/2.5cm long. I could have done with Francine’s macro but really, in this territory, I couldn’t get close enough. What a wonderful critter.
We moved on to Mapleton Falls National Park, with no signs of any fires or smoke (for those that may be concerned). This was forested habitat more suited to my footwear. After not very long we’d found another artistically designed critter rejoicing in the name of Austroargiolestes amabilis. The common name is a little unfortunate given the current spate of wildfires on the east of Australia; it’s the Flame Flatwing.
The saving grace on this intense tour may be that jetlag hits Phil in the afternoon and he starts flagging. We don’t want him to flag too much, though, being the driver. We flagged our way to Kenilworth in search of a campsite. The first was essentially a bush camp for self-contained vehicles where the facilities numbered just a few portacabin loos – not enough for us. A friendly local directed us to the Kenilworth Showground where there were showers and plumbed-in dunnies. It was also within easy reach of a wonderful hotel, a.k.a. bar with cold beer.
We checked in and began pitching. I unrolled my new tent for the first time in vengeance. Pitching it proved pretty easy except for hard-baked ground. No hammer. I’d found that the guys normally find a large stone to use but we hadn’t. Another pleasant local came to the rescue with a real hammer. I’d have to work out how to use the restricted space later.