Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 9 - In which we have an adventure on the Wildflower mud map route

Saturday 25 September
Mum is all abuzz when I stop by her room at 6:15.  “Guess what was outside” she says with eyes bright with excitement.  “Something good, I heard them calling close by but didn’t rush out to look.” I reply.  “Not these” mum says her tone suggesting she has scooped the pool. I wait with anticipation until she finally breaks the suspense “Two Bourke’s Parrots!!! Flew into the tree just out there a little while ago!! ”  She continues organizing her chemical cocktail ie regime of medications clearly anticipating an early departure.
“What’s happening?” she asks.  I say “well at the very least we’re heading up to Ledknapper.  “Aren’t we going to Eulo? I’ve told all my friends I’m going to see the monument to Destructo.”  I’m impressed. It’s not often mum shows that much overt enthusiasm for any particular activity.  Good ol’ Destructo the Racing Cockroach has really captured our imaginations.
I’m a bit torn today. I really fancy having a campfire and jaffles by a billabong under a coolabah tree here near Bourke too, but Lednapper and the wildflowers mud map route is a must do for this trip with the drought breaking and all. Daughter has decided she’ll need to opt out today so she can study. She hasn’t got as much study in day by day as she had planned, and that clinical exam is coming up all too soon. This leaves me without a back up driver and I’m feeling pretty tired, so I’m not sure I can commit to such a long day as Lednapper and Eulo together, but we'll see how we go.
Mum and I make a reasonable get away, similar to yesterday at about 6:45 am.  I even remember to fill the car with juice.  We muck about doing a reccie down by the river and the billabongs nearby, looking for a handy coolabah tree.  We can see coolabahs by billabongs. Nothing doing though.  The road on the southern side of the bridge comes to a deadend and the billabongs seem to be on fenced private land.  On the northern side of the road, around what the locals call North Bondi, the roads are pretty mangled and I soon lose interest in exploring further for fear of getting stuck.  So there will be no camping under a coolabah tree by a billabong for us afterall.  Sigh. Seems to me someone is missing out on a wonderful business opportunity.  I would cheerfully pay a site usage fee for a suitable venue to indulge this dearly loved cliché.  I’m a bit surprised no one has thought to take advantage of…oops I mean assist… city folk such as ourselves in this way.
Time is a tickin’ away…Back to the business of our day.. its straight up the Mitchell Highway (aka the Kidman Way) for about 50 kms, then we turn towards Lednapper Crossing. Now on the dirt. Our mud map guide tells us that until the crossing its stone country but after that you get to red sand hill country.  I’m wondering if this “crossing” involved water and what sort of bottom it might be. At any rate we’ve got 30 kms on a fairly stony but well graded dirt road before that becomes an issue.  

I pull over to record a visual reminder of this part of the journey. It’s still cool outside and on opening the windows I am hit again with a powerful fragrance emanating from the bushland. It is a fabulous aroma and I breathe deep and sigh with pleasure.  Mum’s window is down too.  “Hmmm” she says. “Maned wolf country”.  Perhaps its relevant to note, mum doesn’t like that smell that I absolutely love.. LOL

By a little after 8 am we are passing little bushes smothered in informal white daisies. Cassia bushes with their yellow cup shaped blossoms have been a consistent feature for some time and are well represented also. 

Hiding slightly behind the roadside plants is a subtle little tea tree with tiny white flowers with richer burgundy centres giving an overall effect to the bush of blush pink.  Pretty pale pink eremophila style flowers resist having their close up taken, but the shrub is pretty.
It is slow going as we keep having to stop for a closer look at things.  Having come all this way why wizz past.  Australian wildflowers are generally delicate things and best appreciated up close.
We’re still not at the crossing when we spot the first of the inland bearded dragons that have appropriated the road and its environs for a bit of pleasant basking or displaying.  We stop and take a portrait and this lizard isn’t the slightest bit bothered by us being here up close and personal.  They are quite impressive when they get concerned.  They flatten out so their body is like a hand drill’s wheel and they turn black and puff out their beard.. not this guy though. This one is completely relaxed.
Moving on there’s a kangaroo lying in the road. I slow down and pass by.  Then something clicks in my mind and says… was that legs sticking out of a pouch on that roo?  Now where I have lived we have been well schooled that if you see a roadkill marsupial, you should be sure to check its pouch for young.  You are even encouraged to carry a can of fluorescent spray paint to mark the carcass with a big X after you’ve check it so other people are spared the potentially unpleasant job of fossicking around in the pouch. I can do nothing else but go back and check.  Notwithstanding that I have no clue what I’m going to do with a joey if one should be there. At home its fairly simple if found they should be passed on to WIRES (the Wildlife Information Education and Rescue Service).  I have no idea if WIRES have carers out here.
I park the car and hop out to walk back to the deceased roo.  I haven’t gone very far before I see the pouch is clearly moving. There is definitely a live joey in there.  What to do now?  I will need something to put it in.  Mum suggests a shopping bag.  Good thinking 99.  I believe I have a calico shopping bag in the soft esky, that would make a handy substitute pouch.  We know that Joeys are most reassured by being in a bag rather than a box. Makes sense doesn’t it seeing they like in a pouch.  
I approach the carcass. First things first. Evidence of how I came by this protected baby animal.  Photograph of legs protruding from dead roo.  Now, how does one go about extracting a frightened joey from it’s dead mother’s pouch?  I push on the back of the pouch.  Hmmm. I have a bit of a go of seeing where the various bits of this baby are. It is all legs. My god joeys this age have huge huge legs compared to the rest of it.  Luckily on prodding from behind this little guy gets its head and shoulders out near the pouch opening and I manage to drag it out.  A quick inspection for injuries. No apparent injuries to anywhere other than some slight damage to the tail. I quickly pop young joey in the bag.  It seems instantly at home.  We take some more photos for the record.

I feel the cute little guy’s paws. They are cool.  I prod the carcass. Getting quite stiff but not completely rigid. We head back to the car. Well. We are acquainted with a family who care for baby joeys from time to time and we are aware that joeys need to be fed every four hours round the clock. This guy seems pretty lively and in good nick.  We resolve to continue our loop and head back to Bourke and find out what to do with this roo.  Again my trusty off sider comes to the rescue. “Better put something under the bag in case it pees everywhere”.  Good thinking 99. Here sit the bag on this weatherproof jacket, that’ll do the trick. We’re just about to drive away. Hang on, joey is in the sun.  Joey duly relocated to shady side of car.  We figure joey won’t prefer to be held by smelly scary humans all the while, so bag is sitting on the back seat. On we go.
It’s only a short while until we come to Lednapper Crossing.  Sealed road down through a dip where the creek crosses the road.  The creek has standing water on one side of the road and is dry on the other.  Creek environs fairly uninspiring, but there is no shortage of birdsong around. 

Within about 10 mins we come to a red sand hill section and beautiful yellow grevillea are flowering.  It is a striking grevillea, very beautiful.  Here my fairly comprehensive ignorance of the wildflowers here is going to show quite clearly.  There were shrubs with abundant rich blue flowers, a sort of hop bush type plant, clearly growing in large numbers and all of them heavily weighed down with the colourful seed pods.  A pinky mauve bush too, covered in flowers. Many individual beauties.

A bit further along and a stop is dictated by a massive clump of the blue flowered plant.  It’s sandier here, but I pull up on a firm area of ground.  Out of the car I unthinkingly start clod hoppering about and then notice, the sand is covered in tracks. Closest to my own are an emu. Cool. I follow the tracks where the emu has crossed the road.  I return to task and photograph the flowers.  Heading back to the car.. more tracks.. this would be a lizard I reckon.  Two bars together.. I think that’s a roo.  This sandy country is pretty nifty really.

Ten past ten we finally make it into Lednapper Nature Reserve.  More of the same flowers at first. Then we are rewarded by an extraordinary beauty, the subtlety of which would be completely lost if you stay in your car.  This one is really special.

Our next landscape of note is heavily endowed with lovely spinifex.  Well, I guess it’s easy to call it lovely spinifex when you don’t have to walk amongst it.  Spinifex is nicely spikey and irritating. 

The scene changes and we hit a very pretty stretch that is decked out in soft grey green as the road sweeps around a corner.  Along the course of this mud map route we pass through a range of different vegetation types reflecting the changes to the soil below. The changes are quite marked and sudden.  There is nothing monotonous about this drive.

Now along the course of the day we see a LOT of lizards. It is spring. Inland Bearded Dragons breed during this time and roads are a wonderful purpose build lizard courting performance environment. Our second dragon for the day was perched at the top of a dead shrub.  Others are spotted on the road bobbing their heads up and down. One or two are even observed waving their arms at someone indicating, “come on over big boy”.. but here, here we have a lizard that is going all out.  Lizard gymnastics. Nadia Comaneci eat your heart out.

We move from the reserve out along the road to Enngonia into a more open environment of pastureland.  Grazing country by the look of it.  here there are gentle strokes of purple darling pea, and daubs of yellow. 
Daisies we presume in the main. 

Occassionally there is something new. Sweet little climps of of soft pink flowers. 

More emus of course. Of course. Emus are everywhere and we never get tired of spotting them.  They run across the road. The stalk in stately ceremony across fields, they duck manically behind shrubs. Emus are awesome.  We even see a few roos in the open country too, though we can’t remember whether it’s the western greys or the red roos that have the white flags on their ears.
Along the road to Enngonia there are regular poles. Some with insulator fixtures and some with wires hanging off in obviousl dilapidation.  These poles are rough. Like trees just trimmed up a bit and planted in the ground. They seem to us like they must be original telegraph poles. Cool.  Its not long at all admiring these poles before we find that Nadia the lizard has some stiff competition.  Pole vaulters in the making, these athletes have made themselves at home at the top of the telegraph pole.

You would think that a bird of prey would pick them off wouldn’t you.  Ah, speaking of birds of prey, a brown falcon lands atop one of the poles.  Ironically it’s nearby an area where there is standing water and not much in the way of lizards.
Up ahead we spot three brolgas, pretty much as soon as we see them, the brolgas take flight.  We follow them around until they vanish off in the distance.  The birding along the way has been pretty awesome actually.  Our first excitement was another pink cockatoo.  Then I spotted a random bird sitting in a roadside tree. I’ve been pretty lazy on the birding front, but for some reason I decide to reverse for this one. It hops down into a clump of foliage. I can no longer see it with the naked eye, but I raise my binoculars and … surley not… good lord, it’s a crested bellbird! That black stripe down it’s head is unmistakeable.  Cool.  My first wild crested bellbird. Awesome.
And then there was the feral pig and piglets that ran quickly across the road and for cover. All in all it has been a very entertaining morning.  We are forewarned of our immenent arrival in Enngonia by a sign that asks us to drop our dust before entering town. However we’re not entirely sure what that requires us to actually do. We have been keeping a close eye on our bouncy friend its pretty lively but we figure a speedy return to town is called for.  The black top is a smooth quick ride and the scenery is still nice and in some sections lovely.

Back in Bourke we drop by the motel to get daughter. She’ll want to see the joey and then when the joey is taken care of we’ll need some lunch.  We’re on our way to the info centre when daughter spots a local vet.  We decide to try the vet first.  We note the phone number and ring from the pay phone at the info centre, we get enough time to confirm that the usual procedure is to hand the joey over to national parks staff in Bourke but she doesn’t have the phone number to give us.  Money in the phone runs out. I go in to the info centre.  The lady serving fixes us up.  She rings the parks office and fortunately there is someone working there today and they can take control of the roo.  They have some “stuff” out the back they can give her (we noticed when showing her to daughter that she has a pouch) and they have wires carers in the area.  Turns out there are a range of points of view re roos in the district. Some people would happily just put a bullet through joey’s head. Others would go to some lengths to raise her.  We figure, either way, be it the bullet or the teat, its got to be better than a slow death by the roadside.
So, joey is taken care of. Now for lunch. Quick survey. We’ll head back to Grubby Micks at the Exhibition Centre. No time to waste since it’s now already almost 2pm.  As we walk up to the entrance the staff seem to be packing away tables.  Fortunately they only look like they are closing.  Apparently there is a big function on there tonight.  The 300 person conference kicks off tonight apparently.
We sit inside this time. I back up on the caramel milkshake and a beef burger. The burger is excellent. As good as home made no worries. Milkshake good, but nowhere near as good as yesterday.  Daughter backed up on the spinach quiche and rounded that off with an iced coffee she reported as being excellent.  Mum had a steak sanga and she also reported that to be very good.  Eating at Grubby Mick’s seems like a pretty reliable option.  I’d happily recommend it.
Well, we’re pretty &%#@ed by now#. I can hardly wait for a shower to wash the dust off and a rest. ….but first, we still haven’t seen the replica Port of Bourke.  The Port of Bourke centre has been shut for the whole time we’ve been here.  The crossley engine looks well cared for. It’s pretty cool actually.  We explore the wharf, which is identical to the three wharves originally used for the river trade.  This last tick in the box its time to adjourn to the hotel.

Quick shower, unload the car and wipe out as much of the red dust as we can. Then…then I’m back to spend some dollars at the Back O Bourke Gallery.  Gale was right. I do love Jenny Greentrees work. She captures the landscape around Bourke perfectly.
..and that, as porky pig would say… is all folks.. at least for today. We shall follow by now established practice in Bourke, big lunch light tea.
We have loved the people of Bourke, we have loved the scenery and the Australiana. We have been privileged to make a new friend in Olga. We have much more we’d like to do here. Three days was really not enough to be ready to move on. We will be back and that, quite literally, is a promise.

#insert Aussie expletive of choice meaning extremely tired/beyond serviceable ie unable to continue.

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