Camping With the Kangaroos

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
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Trip End May 10, 2005


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Flag of Australia  ,
Friday, March 11, 2005

I was astounded by the lack of wildlife in SE Asia, but there's an abundance in the wilds of Australia! At night, Digby drove us out into the paddocks (fields) with his ute and we saw lots of kangaroos. (They're nocturnal, so you generally see them only in the evening). These are grey kangaroo and they're large enough to total a vehicle if you hit one, so most rural people have bars called "roo bars" on the fronts of their trucks. There are also other wildlife unique to Australia: platypus, koalas, echidnas - and many more!

There are also "heaps" (as the Aussies would say) of birds: eagles, quail, green parrots called "Twenty Eights" (because they sound like they're saying "28"), magpies that look like the ones we have in Saskatchewan but make a much more pleasant burbling sound, good old crows that sound like Donald Duck gagging(!) and kookaburras, a type of kingfisher, which sound like monkeys when they really get going. We also saw black swans (the state bird of Western Australia) on the river in Perth.

Rabbits and foxes are animals that are not indigenous, but have thrived to the point of being nuisances. There has been a program set up to poison foxes and feral cats to try to contain their numbers. While we were at Digby and Nikki's, there were two foxes that came up to the house to check out the chicken coop. Digby managed to shoot one. Many wild animals are very hungry and thirsty this time of year because of the drought.

Then there's all the poisonous things here, like snakes and spiders. Martin and Digby spotted a red back spider when they were fixing fence and Digby saw a king brown snake (both are poisonous) the same day. He's never been bitten by anything poisonous, but his father was bitten by a scorpion once. Even if the spiders aren't all venomous, they can still be pretty scary - I looked down one day while I was on the computer and there was a wolf spider climbing up my leg! They're about 3 inches in diameter and very hairy. Needless to say, I let out a shriek! Then there's fire ants, crocodiles, rockfish, jellyfish . . . . (Heather and I did go swimming with the crocs at Katharine, Northern Territory when we were here in 1984 - guess they must keep them well fed so that they don't nibble on the tourists! The freshwater crocodiles are not nearly as dangerous as the salt water type.)

Mosquitoes can also be a problem. About three years ago, Digby contracted Ross River Fever (similar the West Nile Virus) and struggled to regain his strength for more that 18 months.

Our stay with Digby, Nikki and family was a complete contrast to our week with Irwan and Ria in Singapore, but we enjoyed it just as much! I'll always have a soft spot for farms and Western Australia reminds me a lot of rural Saskatchewan. We kicked back, helped move sheep and machinery, fishing for yabbies (similar to crayfish) and had some in-depth conversations about life in Oz and Saskatchewan. They're are many similarities, one being that we are people living in extreme climates that continually challenge our constitutions and creativity.

After six days on the farm, we decided to see a bit more of Western Australia and rented a campervan that Martin drove out from Perth. It's a wonderful change from buses and planes and we're not trying to cover a huge distance, just the very SW corner. We drove along beaches, through huge jarrah forests and last night we camped with the kangaroos! There were about 20 at our campsite, mostly does and young kangaroos, but there was also one large buck and a mother with a joey. And we just stumbled on them by dumb luck!

We are getting used to driving on "the wrong" side; it's right turns that turn across traffic and left turns that are easier, plus the gear shift and driver's seat are on the other side! Basic traffic rules are the same (yield to the right), but you can't turn left on a red light. The main roads are good (all paved), but narrow (single lane) and not much shoulder - and many of them have a 110 km/hr speed limit! Apparently if no speed is posted, the limit is 110, even on gravel roads!
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