Monthly Archives: October 2013

Quest for the Elusive Platypus

All the signs are there ...The Quest Begins!

All the signs are there …The Quest Begins!

Knowing an early start was needed to increase our chances for a platypus sighting, the alarm woke us at 5am! All my research indicated dawn and dusk were the best times to see this incredibly shy mammal. Above the surrounding sugarcane planted fields lay our destination, Eungella National Park, Queensland. We climbed high up into the cloud-shrouded mountain range. The steep road wound up through a mossy, dense subtropical rain forest filled with eucalyptus and huge palm ferns.

Platypus SpottingBroken River is a popular place for platypus spotting and we arrived early, very early we thought, it was only 7:30am! Early! Only a few people were gathered at the platypus viewing platform. No one had seen any platypus—yet. We all stood at attention, still, quiet, searching the water almost breathlessly. In these beautiful surroundings it felt like we were in a spiritual space, a sacred site. Turtles, an eel and many duck-billed ducks were easily spotted. Suddenly gasps were heard, fingers pointed and excited energy ran through our small gathering—Awww—it was only a river rat. No bill, webbed feet or floppy tail.

Heading to the PoolsWe were vigilant, but to no avail. We explored the nearby waterways, running into fellow platypus seekers who had luck no better than ours. One man looked at his watch, “You’re too late”, he declared confidently. The sign said best morning viewing was from 4am to 8am and it was after eight by then. Feeling extreme disappointment we resigned ourselves to filling our day with other activities and returning between 3pm and 7pm for the prime evening viewing. We slunk to our car and drove off.

Global Wanderers once posted something about talking to the locals. What were we thinking giving up so soon? That’s not like us! Still shrouded in doubt as thick as the clouds enveloping this mountain we stepped into the local ‘Shop at the Top’.

Seeing our disappointment, Terry said emphatically, “Don’t believe what they say about not seeing them in the day, you can see them anytime”, and he proceeded to tell us about his secret spot.

Our clouds of doubt blown away; filled with new optimism and a spring in our step we turned back.

Hiking through the forest, alongside the river, we soon spotted the crop of rocks creating the small open pool Terry had told us about. We walked along its edge, found the perfect spot to scan the entire pool and stood motionless. Within minutes we saw a tiny steam of bubbles emerging from the bottom of the still water, followed by another and another! This is what we were looking for! Suddenly, gliding up to the surface so smoothly and quietly, barely noticeable, our platypus popped up! Had we not been so vigilant we could have easily missed it. Hooray! It was all I could do to silence my excitement! We had done it! With eyes bugged out and my smile wrapped from ear to ear, the platypus and I—BOTH silly looking critters!

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We observed at least two platypuses, (or platypi), bubbling and bobbing to the surface. After floating for only a few seconds, they would quickly duck-dive back down to feed on the bottom of the pool, leaving us scanning the surface again for more bubbles. Because of their ability to stay submerged for ten to twenty minutes at a time we continued our observation for over two hours, no one else in sight; this was our special treat alone! Grateful to our new friend, Terry, for igniting our persistence; we left fully satisfied. Our platypus quest complete, it must be time to leave Mackay!

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

 

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Discovering Queensland’s Sugarcane Country

Lynne & Liz trying the sugarcane.

Lynne & Liz trying the sugarcane.

Discovering and exploring the source of local economy can be an exciting adventure for any traveler. In Mackay, sugarcane and coal are the major sources of income and employment. As luck would have it, friends of ours, Malina and Pete, own a sugarcane farm, so, off we went with great excitement to get an up-close look at a working sugarcane farm! This adventure came with the added possibility of a platypus sighting in a nearby creek, which sweetened the deal beyond cane farming alone.

Pete Takagaki cleaning cane to taste.Dotted with individual family farm houses, the fields stretched out before us, tiered in layers representing the various stages of sugarcane growth. We reached the Takagaki family farm which has been passed down through four generations. Pete’s grandfather acquired the farm after emigrating from Japan in 1901. Although the farmers are now required to work outside the farm to supplement their income, the sugarcane provides for the land, the equipment and their basic needs. I couldn’t help but admire their love and dedication to a lifestyle that required more to sustain them than it could give. On arrival our host pulled out a pocket knife, cut a large stalk, carved its sides away and handed Lynne and me each a piece. Sinking our teeth into a stalk of this sweet fibrous sensation was a juicy delight.  Harvester

Clouds of white herons followed closely behind a tractor that was turning up the soil. This field would be allowed to sit fallow for a year after having given five seasons of abundant yields. I couldn’t resist and climbed up into the cab for a ‘once around’. The herons, now joined by hawks, dove behind us scooping up the insects that were being exposed. Continuing on our exploration we followed alongside a harvester; a powerful, multifunctional, Transformer-ish machine, being driven down the rows, chopping, separating and collecting the stalks of cane while simultaneously spitting out the scraps. The chopped stalks were discharged into a clever contraption pulled by a tractor. These tractors appeared alongside the harvester in smooth procession, with hardly a break.

They would deliver the cane, in their clever contraptions to a cane train and return, again and again. In the distance, steam rose from the Racecourse Mill’s boilers; the cane’s final destination. Approximately 400,000 tons of refined white sugar is produced here annually. The ingenuity of mankind was brilliantly on display, as a task that at one time broke that backs of hundreds of laborers has been transformed to a process accomplished by a few drivers.

Bandicoot

The herons and hawks were also in abundance for this operation, but, something else caught our eye.  It was a bandicoot running for its life! Trying to escape the jaws of the harvester, the little bandicoot scurried across the newly flattened terrain looking for cover. I screamed with excitement “A BANDICOOT!” I had never seen one so close. I had only ever seen a bandicoot once and at such a distance it was the size of a peanut, “that doesn’t even count”, I explained.  With that, barefooted Pete jumped out of the truck in an act reminiscent of The Crocodile Hunter, chased after the little critter and snatched it up. We were able to get a good look at this terrestrial marsupial omnivore, and give it a loving pat. I’m sure it would have bitten and scratched me to bits if given half the chance but, thankfully Pete held on tight.

Touring the farm-house and surrounding buildings we noticed how simple this existence seemed. It had been an eventful day out, filled with insights into a way of life that is rapidly fading. These pieces of land, cultivated by the same families for generations, require a love for the earth and an understanding of nature. Mal and Pete embrace the simple pleasures of life on a farm which, despite having to find additional work, affords them the time between harvests to travel the country in their caravan. During their journeys they have seen a variety of lifestyles but, in the end, they always return to the farm. We now understand more fully that when supplementing our food or drink, within the little granules there is much more than just sweetness, the sugar holds the dreams and hard work of generations of very sweet people! We hope that after reading this you will think of and appreciate the farmers who bring you that small spoonful of sugar, satisfying your sweet tooth.

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PS … I was grateful for the bandicoot sighting because despite our searching the creek, we had no luck finding a platypus. ~ Awwww!

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

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