Thursday, January 29, 2009

Queensland, January 22


Lots of wildlife in twelve days of camping in the hinterlands and beaches of the East Coast. The first live kangaroo sighting – a pair – came after six days roaming the woodlands. After that we’ve seen our fair share of hopping marsupials in the bush. We still personally can’t tell a kangaroo from a wallaby, a wallaroo, or a pandelemon.
There are big prehistoric looking lizards – goannas – and geckos all over the place. Snakes, including a huge dead python. Colorful noisy birds and laughing kookaburras. Cicadas so loud the sound pierces your eardrums. Frogs so loud you have to yell over them. Dingoes howling at night. We are grateful to have metal between us and the creatures of the night.
In captivity we have seen cute koalas, hefty wombats, massive sharks, and after much determination, a duck billed platypus. We lost most of our very amateur wildlife photography trying to use an underwater case that malfunctioned when we took it snorkeling. Ooops.
Fortunately we have not yet encountered the fearsome poisonous jellyfish. Now, the southern summer, is stinger season. These stingers are sometimes fatal. We met a fortyish man near Brisbane. When we told him we were headed north, he said, “Watch out for the jellyfish”, and showed us the permanent scars he’d received at age 4 when he was on holiday with his parents. Tourists, they had no idea of the risk they were taking swinging him by the arms along the water on a hot and humid summer day. He spent two days in hospital close to death.
Now, there are big signboards by the beaches identifying the various jellyfish, some of which are barely visible. There are bottles of vinegar attached to the signboards which counter the effects of stings from one or two of the numerous species. “If you are stung, flush with one to two liters of vinegar for 30 minutes. Get emergency help immediately…..Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, loss of consciousness and a looming sense of dread…”. The government constructs lovely swimming pools by the beaches and one wears a full body stinger suit engaging in water sports.
Then there are the sharks. Last year, the state of Queensland netted over 800 sharks off popular swimming beaches. 20% of them were Jaws-sized monsters. One is advised not to go near the water at dawn and dusk, especially not while walking a dog (favored shark bait). Who would have thought swimming could be this hazardous to your health?

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