Travel – A time away …
People say that travel broadens the mind. Well, lets live in hope. Travelling abroad would need to do something useful considering how many folk are dashing about the planet. The urge to buy an authentic baguette in a village in Bordeaux or pick up a little something from Hammacher Schlemmer on 57th Street is somewhat akin to the sea-change movement of the nineteen seventies and eighties but without the investment of the energy it required to create a new and different life-style. This grumpy old man says take their passports away! Let common sense prevail over the “because I can I will” attitude of the overpaid and/or credit card addicted.
But that is not really what I wanted to talk about.
I’ve been travelling around our fair country enjoying the rain everywhere. In particular, I spent a few weeks in the Illawarra region on the coast north of Wollongong and below the forested escarpment that rises up so dramatically from the coast and links up with the Royal National Park that extends all the way to Botany Bay.
The temperate rainforest with its tall eucalypts and extensive and often primeval under-storey of berry and fruiting shrubs, creepers, orchids, cabbage palms, ferns and of course the impressive Gymea Lily Doryanthes excelsa with its 2-3 metre tall single stemmed dark red flower the size of a dinner plate, is almost daunting to someone used to the beautiful but simple central Victorian landscape. Suddenly almost every plant is new and crying out to be identified. Fortunately I resisted that urge quite early in my visit and simply settled back to enjoy the walks both in the bush and along the beaches and cliffs.
The quantity of bird life too was memorable and I added a few new sitings to my list even though I’m not a twitcher (twitcher: someone who cannot stop compiling an ever-growing list of birds they have sited in the outdoor space. This is different from a tweeter who is someone who sends tweets via cyber space although I suppose a bird twitcher might cyber tweet the results of their latest twitching – if you know what I mean.) Seeing large flocks of King Parrots Alisterus scapularis high up in the tall eucalypts on the higher plateaus was memorable. White Headed Pigeons Columba leucomela swarmed to a palm when its fruit suddenly ripened leaving seed debris below the tree and which in turn provided a feast for the small creatures of the night.
Late one afternoon I heard what I thought to be two cats wailing at each other just outside the little weatherboard house where we were staying. On investigation, all I could discover was a large green bird in a bush observing me quizzically. Not finding any angry moggies I started to return indoors when the cat bru-ha-ha started all over again. Turning round, I saw the green bird at full voice. What I at first thought to be a young Satin Bower Bird turned out to be a Green Cat Bird, Ailuroedus crassirostris which I knew almost nothing about. I could only marvel at its call from which it got its name.
On the Wodi Wodi track, a three kilometre walking track at Stanwell Park easily accessible from the main beach road, we discovered the difficulties and wonders of the hidden forest as the track leads down and through gorges and creeks and along narrow ledges. It was here that my partner, who was leading, suddenly stopped. A beautiful young Diamond Python Morelia spilota showing brilliant green, gold and black markings, lay dozing in a dappled sunlit patch on the track. We suspected that it had not long discarded its old skin and which would account for its brilliant colouring. With a little persuasion the snake moved slowly off of the track so that we could continue.
Coming or going?
Ticks were new to me. I thought that I simply had a pimple on my chin hidden in the stubble of my beard. Not so. A visit to the doctor removed the interesting little critter and also the one on the shoulder of my partner.
Finally, given the recent arrival of deer in the Muckleford Forest, I was interested in how the deer population had spread throughout the Royal National Park. I had wondered at the extensive fencing work going on along either side of the railway line coming from Sydney. It began at the parks forest edge. Then, from the carriage, I glimpsed my first Rusa deer feeding less than one hundred metres from the train. Obviously a creature that could easily throw a train timetable into disarray, fencing the line on both sides will hopefully provide the answer.
Over the time we were there I saw another two Rusa. I also met a lad coming out of the forest carrying a set of antlers he had found lying around. Then we heard from the local butcher that his grandmother lived in a house in a steeper part of the town where, in winter, a stag regularly camped under the front of the house that stood on posts a few metres high. Maldon residents may well have something similar in deer activity to look forward to.
I expected to come back to a dry Maldon, even a frost perhaps. Not so. This warm wet reminds me of the Illawarra. Is it possible that this is the beginning of the weather of the north moving southward? Maybe, but that is unlikely. It’s just a simple old Indian Ocean Dipole coupled with a La Niña in the Pacific. You know the ones. They usually get together every eleven to fourteen years. I wonder if I’ll be around to see the next one!
A coffee and a piece of baguette with a drizzle of greenhouse gas anyone?
More about the Stanwell Park coastal region: Stanwell Park