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Entry #19M - Australia Diary – May 9 – July 13 – Third Week – Between koalas and wallabies.
Wednesday, May 24 – Mackay
Sort of a doodle day, which was wonderful. I slept in and did a little internetting. Mark and Dawn had recommended a hairdresser and I had an appointment. It looked like Dawn and I would go together, but it ended up that Mark needed a haircut too, so he drove me over and brought me back. I had a wonderful oil treatment and boy, did my hair need it. (I must admit that at times during the trip, when I had forgotten my shampoo, I had to use bar soap that did nothing for my shine and bounce! I know, I know, you can stop cringing!) She took quite a bit off, but I can still pull it back into a ponytail, which is my preference when I am working with animals.
I also did a little shopping and visited the Artspace that had a great photo exhibit by a Chinese/Australian. There were sections on Bondi beach (pronounced Bond – eye), Aussie food (even roasted echidna’s), Aussie celebrities, Chinese/Aussies, and a very poignant section on the gradual decline and death of a friend/partner to Aids. Bits of it reminded me of my dear friend Steve.
Delma met me at my motel and we went downtown for dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the Point of Origin Game (Aussie Rules football (I think) where players had to either play for New South Wales (NSW) or Queensland (OL) depending on where they were born). Huge rivalry and apparently in the last minutes of the game, NSW got the deciding field goal. Queenslanders were not impressed.
Back in my room, I watched a new movie, The Island, sort of a remake of Logan’s Run and included favorite actor, Sean Bean. I find that when I have a tv in the room, I stay up too late. Good incentive to get into a hostel when I can.
Thursday, May 25 – Mackay
I had been encouraged my Delma to get to the Eungella National Park (pronounced Young- gula) with Jungle Johno’s to see a platypus. As I boarded the bus, I was met by Keith, the driver, and the only other customer, Martin (Belgium). I am constantly amazed at how the tours go forward with only one or two customers. Good for me, but I can’t imagine they cover their costs this way.
The tour would include a bus ride through the cane fields, a stop at the Pioneer Hotel to sample one of their wonderful meat pies, and the Eungella National Park. Keith in his other life is a cane farmer and belongs to the local Co-op to process the cane into sugar products. The fields were very high and the crush will begin soon. Queensland processed cane for two markets, JA for the Japanese who prefer a sugar with higher molasses content and QL – Queensland Standard that is exported as raw sugar to many countries including the US.
The Pioneer Hotel was very small and the beef curry pie that I had was marvelous. The chips were less so. Off we went to go into the National Park and the overlook. Lovely views and you could even see the islands off the coast from that height. Finally we were on the ridge and driving across to the river to see the platypus. Keith told us that they were only 300-500 millimeters (11 – 19 inches). I keep thinking that things are going to be much bigger than they are. With that gauge in mind, we arrived at the platform where they are normally seen. Previous days they had been waiting for the bus, but today, they were shy. Keith left us with a two-way phone and bino’s and went back to the bridge to see if he could spot any. 4 other couples joined us. As we waited there were turtles, ducks, black loons, and very loud cockatoos to look at. I had positioned myself right in front of where a stream entered the river. Keith had told us that you could usually spot them by the bubbles they make just prior to surfacing and from the cloud of mud that they stir up as they fish. They are only on the surface a very short time and then dive again.
Finally, my patience was rewarded and I noticed a change in the ripples coming from the little branch stream. It as moving much faster than I had expected, but when I rose and went to watch, the ripples came closer to the middle of the river and a little female platypus broke the surface. She couldn’t have been more than 9 inches long and was never on the surface long or close enough for me to get a photo. So I put the camera away and enjoyed the show. I was very happy to be the first one to see her. She put on a great show and did a loop very close to the platform before she turned and went up the river and under the bridge. We kept up with her and followed her until she disappeared around a bend in the river.
Platypus is one of the two monotremes in the world. Monotremes are egg-laying mammals. After the eggs have hatched, the babies are kept in the borrow and suckled. The female does not have nipples, but the milk is released from glands on her chest and the milk is caught on the hairs and sucked by the babies. The other monotreme is the echidna, sort of a little spiny anteater/porcupine that I will work with on Kangaroo Island off the coast near Adelaide in about a month from now.
Keith was nice enough to stop at a local take-away so that I could buy postcards. He also stopped by a large cane field on the ride back so that Quen and I could have our picture taken. No cane toads in sight, drat! I had heard about the poisonous cane toads that were brought in to eradicate one pest and ended up being a bigger pest themselves. They are toads that have poisonous skin and when attacked, they end up killing their attacker by their poison. Keith said they aren’t as rampant or as toxic as foretold, otherwise Australia would be without dogs, cats and other small animals, which we know is not the case.
It was a wonderful day.