The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, November 12, 2015

South Australia and the Outback

It has been harder and harder to find internet as Jessica and I drove through the state called South Australia and on up into the "Outback".  There is a huge difference between the coast line of south Australia and the dry interior. Along the coast, the waves have eroded out beautiful sea caves, arches and stacks.

South Australia is a marvelous area for motorcycle riders. I have seen hundreds out on the highway. I am a little jealous that I passed up riding David's BMW K75 on this trip, but the rain and all the gear we have with us would have made it difficult.

The towns are very motorcycle friendly, and I have seen all makes and models, including my beloved Suzuki VStrom.

This is a marvelous opportunity for a biologists like me to see the Australian wildlife up close and personal. Jessica is proving herself very adept at spotting creatures, including these wild koalas up in the trees along a mountain road.

And many varieties of kangaroo: red, grey, white, black, swamp, tree --- They come in all different sizes and colors, and this time of the year many of them have their baby "Joeys" filling mama's pouch almost to bursting. Time to get out and be on your own youngster!

A fence or a steep cliff does not bother an adult kangaroo. They jump right over high fences in a single bound -- Look, it's superkangaroo! Talking about super animals, check out these giant emus. At six foot tall and able to run as fast as a horse, a fence is not much of an obstacle to them either.

We started seeing the emus as we left the coast and headed up into the grassy interior. There were a lot of them. It is the daddy emu who takes care of the babies in the flock. I think he must have his hands full when there are 6 or 7 chicks, but they do seem well behaved.

Jessica, my tour guide, has us going to far and out-of-the-way places. One of these places was to look at aboriginal art work. The site was far off the highway, and, arriving just before dark, we decided to camp. We were the only ones in the area, It was eerie and quiet. Not long after it was fully dark we started hearing strange noises all around us. Our flashlights showed us that we were surrounded by cute Australian Opossums.

Not at all shy, the opossums wanted into our picnic basket in the worst way. You could walk right up to them while they tried to eat our food.

The aboriginal art we came to see was not very impressive, but I think it was not meant to be. Instead, it told stories about men and women, and it counted the young people who had come to the ceremony to be initiated into adulthood.

In many cases, the aboriginal people did their ceremonies up narrow canyons.

Sometimes there were waterfalls and streams in the canyons.

Often, in our drives through the Outback, the road was very bad, and sometimes it would go through streams.

But more often than not the roads in the Outback were hot and dry.

There are a lot of feral goats back in them thar hills. Large and robust, they seem to thrive on the scanty grass and thorny shrubs.

There are also many, many lizards. Many I don't recognize, but I do know these small skinks. There are some just about like this one living in my woodpile at home in Illinois.

We have to be careful driving in the outback. The towns are  tiny and few and far between, and it would be very easy to run out of gas before you got to the next filling station.

Mostly, the roads we have been traveling have been paved. We normally stay at the town's hotel, often sleeping up over the noisy bar where Road Train drivers and local people meet and celebrate long into the night. Last night, for example, our hotel did not have potable water and the lights were powered by a generator. They laughed when we asked if they had internet. Still, the people have been friendly and outgoing and altogether great representatives of this marvelous country. Our trip is almost over. We will be back in Brisbane in a day or so, and we fly home a couple of days later. It has been a great little vacation, one I am glad I got to enjoy with my daughter.ex

Next spring, I ride my motorcycle again, going to Portugal, Morocco and Spain. Jessica might go along and ride double on my VStrom. I hope you will come join me in April.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Victoria, Australia

Jessica and I were on the highway in the state of Victoria, about as far south in Australia as you can go unless you take the ferry to Tasmania, when I spotted this cute little Echidna browsing in the grass alongside the road.

Echidnas are cute, but they sure are not very cuddly. As Jessica tried to pet this one, it curled up in a ball and presented her with its quills.

i guess Echidnas are pretty well protected when they are in a ball, but this one quickly forgot Jessica was there and started grazing the roadside grass again.

We went out onto Wilson's Promontory which is a rather famous national park in Australia. There are supposed to be a lot of Emus there, but we couldn't find any. Instead, we hiked out to Squeaky Beach where the quartz sands squeak when you walk on them. I loved the big rocks there.

I got Jessica to walk through a narrow passage between some of them. It was sort of a "fat man's squeeze".

I thought it was a pretty place, even though I am not normally a huge fan of beaches.

Much of Victoria's many parks are covered with rain forests. One of their parks in Tarra Valley. It is a beautiful place, filled with primitive tree ferns.

I loved hiking the trails through the tree fern forests. This must have been the way it looked during the Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era, back when our coal was being formed in the tree fern swamps and back when dragon flies had wing spans as big as birds.

It was dark and damp in there among the towering ferns, a perfect place to find something that I like very much to study: fungi.

For a biologists like me, the tree fern forests are like a living textbook.

I loved the fiddleheads growing from the tops of all the ferns.

The fern forests are the home of the Lyre Bird. I didn't see one or hear its chime like song which I remember so well from movies I have seen on TV. We did see this creature though: a wombat munching at grass. Cute guy.

I am told that wombats are friendly and cuddly, but this bloke would not let us get close to him. I had to take my pictures through the windshield of the car. Looks kind of fuzzy, doesn't it?

Maybe we will see one tomorrow and I will be able to get a better picture.


Friday, November 6, 2015

New South Wales, Australia

Hi from southern New South Wales. Daughter Jessica and I are about as far south in southeastern Australia as the road goes. It has been raining hard for the last five days, and we have had to look through the mists and clouds as we drive through the Snowy Mountains, a part of the Great Dividing Range that splits the populated east coast off from the less populated interior “Outback”.

There are still some patches of snow up in the Snowy Mountains as Australia moves toward late spring.

 It is mid-November now. Jessica and I are bundled up in coats and rain gear, but down in the valleys the weather is warming up  It has me wondering how Santa will get around in his sleigh during the hot part of December.

The ski resorts are closed. They are small looking things and Jessica has been wondering if there are anything other than green or easy blue runs here.

 It is windy and cold and rainy, and the trees are stunted here in the Alpine regions. Mostly, the trees are a variety of small eucalyptus called Snow Gum.

We have done some small hikes in the Snowy Mountains, coming to lookout points where we can see small streams and cliffs way down in the mists.

We drove down to Melbourne,  going through a tremendous traffic jam which reinforced my strong dislike for cities, and we went on down to Phillip Island which is about as far south as a person can go without jumping over to Tasmania. We have had a great time here, and have found lots of koalas sleeping in the big gum trees.

Sometimes one will wake up and yawn and look around lazily. They eat the equivalent of a bowl of cereal a day (all of it eucalyptus of course), and on such a limited diet it is hard to be very active.

Last night we went to see hundreds of cute little penguins coming home from the sea where they had spent the entire day gorging on fish. They fought the surf as they came out of the ocean and, once they had gotten their little feet on land, they went waddling up the hillsides to their burrows where their babies waited patiently for some regurgitated fish to eat. Yum, warm food.

We are headed for the state of Victoria today. I hope the weather warms up.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

South from Sydney

My daughter, Jessica, and I have been having a great time exploring southeast Australia. We have been looking around Sydney for the last couple of days. Can you tell what the building is behind us?

You got it. It is the famous Sydney Opera House. We are told it is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Here is is in daylight from the other side of the bay.

The bridge behind Jessica is the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It is nicknamed "The Coathanger". I think that is a pretty good nickname for it. We walked about half way across it. Here is a view from the footpath across the bridge:

Sydney is a nice city with a lot to see, but once you have seen one cathedral in the world you've pretty much seen the lot.

I was much more interested in strolling though Sydney's Botanical Gardens and taking pictures.  Here is one of a Kookaburra in a gum tree (I always thought that song was about a bird in Europe).

And this is a Lorikeet. These little parrots are all over Southeast Australia, and they are very noisy.

After a couple of days in Sydney I was more than ready to leave. I am not a big fan of large cities. I like the mountains and forests much better. The only problem was that it was poring rain all day. Jessica and I stopped at a beach as we drove south and took a pictures of the kangaroos there. You can probably tell how soaked this little joey kangaroo was that Jessica is trying to entice into a petting moment.

This little joey is still inside mama kangaroo. Cute, isn't it?

Kangaroos are grass eaters, and they look a lot like deer in the face. They also often group together in herds like deer.

We had to be careful, Jessica and I, because kangaroos often jump out onto the road. Hit one of them and it would ruin both his and your days.  There are a lot of kangaroos in Australia, all the way from the big gray kangaroos like these down to the small tree kangaroos. They are fun, but what do you think of this Australian Crimson Rosetta? There are a lot of colorful birds in Australia, and they are a lot prettier than kangaroos.

Jessica and I are south and east of the capital, Canberra, tonight. It is still raining, so I did not make Jessica camp in a tent. Instead, we are in a nice motel room in a tiny little town up in the mountains. I hope it stops raining tomorrow.