Travelling – Much beauty in the details

Swollen buds waiting for springtime warmth, when they’ll burst into bloom. Wattle, not so patient, boasting golden fluff-balls already. Bold. Moss, greener than green. Spongy, adorned with undefined plant pits and pieces. And lichen, growing in ever-widening circles on rock faces. Fascinating. There are little niches for every life-form.

Purple spots on tiny white petals, hugging the mossy surface. I call them Snowdrops. My mother named them, and it stuck. Delicate, exquisite miniature bronzed insect-snatching tentacles of Sundews climbing to the light. Dots of sticky ‘dew’ on each lethal hair.

Details. Little things.

A bulging half-moon hangs in the blueness, unwilling to fade as you would expect it should by mid-morning. Tiny parcels of beauty everywhere, only needing appreciative eyes to unwrap them. I see them. All the natural gems nestling among the rocks and shrubs, hiding, but obvious to the grateful nature-lover.

Dull minds with eyes only for material gizmos and modernism will miss these treasures. Pity, for the more humans aware of the value of intricate and specialised eco-systems, the more our planet home will be preserved. But I don’t let that thought spoil my morning in the bush. My spirit is lifted.

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Travelling – A garden to tell the world about

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Grand. Awesome. Immaculately groomed tropical plant collections from here and other tropical countries, obviously lovingly and expertly maintained.

Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia. I’ve explored arid-lands botanic gardens, high-country botanic gardens, city and country, native and exotic, and always immersed myself in the beauty and fascination of the plants displayed. But really, this tropical garden tops them all.

Amazing ferns and palms are features. Stunning foliage plants. Mysterious carnivorous plants. Gorgeous blooms and odd seed capsules. Relatives of the grotesquely beautiful Corpse flower. Bromeliads, gingers, bamboos, and creepers. Orchids and strange fruit trees. Lush lawns and waterways. And tucked away in little leafy nooks are seats (themselves works of art) for contemplation and rest.

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What a truly inspiring piece of natural paradise. After wandering in wonderment, and sitting in silence, we enjoyed delicious food at the outdoor cafe. And then it rained, as it does in the tropics.

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Travelling – An impressive spider catches a bird in the rainforest

Golden Orb spider huge queensland rainforest caught bird in web

She was hanging in the garden in a huge web tinged with gold. A BIG spider. A scarily BIG spider.  I first saw her while I was having breakfast outdoors. She darted to the bottom of the web pouncing on a brilliant blue butterfly. The butterfly escaped, and Mrs spider returned to the centre of her web, awaiting another hapless insect.

How do I know it was Mrs? Because in the spider kingdom, the female is usually hundreds of times larger than the male. At a close inspection, two tiny spiders were hanging out in the outskirts of the web, presumably waiting for a chance to impregnate the impressive mama, and probably get eaten in the process. It’s tough being a male spider.

During a late afternoon tropical shower, a dove flew through the web, leaving half the silky net in tatters. And then to make matters worse for the spider, the clumsy bird flew straight back again, almost taking out the spider.

More rain through the night, and when I checked out the spider in the garden, I was amazed to find a finch caught in the web. Now, the finch was only a little smaller than a House Sparrow, so that’s really some achievement for the spider’s silk – known to be stronger than steel of equal size. Nature is awesome.

The bird was still alive, and the spider showed no interest in the potential meal, so the owner of the Park rescued the bird and carefully plucked off all the silk fibres connected to its wings and legs. After a stumble, the bird flew off.

Bird caught in spider web queensland rainforest 2
I’ve turned this photo on it’s side so that the spider and captured bird are both more clear

This is what I love about nature. All the little details. All the daily behaviour and mystery. And that’s why I notice Mother Nature’s subtle, yet wondrous stories. Because I don’t just look, I experience. Yes, nature is awesome.

Bird caught in spider web queensland rainforest 1

 

Travelling – From tropical coast to dry inland

Outback drought 1

Thousands of mangled kangaroo carcasses litter the roadside – some desiccated fur and bleached bones, others fresh and being devoured by ravens and raptors. A ghastly sight, but not much is wasted.

Mobs of kangaroos suffer the midday sun, searching out a morsel of grass worth eating. As brutal as it might sound, motorists unintentionally running the roos down are doing them and their kind a favour. The drought is harsh.

Creeks are bone-dry, rivers reduced to chains of stagnant puddles, farm dams are not much better. Emus wander aimlessly across abandoned paddocks, camouflaged against the grey bushland.

Outback drought 2

Acacias are beginning to bloom – today is national Wattle Day. Occasional thickets of cypress and weeping wilga share the landscape with the wattle and eucalypts. Hundreds of kilometres of the grey semi-arid vegetation and dusty earth becomes monotonous, so we pull over to rest and watch the birdlife. It’s only when you stop and take the time to observe the land that the birds reveal themselves.

Bowra 03 Varied Sittella
Varied Sittella
Bowra 14 White-plumed HE
White-plumed Honeyeaters

We left the tropical Queensland coast and mountains behind a few days ago. Instead of sandy beaches lined with palms, we now have sandy plains, bull dust swirling as a willy-willy whips up the bare ground, and scrub struggling to survive.

The further west we travel, the less traffic we encounter. An occasional caravanner dodging road-kill, like us, and road trains ploughing through them. Australia is a vast and diverse country and I feel fortunate to travel in comfort and safety, and although the scenery is dull in colour and sparse in density, there is beauty all around for those who appreciate the details of nature.

Outback drought 3

Travelling – a bathroom with creature comforts

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Once in a while I encounter people who are genuinely  happy to share their space with Nature’s not-so-popular creatures: the creepy-crawlies with bad reputations. It’s a joy to interact with these rare people.

I don’t need any encouragement to appreciate the creatures on the bottom of the popularity list. Bugs and small creatures that slither, wriggle, hop and crawl are welcome in my life (on my terms, mind you. I like to know the approximate whereabouts of these hairy-legged and slippery-skinned creatures so that I don’t unexpectedly encounter these potentially scary corner-dwellers at inopportune moments). Okay, I guess I enforce reasonably strict conditions in my own home, but outdoors is a different story altogether.

Whilst travelling and camping, I’m thrilled to be blessed with up-close and personal meetings with all animals with or without hairy legs. The campers’ bathroom here in the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland hosts many a creepy crawly, the most delightful being White-lipped Tree Frogs. They settle into corners to rest during the day. I’ve found four of these most attractive frogs lurking in cubicles, and as they were on the top of my ‘must see’ list, I’m a happy camper.

And then there’s Mrs Orb Spider hanging oh-so-resplendently in another corner. Every morning she repairs  her web, discards left-overs from last night’s meal to the floor (more fastidious at her house-keeping than some orb species), and dangles, legs outstretched, to digest her food.

A pair of Orange-footed Scrub Fowls scooted through our camp, strutted into the Ladies, scuttled around briefly, and strutted out again. And the Pale-yellow Robin perched next to the ‘Ladies’ sign before ducking inside to try its luck with bugs inside. It all happens around the amenities block, for those with a keen sense of observation.

A trip to the loo has never been so much fun. It’s a pity it’s not snake season.

White-lipped Tree Frog in campers bathroom

Orb spider campers bathroom

Travelling – The tranquillity of The Coorong

Coorong 03

Two ferry crossings, samphire/farming/lake scenery and a short stretch of corrugated track took us to Long Point on The Coorong (southern coast of South Australia). Grey sky didn’t detract from the absolute tranquillity of this special place.

Pelicans, terns and water-fowl preened themselves as they perched on exposed rocks. Watching birds preening is such a charming sight. They all have their own specialised techniques of cleaning and smoothing feathers, drawing oils down the precious plumes so that everything works perfectly. Then with heads tucked under wings, they become statues.

A lone seal basked on the jetty in the practically non-existent late autumn sun, standing to attention as I approached. The huge animal plopped into the water with barely a splash.

It was the most delightful, laugh-out-loud experience to witness the sleek and agile seal bath and play. Both front flippers rubbed the face with attention to detail that any mother would applaud, then rolled over and over, rubbed its belly, and finally lay on its back with flippers waving in the air like semaphore flags. And then it appeared to just zone out as it floated, arms on belly, eyes closed.

coorong 02 seal

I could hear the faint crash of surf, hidden on the far side of the dunes. The occasional cry of gulls was the only other sound across the expanse of glassy water. Harmony – that’s what it felt like, with human and nature as one.

Rippling water announced the seal’s return to the jetty. After one final wipe of the nose and rub of the belly, it  hauled itself onto the step, took a breather, then dragged its bulk onto the platform, where it promptly settled down to snooze.

A cold wind whipped up and drizzling rain moved across the sand hills towards us. We’d had the best the morning had to offer, so we took to the road again, finding a lakeside restaurant with a pleasant sheltered garden eatery, and ordered a Sunday roast lunch and pot of tea. More special memories.

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Travelling – Indigo ranges and orange ridges

Flinders scenery 01

Exploring the Flinders Ranges (South Australia) has been a memorable experience. Naturally steering clear of crowds where ever we go, we’ve avoided the touristy places, opting instead to venture onto side roads.

‘Stunning’ might well be an overused description, but the scenery of the Flinders deserves every bit of ‘stunning’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘magnificent’ and more.

Flinders scenery 03

Indigo ranges, with scissor-sharp peaks piercing the sky, stretch off into the distance, parallel with the road. And turning to look in the other direction, naked ochre-orange ridges of rock make an equally impressive statement. Green mounds dotted with low growing native shrubs form a repetitive rolling pattern from the roadside to meet the high country.

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And then the scene is dissected by dry rocky riverbeds, twisting around the base of hills, lined with massive River Red Gums. The trees spread out onto the floodplains, in brilliant contrast to the solid colour of the mountain backdrop.

Tired fences of leaning and splintering cypress posts, rusty wire and torn chicken mesh no longer keep stock contained, but they have a rustic character befitting of the ancient mountains. Historic rock and mortar buildings stand in ruin, a testament to pioneer farmers long gone. I marvel at the workmanship, still evident.

Flinders scenery 04

And then we boil the billy for a cuppa in the shade of a giant eucalypt, sit and watch the Red-capped Robins and Yellow-rumped Thornbills chattering amongst themselves and the rest of the local bird population that seems to have come to greet us.

The sunset to end our day of roaming through the Flinders was simply magic – a sky on fire. And then the blackness of a starlit heaven moved in to bid us goodnight.

Flinders scenery 05