One of the highlights of my entire Australian adventure was a visit, via serious 4WD bush road, to Annan Falls, one of several waterfalls sacred to the Aboriginees of the region. Steve, being a kindred spirit in the realm of sanctioning a water-junkie habit, took many of us there for an afternoon swim while 4 members of the group were on a backpacking overnight to survey the 800m and 1000m sites, accessible only by foot since the road washed out to a degree even the Troupie couldn’t navigate. Imagine this setting, surrounded by bush, with even the walking track obscured.
Scalp and shoulder massage - gratis.
AD and Steve, happy as water ouzels.
Nadiah and Anndy doing water ballet without a coach.
Content much?? We returned one more time with everybody because, well, we had to!
Another afternoon we were taken on a hike by Denny, ranger from the station in previous photographs, to look for tree kangaroos. Contrary to popular belief, tree kangaroos are not relatives of drop bears, but actually do exist, though they are not always easy to find. Steve, Nadiah and I had spotted one while listening for birds earlier that morning. We heard a huffing sound that was similar neither to the feral hogs nor the emerald doves, both grunters of the forest. Steve recalled haveing startled a tree kangaroo once, and it dropped (a controlled fall?) out of a tree and stared him down while making the same noise. We scoured the tree tops, and lo and behold, there was a meter-long furry tail hanging from a canopy branch, with a vague furry shape attached to it. WooHoo! Just like the yellow sign!
We never did see any tree kangaroos, or any non-human mammals, for that matter, on the hike with Denny, but we passed a lot of enormous termite mounds.
And the increasingly gray skies opened up for a drenching deluge that heralded the beginning of supremely soggy last few days of the expedition.
We rock-hopped and waded across the swollen river at the beginning of the trip (quite treacherous) but found a natural bridge for the return leg.
Some of the trees were blanketed with the exoskeletons of huge cicadas. I wore one as a brooch for the rest of the day (and evening dinner excursion into “town.”)
Sometimes it looked like the sun might come out, but the rain kept on raining.
When we arrived earlier in the week, the road into camp was dry. So was the space where Adrian had pitched his tent. Bring out the shovels, and commence to trench!
Wet ground enabled us to see dingo footprints. We saw dingos, too, both in camp and while spotlighting. They were curious, as were we, and we just looked at each other until they walked away.
James ducks under the kitchen roof to miss the worst of a downpour.
Our view from the “living room,” now under an enormous blue tarp with an Eski coffee table, complete with candles to illuminate the card games.
A dampened fungus sprouts a mushroom.
More weird fungi in the forest.
Solar drier - epic fail!!
Our final excurison before leaving camp for good was a visit to the sacred Black Mountain, a granite boulder escarpment that is home to an endemic lizard, bat, and some plants. Steve has used the area for research, but the surface temperature black rocks can exceed 60°C, and what look like pebbles in this photo, are actually car-sized boulders with similar sized caves and chasms. We did a little climbing around in the relatively cool weather,
and saw lots of skinks.
The view from the base of the mountain.
Though we got about 180mm of rain in two days, we had a bit of a reprieve in that it was not actually precipitating (at least, not much) when we packed everything up for moving out on the morning of the 24th. With all hands being handy, the final phases (tent strikes and packing, tarp strike and folding, gear and equipment collection, etc. took only a couple of hours. Loading the trailer and the three vehicles took another 30 minutes, and we were on the road en route to Cairns.
I rode shotgun in the Hi-Lex with Alex at the helm and Carolyn and Kirsty for entertainment.
Some of the roads were still under water, with more rain on tap.
A clear patch of sky, with Queensland cattle (Brahmins and Brahmin-hybrids becuase of their tolerance to heat and resistance to ticks)
Sugarcane fields - another part of the less than laudable history of Australian colonization (but the source of real cane sugar, rather than high fructose corn syrup, in all sweets and soft drinks in Australia!)
Banana plantations, with protective, uh, bags on the fruit.
View heading south
More views as we wend our way down
Cairns in the distance, illuminated by an auspicious patch of sunlight. Cue the heavenly choir.
My last three days in Oz were scheduled to be spent out on the reef. Though I did get there, the boat pitching in wavey seas did not agree with my constitution, and after a few swims among the fishes, I spent 24 hours in my bunk before beign returned to shore. The up side was that I did get to meander in the botanic garden (see a previous post) and watch the flocks of ibises alite on the palm trees outside my hotel window. And 33 hours after I left said hotel, I was back home!
What a long, strange trip it’s been. I can’t wait to return some day!!