The Rainforest Journal: Outing #18 – Day 3

(Wednesday 14-January-2015)

I won’t bother time stamping this. In fact I’m finding the time-stamp shit a bit pointless to be honest, at this juncture in the journal record keeping. Often I don’t write the days events down until the next day anyway, and who gives a shit what time it happened? Indeed, after being down here for just a few days I’d already completely forgotten what day of the week it was when starting this entry; I actually had to check my phone to find out.

The aquisition of Water

I wake-up this morning to almost no water at all because I drank it all last night, and, having made do with the tiny quarter-cup of coffee I managed to make gathering all the leftover water from all the juice bottles, I suddenly remember there’s about two litres of rainwater pooled on the tarp outside. I stick my head out to evaluate just how many cups of coffee I’ll get out of it, and see that the overnight winds have blown *all* the water out. Arsehole wind.

The sooner you go, the sooner you have water again

Having done the usual morning wake-up-routine I return to the tent and start stuffing the empty juice bottles in my pack. I give my leech-bitten ankle a good scratch – which has now swollen even more and started leaking enough liquid to form a hard, yellow crust on the inside of my sock. The whole area itches now; not just the area around the ankle, but right down to the arch of my foot.

A single leech bite, three days after the bite.

A leech bite, three days after the bite.

Glopping some alcohol on the bite, I give it another good hard scratch then get my boots back on and strap them up. The pressure of the ankle-supports tightened on the bite causes it throb painfully, better than itchy though. Fucking leeches.

Twenty minutes later I’m halfway through the thick, spider-web infested forest adjoining the trail to the creek. If you walk quickly, leeches don’t stick to you nearly as much I’ve noticed. It’s not foolproof, but they seem to need a second or two to latch they’re suckers onto you. Fucking filthy things. And once you get one on your shoe or clothing, they don’t just drop-off when they realize it’s clothing they’re on; Nooo nonono they’ll wriggle and crawl undetected by you for hours until they find a way into your socks, pants or anywhere there’s a gap that leads to skin they can latch onto.

Contrary to all the bullshit people dribble about the “right way” to get a leech off, the reality is that once they’ve bitten you, you’ve already been bitten and whatever causes the bite to become inflamed or infected or whatever is already in you; pull em off now, or wait till they get fat as a slug and fall off of their own accord – you’re still gunna be scratching like a dog for a week.

Burn them off, pluck them off, cut, scrape or spray them off; makes no difference once they’ve bitten you. And trying to squash them is like squashing a rubber-band; you just can’t do it. The only creatures out here I can honestly say I really dislike now are these crawling, blood-sucking little fuckers. Just hate em. Creepy Pete reckons I’ll “get used to the leeches”, but it hadn’t happened yet.

As for all the spiders webs though there’s no way at all to avoid them out here: Every ten meters you walk right through another one, and every morning they’re all there again for you to walk through. Spiders are nothing if not vigilant in their web maintainance. They itch a bit, with the fine strands of silk tickling your skin, and you get the occasional spider run across your head, face, arms or chest but you get used to that. I’ve only been bitten once by these spiders and that was a day I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Anyway, before I’d even reached the trail my right ankle is pissing me off. You’d swear it was a white-tail spider that bit me it’s so swollen and fucked up but the water isn’t coming to me, so whatever, just go get it done.

Reaching the fire trail I find the walk typically peaceful as I vaguely scan around while I walk for other animal residents of the forest and see the birds are already well into their morning routines. No Wallabies are seen today as I climb the winding trail uphill to the creek, but as I crunch over sticks, leaves and small pebbles here and there, I hear the rustling of small creatures fleeing into the undergrowth on my approach. Small lizards these usually are, and it’s amazing how honed to these little sounds your hearing becomes out here.

YOU THERE! BLACK SNAKE! STOP!

Almost at the creek, I’ve stopped eyeballing the trail around me, instead shifting my focus to the creek down the bottom of the hill. Often I’ve seen Wallabies drinking there who hop away into the ferns when they see me coming so I usually slow down for that last little downhill stretch, switching to the quiet panther-stalk in an effort not to alarm any animals that could make a good potential photo.

Sticks litter the ground everywhere and that’s nothing unusual; huge trees and branches fall regularly out here so large sticks scattered all over the place is pretty much a whatever thing.

Still in stealth-mode, creeping-down on the creek – hoping this’ll be the day I finally get a kickarse photo of that elusive macropod or a Lyrebird – my eyes flick down and fall upon the long shadow of a branch that looks different to the rest, much straighter. I keep walking a few more steps until – at exactly the same moment as it changed shape ever so slightly – I realized; that’s not a branch it’s a Black Snake.

A massive, almost three meter long one at that. The fire trail is so wide you could comfortably drive a passenger bus down it, and this fucking snake spanned nearly the entire trail.

“Ohhh you’re beeaauutiful”, I tell him. Then start digging my camera out my pocket; worried he’d slither off too quickly for me to get a decent photo.

Seconds tick by and he’s not moving at all, just laying there writhing around on the spot, so I take another step or two towards him and although he was now inching towards the edge of the road he was still clearly not startled or frightened enough to increase the speed of his departure.

Seeing how relaxed he was, how relaxed I was and *knowing* that the animals out here just fucking love me, I take a few more steps forward, closing the gap; getting me about two meters closer. This makes the snake move a little faster, and although he still isn’t exactly tripping over himself to ‘escape’, he’s getting closer to the embankment and – as far as photos go – it’s now-or-never, this is as close as I’m gonna get.

I don’t know why I knew how close I could get, but judged the snakes complete lack of aggression well enough to know I could get pretty close without triggering a defensive reaction from him. I raise the camera, and for just a moment remember I don’t have my beakon, phone or gators on.. meh whatevz.

*click*… *click*

The first pic was blurry, deleted, but the second turned out fine. Bare in mind, that this is only the head-end of the reptile; the other half wouldn’t fit in the frame.

Huge Red-bellied Black Snake.

Huge Red-bellied Black Snake.

Moments later I stood and watched the last few feet of tail slide into the grass and ferns, and that was that; we both parted company and got on with it.

Finally down at the creek I filled the five 2ltr juice bottles I had with me, and made-up some not-so-icy iced coffee in one then sat for a while, watching some tiny birds build a nest. Two birds – tiny little things; half the size of a Finch – fluttered down from a nearby tree continually picking a single blade of dried grass then flying back to the nest – grass hanging from their beaks.

They’d stop in the tree each time, quickly folding the dead grass around the same branch, then hurry back down to the ground just meters away from me to find another strand of grass before doing the same with that. For about forty minutes I sat there just watching them, and they didn’t mind at all; so busy getting-on with their nest building, they were oblivious to everything else.

Eventually, I grabbed my pack and started walking back down to camp, and though the snake hadn’t returned to bask in the warm midday sun, just fifty meters or so from the spot he’d been I’m walking along when I hear a sudden thrashing of dried leaves on the ground, followed by the familiar scratching of sharp claws climbing tree bark; what else could it possibly be, but one of my scaly brothers I now know are very common around here.

Beeeautiful.

Beeeautiful.

I see them nearly everytime I walk now; running off the trails, running into the ferns or bolting up trees like that one there. The three who visit my camp are – of course – no longer startled by my presence, but there’s heaps of them out here. I remember a chick I bumped into on Federal Pass one day – walking up on the last day of the outing – who, after I’d told her about the Lace Monitors that hang out with me at my camp, then showing her videos of Broeski eating, said to me that a friend of hers who’d been bushwalking for almost a decade had not once seen a Lace Monitor in all that time and that she had only seen one.

So why do I see them everywhere? Maybe her mate is visually impaired or something.

Later when the Possums came out I was surprised to find only Guido at the tent. I don’t know if he’s just beaten shit out of the others so much they refuse to come down and eat anything or what. Maybe a Monitor ate the others? Maybe lightning got them? Wouldn’t have a clue.

In a place though, where a lot of things are foods for a lot of other things there seems little point stressing about their whereabouts. I know Bobby is still around – I saw him the first night – but haven’t seen either the mother or daughter at all, or any female Possums for that matter.

Mm.

The Rainforest Journal: Outing #18 – Day 3
Rate in Guidos

Jason
Animal-loving cleaner with a parrot.

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