Sunday, March 04, 2007

Well, if I thought we were in the middle of nowhere in the Blue Mountains, the next few days would be quite enlightening. We left enroute for Cascade National Park, but stopping near a place quaintly named Coonabarabran called Warrumbungles to camp for the night. My flu wasn’t too horrible on the bus and though I felt some pretty serious nausea initially, it quieted into a sort of general lack of energy. Mer gave me some Immodium and Katie insisted that I and all the other sick patrons take some probiotics. Which are sort of the opposite of antibiotics, I suppose. Bacteria pills. Still, they seemed to do the job. We stopped for lunch at a place called Mudgee, and since I had no appetite and lunch I’d bought for the two days prior, I had a little bit of that. Chris and I found a shaded bench and sat there eating and discussing world affairs. After devising a solution for the Cuban Missle Crisis that would’ve resulted in a technological paradigm that would permit fusion-powered vehicles, we were back on the bus for more driving.

We passed some kangaroos and a dead wombat which was pretty exciting. They do hop, just like the legends say. And finally, our campsite. With all our excitement at seeing kanagaroos on the road, there were plenty hanging around the camp. Not really wild at all (au contraire) but still cool to see up close. They use their tails a lot more than I realized, sometimes crawling on their small front limbs and using their tails to support the weight. Sitting upright, they basically sit on their tails as well. And their legs are bent backwards at the knee, with their whole lower limb essentially acting as a foot, which gives them a lot of jumping leverage. Oh, and nice big claws, so if they don’t like you, they can sit on their tails and use their hind claws to gut you. Anyway, after a little trouble with some German campers, we settled in for dinner. None of us guys were hungry, so we just sort of hung around and then went for a walk in the woods.

On this walk we encountered some actually wild kangaroos, which was much cooler in my mind, and also some really crazy ant colonies that my compatriots felt compelled to stir up. There were a LOT of them. It was actually relatively insane. And they are not small ants. We walked back, and I had my first smore over a gas stove which was ridiculously good, even if their marshmallows here are a bit unusual. And then an early night as I still wasn’t feeling great and my sleep the night prior had been less than incredible. The next morning, we were up early and I was feeling pretty darned good. Close to 100%. Such a relief. We got back on the bus and headed into town to have breakfast in the park near a cricket game. I just had M&M’s, not wise necessarily, but you have no idea how tired I am of peanut butter and bread. Instead, I had peanut-filled chocolate candy. I wonder how I got sick?

Today was our longest trek of the tour, 7 hours of driving, and it went relatively fast. Tamworth was our lunch stop and we also got groceries for our next three lunches. Anthony and I went in together to make it nice and cheap and fast. Corn on the cob, a sandwich, and tortellini. Done, done, and done. We got in to Cascade at about 7:00, had grilled cheese and tomato soup, and just hung out. I gave some music to Amanda, Anthony, Chelsea, and Lauren, we watched some Family Guy, sat around chatting, and played a little Frisbee. Others played some basketball and did hair, and essentially it was a “chill” evening.

At noon the next day we took a nature hike through the surrounding woods where I was fortunate enough to have my first ever leech bite. And then two others. But I got off pretty lightly compared to the others – pretty much everyone had been hit by a leach before I was. We made our way through with our guide, Jeff, who stopped to explain a lot of the foliage and interesting things about the forest. We tried some pepper leaf and sarsaparilla and made our way to a small waterfall where we took a dip. I would never have jumped in back home as it looked rather dirty, but hey, when in Aus. We also crossed a 2m high termite mound, and looked at the way the vines grow and how some plants would get their seed up into a tree so that they were closer to the light. Very interesting and enlightening.

We came back and had an equally interesting dinner of local wildlife. But that was after a couple games like the helium stick and the golf-ball circle. The dinner was kangaroo burgers, some big nut that grows to be up to 20 lbs., local berries, an ice cream that was mashed with some leaves to make a lemony creamy myrtle, and alligator cakes (with meat from the tail). It was actually all delicious, though some of the berries were pretty much not anything but bitterness, mostly it was interesting and unusual and unlike any meal I’ve ever had. Today was definitely a great day.

Our final morning, we went white water rafting through the rainforest. It was really quite beautiful and something like what I imagine the Amazon to be – except not as wide. We were able to get out of our rafts and float down the river, which was good fun, and we got to a narrows that was so deep we couldn’t find the bottom. Admittedly, we were wearing lifejackets, but Dustin would dunk me and stand on my shoulders (which puts me almost 12 feet under), and then Brad would stand on his shoulders, then someone would push Brad down which put me about 20 feet down and with no sight of the bottom. The water here isn’t glacial and crystal clear like in New Zealand, so there was also little light and a lot of murk that deep. We did some splashing and dunking and also some small waterfalls (category 4 but we also had to walk past some category 6 ones) that were actually great fun. It was a beautiful way to spend a morning and afternoon. We had a BBQ after and saw a really large goanna lizard (probably close to 2m long) and spent the rest of the day hanging around our camp. Tomorrow is Anthony and Kristen’s collective birthday and we head off to Byron Bay for some surf and definitely party. We’ll see you there!

Warrumbungles Photos
Cascade Photos

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