Pulling into the drive of a colleague’s house in Dallas, I saw something huge run for cover. Could it be? Yes, it was a tarantula. I thought they were confined to South America but apparently not. I’ve now educated myself and can confirm that pretty much anywhere south of the Pyrenees in the world, you could encounter a tarantula. Bummer.
Ken had a bit of a play with this one. As I started recording this video, I was just able to capture it trying to run up Ken’s trouser leg. Now, that would have been a video!
One of the best things about Cairns is its wildlife. But if you say this, 99% of the time, people think of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s aptly named because, yes, it is Great. But it also costs a Great deal (at least to us) to get out there and there are such a Great number of tourists, touts, boats, trips, tours, blah, blah, blah connected with it that, in all honesty, was pretty off-putting.
For now though, we were looking for nature in abundance on the cheap. The answer is Cairns Botanical Gardens. These are huge and fabulous. They’re extremely well-designed in that, there’s something for everyone. If you just want to wander around some flowerbeds and lawns and barely break a sweat seeing some gorgeous flowers and astounding plant life, you can do that. If you want to hike miles through rainforest and get hugely sweaty in the process, see more gorgeous flowers, more astounding plant life and some fascinating animal life too, you can do that.
We did both.
Cycling there in the morning, we left our bikes near the gate and began the Blue trail climb up to a look out that overlooks the airport runway. It’s quite bizarre to see planes take off below you. And Cairns airport has a ton of traffic of all shapes and sizes so it’s an interesting place to hang out. It’s also where all the locals go who want to keep fit. A brisk jog up here and back will, in Cairns’ tropical temperatures, certainly see you shedding pounds.
We’d just arrived at the lookout and were seated at a picnic bench up there looking at the view when an Aussie woman comes jogging up. With typical brash abandon, she says, “You don’t have to get up. I just want to do some exercises here.” She then proceeds to lie down on the table with her head virtually on my lap and do a series of sit ups and tummy crunches. Bit strange really.
We then headed off on the Red trail. As we were doing so, a woman said, “It’s a long way that way.” I think she was trying to put us off. We took it as encouragement.
We saw only a few people on the 3 mile walk. The path was pretty rocky in places and wound up and down through the rainforest. As not many people come this way, there’s more chance you’ll see some wildlife. We did indeed.
Rounding a corner, we came face to face with this splendid yellow monitor lizard. He seemed as shocked to see us as we him and we stared at each other for ages.
Later, I came across this bizarre walking leaf thing.
And later still, I disturbed a snake which, thankfully, was not the aggressive kind. It shot off across the path just slightly faster than I shot back away from it.
We wandered back to the Botanical Gardens proper and, after some refreshment in the cafe, browsed the more sedentary section with its fabulous examples of God’s creative genius.
Just north of Perth is a place where parrots and kangaroos roam free across your picnic blanket. It’s called Yanchep National Park and, after visiting the Reptile Park, Andrea drove us up there. We were desperate to see some kangaroos.
To the Australians, kangaroos are little more than pests. That is unless you happen to hit one bouncing across a road at you in the middle of the night. Then they destroy your entire life. But to us Brits, kangaroos are the stuff of legend.
Let’s face it, Australia has some of the most bizarrely formed creatures on the planet and the kangaroo is no exception. Seeing one up close and watching it bounce around is, for the first-timer, quite an experience. They move like no other animal on the planet. They use their huge tails to stand on, as if it were an extra leg. And when they scratch themselves or sit up and look at you inquisitively, they look disarmingly human.
But could we see any kangaroos at Yanchep? Not a chance.
We’d chosen Yanchep in preference to another place where you can handle koalas and kangaroos come right up to you to feed from your hand. We didn’t like either the price of that place or the fact that it was so unnatural. We wanted animals in their native habitat. As we walked around through kangaroo-less scenery though, we wondered whether we were going to regret our choice.
We did see some koalas. Yanchep used to let you handle koalas. That was until they discovered a bizarre connection between doing this and koala infertility. Apparently handling them causes stress. And stress causes chlamydia, a venereal disease that renders them sterile. Chlamydia incidentally also makes us sterile but you’ll have to do a little more than handle us for it to take effect. Anywa, this is another good reason then not to go to a place where you can handle koalas.
The koala forest at Yanchep has elevated boardwalks throughout. You wander around and try to spot them in the trees. There are 18 koalas there and, at any one time, 18 will be asleep. You’d think they’d take turns so that we had at least one moving animal to gawp at and photograph. But no, all the ones we managed to spot were sound asleep, wedged in between branches to stop themselves falling out of bed I suppose.
As we walked along the lake, we watched the parrots and ducks grazing on the grass.
Having parrots around like sparrows was something else that surprised us about Perth. They’re everywhere. Then, suddenly, we caught a glimpse of three kangaroos way off on the edge of the grass. They didn’t last long.
It was only as we got back to the car that we spotted a mob just in the bush past the car park. Off we crept and, they let us get suprisingly close before they’d casually take an extra bounce to safety away from us. We watched them for ages.
It looked quite primeval to see them there, in the glow of the setting sun in the bush as if time had stood still and we were back in Australia of old when kangaroos had less people to take photos of them and less speeding cars to meet on darkened highways.