Mickey Creek et al

J19_3014 Pretty-face Wallaby and joeyA late start today; we weren’t out of the campsite until 07:00. As we were getting ready to leave one of the local Pretty-face Wallabies sat beside our pitch complete with adorable joey in her pouch. How endearing is this?

The targets for the morning, both being close to Takarakka, my little slice of heaven, were Mickey Creek followed by The Rock Pool. Ours was the only car in the car park at the beginning of the 1.3km trail running beside Mickey Creek. [Quelle surprise.]

J19_3156 Australian EmeraldThe water was flowing but there wasn’t much of it. There was a lot of mud beside the stream and, further up the banks, about 2m, detritus, evidence of the inch of rain that fell rapidly in a storm about a week ago and washed all before it. This creek must then have been a raging torrent. The boys are after an Austroaeshna  species (that’s an Australian Hawker) but I’m happy to try taking pictures of any odonata that offer themselves up to my lens. They’ve seen an Austroaeshna a couple of times but thus far it has flown continuously and has eluded being captured on pixels. I’m content with the lower-hanging fruit that I am getting. I spent a awful lot of pixels on an Australian emperor (Hemicordulia australiae); the lighting was harsh and difficult but here’s some of the pixels.

J19_3198 Austrogomphus amphiclitusThere was some low-hanging fruit at our second stop, The Rock Pool, which was only about 1km distant. The Rock Pool itself is a swimming hole that would doubtless be crowded in the popular season. Happily now, we were the only ones there. [A song about mad dogs and Englishmen springs to mind.] Flowing into the pool and keeping it topped up was a rock-strewn creek. Phil had his wellies on and was impervious. Roy had short shoes on and got his feet soaked. There was nothing for it, I’d have to get my walking boots wet – fortunately the water never went over the tops. I had some fun cooling down my feet – once again we’re up in the mid-30s Centigrade – and stalking some dragonflies which did their level best not to be stalked. I wobbled on more rounded wet rocks until I had them stalked as best I could. Phil has a thing about Gomphids [i.e. club-tailed dragonflies]. We, by which I mean Phil, think this one is a Pale Hunter (Austrogomphus amphiclitus).

Once again we returned to the calm of Takarakka campsite for lunch and an afternoon of paperwork. This is the first place where we’ve really had much in the way of downtime and I’ve been able to get up to date, mas ó menos. Immediate refreshment took the form of one of the Connoisseur range of Australian native ingredient ice creams – they’re like Australian Magnums.  I went for salted caramel with macadamia nut. Wattleseed and Hazelnut sounds interesting, too. I couldn’t resist washing my ice cream down with a cold Bundaberg ginger beer [apparently, that can be bought at Tesco – hmmm].

We move away from my slice of heaven tomorrow to begin ouor journey back to wards Brisbane but not before the boys have once again gone up Carnarvon Gorge to the Moss Garden. I’m going to leave them to it this time, I think.

Posted in 2019 Australia

Carnarvon Gorge Walk

We had been given a 20-minute video presentation about the Carnarvon Gorge when we had arrived at Takarakka. The gorge is up to 1km wide with vertically sheer cliffs. The temperature inside the gorge can be 5°C hotter than outside and outside was forecast to be another 37°C day. Our walk up to The Moss Garden, which is the main dragonfly interest, was going to be a hot one. Start early and finish by midday, was the advice that sounded very sensible to me. Once again, I was going to have to lug my darn cargo vest and camera rucksack with me.

Most of the gorge itself is relatively flat with not much more than a gentle incline as it narrows. Along its length are a number of of side tracks which, starting from the bottom of the main gorge track, all head upwards. Our target was the second of these side shoots, the one up to the so-called Moss Garden.

J19_2929 Carnarvon Gorge habitatWe arrived at our start point at about 07:30 and began our 2km gentle climb to start of the side arm. We hung a left and relatively soon found our dragonfly habitat which halted progress for some time.

The Moss Garden itself is a dark and relatively cool oasis. What is apparently special about it is the fact that the cliffs are composed of limestone on top. Rain water that fell 1000 years ago filters slowly down through the limestone until it meets an impervious layer and emerges to drip down the remaining cavern walls which are covered in moss. There ain’t no dragonflies up there.

The walk back down at midday was, indeed, bloody hot. I had enough water to keep me going at a gentle pace but was pleased when I spotted the roof of the visitor centre [unmanned]. I really cannot imagine anybody tackling the 24kms it is possible to walk at this time of year. Our 4.5kms round trip was quite enough. We repaired to Takarakka for a well deserved cold beer (or Bundaberg ginger beer for those not indulging in alcohol).

I enjoy the siesta here at Takarakka. It is great that even Phil and the dragonflies consider it too hot to do much. I’m getting hooked on black Dilmah Premium Ceylon Tea. The campsite has a samovar constantly on the go for brews.

J19_3012 Fruit Bats and MoonI was ready for our early evening spectacle. A couple of years ago there was a serious fire which forced a colony of fruit bats out of their cave further up the gorge. They have taken up residence in part of the Takarakka campsite and the owners, bless them, being wildlife fanatics, have let them stay but have had to close that section of the campsite which has been adopted by the bats. In the early evening, they swarm out to drink and feed. I’d seen them, of course, on our first night but now I was ready for them. Here they are, complete with the moon in shot. The stream of bats continues unabated for a good 10 minutes; it’s quite spectacular. Our host estimates that there are 20,000 of them. You do not want to be beneath 20,000 fruit bats; you must trust me on this.

Posted in 2019 Australia

To Takarakka

Happily we were leaving Emerald after one night. We’d eaten in a pub/hotel called the Star and Emerald itself seemed relatively pleasant, especially the botanic garden. It was just the touring camp that seemed crummy – an uninspiring layout with concrete slabs proud of the ground for hardstanding and bugger all in the way of grass in between. We had room for two tents on the not-grass which was reticent to accept tent pegs, and Roy pitched his tent across the concrete slab, the peg loops being positioned just over the edge for the pegs to go into (if you’re lucky) the not-grass. Having smacked my Odoland tent stakes [I just couldn’t resist buying them] into whatever the resilient substrate actually was with a lump of hardwood, I found when I withdrew them, which wasn’t easy either, that they had been honed to the point of making excellent commando offensive weapons.

Much of the morning was spent at the water habitat provided by the Emerald botanic gardens. I couldn’t believe we were there before 07:00. The boys were still searching the river banks at 09:30 and I felt I done a day already. Happily, fairly shortly afterwards [that’s about another hour] it was time to hit a supermarket for a 3-day shop; we were heading into a wild area and would need to take most supplies in with us, we thought. I needed cash, too, and there was supposedly a Westpac ATM at the same mall. I couldn’t find it. A helpful local lady told me there used to be one but it had been taken over by Commonwealth Bank, which I had seen. That also had an ATM but it insisted on charging me A$7.50 to withdraw A$500. Oh well, needs must. I’m beginning to think that with banks charging me to get at my own money, I’ll stop the prepaid currency card and return to cash. Since I needed to add to the kitty, as well, I paid for the shop on the currency card, too. At least that worked.

J19_2839 Austrolestes aridusOur remote destination was Takarakka, our next stop for three nights. The drive was uneventful, save for being interrupted at every spot of water for potential dragonflies. At one, remembering the tent peg problems at Emerald, I took the opportunity to select a handy palm-shaped rock as a hammer substitute. With the temperature hitting 37°C, the dark rock had adsorbed so much heat that I could hardly hold it without burning my palm. Naturally, much of the country here is desiccated but there are still a few sources of water, though some are disappearing. One stop turned up a damselfly that caused whoops of joy from our leader: the Inland Ringtail (Austrolestes aridus).

J19_2887 Kanga and RooWe arrived at Takarakka and were welcomed by a delightful team of staff. Takarakka is a bush campsite at the beginning of the Carnarvon Gorge which is home to several endemics that Phil is keen to see. I was SO relieved to see not only a well run campsite with very well appointed facilities but an absolutely pleasantly laid out campsite complete with wallabies and kangaroos onsite. Best of all, we had real ground which was happy to accept tent pegs. Second best of all is the fact that Takarakka is a long way from anywhere so the camp shop stocks both cold beer and a small selection of wines. There’s meat and other essentials, too, so if our shopping falls short we’ll be OK.

After the Emerald site I needed my faith in camping to be restored.

Posted in 2019 Sri Lanka

Driving to Emerald

Our next main target is Carnarvon Gorge but we need an intermediate stop. The stop chosen by our revered leader was a town called Emerald which also has a touring caravan park that accepts tents. As usual we set off early and were on the road by 06:30.

We passed a few hours at couple of river crossings working up and down the banks, sometimes working through the water. ‘T was interesting but not exactly scintillating. I did find a drying out teneral Clubtail (Gomphid), yet to be identified.

Another site called Broken River was “a site of interest”, naturally because a river runs through it, so odonata were on that menu, too. It was but a short detour off our main route to Emerald. Broken River has a short stay car park which we pulled into, then went to see the map at the visitor centre. A helpful lady was telling another pair where the best viewing platform for Duck-billed Platypus was but that midday-ish wasn’t the best time to see them – they are usually more active at dawn and dusk.

J19_2537 Duck-billed PlatypusPhil had disappeared up the river and was temporarily lost to us so Roy and I wandered to the viewing platform. It was around midday so we were both a little gobsmacked to soon see a Duck-billed Platypus swimming and diving to feed in the pool beneath the viewing platform. This couldn’t be any better; we had the combined advantages of bright daylight, height and beautifully clear water – we could see the odd creation submerged, stirring up the silt looking for lunch.

The route to Emerald took us past an area of Australia that I can only describe as being raped; we drove by a couple of open-cast coal mines each of which must’ve been the size of Norwich. Goods trains over a kilometre long and powered by four locomotives, two at the front and two more in the middle, were stationary beside the road we drove on. All the wagons were loaded to the brim with coal [I suspect] destined for China, which seems to be Australia’s largest market for most things.

We stopped on a dead straight road at a ditch with water. It was dead straight in that there was no bend visible but there were several carcasses of dead kangaroos on the road. They’d been dead some time with various parts having been eaten away and believe me, having lain there in the mid 30°C temperatures for a couple of days, the aroma was not pleasant. One carcase was right beside the pool the boys were interested in. I decided not to look.

By about 18:00 we arrived at Emerald and checked in, asking for a powered site. We couldn’t see the site until we turned a corner. This  was one of the scuzzier campsite that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a few. Our pitch had no grass, as such, but did have a raised concrete plinth for the hardstanding. Beside this was an area of rough ground made of Darwin knows what where two of our tents would fit. The ground initially refused to be penetrated by pegs. We had no hammer (I had meant to pick up a stone at our previous camp but forgot) but Phil found a lump of hardwood which just about sufficed. Roy chose to pitch his tent across the concrete (it was baking hot) and his tent was just wide enough for the pegs to be forced into the ground at the side.

Beside us was a motorvan complete with young parents and a mostly uncontrolled Rugbrat. I decided not to look.

We shot back into town for dinner. There may have been urgency since some hotels stop food at 19:30. I tried to avoid chips by ordering a graziers pie which came with potato and mushy peas. They had none so I was down to fish [flathead] and chips again, which did NOT come with mushy peas. Go figure.

Posted in 2019 Australia

Up Finch Hatton Gorge

The photography on this trip is a bit more of a challenge than it usually is. Firstly, we’re hitting the mid-30s on the Centigrade scale. Secondly, because I don’t want to leave my cargo vest containing passport, wallet, sunnies, reading glasses in an unattended car, I have to wear it when the last thing I need is a second layer. The same applies to my 9kg rucksack with all the photographic gear and laptop. I have to heft that on my back, too, and scramble on rocks rounded by an occasionally pounding river, the weight of the rucksack is a little unbalancing. So,  Phil offered to ferry me to a car park up the gorge so I didn’t have to carry my the rucksack; I still needed my trusty cargo vest with documents, spare battery and water bottle, though. None of us wanted to leave the car unattended when our Platypus Bush Camp was safer and only about 1km away. The taxi ride left me with about 2.1 kms to walk to the Wheel of Fire (a pool at the end of the path).

Before departing, I tried a spot of bush camp laundry. I had a couple of shirts, socks and several undies to refresh. The basin once again has no plug so I stuffed my socks in the plughole. That enabled me to do a rudimentary job of “plunge, plunge, plunge, squeeeeeze”. We’d seen a wonderful, small manual tumble washing machine for camping. How good would that be? These Aussies have some great camping gear designed for outback living with bugger all facilities. I finished my attempt at laundry and strung my washing line between two trees beside my tent and hoped.

J19_2336 Snake and lunchWe had a reasonably successful, if quite strenuous morning hunting dragons. There were many more Rockmasters but two more exciting species, if you’re into that sort of thing. One of the more interesting and unusual things, though, was that we got to watch a snake hunting amongst the boulders that strew the gorge river. It seemed unconcerned about our presence but, given the reputation of Ozzie fauna for being venomous, we were circumspect. I doubt this one was venomous but here it is with Frogs Legs for lunch.

Phil had cleverly left a water container secreted in the bushes behind the car park so we could recharge our bottles before the extra kilometre+ back down to Platypus Camp. After a fairly long slog I was cheered to find that my laundry was dry. Yay! Mind you, after being baked for a few hours at 33°C it darn well should be. It smelt fresh, too.

More supplies were required, especially water and Bundaberg ginger beer which seems to be an Aussie institution and rightly so. The lads have got me hooked. It really is a reasonable substitute for the real thing. So, we headed for Finch Hatton and its general store which delivered on both. What they did not deliver on was an explanation as to any link between their little town and Denys Finch-Hatton as portrayed by the wonderful Robert Redford in Out of Africa. In fact, they’d never heard of Denys Finch-Hatton and one guy I asked had never even heard of the movie. WHAT!? You cannot be serious!

J19_2405 Duck-billed PlatypusPlatypus Camp is not named as a tourist gimmick; it really does have two Duck-billed Platypus pools. The best times for observing these curious evolutionary creations are dawn and dusk. The three of us went and sat on the sandy beach beside the pool and waited hopefully. Sure enough, at 18:15 a Platypus began foraging. Just to give the idea of how difficult these things are to capture on pixels, here’s one at a ridiculous ISO 3200 at 1/25 sec and F5.6. Because we are on much the same level as the creature, it’s hardly recognizable. One has to try, though. 🙂

Posted in 2019 Australia

Going Bush

I must be getting on the time zone ‘cos I stayed in the tent until 05:00 this morning. That just meant that I had to rush to pack up my tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag again. I discarded the wrapper (it’s not really a bag) for the mat; it was getting in the way and didn’t help pack it. Once again, my tent and sleeping bag didn’t fit the other half of my bag’s lower deck so the tent went in the car alone. I may not be using the sleeping bag’s compression straps severely enough. After all, the tent can’t get any shorter than the pole bag therein.

J19_2208 Brachydiplax denticaudaWe were on the road by about 06:30 and were aiming for a lengthy drive north to a gorge just beyond Marian. En route, after filling up with fuel, we had a slightly more successful side detour than yesterday’s to the Lawrence Wetland Reserve favoured by birders. There were a few dragonflies to play with, though, and it made a pleasant leg stretch. One of them looked like a new species for me; a Palemouth (Brachydiplax denticauda).

By 13:00 we were approaching our destination but needed shopping. Happily, it being a Sunday, there was a shopping mall nearby complete with a Woolworths. Before shopping, Roy called our target site, Platypus Bush Camp, to check what facilities there were. Essentially the answer was none … well, limited. There was a “bush shower” [bush showers are not enclosed but open out onto the bush], though it was cold because of the total fire ban, along with four dunnies and a kitchen area but all sans power. Happily Phil had called in a bought a single burner gas ring with four cannisters of butane, so rudimentary cooking would be OK. There were no refrigeration facilities, though, so we had to be careful what we bought, intending to stay for three nights. I seem to be going vegetarian bush. Arghh!

Our soon to be genial host asked us to pick up three bottles of peach tea cordial for him. Hmmm. “Get one for yourselves”, he suggested. Roy and I bought red wine which doesn’t nee chilling.

J19_2214 Finch Hatton Gorge signShopping over, we began our final approach. This should be home from home for me. Just look at it, we were heading for Finch Hatton Gorge. I couldn’t believe it, going to a gorge that appears to be named after one of my film heroes. I may get tears welling up in my eyes.

J19_2225 Diphlebia coerulescensA few hundred metres from our destination we crossed a ford over a boulder-strewn creek. This, of course, was irresistible and we piled out. “Diphlebia!”, yelled Roy! I was getting into some of the Ozzie odo lingo by now and knew this was one of the species I was really hoping to see, a Rockmaster. This looked like perfect habitat for it. My companions have wellies but I had my trusty Peter Storm boots but there was nothing for it, they’d have to get wet. This is why they’d have to get wet.

Posted in 2019 Australia

Mainly Driving

I’d been in bed/tent since 20:00 yesterday evening. The trouble is, once darkness falls and others invade the kitchen area, there is little to do for entertainment. I had fallen asleep and awoken twice before it was midnight. This was going to be a long one.

Since I’d had trouble packing my gear previously, at 03:50 I decided to squirm into my clothes and start getting ready. The Kookaburras were late with their alarm and began calling at about 04:10. Once the Kookies started, other birds joined in. I made myself comfortable and began to strike my tent.

Our pitch was essentially sand and I was keen to find something other than sand to try and fold it. I went into the kitchen and used a table to deflate my sleeping mat as best I could. It wasn’t a very good best and the valve that is supposed to make it airtight doesn’t, it sucks air back in. I repeated the exercise and tried to strap it before it ballooned up again.

Mercifully it was calm and I found a patch of almost-grass to fold my tent. My sleeping mat was too big but still just about fitted my bag. Both my sleeping bag and tent were too long and I had no chance. The tent went into the car solo. This has to get easier or something is going to get left behind. I’m thinking I should have brought the slightly larger holdall.

After another stressful packing, at 06:00 we left the delights of Paradise Beach and its groups of young studs to head off to Rockhampton.

J19_2189 Aussie CeriagrionOn the way we stopped at some potential habitat with just a smearing of water left. Roy found a poisonous Red-bellied Snake and we all skilfully avoided it. After it squirmed into its woodpile, we found a single species, my first Ozzie Ceriagrion and a tandem pair to boot.

Another detour off piste through a bone dry forest to find a creek which turned out to be saline. Bother. Ignoring the no through road, Google told us we could go through so we did. What Google thought was an entry back onto the highway was actually a fence. We ended up riding 2 kms on a very rough forest track back along the fence line to get to the entrance we had entered through. A truck driver, maybe the farmer, asked what we were doing there. He seemed to be amused by combinations of following Google and looking for dragonflies. I can’t think why.

Once in Rockhampton we diverted to another creek surrounded by posh-looking houses. In Australia a posh house is one whose gutters do not bump into the neighbours gutters. The houses were pleasant but the creek was as dry as a dingo’s crotch. Failure #3 for the day.

We retired to the campsite, stopping first at a bottle shop for a couple of six packs. I have become particularly fond of Furphys, which happily they had.. At last a success.

J19_2191 Rockhampton CampThe campsite is pleasant in a basic sort of way. We’re the only tents in and we’ve pitched under a shady tree sporting very red blossoms that are dropping on the ground. (My tent is the green one on the middle.) We’ve seen a lot of these trees with brilliant red blossoms. I’ve no idea what they are but they make quite a contrast to the jacarandas when in close proximity.

I’ve got to pack the tent again tomorrow. I think I’ll just leave it out of my bag.

Posted in 2019 Australia

Rainbow Beach

Our neighbouring young studs had been reasonably considerate, although Phil had heard one of them chundering overnight and wondered what he’d been hitting. We’re here for two nights so have the whole, long day to investigate local habitats.

J19_2183 Seary's CreekWe returned to Seary’s Creek  before 08:00 and found it pleasantly free of people. This early start caper is strange; in the UK I wouldn’t dream of hunting dragonflies before about 11:00. Even so it took a little while for the Antipodean dragonflies to warm up but we ended up passing a few hours with Roy wading in the sandy-bottomed river up to his waist and me trying to follow as best I could along the overgrown bank. This is dune slack territory, so-called brown water habitat, or so I’m told, and the species differ a little. We had some success but teh  habitat picture is probably of more general interest.

We returned the short distance to the campsite for a relaxing lunch – in common with most European campsites, lunchtime is quiet because everyone else is out for the day – before our afternoon distraction. This was much harder work.

Our objective was Poona Lake. A trail began close to where a permit was needed for motor vehicles but fortunately the start of our trail was within the no permit required zone. We had a 2.1 kms walk there and, of course, a 2.1 kms walk back. Some of the walk in both directions was uphill. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a long way but, not wanting to leave either my document-containing jacket, or camera bag or laptop in the car, I had to do the walk it laden with those through forest in 30+°C. Suffice to say I was relieved to arrive.

J19_2156 Orthetrum boumiera maleJ19_2166 Orthetrum boumieraWe emerged from the forest ont the shore of a quite large lake. It was surrounding by some beach and quite a lot of impenetrable sharp reeds. One of the targets here was teh so-called Brown-water Skimmer (Orhetrum boumiera) and several males presented themselves almost immediately we arrived. Females were difficult to find but as I was negotiating some of the reeds I spotted one sitting advantageously. Right, happy camper (though not particularly with the campsite).

Roy hung back looking for other quarry while I followed Phil back along the 2.1kms track to the car where we restocked with water and salt. Water is obvious but the salt needed when sweating copiously comes in the form of salted crisps, a.k.a. potato chips. Well, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food.

Posted in 2019 Australia

Ozzie Dawn Chorus

I managed to finagle myself into my tent. There’s little room for anything else but somethings are required. I managed to surround myself with what I thought to be the overnight essentials. You need space for the clothes you take off, those that you’ll put on in the morning, glasses to read the time when you wake up at some ungodly hour, some sort of torch to see other things by, which is my phone but a torch would be better. Arranging all these accoutrements in a completely unfamiliar environment in the pitch black is quite a challenge. My nominally self-inflating sleeping mat – it needed some help – and inflatable pillow proved quite comfortable, once I’d worked out how to inflate the pillow without it auto-deflating. Most surprisingly, once settled and over the initial trepidation, I settled and did manage to sleep. My overnight bottle [you can guess but it saved me needing to leave a difficult-to-leave tent] proved excellent, worth every penny of £10 and worth the packing problem.

I slept, though not solidly but then I don’t sleep solidly at home. At 04:00 the Australian Dawn Chorus fired up. A gang of Kookaburras began laughing very loudly. [Challenge: go find the collective noun for Kookaburras.] They were joined at 04:20 by Australian Magpies and their fluty whistling, which I love. This is not a problem, I was awake anyway and it gave me some entertainment, something to listen to.

Now for the worst part of the tent experience, packing everything away. There was a breeze which made it impossible to arrange the very lightweight fly sheet. I began to see why it was called a fly sheet. The inner tent, with it’s sewn-in ground sheet is a little heavier and a little easier to handle. What with trying to bundle all other overnight items back in my “suitcase”, together with the tent attempting to return to Brisbane unaccompanied, it didn’t get folded but bundled up and stuffed in my bag rather unceremoniously.

Panic! I switched on my camera to make an adjustment. The mirror went up – I thought it was taking shots but it stayed open as if in bulb mode. I tried a different lens in case my long lens was not connecting to the camera body correctly. Same problem: up went the mirror. I removed the battery and re-booted: same problem. Shit, I thought poetically, my camera is f****d. I spotted a message saying something along the lines of “press button to begin recording a movie”. Ah ha, somehow my camera body switch had been moved from stills to movie mode – the mirror was raising in readiness for a movie. I returned the switch to stills and sanity returned. Relief! We were off.

J19_2024 Nannophlebia risiJ19_2045 Pseudagrion igniferToday we headed first for Booloumba Creek along with a few other stops in Conondale NP. Here’s a couple of new friends from there: Flame-headed River Damsel (Pseudagrion ignifer) and Common Archtail (Nannophlebia risi). The damsel is going out of focus at the tail but you just have to see that fabulous face colour.

Second port of call was Searys Creek in Great Sandy NP as we were closing in on Rainbow Beach. It being a sunny, hot Sunday and there being swimming pools at Seary’s Creek, it was invaded by bathing Joe Publics. This does not make for the finest of wildlife watching environments but we did get a little late afternoon action. We will return in the morning hopefully with less companions.

Rainbow Beach was, well, a campsite close to a beach. We’re familiar with the problems that such campsites engender in Europe. nonetheless it was an equipped campsite with kitchen facilities and close to where we wanted to be. We handed over A$100 to check-in for two nights.

We didn’t have shade or much in the way of grass; we pitched essentially on sand right beside les sanitaires. Beside us was a another slightly larger tent. The benefit of a sandy pitch is that the tent pegs went in very easily, so much so that I decided to use my special “odoland” triangular tent stakes because I thought regular pegs might not hold. A van drew up in the neighbouring pitch and three young studs tipped out. Later a second car turned up and three more young studs tipped out. My heart sank a little. I was then transported back to the 70s when every campsite had a camper who thought they could play the guitar; yes, the sound of a guitar drifted across. My heart sank further.

Eventually the guitarist got bored and the guitar stopped. In truth the young studs seemed reasonably considerate and really didn’t disturb us.

My sleeping mat with a sand base proved relatively comfortable.

Posted in 2019 Australia

First Night

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.

J19_1848 Australian PygmyflyWith 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.

J19_1920 Austroargiolestes amabilisWe 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.

Posted in 2019 Australia