Posts Tagged ‘kangaroos

19
Sep
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Surprise!

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It’s been eight weeks since my last post.

By now some of you may have concluded that I had abandoned the column—if not writing altogether. You may also be feeling a bit betrayed after making the emotional investment in this adventure only to be left hanging barely halfway through the trip. For that, I apologize.

What’s far more likely—and far less self-aggrandizing to consider—is that you’re gotten used the long gaps between posts and have decided not to sweat it. Rather, you’re content to read them as they come regardless of how often, or you’ve patiently decided to wait until the entire series has been published and then read them all at once. For that, I thank you.

Or maybe you’ve thrown me over for a younger, prettier, or more dedicated columnist who won’t take you for granted. I can’t say I’d blame you. At least we won’t have to argue over who gets the kids.

But if it’s all the same to you, I’d like a chance to explain. Because I do have an excuse—a 57-year-old, 1200 square foot excuse, to be exact, that started gobbling up all of our time, money, and patience since well before went to Australia. In fact, you would have been reading about that 57-year-old excuse by now had the renovation gone as quickly and smoothly as the Jarhead and I expected. Then again, if the renovation had gone as quickly and smoothly as we had expected, there probably wouldn’t have been much to write about. So, silver linings and all that.

Anyway…day six in Australia fell on a Monday, in case you’ve lost track. We would have gone to Salted Board for breakfast again but they didn’t open for nearly an hour, so we hopped in the car and headed up the coast toward Joondalup.

Of course, at the time I didn’t KNOW we were going to Joondalup. All I knew was that we were heading north instead of south. To bottom line it, since we hadn’t decided before getting dressed that morning what we were going to do with our day and—more importantly—since we didn’t want to sit around our hotel room for hours pondering the issue like we tend to do with meals, the Jarhead had the taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, and after a quick look at the map assembled what, in his view, would serve as a suitable itinerary.

This was, in my view, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, by allowing the Jarhead to plan the day’s adventure, I was spared the task of applying my deplorably limited knowledge of Western Australia to cobble together an itinerary that would both thrill and amaze him without scaring me to death in the process. (Or, put another way, I was spared the task of applying my deplorably limited knowledge of Western Australia to cobble together an itinerary the would both interest and amuse me without boring him to death in the process.) On the other hand, allowing the Jarhead to plan the day’s adventure meant I was left with no idea of what expect and therefore no way to prepare myself.

Naturally he saw this aspect of the plan—call it the element of surprise, for lack of a better term—as part of the fun. A bonus, if you will, for allowing him to lovingly lift the burden of building an agenda from my delicate shoulders. In short: a dangerous precedent.

Still, what did I have to lose? Apart from my life, a couple of limbs, and whatever was in my purse. Then again, you only go around once, and if I was going to die, become an amputee, or have my money and/or identity stolen, at least I’d have a great story to tell. Or rather my family would.

Our first stop on our daring adventure was a visit to this coastal beach.

Aussie Coast 6

Actually, MY first stop was here.

Aussie Coast Loo

But eventually, I caught up to the Jarhead here:

Aussie Coast 14

Here is some more of what we saw:

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We didn’t get in the water. The Jarhead said since it wasn’t quite summer that it would be too cold. (I ask you: who’s the chicken s**t now?)

From there we drove a little further north, by which time we had gotten hungry, so we stopped off for brekkie at a place called the Canteen. I ordered eggs Benedict with salmon, kale, and beets, which was delicious.

Coastal Brekkie 1

My companion ordered pancakes with blue berries and freshly whipped cream.

Coatal Brekkie 2

Sadly, nobody told the Jarhead that they don’t sweeten their whipped cream in Australia, so he didn’t find out until AFTER he had already smeared it all over his pancakes and rendered them “unfit for human consumption.” He ate them anyway—after scraping off every last drop of the whipped cream (along with most of the blueberries and powdered sugar) but it wasn’t much of a breakfast. I felt bad for him and offered to share my meal, but since it included kale, salmon, and soft-poached eggs, well, you can probably draw your own conclusion.

Our third stop was at the Koala Boardwalk at Yanchep National Park! Yes—koalas! I have always wanted to see a live koala. Like Mitch Hedberg, I would much like to apprehend one and maybe feed it a leaf. And here was my chance!

Some fun facts about koalas: First, they’re nocturnal animals, so they sleep all day. Second, they’re shy little bastards, so they sleep way up in the trees. So high up, in fact, that you can barely see them without the aid of a telescope.

Another fun fact: if you want to hold a koala, you need to go to a petting zoo rather than the Koala Boardwalk at Yanchep National Park.

So rather than fulfill my lifelong dream of holding a koala, I had to content myself by looking at them from the ground. Or, more accurately, by taking a photo with my phone on superzoom and then looking at the picture in my gallery afterward.

But hey—koalas!

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After we’d seen enough sleeping koalas, we went to another part of the park to see what other wildlife we could find. If I were to write a blog just about this portion of our journey, it would be called “Road Trippin’ Down Under: Birds, birds, and more birds. Because, man, there were birds. The ruby breasted cockatoos and black swans (pictured with their babies) are the only ones I knew by name, but there were many, many more.

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And while we were marveling at all the birds, suddenly, we noticed this mama kangaroo and her joey just sitting in the shade.

Preserve 20Preserve 19

After visiting with the kangaroos, we headed down one of the many trails in the preserve. It took us through the park and into a variety of animal habitats, including wetlands, dry scrub bush, and some forested areas.

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All of the signs we had seen so far had warned hikers to keep to the path and watch for snakes. This proved a challenge because the path was barely 14 inches wide and much of it was overhung by plants, so you just had to walk and not think about what might be lurking nearby.

At one point, we met up with an old chap who, we concluded later, either had been lost alone in the bush for quite some time and had not seen or spoken to anyone in days, or was delirious from some sort of snake or spider bite. Either that or he’d had a little too much caffeine that morning and couldn’t find his off switch. For roughly thirty minutes the Jarhead and I stood there politely as he showed us every last one of the photos in his camera and educated us on the rudiments of Aussie zoology, snake avoidance, and venom survival.

Some more fun facts: You are much more likely to be bitten by a snake whilst trying to kill a snake than you are if you leave the bloody things alone. Also, you are more likely to be bitten by a snake whilst trying to kill a snake than you are if you just never go to Australia. Just saying.

Anyway, in sum, the old guy’s best advice was this: snakes prefer to avoid humans if they can so you should make plenty of noise as you move about the bush. That way, the snakes will hear you coming and slither away before you even get near them. The down side to this strategy, of course, is that all the cute, cuddly, nonvenomous critters will also hear you coming and disappear before you can see them, thereby preventing you from apprehending one or feeding it a leaf.

All that fresh air and walking (not to mention all that standing around looking at every photo one man had taken over the course of his entire lifetime) had us pretty worn out, so we headed back to the hotel to for an early dinner. It had been a great day and I was looking forward to an equally great evening.

Then, at 6pm, the Jarhead decided to take a nap. To be fair, “decided” might be too strong of a word since there was nothing deliberate or conscious about it. In fact, one might say it was an entirely unconscious decision, and if called to testify in court, I would swear he was much more of a victim than a perpetrator.

Assuming the man just needed to recharge his batteries, I let him sleep and did some writing—clearly not on this blog or you would not have had to wait nearly a year to read it. When he still wasn’t awake four hours later, I checked his pulse to make sure he was still alive, then went to bed as well.

I know. Don’t bother trying to look surprised. You won’t be fooling anyone.

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14
Mar
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Arachnophobia

When we last saw our weary travelers, they had landed in Perth, picked up their rental car, and arrived safely at their hotel in Fremantle. While we wait for them to check in and take the elevator up to their room, let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that they are riding an elevator in Australia.

When you think about it, going up in an elevator in Australia is, in effect, like going down in an elevator in North America. Or close to it anyway. Since (according to peakbagger.com) Wisconsin’s polar geographic opposite—aka antipode—would be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, it’s not a precise equivalency, but it’ll suffice.

But, as usual, I digress.

Now when some folks think of Australia, they imagine cuddly koalas, cute kangaroos, and beautiful sandy beaches bounded by a big blue ocean where one can swim, snorkel, and surf the day away, while laid back Aussies wander around saying things like “g’day” and “no worries.” When other folks think of Australia, they imagine a dry and dusty place landscape literally crawling with a vast and deadly array of spiders, snakes, and scorpions.

Regular readers of this column are likely to assume—and reasonably so—that I am among those who equate the continent of Australia with the imminent, constant and entirely inconvenient threat of danger, death, and doom. So it may come as a surprise that, as we made our plans to visit Australia, the idea that some of its non-human inhabitants might have it in for me never crossed my mind.

Maybe I was too focused on getting there. Or maybe, I was too obsessed with the thought of never coming back. Or maybe I was just too enamored with the word “biodiversity” to fully appreciate its meaning. Either way, in the course of planning this trip I apparently failed to consider some of the more likely means by which I could meet my end.

That is, until I mentioned it to my doctor about four days before we were scheduled to leave.

I was there for a routine checkup but decided to take the opportunity to inquire about any additional immunizations the Jarhead and I might need, or if there were any areas of the country we should avoid, or any epidemics that might justify cancelling the trip and allow us to qualify for a full refund. Having been a patient of his for five years, I fully expected Dr. J. to nod and smile patiently in response to my queries, and then to gently allay my concerns while jotting down a few notes to add to the mountain of evidence he and the Jarhead would rely upon when the time finally arrived to have me committed.

But that did not happen. Or, more accurately, that’s not ALL that happened.

For although he did in fact nod, he most definitely did not smile patiently. In fact, he did not smile at all. At best it was a grim grimace. And while he did attempt to allay MY concerns (while jotting down a few notes to add to the mountain of evidence he and the Jarhead would rely upon when the time finally arrived to have me committed, of course) he then proceeded to—gravely and resolutely—express a few concerns of his own.

Like the fact that Australia is home to some of the deadliest creatures on Earth—including the single most venomous snake in the world (the inland taipan, in case you’re wondering) and the redback spider whose bite can send you into anaphylaxis and kill you in less than five minutes. Not to mention all the scorpions, sharks, and other life forms that have evolved in isolation and whose impact on visitors to Australia has yet to be fully quantified.

How’s that for a plot twist? I go into the guy’s office just a little worried about one or three minor things, and come out of there completely terrified about five or six others. It was like going to bed with the faint sense that you may have forgotten to lock all the doors, and waking up to find your normally sane and supportive spouse speculating in rambling fashion about how many armed intruders may be rummaging around and wreaking havoc downstairs.

Yikes!

From there he advised me as to the places to stay away from and the activities to avoid. In the interest of time, I’ll put it in these terms: Wilderness, bad; urban areas located near medical treatment facilities, good. Alone, bad; crowds—especially crowds comprised of licensed medical professionals—good.

Although I took his advice very seriously, I also took a moment to have a brief panic attack in the privacy of my own car before calling the Jarhead to tell him what we were up against. He laughed and said we would be fine. We had no plans to go hiking in the outback, after all; and snakes were not likely to venture into the city. As far as deadly spiders were concerned, he reasoned that we would be staying at the largest and most popular resort in the area, and that the place wouldn’t enjoy the ratings it had if it were infested with spiders of any kind.

Flash forward a week. We have arrived at said hotel, entered our room, kicked off our shoes, and set down our bags. At first we just stood and marveled at the layout and the modern décor. Then we spent some time commenting on the differences between the furnishings and fixtures in this room and the rooms we’d seen in North America and Europe. Like the toilet, seen here, attached to the vanity, with the flush buttons (one for when you go number one, and the other for when you go number two) at the far left side.

Aussie Loo 3

And this tub/shower combo, with two water outlets—one for when you want to stand, and another when you want to sit or lie down.

Aussie Tub

We were just about to flush the toilet to see which direction the water would spin when I made a startling discovery: a big, juicy—and most assuredly deadly—spider was clinging to the ceiling above our open suitcases.

My first instinct was to run over to my suitcase, slam it shut, drag it out the door and onto the elevator.

Okay, that was a lie. My first instinct was to scream.

But I didn’t want to make a scene, so instead I clasped one hand over my mouth and shrieked through my fingers while pointing at the ceiling, all the while RESISTING the urge to run over to my suitcase, slam it shut, and drag it out the door and onto the elevator. I resisted in part because slamming it shut would not be enough to keep the contents inside as I bolted from the room, but mostly because I KNEW that no matter how quickly and masterfully I could dash over, grab the bag, and whisk it out the door, that spider would have rappelled—even more quickly and masterfully—from the ceiling and down into my shirt, and instead of streaking out of the room with my suitcase in tow, I would have wound up running and jumping up and down in place while screaming and crying at the top of my lungs and tearing at my clothes until I was naked and they were little more than a pile of fabric scraps on the floor.

The Jarhead, as usual, failed to grasp the gravity of the situation. “It’s just a spider.”

“In Australia, there is no such thing as ‘just a spider,’” I informed him.  “It needs to go,” I added, turning and moving my arms as if trying to disperse an encroaching mob, “They all need to go.”

“ALL?”

“You know what they say. For every spider you see there are hundreds more you don’t.”

“I think that’s cockroaches.”

“Whatever,” I breathed. “Just kill him.”

“I can’t kill him.”

“Why not?”

“This is a vaulted ceiling. I’ll need a ladder just to tap him with a broom.”

Crap. He was right. So I grabbed the phone and called the front desk.

To my delight, they promised to send someone up right away. Okay, I told myself. They are on the ball. They know that spiders don’t belong in resort hotels, and they are going to dispatch this one tout suite.

Relieved, I sat down on the bed to keep watch over the eight-legged invader.  I wasn’t about to let him disappear before help arrived.

The Jarhead wasn’t happy about this turn of events. He had been in the process of stripping down to his skivvies and laying down for a nap when I noticed the spider. Now he would have to remain both clothed and awake until the spider was removed. Normally I would have felt bad, but this time, I was tickled pink to know the beast would soon be exterminated.

Until I met the exterminator.

He was old, tired-looking, and none too thrilled to be assigned to spider duty. He showed up with a dirty, cob-webby broom and a can of the Aussie equivalent of Raid.

My confidence flagging significantly, I thanked him for coming, and then pointed at the spider.

“Oym gunna nade ah ladda,” he informed me, before setting down the broom and departing the room. A short time later, he was up on the ladder, swatting at the spider but not quite hitting it.

Oh my god, I gasped, as I imagined all the ways this could go wrong. At best he was going to knock it down and allow it to find a spot to hide. At best I was going to live to die another day. In another room.

Just as I said it—but before the Jarhead could get our bags out from under the area, that sucker literally jumped off the ceiling and landed godonlyknowswhere.

“Well, he’s gone now,” the man announced as he climbed off the ladder.

“No he’s not.”

“Yeah he is. Oy got eem with the broom.”

“Show me.”

The man held up the bristles of the broom but it bore no corpse.

That was it for me. Bags or no bags, I had to get out of there. I grabbed my purse and my CPAP case from the nightstand and bolted out into the hallway.

“It’s okay.” the Jarhead called. “I found him.”

Poking my head back into the room, I saw him move his suitcase to reveal the still living, breathing juicy black spider. I could only hope it was the SAME living, breathing juicy black spider.

A moment later, the Jarhead had him flattened with one of our travel maps, and was flushing him down the toilet. “He’s dead. You can come back inside now,” he announced as he and the maintenance man approached the door.

Backing up to let them join me in the hall, I looked up and nearly fainted.

On the wall above the doorway to our room—the doorway in which I had been standing only moments ago, were seven—yes, SEVEN—juicy black spiders. I thought I would literally crack up and melt away.

In desperation, I grabbed the Jarhead’s arm. “I can’t stay here,” I whispered as if I feared the place was bugged (pun totally intended.)

“It’s okay,” he replied with a nod to the departing maintenance man. “I’ll protect you.”

I guess I wanted to believe him more than I wanted to find another hotel—and definitely more than I wanted find out what might be lurking at another hotel. Because I didn’t argue and I didn’t flee.

Instead, I popped open my laptop and a bottle of water, and sat down to draft a killer political rant while the Jarhead napped. Outside in the park between the hotel and the water front, some crazy bird I’ve neither seen nor heard before squawked wildly from a tree.

View 1View 2View 4View 5

Against that backdrop, I took a vow not to obsess about the spiders, and to make the most of this trip of a lifetime. I knew my commitment to that goal would be tested repeatedly over the next week—along with the Jarhead’s patience—but with a little effort—and perhaps a little wine—I knew I could do it.




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