CRITTERS THAT MAY CROSS YOUR PATH IN THE LAND DOWN UNDER.

Here in the Land Down Under we have some magnificent and interesting native animals, birds and reptiles. We also have some imported species including, brumbies( wild horses), camels/dromedaries, foxes, rabbits, hares, sparrows and pigeons to named but a few.

If you live outside the large metropolitan areas or out in the country there is always the probability that some of the animals and reptiles will come to visit, including snakes. Snakes are definitely not welcome in our backyard. Of course snakes of all descriptions are protected species  so in snake country, where we live, professional snake catchers are, during summer, in popular demand.  I kid you not.

Here are some of the visitors we welcome in our back yard:

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A NICE BLUE TONGUE LIZARD.

We’ve named this little bloke ‘Son of Albert.’ He lives in the shed which he shares with my Harley and Landrover. He slips in and out under the roller door as the summer days cool off and in winter hibernates under the concrete slab.

Over forty  years ago, when we lived in a Sydney Suburb, a Blue Tongue set up residence under our back verandah. We called the goanna ‘Albert.’ Blue Tongues have inhabited our backyards ever since. Since they all look alike, when we think a newcomer has moved in it immediately becomes ‘Son of Albert.’

I was working on the bike when I saw this particular ‘Son of Albert’ for the first time. The remnants of a meal was protruding from his jaws so I popped inside and returned with the camera. You can see from the image why they are known as ‘Blue Tongues.’

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SON OF ALBERT WITH A SNACK.

They have readily adapted to the presence of humans, hence my chance to get this closeup.

Then on another day, an Echidna waddled across the yard and began to dig in near the side fence. We refer to them as Spiny Anteaters because ants are their favoured snack. Again, the camera was close at hand and I managed this shot of it’s cute little snout and face.

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AN ECHIDNA.
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A CLOSE UP OF THE ECHIDNA’S PROTECTIVE QUILLS.

Echidnas are very shy and certainly are not an aggressive mammal. At the first sign of trouble they use their strong claws to dig a hole into which they gradually disappear. Fascinating to watch.

Further away from home and out in the real country is where you will find the larger reptiles like the Perentie.

The Perenti is the largest Australian Monitor Lizard and they can grow up to  2.5 metres in length and weigh anything up to 15 kilos. They are common in the desert inland areas of Australia and enjoy carrion. They are great climbers and when disturbed can swiftly climb the nearest tree or up large boulders.

Here is a shot of one that crossed our path on the edge of the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory.

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ABOUT THREE FEET LONG THIS PERENTI BLENDED WELL WITH ITS’ SURROUNDINGS.

A few hundred miles later on we spotted this camel wandering along beside the track. It’s popularly believed that there are more wild camels in Australia than anywhere else in the world.

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ARE WE THERE YET.

On our way home we stopped off near Silverton in North West New South Wales to photograph some great examples of a plant known as Sturt’s Desert Pea.

There, sitting on a rock taking in the sun was a fine example of a Frill Necked Lizard. When they are agitated they inflate a ruff of bristles around the neck to make themselves look more aggressive and dangerous. This bloke was at peace with the world and totally ignored our presence.

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NOTE THE EYE. NOT MISSING A THING.

We really enjoy sighting our wildlife and it’s a great excuse to venture off the beaten track.

Hoo roo for now

WRITING 101: DAY FOUR – SERIALLY LOST -PART THREE, THE LAST.

Last night I’d programmed my body clock to rouse me well before sun rise so I could be on my way bright and early. This time the clock worked and I was up and breakfasted on coffee and toast with marmalade jam well before 0500 hrs.

I packed the Landcover in record time and started my navigational preparedness  for the day. First up, I programmed the Magellan with the old Ghan Railway coordinates at the point where I wanted to meet it.

On the image below, the vertical black bars you can see on the screen represent the strength of the data from the satellites the GPS is receiving. The numerals around the concentric circles are identifiers for the satellites.

By pressing the NAV button on the left of the instrument, I can scroll through various screens until I reach the one where I key in the destination coordinates and any way points I may be interested in.

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MY MAGELLAN GPS AND ITS OUTSIDE BOOSTER AERIAL AS MOUNTED ON THE LANDROVER’s DASHBOARD.

Then, after returning to my map, I oriented my compass to the same destination point and recorded the direction by the numbEr of degrees onto the compass card. I’m really attached to this compass, it’s been my constant companion for over 50 years and has never let me down. Probably one of the reasons I’ve never been really lost.

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MY MILITARY ISSUE MAGNETIC COMPAS.

Now, in addition to following the directions by GPS, I can sight along the bearing line on the compass, identify significant landmarks and drive towards them. Few obstacles can defeat the Landcover, except fences. Although uncommon where I’m travelling a fence does cause an immediate stop and creates the necessity to find an opening. It’s an absolute no no to cut a fence, it’s not only irresponsible, it’s also illegal.

In addition to my trusty 1:250,000 maps, I also carry the Australian Gazetteer. No wonder it’s heavy, it has a total of 1017 pages and the volume measures 130 cm( 11 and 3/4 inches)wide, 21.5cm(8 and 1/2 inches) high and 8.5cm(3 inches) thick. Not a back pack item, that’s for sure.

Well, after about another half hour fiddling around I was underway not long after 0530hrs and it wasn’t long before I came across one of the local inhabitants.

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This camel is one of over a million wild camels that inhabit inland Australia’s arid zones. They were first brought to Australia in there 1800s with their Afghan cameleers to provide goods transport to the then inaccessible inland outposts. Would you believe we now export them as racing camels to the Middle East. Our camels are disease free and outstanding examples of their place in the animal kingdom.

It was from the Afghan cameleers that the fledgling Port Augusa to Alice Springs railway got its name, The Ghan.

Now it’s time for a little bit of history. Construction of The Ghan railway commenced in 1878. It was a 1060cm line, more commonly referred to as three foot six gauge. Once the steam trains started running they rapidly gained a reputation for arriving at their destination late. Not by an hour or so, the lateness was measured in days.

Dust storms often covered the track with deep sand, occasional floods washed away the lines and bridges and numerous other incidents caused delays. Each train had a large flat bed car attached behind the locomotive. This car was loaded with rail lines, sleepers, tools and other bits and pieces needed to repair the damaged lines. Both the crew and conscripted passengers were required to carry out the repair work.

Anyway, the line was closed in 1980 after a new line was constructed, eventually stretching from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory.

The new line and its rolling stock are still named’ The Ghan’ and the old Ghan line where I’m headed is now popular with outback tourists like myself.

Well, it wasn’t too far into the day’s run when I came across this abandoned truck just rusting away, all alone. What great yarns it could tell. Just looking at it I could see it had lived a hard life and certainly earned its keep.

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After a few more hours there I was, at the start of the run along the abandoned Old Ghan railway line. This  solitary stand pipe had served the locos and their passengers and freight well and stood as a solitary monument to those bygone days:

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Everything out here gets dusty and when changing camera lenses there is always the chance of the demon dust getting on the camera’s sensor or onto film, if that’s your choice. You can see the spots on this image, it’s clumps of dust on the sensor and sometimes even the built in sensor wobble and shake can’t dislodge it. ‘Them’s the breaks’, as the saying goes.

The trip proceeded without  incident, apart from the almost compulsory punctures and without my onboard air compressor I would certainly have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The following selection of images will give you of an idea of what’s to be seen along the line, it’s well worth the effort and it’s a great glimpse into the great Australian outdoors.

As I got closer to my camp site for the night, my path was crossed by another camel, it seemed to be a fitting end to my run along the old Ghan line. I’m not sure if the camel was grinning at me as it wandered past:Camel near Chamber's Pillar copy

Finally, after changing direction and leaving the line, I arrived at Chamber’s Pillar to camp for the night. The pillar was a navigation aid for the early explorers and is easily spotted in the basically flat surrounding country. I set up camp in the early afternoon, no one else was there and I enjoyed the solitude.

CHAMBER'S PILLAR
CHAMBER’S PILLAR

As you have gathered, today I was never lost, misplaced or even bewildered by my surroundings.

Tonight as I snuggle into my sleeping bag laid out in my sway, I’ll think about the next few days and the real reason I’m heading for Alice Springs. The following image should give you a clue so stand by for a post about it at some future time. Hoo roo for now.

THE REAL REASON FOR THE TRIP
ALICE SPRINGS AND THE REAL REASON FOR THE TRIP