A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about wildlife

Chapter ninety - Townsville

Roos, stag do's and barbecues

sunny 28 °C

Day 326: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 21/08/2012

With our flight to Townsville in the evening, we have another lazy morning in Brisbane, successfully introducing Gavin and Stacey to the Australasian continent through Danny's PS3 and trying to tackle the gaping holes in the blog. Danny is off work today (thought he was working) so after a slap up lunch we say goodbye and head to Chelmer station. Noone here to help us top up our Go! Cards and with the machine not playing ball, Danny kindly drives us to the airport.

A nice easy flight - a nice time to fly - and before we know it we are in Townsville, being met at the station by Mark and Maria. We are then taken to our home for the next week at Erin and Gary's magnificent new home, located in masses of land and found right on the banks of the Black River. Cue a smiling Thomas as dinner is served. Roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. A very comfortable night in the guest room and the brand new bed.

Day 327: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 22/08/2012

Wake up in this fantastic house with the huge garden and endless exploration potential of the Black River awaiting. We go for a walk down the banks of the river - huge sandy silt plateaus that are underwater during the wet season apparently. After losing a foot in a rather soft part of the river bed, we walk barefooted to mock the hoardes of snakes we expect to see (but don't) and head back to the house for a spot of lunch. It is much warmer up here than further south (especially Sydney) and the 'cold' winter we have heard so much about (apparently jackets have been worn at least twice this winter) seems to be a figment of everybody's imagination...

After some roast beef sandwiches we walk round to Mark and Maria's house, which is much further than it seemed in the car last night. The sun is beaming down now and the back of the neck starts to get a bit warm and pink. A quick drink at M&M's before we take Peggy and Riley - Erin and Gary's playful one year old son - on an exciting grocery shop, being shown the sights on the way. A great dinner of fish and chips is enjoyed down on the seafront at the Strand. Barramundi, calamari and cheesecake all go down a treat. Can see me coming home literally twice the man I was when we left. A quick trip up Castle Hill to see the twinkling lights of Townsville follows tea, which itself is followed by an early night.

Day 328: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 23/08/2012

A trip to Magnetic Island is in store today and we are joined on the 7.45 ferry by the geriatric brigade. Forced to sing to oneself to drown out their incessant and innane chatter. Immediately see a crew of rock wallabies when we arrive on the island - pretty much half ticks the box of seeing kangaroos. We then spend the morning on a walking trail, seeing an echidna (a kind of porcupine thing) in someone's garden. A stunning day on this beautiful island and things get interesting as we take another walking trail in search of Horseshoe Bay. The trail disappears abrubtly and we are forced to go cross-country...we traipse through sub-tropical rainforest in our flip flops, battling through the undergrowth and trying to avoid disturbing any poisonous snakes. This 'trail' then brings us out through someone's back garden onto the road we left at the start of this little episode, so an hour in the baking heat hacking through the home of the ominously named Death Adder in our 'thongs' brings us out approximately one minute further up the road than when we started. Progress I suppose.

A kindly old Mancunian by the name of Frank takes pity on his two bedraggled and sweaty compatriots and kindly gives us a lift to Horseshoe Bay, where we hire some snorkelling gear. Whilst walking to the best snorkelling point, an obnoxious Californian couple and an obnoxious Aussie couple are joined by an obnoxious British couple in cooing and photographing a wild koala. Full box ticked this time by this graceful and slow living marsupial. Much bigger than expected. A quick, very cold snorkelling expedition just about sees the day to an end and we are soon back on the ferry to the mainland. A good dinner round the campfire at Mark and Maria's is the perfect end to a perfect day.

Day 329: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 24/08/2012

Another early morning for us today as we are visiting the Billabong Sanctuary - with Erin, Riley, Maria and Peggy - to see some more of the Australian wildlife and learn more about it. An immediate sighting of a kangaroo ticks another box a great morning is spent living some dreams - stroke a wombat, hold a python, wrestle a crocodile and pet a dingo. Also see some more famous Australian residents in their natural habitat, Bogans - the Aussie equivalent of a serious chav or redneck - enjoying the crocodile show (amazing how high they can jump) and venomous snake show, though they wonder why they can't hold a deadly snake. After watching the croc show we see a small freshie in the park lake and when Maria asks the keeper about this, it turns out ot shouldn't be there. Worrying.

The bird show brings the day to a conclusion and the two babies (Riley and me) have a sleep in the back of Erin's car on the way home. We have a few drinks round at the house of one of Gary's colleagues in real man territory - a garage full of motorbikes, quad bikes and beer. Another campfire at M&M's, where Liam's dog destroys everyone's shoes. The birds here - particularly the Coolie birds and Barking Owl - make a right racket. One even sounds like a woman screaming..

Day 331: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 25/08/2012

Welcome to the weekend. An early start as we head to Ayr for dinner with Noel and Zarn and to drop Peggy home. North Queenland is a big place - lots of space, lots of farms (mainly sugar cane) and the fragile Bruce Highway, the only real road and one that is often flooded and made impossible to follow. Ayr on the other hand is tiny - a town of 8000 or so made up of one tiny high street and a few shops. Very quaint. We meet the other Anne and David.

A real Italian lasagne and some cold cuts at Noel and Zarn's go down a treat and we just have time to make sure Peggy is settled before heading back. Apprehension in the air as I am due to be going to an Aussie stag do with Gary. This proves to be well placed as I am forced into drinking Jaeger, playing beer pong and eating heaps of roast pork. We are picked up three hours later a right state.

Day 332: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 26/08/2012

Shame and hangover go hand in hand after last night's festivities and Gemma looks after me very well...the girls make a trip to the shops and return to find the boys all asleep, Gary and Riley in the boy's racing car bed and me on the trampoline in the sun. A phone call for Gary soon sees us two on the quad bike down the river to help his brother get his truck out of the river bed where he has managed to get stuck. Two hours in the baking sun as a very sore young man sees me regret offering to help...not really what was needed.

We all make a trip over to see some friends of Erin and Gary, who have a house right on the beach. Another huge plot to add to the list and another great location. A couple of beers makes everyone feel a little better and Riley and Nash endure a naked 'best friend' photoshoot in the sand. A film, a good tea and a skype end the day far better than it began...

Day 333: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 27/08/2012

Wake up a new man, enjoying just how pleasant the mornings here can be...and a very quiet morning it is too, spent playing with Riley and the dog and enjoying the sun. We visit the Reef HQ in Townsville this afternoon, where some of the very strange, eerie creatures of the deep can be seen. The strangest creature of all is the man on the desk, who asks where we are from for the benefit of the computer. When I say London (near enough) he says 'I'll put Madrid, it's pretty close'. Ok. And it goes on as he asks if we have senior citizen's cards or student cards or just about any other card that springs into his head. I think he even mentions Pokemon cards.

Learn about the Great Barrier Reef and the incredible wildlife it supports and watch the menacing sharks swim around the aquarium as though they own it. A small polystyrene boy freaks Riley right out, but he seems to say at least this is better than a naked beach photoshoot.

Day 334: Townsville, Queensland, Australia 28/08/2012

Our last day in Townie - we have loved it up here - and we start nice and early. Me and Gem are tasked with looking after Riley whilt Erin visits the doctor. We sit at a coffee shop - great salmon and brie bagel, chocolate brownie for Gemma and a vegemite biscuit for Riley. All to the supermarket, where we get some stuff for tea and a quiet afternoon is spent in the patio hammock. A nap may or may not have occurred. There is no way of telling. Play with Riley for the rest of the afternoon - it will be sad to say goodbye to someone on exactly my wavelength.

We take a stroll down to the river with Mark, Maria, Erin, Riley and Liam to enjoy a glass of wine at sunset. A great spot and one to remember that's for sure. The sky turns a deep pinky orange, the bats come out and the birds make a racket in the murky twilight. The Barking Owls give it some. A good dinner and time to say our goodbyes again. Have had a great time in Townsville and vow to return! Back to Sydney tomorrow.

Posted by tevs 02:57 Archived in Australia Tagged koala wildlife australia queensland kangaroo townsville magnetic_island billabong_sanctuary Comments (0)

Chapter thirty seven - Arugam Bay

sunny 31 °C

Day 135: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 12/02/2012

Up early enough after a good night's sleep and a decent breakfast. Catch the bus to Arugam Bay (eventually!) which we tried so hard to do yesterday. Carry the bags the five minute walk to the bus station, with some muchos achey calf muscles and the bags, which seem doubly heavy today. Two hour journey to Arugam Bay and on the way there we see some wild elephants mooching about on the plains. Get to the bus stop then take a well overpriced tuk-tuk the 4km to the area with the accommodation. Try the Beach Hut with its slightly shabby rooms and cabanas and then look next door at Surfer's Park. The rooms here are great, brand new and clean and we are able to negotiate a very good deal with the guy there. Have lunch next door at the Beach Hut which is very overpriced and fairly average, although Gemma did have an awesome peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Hit the beach - very careful in the sun today (Factor 50) - and it is practically deserted. There is not much surf (far bigger in Hikkaduwa) though the season for surfing starts in April apparently. A tiny town here, it is literally one street and there is not a lot here but the more we see (or the less as it seems) the more we love it. Amazing dinner at the hotel - chicken curry for me and pasta for Gemma.

Day 136: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 13/02/2012

We learn the hard way not to eat in a place where the prices are not shown on the menu. Toast and tea costs us a fortune. Go to the beach again in the morning and again take care in the sun. Go for lunch at the local roti joint and then, upon hearing of a crocodile laden lagoon down the road, we start walking in its general direction with every intention of catching the bus when it comes along. We end up walking miles and find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We are surrounded by wildlife - see a big lizard, a ferrety water cat thing, a dead snake, some turtles (slippery little things that are a bit camera shy), an eagle and the obligatory monkeys. After watching so much Animal Planet/Discovery channel in India I find myself involuntarily slipping into a South African accent and getting a little jittery around the edge of the murky water...

Get a lift further down the road on the back of a tractor before wandering off the beaten track and watching with horror as the elusive bus rattles past. Missed it! Head back in the direction we came and hitch a lift on the battered pick up truck bus service. Another quality adventure!

More superb food at our digs. Dream of snakes and crocs and all things Steve Irwin-y.

Day 137: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 14/02/2012

Happy Valentine's Day to all the romantics, emos and weirdos reading. Whilst sitting down and enjoying a couple of rotis for breakfast, the first thunder and lightning since Goa arrives, bringing with it a torrential downpour of real fat rain. We sit for a couple of hours in the roti shop - endless rounds of tea for me - as we wait for the storm to pass. The owner of the establishment tells us his harrowing tales of the Boxing Day tsunami and that he has been unable to rebuild his business as it was before the event. He then throws a business proposition my way - if I invest and help him rebuild 'I will be manager, you will be boss'. Hmmm, 'a tempter but alas no capital I'm afraid old boy', I say.

It is still raining two hours later (though not as hard) so we decide to leave anyway. We write some postcards. Some time later (it has finally stopped raining!) we take a walk to get some lunch. Glancing nonchalantly down into the drainage channel at the side of the road, I spy one of the camera shy turtles we saw on our pedestrian safari, sitting bold as brass watching the world go by. Naturally, being a wildlife photographer I have forgotten the camera so it is a quick, graceful, flip flop clad sprint back to the room. We needn't have worried - the little hero in a half shell has no intentions of going anywhere in a hurry.

We spend the evening in an internet cafe (tin shack) and take the poor weather as an opportunity to update Unbelievable Trekkers, the epic, award winning blog you may have heard of. Whilst in here, the thunderstorm rears back into life and the noise of the thunder is deafening. At one point there is an almighty clap of thunder overhead and the shack is shaken to its foundations, knocking the power out and giving Gemma a pretty big static shock. The few hours we spend here is the biggest bill the internet guy has ever charged and we doubt he will need to open again for the rest of the month.

Day 138: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 15/02/2012

Back once again for breakfast at the roti shop, where again the five year old daughter is running riot, though she is over the moon with the pen we gave her yesterday, sitting drawing at the table next to us. After failing to find the crocodile place on our last excursion out of the town, we decide to give it another go and after discussing the merits of the mystery bus, we commandeer a rickshaw to take us to the town and instead of simply getting off at said town, we embark on a three hour tuk-tuk safari.

The driver takes us on a magical mystery tour of a land far away, into the countryside, which has been flooded by yesterday's storm. At one point, the dirt road is under about a foot of water, covering the vehicle's wheels and making it look like some sort of 007 rickshaw-boat-submarine hybrid. Things then go from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the tuk-tuk getting stuck and both the driver and myself having to scramble furiously with our feet to get through the puddle, resulting in the Bond-mobile suddenly becoming very Fred Flintstone.

The off roading is well worth it though and before long we are seeing crocodiles in the flooded lagoon, as well as some monitor lizards, a huge ferret thing and some incredible birds, including a huge peacock with its feathers out. After our safari we get dropped off at the post office to send our postcards and come across a dead snake. It is very fresh judging by the blood dripping from it and the suppleness of the body. Great photo opportunity.

Go for lunch and spend the rest of the day on the beach, where the sea is a bit murky after the storm.

Day 139: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 16/02/2012

After the obligatory banana rotis for breakfast we head to the beach, and though the weather is a bit better than it has been last couple of days it is still a bit cloudy and before long we feel a few raindrops...not damp for long though today. We head back for lunch at the roti shop, where the little girl is causing trouble and is about to get into trouble. As with any family dispute, it is extremely entertaining for the outside observer...

Excellent prawns for dinner, even though we both tried to eat the first ones with the shell on, so engrossed we were in 'Outsourced', an American comedy set in an Indian call centre. We are so uncouth.

Day 140: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 17/02/2012

We have a lazy morning and early lunch and then head for the traditional day at the beach, going a lot further down than normal, at the mouth of the lagoon. We think we will move on tomorrow so discuss the options. I swim across the mouth of the lagoon (keeping an eye out for crocs!), which is a strange sensation as it seems like you are swimming in the sea since you are still on the beach but the water is not salty.

On getting back to the room (the 20 second walk to the beach that it is) I borrow a bike off the nice bloke who works there and do a beer run. These go down a bit too easily and before long I am back on the bike to get some more and we have revised our plan to leave in the morning. A good dinner and some tv in the restaurant section tonight. Gemma falls asleep in her chair and falls off, onto the concrete floor, before sitting back up and going back to sleep. I should care more than I do at the time. Sorry.

Day 141: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 18/02/2012

Wake up feeling a bit rough after too many Lion Lagers, Gemma with a huge egg on her head where she fell off the chair last night. Cheese, tomato and onion rotis make us feel a little bit better and some fresh air, the sea and a sleep on the beach sees us right as rain again. Tonight they are having a barbecue/party at the hotel tonight so unfortunately, that means the Lion will flow once more.

They do us some great fish at the bbq (even Gemma likes it) and they get a big bonfire and some music going. We play some cards with a cool young Swedish couple and after they go to bed, I am persuaded by the Sri Lankan contingent to get up and dance with them, resulting in pulling some impressive shapes and making some more friends.

Day 142: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 19/02/2012

Wake up a little worse for wear for the second time in two days after getting to bed some time after 3am. We go for brunch with the Swedes - they are very nice and even invite us to Stockholm. Me and Seb (Swedish guy) have to get some cash so we get a tuk-tuk up to the town with the ATM. They go to check in to the place we ate for the night and we help them with their bags, which when they get them on, causes them to topple over! Know the feeling, which is why I am lucky Gemma lets me carry both the big backpacks since the weight of one on the front and one on the back balances me out...

Gemma and myself head to the beach for the afternoon, busy as always. We go back, knackered, have tea and pack our stuff, ready to leave in the morning, pay our bills and generally get ready to go. The Sri Lankans have other ideas and with it being a bank holiday tomorrow are having another barbecue party. It takes us a while to get our goodbyes and photos taken with our new friends and we eventually get to bed about half one, ready for our 5.30 start tomorrow!

Posted by tevs 05:40 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wildlife beach sri_lanka arugam_bay Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]