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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for Animals

The Land of the Long White Cloud

We’re in New Zealand! The nice Quarantine people at the airport did indeed clean our boots for us! Over the last few days we’ve been enjoying the fine hospitality provided by Justin and Nicola, friends from the Polar Star.

We have seen the sights of Christchurch - in places like a clone of Oxford and Cambridge (you can even go punting). We have been welcomed by the numerous species of European birds which were introduced by the early settlers to make us feel at home. This has been a successful enterprise, we do indeed feel at home, but now I have a hankering for something of a more native persuasion.

I found a lovely model of the MS Explorer in the Antarctic department of the Christchurch museum. It was labelled “A Historic Tourist Ship” - the label now needs a little updating with its recent demise, but is largely correct.

Yesterday we had a lovely drive on the Banks Peninsula and enjoyed several tiny Hector’s Dolphins, some wonderful scenery and some very nice food (there’s even a cheese shop!).

We’re off to collect our new campervan home in a few minutes. Must fly…

Dangerous animals in Australia

Australia is notorious for its abundance of deadly beasts; it’s amazing that anyone survives here at all.

Until now all we had seen was the mildly hazardous Red-backed Spider and a croc or two - rather disappointing. Yesterday we went for a stroll in the Blue Mountains and first were attacked by leeches…

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…and then were confronted with a big black snake (sorry, we haven’t looked up the species) in strike position, right by the path.

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Fortunately a fellow European in flip-flops coming the other way noticed it too! We’re off to New Zealand now, where there’s nothing deadly at all, at least nothing I can think of…

Melbourne to Port Fairy

Over the last few days we have been visiting Melbourne, and were kindly taken in by Ameera - a doctor from OpWall. We actually kicked her out of her lovely new house, which was very kind of her!

Melbourne was very bad for our waistlines (well mine, Chris is skinny as ever) as we managed to wander from cafe to chocolate shop whilst trying to avoid the rain - all very European and yummy. Ameera took us for a tour of the Dandenong Ranges just outside the city where we managed to see some Lyrebirds, and devour more tasty food.

After a couple of days in the city we headed along the Great Ocean Road (after renting a car in the city and managing to avoid scary hook turns where you stay in a left lane to turn right!). The coastal views were as amazing as promised - lots of big waves and funky limestone geology.

We stayed in a lovely little place called Port Fairy and went for a night time stroll to a small island where Short-tailed Shearwaters flew overhead and occasionally squawked at us.

I continued in my mammal spotting and saw lots of Koalas hanging out in trees - some were having cuddles - all very cute. I did get scared when one of them started making weird noises from the ground behind me - wasn’t sure if koalas were prone to viciously attacking humans (yes, I’m a wuss).

We are now enjoying the sights of Sydney - it’s so big! Blue Mountains tomorrow though…

Wildlife spotting with professional naturalists

Whilst in Tasmania we were very keen to see a Platypus, as this was supposed to be one of the best places to spot them. Therefore every stretch of water we saw was examined for any sign of these elusive creatures and we soon became ‘expert’ in places that were unsuitable for them.

We were getting a bit downhearted when after 8 days of looking we still hadn’t seen one (with the exception of a dead one on the side of the road - not hit by us I’d like to point out).

We thought our luck might be in at our last stop in Tassie when the walk was called “Platypus trail” and included a hide to help spot them, however it was the wrong time of day and so still no joy. We finally gave up and headed off to find somewhere to camp. Our camp guide suggested a fishing lake. On arrival we did our now customary inspection for the creature, where Chris knowlingly declared “This isn’t suitable platypus habitat” and I keenly observed one serenely floating in the water 5 metres away. Who’s the better naturalist now I wonder?! (This was after I had also pointed out a wombat that was munching grass right in front of him a couple of days previously!).

The platypus seemed reasonably undisturbed by us and continued diving down for food and gave us some lovely views of this fascinating beast. We celebrated our good fortune with a little dance!

Carpeted bike sheds & baby krill

Megan and Karen kindly obliged us with a tour of the Australian Antarctic Division buildings. It was a fine display with many gnarly looking machines and equipment. They even lined up a tour of the cutting-edge-of-science krill breeding program with a nice lad called Rob. AAD are the first people to breed Antarctic Krill in captivity. Rob taught us about the sex lives of krill (and I thought I knew more than I really should already).

I couldn’t help but compare the AAD with BAS and can summise my observations thus:

AAD have carpeted bike sheds.

What more need be said?

For my birthday…

Thank you all for your birthday greetings. I particularly like Mike’s poem, but I do not infact scoop up my poo, just bury it with a natty orange plastic trowel.

Now, to business. For my birthday I received a Shy Albatross, some male Australian Fur Seals, thousands of muttonbirds, an Echidna, a Superb Fairy Wren, a nice walk to Cape Hauy and a Devonshire Tea.

A message from rural Australia

Two metres high, on a corrugated steel fence:

2 MENY WABBITS

Curiously, we haven’t seen any rabbits. We’ve seen lots of Cane Toads though, and they seem to have made for most of the other large-ish beasts around here. As they are exotic, it is fair game to jump on them. In the markets of Darwin you can buy stuffed Cane Toads in any pose you like. Lovely.

We’re in Tennant Creek and heading South to Alice Springs. Must fly…

Australia

After a couple of long flights and several chapters of Harry Potter (yes, I have finally got hold of it, and no, I haven’t finished it yet, so no spoilers!), we finally touched down in Brisbane, Australia.

We spent our first day sorting our lives out in the big city (although still no hair cuts), and cuddling koala bears at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary - very cute. We also got to feed some Kangaroos and Wallabies.

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Our next stop was Binna Burra lodge in Lammington National Park south of Brisbane where we spent a lovely two and a half days bushwalking and learning the joys of BBQs. Chris saw lots of new birds, and even I took to a bit of bird watching. We stayed in a ‘Safari tent’ - a tent with double bed in it - a great idea!

The forest was lovely and there was a fantastic network of paths built so that you never have to walk up a steep gradient. It was cool (~14 degrees) - a very agreeable temperature - in the morning and evening we unpacked our hats and gloves for the first time! At night whilst we were barbecuing our tea, possums and bandicoots came and said hello.

We are now in the Top End of Australia - in Darwin. Tomorrow we pick up a camper van and head off to the middle of the country, so over the next few weeks we may only be occasionally in touch….

Our affinity with animals

I´ve never seen such a big grasshopper:

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I´ve seen bigger horses though.

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Horses, home-made fireworks and the Catholic church

We had a lovely day today. We went to the village of San Juan Chamula on horses. Initially we thought our steeds to be lovers as they were utterly inseparable (we found out later they were mother and son - oops!).

We plodded along roads, tracks and paths, through forest and farmland, happy in the knowledge that we were in absolutely no control of our beasts - they just did what they wanted and knew mostly where to go. Mine had a slightly erratic start by electing to go 90° to all the other horses; of course Fiona´s followed.

The village was the most amazing place; it was like we had been transported into another world. All the men and women were dressed up in fluffy soft-toy fabric. The prominent feature of the massive central square was the Catholic church.

Being Sunday there was a buzz of activity in and around it. We had arrived just before the main event - lots of people were crammed inside the pewless church variously sitting on the pine-needle carpeted floor, or standing quietly. Others stood chatting or randomly strummed or thumped instruments. Incense and burning pine wood filled the air and the tables at the sides of the church were covered in hundreds of candles. A semblance of proceedings started to assemble itself so we retreated back to the square before we were kicked out.

Back in the square I went to the loo. It was the strangest of urinating experiences. I peed into a ankle high square trough shoulder to shoulder with other fluffy bodied, sombrero wearing men, all crammed in doing the same thing.

People crammed into the church until they exploded out like a bottle of fizzy pop. They proceeded to parade around the square on a carpet of pine needles (poor trees - the catholic church has a lot to answer for). There was lots more incense waving and small pyre being walked around. Completely random musicians played jazz like music that seemed utterly unsuited to the occasion. Women carried odd looking effigies of women on chairs that I couldn´t identify.

Meanwhile, the in the middle of the square thousands of home made fireworks and bangers were being set off. With all the smoke from the pyres and incense, coupled with the banging it was rather more like a war zone than a religious ceremony and was without doubt one of the highlights of our travels.

On our return journey I formed a strong bond with my horse. I had command over its direction and speed, within certain tolerances, and we led the pack for quite a way. Fiona´s bottom was suffering slightly so I got shouted at when I encouraged my steed to accelerate - hers always followed suit. Ouch.

Fiona is sitting next to me in moderate agony. My finely toned buttocks are fine.

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