HOME

As you could have probably guessed from my title, this blog will take me home. I don’t mean Brisbane, it won’t get me there. But it will get me to the place that fills my lungs, eyes, ears and heart with home.

I left off last time in my home state of NSW, but that was the southern side of the state and an unfamiliar city. That certainly doesn’t speak to me of home. The only reminder of home there would be the yellow license plates! But that’s an aside. I left Sydney (as you may have guessed from my title and tangent) heading west over the Blue Mountains. I left in the dead of night as to avoid the inevitable Sydney rush hour (the normal Sydney traffic is bad enough already!).

Anyway, it was an uneventful drive, with the exception of some amazing views come morning of the Blue Mountains! At the end of the road was Megan Halcroft – someone who does extensive work with bees, including the running of many famous workshops, the “Bee aware of your native bees” Facebook page and much more!

As you might imagine, her garden has been tailor-made for bees to find food throughout the season! Well I must say, it is doing its job fabulously. I have been hard-pressed to find any native bees over the past few weeks but here, I found 12 new bees to photograph (including some males and females of the same species). After a fantastic dinner and a lot of photographing, we stayed up talking bee business and the like before bed.

Once again, I must emphasize how lovely and passionate all of these bee professionals are. There must be something about bees that causes them to attract the right people!

The next morning ,I was sent off with an equally fantastic breakfast and the intention of being a tourist for a little while. I headed towards Jenolan Caves along a wonderfully windy road through some forest (where I got to see a lyrebird!).

After a while, I was greeted with a natural arch/cavern to drive through to the car park of the caves. So cool.

 

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Yep, that’s the road
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Pretty cool, right?
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The blue lake at the caves
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The lake was made by this little dam and is so blue due to the dissolved limestone particles refracting the light

 

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Oh nature, you!
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You get the idea.

As it turns out, the next cave tour was booked out and I didn’t want to wait an hour and a half plus more for the tour when I wanted to drive to about Taree by that night. So I promptly left and hit the road back to Sydney and north. The highway north of Sydney is actually one of my favourites due to the huge forests and canyons with wild-looking rivers 100m below. One day, I want to kayak up one of those rivers and camp on the bank to see what can be seen.

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Huge cuttings and a huge forest
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One of those bridges (I couldn’t safely take a photo down the side though)

I checked out a few spots around Taree to make camp that night, and I settled on one in a little town just west of there called Wingham. The site is jammed between the river and a bit of rainforest. I got there a little late, but certainly not too late to enjoy the moon over the river, which was literally jumping with mullet! After I enjoyed the river and moon it was time to make dinner. It was around this time that I got an unexpected visitor… A fellow photographer, Charles Davis named it Hendra…

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The moon and the river

 

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Yep, a flying fox landed on my awning and just hung out watching me for awhile
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Can I eat this?
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I couldn’t eat this.

 

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Can I eat THIS?
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…I couldn’t eat it either.

After my Hendra-free meal, I packed it in, excited for a morning walk through the rainforest there, where I would get to meet Hendra’s family. Essentially I now think that all flying foxes are adorable.

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That’s Henry

 

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This is Paul, Jackson, Louise, Frank, Ella, Steve, Lisa and Luretta

Continuing on, I stumbled upon a wonderful lookout at Sawtell. As it turns out, there are no parking restrictions there so I spent the next two nights with ocean and riverfront views at zero cost! A van can really take you places, people.

While there I also managed to find another 5 bee species on some lawn weeds and a coastal heath plant in flower!

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Sunset the first day
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Moonrise the first day

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How to wake up 2.0: Open eyes, [put on decent clothes,] open door, enjoy

Various sunrise shots

After getting back from taking some sunrise shots, I saw a man picking up the broken glass from about 6 beer bottles thrown around the night before by some inconsiderate (among other descriptive words) people. So together [with the added help of my brush] we cleaned up and chatted. His name was Paul. He was a local who had recently bought the newer version of my van and was looking to travel around Australia in it [again]! I then spent the rest of the morning and a little bit of the afternoon getting a tour around the area, which is how I found the perfect solution to avoiding the Easter rush and relaxing for a couple of days (without searching for bees). I found Mylestom.

Tucked out of the way, on the Bellinger River, and just behind the dunes to the beach, Mylestom was the perfect spot to get away from the bustle of the Easter holiday rush! Not to mention, Paul showed me the perfect free campsite on the river and beach access, where I only saw the occasional beachgoer making their way over the dunes (aside from the multitude of boats and jet skis towing people up and down the river). I also broke my rear window via a branch… BUT NRMA will cover it with no excess or damage to my no claim bonus!

 

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This parasitoid wasp landed on my window without an abdomen and rear leg… it didn’t seem to care!
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Lewin’s honeyeater checking me out
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Beautiful sea eagles passing by all day!

 

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Mullet jumping like mad-men [or fish]
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Just generally calming and beachy-goodness

 

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Golden sunset water!
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Clouds falling off the mountains

 

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Sunset and fishing… The way to end any trip
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Bellinger River
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The sand

I didn’t know it that day, but I would be leaving in the night. I thought that I should miss the Easter Monday traffic and drive home on the cool, uncrowded roads! And what a drive it was! I saw the roads that I was most familiar with on this drive, among others, but with a welcome twist. The roads were all girt by fog. Not so much on the roads themselves, but following it in the paddocks and bush beside. The fog, the full moon and the stars made for something quite magical.

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Off the highway I went to photograph the fog, a road and some cows
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Ron looking particularly sinister in the fog!
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The view from home

So is that it?

No, it’s not… I’m not back in Brisbane yet, and while that’s only a short drive away, I still don’t consider this to be over. After I arrive in Brisbane I’ll put together another post with some final and interesting stats, but it should be a short one. Then the long process of photo editing, writing and more will begin. I don’t expect to leave this blog for ever at all, but certainly, the posts will become less frequent.

Kilometres travelled: 25 537

Bees photographed: 195

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Two States and a Territory

So I left my last post in a bit of a rush and a bit behind on the times, as I was already in Wodonga, whereas the post suggested I was in Shepparton, woops! Well, I must admit that I saw some cool things between Shepparton and Wodonga, and I would be selling all of us short if I didn’t report on them. Are those cool things insect-related? …Yes, mostly but there is some extra stuff in there as well, you know, just to be inclusive of other interests.

Anyway, on with the story!

After I had checked out Shepparton’s mooving art display, I decided to find camp, again using wikicamps. I found one just outside of town and next to a lovely river! That night, a consistent sucking/popping noise could be heard on the water’s surface… Cod by the sound and volume of it! However, after about three casts I was too harassed by mosquitos to continue (apparently they both feed and protect the fish). Regardless, it was a lovely spot and the site from which I wrote the last blog post!

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Ron by the river

 

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The river by the Ron

Next day, after a brief search by the river for bees, I set off towards Wodonga. Along the way, I found my first flowering Casuarina of the trip! There were only three species of bee on it while I was there: European honeybees, a Lassioglossum sp. and another smaller species of which I only found two individuals (one of whom was found in my hair and I had to wait for it to crawl from the back of my head to my scalp before I could catch it!).

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Lots of Europeans on the flowers!
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Red ants are quite good at catching European honeybees when they fall to the ground. First one grabs on, the bee flies around the ground until more and more grasp the bee with this being the end result.

Lassioglossum sp.

Watching all of these bees feed (and holding my 4-5kg camera rig) made me hungry. So I took the turn off to Glenrowan, the town where Ned Kelly had his last stand (thanks to The Beards for teaching me this). I took in the sights (giant Ned Kelly) and went into BLT [Breakfast, Lunch and Tea] for lunch! Well, I’m not normally one to take photos of my meals in cafés, but I couldn’t help myself this time…

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$13 for so much delicious nachos and some great service!
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Giant Ned, because in Australia, you always need a big thing if you want your town to be well known! (can you tell the difference between a DSLR and phone camera?)

That afternoon, I made it to Wodonga, took some photos of one of the bees that I found and published my last blog post, so that’s all you missed folks. After that, I met with my old friend, Indigo who I went fishing with in Lake Hume (a dam). Naturally, we didn’t catch a thing, but it was a beautiful location and we did see some trout jumping.

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Lake Hume
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That evening, with some of the insects lit up in flight by Indigo

Well, as lake fishing didn’t work out for us, we decided to take the more scenic route the next day, up to some mountain streams! If you must know, Indigo beat me in fish count, but I did catch my first ever trout! After this, we went in the direction of Mt. Buffalo for some sight-seeing and to stay the night and watch sunrise…

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A random pool half way up (or down) a steep rock face which had a couple of decent trout in it
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A waterfall at the top of a bit of a dodgy climb, worth it!
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It seemed to only have some little native fishes, no trout. Probably very good for the natives (if that’s what they were!), as trout prey on natives as well as compete for habitat.

 

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Mt. Buffalo lookout
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That’s a bike jump! No, actually it is a hang-glider platform…. Pretty terrifying!

We made it to the top of the mountain (a bit of a drive and a short 1.5km walk) to watch the sun set. Following this, we went for a drive to hopefully finally find a wombat… Which we did, finally!!!

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A pool on top of one of the large rocks at the summit
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How thoughtful, Indigo
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Bye bye, Sun.

Naturally the next morning we had to be up for sunrise!

A premium example of my awesome panning skills

 

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A couple of gang-gang cockatoos… That’s another new species for me to see!

After this, I dropped Indigo back home (after he caught more fish than me again) and continued on towards the snowy mountains! There, I saw some cool views and nearly overheated Ron going slowly up the steep hills in the hot weather (thankfully, I saw the dial before he got too hot).

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Scammel Spur Lookout
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Oh dear… My dash is very dusty… Lots of people stopped to ask if I was alright though, thankfully.
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That’s right folks, I drove all of the way to Siberia!
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Some lovely scenery!
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Thredbo, less the snow that you may all be used to seeing here

I would have to pay [in advance] for staying in any NSW national park, so I continued on to Jindabyne, where I found a nice spot in some bushes next to Lake Jindabyne (at least it’s a descriptive name).

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Lake Jindabyne
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How to wake up: Open eyes, open door, enjoy.

After enjoying the evening and morning in Jindabyne, it was time to move on towards Canberra. Along the way, I stopped in Cooma, where I asked a lady (Esther) if she’d mind me looking in her garden for bees, to which she agreed. I did find one species, but I believe that I already had it. Anyway, me being me, I talked to her for a couple of hours and got to try some of her home-made fermented foods which I would recommend. Unfortunately, there really aren’t many bees or flowering native plants around here anymore…

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A new landscape, and a new state: NSW
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Just some big flag
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I spent some time writing e-mails and the like in parks here, watching a couple of guys fish for carp. They caught a few. No that guy is not fishing for carp, he is playing fetch with his dogs in the most energy-efficient manor that he knows…

 

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Not a bad spot!

One cool night and morning in Canberra was enough to realize that I was not going to find any bees there and so I decided to move on to Sydney, where I would stay for almost a week to catch up with friends and meet with Michael Batley at the Australian Museum. Before I left though, I did have a look around the park where I stayed that night.

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A pair of red-rumped parrots, fairly common in the ACT parks it seemed!
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Nothing about this sign seems inviting (unless you’re a swallow)

The road to Sydney is not terribly long, and I haven’t carried my camera around too much in the city. But the weather hasn’t been great for people or bees, so I’ve spent my time up until now seeing friends and relaxing!

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The CBD
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Queen Victoria Building in the CBD

 

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Just some other bulding

 

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Tai! (Please no gang symbols)
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…that moment when you realize that someone has noticed you taking their picture…

 

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Tai and I [out of focus] in front of the opera house
And that’s all of the photos I have for you today folks! Safe to say, I have caught up with more old friends than old Tai here, and there are more to come! But it’s been nice seeing everyone and relaxing in Sydney [even though it is a hectic city with crazy drivers!]. I’ll be heading west to Hampton in order to meet Megan Halcroft (another bee-person), before turning my eyes towards Byron and Brisbane over the next week!

James

Kilometers travelled: 24 260

Bees found: 178

North…

Well my last post was a little bit early, so I thought that maybe I should make this one a little bit later (I got lazy). So last you heard I had beaten up Ron’s undercarriage doing some not so 2×4 driving and had spent the night in Hobart. After that quite lovely view and sleep, I decided to head south towards Huonville and Lune River to see what bees I could find.

Well I did manage to find a couple of ‘new’ species, but I was really looking forward to finding a camp that was a bit out of the way for the night. So, south of Lune River along a gravel track that ended in a locked gate I found an awesome campsite with no one else around!

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One of Tassy’s beautiful little southern towns
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Should I… maybe not!
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And this was camp – never saw another soul while I was there!
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Nothing beats a nice campfire (this is post-mortem)

After a brilliant night in the bush, I had to go north again as, while there were roads heading south… I didn’t really know where they would go not to mention the fact that I cannot collect in a national park! So I had to backtrack all of the way to Hobart. Not bad considering the scenery though! Not to mention the fact that I found a tree with six new bee species on it! Fantastic – I needed more!

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Sansa apples – so good! In Stark comparison to most store-bought varieties!
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Oh Tassie, you sexy sonofabitch! (That could apply to many of the photos here…)
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I spent a few hours photographing my bees at the botanical gardens, before returning to my previous camp in Hobart (now my usual haunt)

My goal the next day was to make it to the Huon Campground in Southwest National Park. The park itself, part of Tasmania’s wilderness, is amazing and I want to do a big trek through it. Along the way, I found an amazing river, amazing roads, a burnt out caravan and well… just have a look.

 

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River Derwent. I want to make this my new home… maybe not IN the river, but near it
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Just about the enter the national park. I had to at least try and find some bees, but no dice (I mean bees)!
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Just lots of winding, hilly, beautiful roads
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Southwest National Park…
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Free caravan!
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The Creepy Crawly Trail – 20 minutes of stunning, mossy rainforest floor!
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That’s a nice boardwalk
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And at the end? More moss!
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Edgar Pond [Edgar Mirror]
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Lake Pedder
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Oh Tassie, you sexy sonofabitch!!! 

I hope that you enjoyed some of that landscape porn, and my profanities about said landscapes. Perhaps a bit over the top, but you weren’t there. You don’t know what it was like!

I finally made it to Huon campground. Now normally, I don’t go too far into national parks as my time would be better served trying to find bees to photograph. HOWEVER, this time I decided to venture in for the day, as my ecology-friend, Chrissy, saw no fewer than five endangered black eastern quolls and a tiger quoll only a few days before! So I stayed up until 11 PM trying to find a quoll. I even went for a [slow] drive at night! …Let’s see what I found:

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Huon Campground
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Yep, I’ve belittled myself enough to photograph and share a fungus shot…
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One of the many Tasmanian pademelons found around the campground. Parks Tasmania has this to say on the subject: “The pademelon is a stocky animal with a relatively short tail and legs to aid its movement through dense vegetation.” Good thing it has legs to aid its movement through the dense vegetation 😉
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I like these coralline fungi!
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Macro often lacks a size scale so… It also shows that I had to use a long exposure in order to use natural light

Anyway, I’d been looking around for any exciting mammals for quite some time before full dark, but not much caught my eye… What luck would I have after dark?

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Yes, a brushtail possum, the bane of any campground!

 

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Yeah, bugger off mate! 😛
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I went back to Lake Pedder on my night drive and shot this panorama

And there you have it folks, many hours of searching for a quoll count of zero… But I still got to see some nice stuff and walk around at night, with purpose!! There was nothing for it but to head out of the park early the next day and start my journey to the north of Tasmania… to the north of Australia really…

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The [gravel] road back out of the park
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Another mirror, err, lake on the way north

 

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Secret Valley, maybe?
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Frenchman’s gap
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Nelson River
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Nelsons Falls, aka. Heaven. I was very lucky to have a few moments at the waterfall by myself, just so beautiful.
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Bushfire remnants
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Why’d the bushfire cross the road? …It didn’t
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Oh Tassie you se… you get the idea.

Well, I was having a ball driving through some amazing mountains towards Queenstown. But, as I got closer to Queenstown (and not knowing of its history) I was a little saddened to see chewed-up metal-rich mountains.

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The not-so-wild southwest
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Mining mountains
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More chewed up mountain

Well, I was on the lookout after Queenstown (where I originally was going to stay) for a nice campsite. I found one hidden away at the boat ramp to Lake Plimsoll where I thought that I’d stay for the night, but it had no reception and moved on (I needed to call Matty, one of my other ecology friends for his birthday later that night). Anywho, I found a nice spot off wikicamps at another boat ramp near Tullah.

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Nice, level and shaded ground next to the lake!
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And some nice views up a bit of a slope… Tassie you s… yeah, right
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Another stunning Tasmanian mirror, I mean lake!

That last lake was what I woke up to, and the water was really surprisingly warm (not that I got in much further than my ankles to take that shot). And it was great to wake up to that, considering it would be my last full day in Tasmania. Very sad, I know. I’d have to go back to that eye-sore that the Tasmanians call the mainland! I joke, but really Tasmania is a stunning place that everyone should see. One last drive from Tullah to Devonport then…

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I pulled over at a random shoulder to find some bees and noticed a gap in the forest wall. I found a ~200m piece of track that looped back around to the road again going through some stunning, mossy forest! Oh Tas…
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Even their power lines look nice (or at least what’s around them)
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On a more bee [but not quite bee] related note, I saw a bunch of these flies while in Tassie. They seemed to be mimicking European honeybees (and quite well I might add). I’m curious then, if they came from Europe, or have evolved this mimic since the bees were introduced…. Also if anyone recognizes this big bush from the flowers, I’m curious to know what it is!
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I spent the arvo reading (feet of clay by Terry Pratchett) and watching the river in Devonport.
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That’s the bugger I caught over, I’d be catching the Spirit of Tasmania II on the way back!
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Another 5:30AM rise to wait in a queue of cars… And watch the sunrise in my rear-view mirror
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Into the belly of the beast
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Ships don’t do 3-point turns, they do a 1-point turn…

The ferry ride over was quite nice actually! I talked a fair bit with a lady who had just sent off her book to the publisher. Her book was on Australian-Irish sign language, which is apparently a completely different language to Australian sign language. It sounded quite fascinating! I also talked to a dude wearing short-shorts and a sailer’s outfit, which was quite hilarious and he said he’d not had much chance otherwise to wear it! Aside from that, I read more of my book, and enjoyed the ride back to Melbourne.

I stayed in Melbourne that night and one more, meeting a couple of friends while I was in town, then dropping one of them off at Anglesea before moving even further north…

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Melbourne botanical gardens (I slept on one of the roads under a flowering gum the second night… camping is a legitimate strategy!)
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More of the gardens! (I got to see a lot of the gardens… while trying to find a toilet…)
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Waiting to pick up Stephen to bring him to Anglesea… I don’t know if I was allowed to park here – Federation square

After a lovely drive and chat with Stephen, I set my sights northward, somewhere near Bendigo. Well, I managed to find a nice camp just south of Bendigo at a rest stop not marked on wikicamps (and so blessedly empty) with a few resident flowering gums! So late that afternoon and early the next morning a managed to find some natives, before it got a bit hot and the Europeans seemed to take over.

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Nice spot, surrounded by gums! (A bit close to the highway and a railroad though!)

That day, the hunt was on again! But the hunt would have to take me to Rochester, a town of some significance to my best mate… But all I could find was a milk factory… oh well! I did manage to find three new bees species before returning to another site near Bendigo.

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Rochester with the milk factory down the street (worked on by Jem’s granddad, dad, brother and himself!)
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I camped near here, but not next to a fallen brother… Ron nearly wept!

That night and the following day were a bit too overcast and rainy, unfortunately. So I just had a late start and breakfast and drove off the Shepparton to find a new camp there! Turns out that Shepparton has some pretty interesting art installations!

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Get it? Whoever came up with this is my new personal hero.
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Things were going swimmingly in Shepparton.
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Dairy capital of Australia… not recommended for the lactose intolerant or vegans.

Well, this is a day out of date, but you’ll all have to wait until my next post to catch me up. However, I will say that I’m in Wodonga, Victoria and will be heading across the great alpine road to Canberra and Sydney in the next week! So, until then…

Bee count: 178

Kilometers traveled: 23 110

James

Ron the two by four and more

Once I left wet Marrawah, I headed across towards Launceston where I thought I’d camp for the night as I had nothing better to do with the poor [pour] weather. But about 30 minutes before Launceston, the clouds buggered off and I got some sun which encouraged me to go further! So I made it all the way to Kempton that day – just 40 minutes outside of Hobart! Unfortunately, I arrived a bit too late to get a key to the shower block at the campsite where I stayed, but that is a day in the life of the vanpacker!

I decided the next day to go meet up with Chrissy and the other plant-bandits near Freycinet – a 2.5 hour drive, some of which was back-tracking north! But it was a fantastic drive, with an even better end-point near wineglass bay!

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The mountains above Wineglass Bay and Freycinet
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Coles Bay on our walk over a saddle between the mountains

 

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Chrissy and Leander, taking a rest
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Wineglass Bay – I’m told it got its name from the colour it turned when the whalers killed whales in it… Like a wine-glass. Yeah much less romantic now, huh?

 

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Coles bay again
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Coles Bay plus a setting sun

After a lovely afternoon and evening with the plant people, I headed out towards Hobart to find bees along the way and a camp! Well, I found no bees despite the good weather. It really does seem like bee season is coming closer and closer to an end… I did however manage to find a camp at a scout-managed piece of land just South of Hobart, which was really quite nice to camp for $10. And that evening, I shared my campfire with an Irishman, a Canadian and a Dutchy… No joke.

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Some more Tassy coastline
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The road West of Orford
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Tasmanian Bushland Garden! Good place to find bees? Not really… Nice walk though
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Even has a guide rope and all – being a moderate hazard of course it needed one
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Found a cool little Bug (Hemiptera) as well – it didn’t need a rope
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And a T-rex thing
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Also this little ball of ouch!
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The Road to Hobart is quite cool as well, with two bridges(?) crossing over some lovely waters
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There were signs warning of sea spray!
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Hobart: only 15 “Wakkas” away…

So I thought, maybe I can find bees tomorrow! But come morning, the weather wasn’t looking great: cold and rainy, not good conditions for bees! Well, I tried to find what I could but was again thwarted. So I decide to drive around the Tasman and Foresteir Peninsulas to see what could be seen!

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A private [and decrepit] jetty
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Tasman National Park Lookout

Tessellated Pavement – a natural formation at Eaglehawk Neck

Lime Bay

Lime Bay rock formations/patterns

As you can see, I found some pretty cool places! And Lime Bay had a great campground on the coast for only $13/night. But there were too many people there (c.a. 10). I thought, “You know what? Tonight I’ll stay somewhere no one else is, and maybe find some Tasmanian Devils!” I knew that there were some devils on the Forestier Peninsula. But there weren’t many free campsites on wiki camps, so I decided to take a little road out East of Murduna. I knew that it wound its way close to the coast, and through some forest that looked pretty wild, and that was enough for me!

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Yep, nice forest (although I understand it is mostly regrowth after a big fire and, prior to that, logging

Everything was going pretty well. I even took a turn onto another road that my GPS had marked but google didn’t which seemed to get closer to the coast! But…

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Turns out that road was kaput. But where was my warning?!
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Ahh, there it is!
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On closer inspection the damage is much worse than I thought, the road being eaten away 1-2m under the road!
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No way I’ll risk bringing Ron over that! (Although I see others have done so by the tracks)
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Hey, look I found a sign!
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Schofields road wasn’t great
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I had to get out and walk through a lot of puddles to make sure I could get past – I couldn’t turn around, and I certainly wasn’t backing out!
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So Maybe I’ll stay here tonight… It’s hard to see the big wet ruts along the road, next to the car, but they are there!

I went through quite a few puddles, ruts and other miscellaneous hazards without being able to turn Ron around, so I thought that I’d stay here the night… I had a look around, and even found the end of what must be a fantastic bush walk coming out here, with an arrow pointing back towards a car park (which I never went to) a few kms back up the road! Where you can find out about this walk, I’m not sure, but I think it’d be amazing – wet, mossy rainforesty stuff, maybe extending to the shore? I only speculate, but I may look into this for future reference. It would be a wild walk! (I found it, and it does indeed extend to the shore – 10km, mostly on Richardsons road (from the carpark), at the end of which is a barrier stating 2 hours return, which is apparently a bit optimistic – http://www.portarthurtasmania.net/cape-surville-bushwalk.html)

Back to the story though. I told both my parentals and Chrissy my coordinates in case I ran into troubles. But my parents thought maybe I should get out in case it got wetter overnight and I got bogged. Sounds reasonable, so I did! And thankfully with no worries, as it was a pretty steep and muddy incline with a sharp right hand bend with a huge tree chopped up close on either side (quite fun actually). Thankfully under the mud was [mostly] gravel, so there wasn’t [too much] slipping and sliding!

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This is just past the top of that slippery hill, I didn’t want to stop on the boggy parts to take pictures
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A crop of the above image shows one side of the chopped up tree (almost as tall as Ron) at the crest of the hill and on the sharp right hand turn. I’d guess the gap is 1.5x the width of Ron, so not too much wiggle room when you’re… literally wiggling!
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So I made it to drier (although less wild and beautiful) grounds.

It’s not hard to see why people think the trees are talking to them. When you stand in the calm of the early evening and hear the rustle of the wind through the leaves, and the soft creaks and groans of the old gums towering above, you are reminded of a long slow conversation of which you are not a part… Yet, you may be the subject of discussion.

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These musings made me hungry so I thought it was time to cook up a storm!
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Another grey fantail!
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And a very cool flower! …It had a crab spider waiting in it when I arrived

That night was the coldest I’ve had yet! I slept in thermal pants, clothes and jacket under my blanket (at which point I was nice and toasty). I managed to find some cool spiders, moths, a couple of possums and something else that I never saw in proper light! Perhaps a bandicoot, but it was pretty big for a bandicoot… I like to think that it was a devil 😛

Anyway, next morning I set off pretty early in hopes of finding some animal life still out and about on the roads! But then I heard a funny noise from under Ron when I reached a certain rev count….

I had a peak underneath the car, and quickly saw that it was a guard plate, which had been knocked pretty hard (by a stone the previous day… I actually remember the bugger). So I took off the plate for a closer look…

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Yep, pretty dinted alright!

It was time for me to use the only tool in Jeremy Clarkson’s toolbox: The hammer.

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And what do you know? Maybe I should take up part-time work as a panel beater?

As luck would have it though, I snapped off a bolt while undoing the damn thing, so I had to zip-tie it back on with my only zip tie! But, panels beaten, bolts substituted with zip-ties, I was ready to go again! Now that’s what cousin Pete would call bush-spec!

Once again though, the clouds and the cold kept the bees away… All I caught that day, was a rather impressive 7.5cm long Gasteruptid wasp (2.5cm body, 5cm ovipositor!). I decided then that it was time to get a service, after all it had been 10 000 km since Perth! I did this in the little town of Forcett, 30 minutes East of Hobart (I was trying to think of a joke about the name, but my creative juices weren’t flowing, and I didn’t want to Forcett). After this, I drove to Hobart and spent a couple of hours parked above Hobart, watching some wallabies having a good time watching the city and eating some grass/wallaby pellets left by a resident.

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The Gasteruptid – a parasitoid of solitary wasps and bees
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The country life isn’t exciting enough for some wallabies
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City slicker
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Wallaby surveying its domain – I can only imagine, that it tells its joeys “One day Joe, all of this will be yours. Everything the light touches is part of our kingdom.” (Damn wallabies think that they own the place)
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All the while, this little dog watched me. Seriously, for like two hours!
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And here is camp for tonight – the urban jungle!
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Good morning, Hobart

Kilometres travelled: 21 339

Bee count: 157

James

Straight across the Bass!

Well, I managed almost two full days of photographing bees at the Victorian Museum after meeting up with bee expert and senior curator, Ken Walker. While I wasn’t in the museum, I got to catch up with a bunch of friends local to Melbourne, Byron, and QLD (Seeing as everyone seems to migrate to Melbourne)! So Melbourne was a good time, I’ll need to spend a couple more evenings there on my return as who knows when I’ll see them next (I intend to make it sooner rather than later this time).

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A gold-covered (yes literally) Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) lineatum from the Victorian museum. Bees are covered in gold in order to take Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images, otherwise the electrons go through the cuticle and they get photos of their innards! Bee is about 6.5mm long and lookin’ faaaaabulous!

After all of these meets and photos, I finally had to go and catch the ferry across to Tassy. An hour and a half of sleep was all I needed (all I got) to drive to the ferry terminal and await boarding. The boarding process took over an hour, I managed to stay awake for the whole time, but not the whole time on the ferry!

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Waiting in line, waiting in line…

Well, as it turns out you aren’t allowed any fruit or veg on the ferry (no worries), but you also aren’t allowed any flammables including fuel in a jerry can (into the car, plus some of another guy’s fuel) and absolute ethanol… ooops!

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Yes, this is how bright it was by the time I got onto the actual ferry!
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Auf Wiedersehen, Victoria!
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Hello Tasmania! That was quick wasn’t it? …I wouldn’t know I was probably asleep…
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Thanks Spirit of Tasmania I (in my booking confirmation e-mail they thanked me for choosing the spirit of Tasmania… as if I had another choice! 😛 )
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Another sporting field to sleep at, this one was full because it was so close to Devonport, where the Ferry comes in!

Obviously, I needed to start my hunt for bees ASAP, as this is the only reasonable thing to do when encountering a new place. So I drove around with a vague destination in mind – Gowrie Park, near Sheffield, where my roommate and some of her lab were camped. Unfortunately for them, they are plant people and were forced to work with boring leaves and branches…

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An introduced European wasp eating an introduced European honeybee, why can’t Europeaners seem to get along with each other?
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Another introduced pest – Bombus terrestris a bumblebee, again from Europe, maybe Australia has a problem with Europeaners coming in and setting up shop

Needles to say I did find some natives as well in amongst all of the introduced species. But most of those were found on the weedy little flowers covering the ground next to this garden plant!

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Yep, on these boring little yellow buggers! The red flowers only seemed to have European honeybees visiting them.
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Is that you Cradle Mountian?
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Oh yes!
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Got a bag of plums, purple on the outside, green on the inside! Why I share this is because the moneybox was open inside, with all [I assume] money intact! Hurrah!
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Now this looks like more natural habitat than earlier right?
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And these look like native flowers!
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And lots more where they came from! So yes I found some more bees!

Chrissy and her lab were busy ahhh, working up the Cradle Mountain walk, so I waited in the car park taking photos of bees and disturbing other motorists (I assume, I just don’t look outside). Anyway, the lab head, Leander came speeding back to the car on foot and took off in a bit of a hurry.. I guessed that I wouldn’t be seeing them in a hurry then! …They had missed the last shuttle bus back, or so they thought. Anyway, I decide to make my way to where they would be camping, in my slow and meandering stop here and there way!

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In Tasmania, macropods are encouraged to try and powerlift cars it seems. But only during the hours of dusk to dawn… And only cars going less than 65km/h. You know that last one actually seems reasonable.
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More mountainous roads! Heck yes!
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Hydro power! – Wilmot Power Station
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Lake Cethana, not to be confused with lake Cthulu. Lake Cthulu, while equally scenic is infinitely more horrific.
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Forth River (I don’t know what happened to the previous three… Maybe something to do with lake Cthulu)
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It’s also safe to say that these trees are tall!
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So the European wasps have learned to come to cars to eat the dead insects off the front bumper when they stop! Not pictured are the other dozen or so checking out my car…
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What a lookout! (HDR)… Yes I was looking at the wasps over this. I might have a problem.
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Then I found an even better spot to lookout from
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Oh yes, Tassy!

Now that was a bit of a picture tangent! I did eventually meet up with Chrissy and her lab in their cabin, where I was to stay the next two nights! Of course they beat me there besides my sizeable head start! After much good-natured chat and braiding of hair (fortunately not mine), we all got to bed to go our separate ways the next day!

I don’t have a great deal to share from the next day’s bee hunting, but I did manage to find four more species in a plant out the front of a lovely couple’s house, who came out and had a chat to me and were surprised to see something other than the bumblebee (“Those bloody bastards” – a bit of paraphrasing there but you get the idea) and the European honeybee (“Bush bee”). I did roam out almost to Launceston before coming back, as the more East I went, the less natural bush and flowers there seemed to be!

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Tasmanian place names… I wonder what the second one is like
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Some tall moss near the cabin that afternoon
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We had a gold-covered bee earlier, now we just have a golden bee! It looks black to the naked eye… but green or gold depending on the incident light angle a little closer up!

I decided to bugger off to the North-Western corner of Tassy the next day to see what I could find! I did see plenty of flowers, including various coloured Eucalypts (great for native bees)! But, I was thwarted by the poor weather, so I had a wet drive out, a wet stay, and a wet drive back the next day! Just as I had decided to camp near Launceston though, the clouds broke and the sun poked out from the clouds, quickly drying the roads and allowing me to make my way closer to Hobart! And so now, I am camped in Kempton. Tomorrow I might find Chrissy and her lab, and hopefully some bees!

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Sure beats my parent’s bikes! Although probably not as functional…
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Too wet outside? No worries, wraps’ll sort me!
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Lovely view from the car, but there is just a bit too much water in the way!

Kilometres travelled: 20 500

Bees: 157

James

SA to Vic; crossing another line

 

I managed to leave the Cooroong National Park in one piece, after reading of some disturbing happenings that occurred at the same time that I was there. Thankfully the most violence that I observed while there was that inflicted by some red ants on a European honeybee!

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Red ants subduing a European Honeybee; it started with one ant holding on like a vice and ended like this.

The road to Victoria wasn’t a terribly long one with only a few hours of driving along the coast towards Robe, then inland to Mount Gambier coming across a few different habitat types, including some fairly large pine plantations, especially closer to the Victorian border! I decided upon a great campsite near the Princess Margaret Caves just over the border. There I met a lovely Dutch couple, who I spent the night and morning chatting to and just generally taking it easy (I think I only had a few bees to photograph that night).

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Pine plantations everywhere!
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Yep, another state sign for Ron to pose in front of (bloody show-off)
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Princess Margaret Road, sided on one side by pine plantation, and the other a thin strip of native gum forest.

After a beautiful night under the gum trees near the border I set off towards the Great Ocean Road and Port Campbell. Along the way I got to see some pretty cool stuff, including: What appears to be a rather large real-life map marker, an extremely curious horse, a freaking volcano lake (I should really read more about things as apposed to making outlandish guesses…) and a pretty alright ocean road!

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Circle marks the spot?
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No one but this horse was interested in the guy with a butterfly net on the side of the road (it earned itself some nose pats… Just consider how many ppl missed out on nose pats!)

 

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Freaking Volcano Lake. I’m open to other suggestions. I also promise that there is some water on the other side of the island

 

The Bay of Islands: Great Ocean Road

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Port Campbell: Home for the night around this sports field – free drinking water nearby, why thank you!
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Port Campbell in the morning yes with some tourists taking touristy photos (not what I do, I never do that… Really)

After spending a bit of time relaxing at Port Campbell and turned my sights on Apollo Bay, where I intended to stay 1 or 2 nights before heading on to Lorne and eventually Melbourne. Needless to say I saw some really cool coastline and had a lovely drive along the Great Ocean Road before reaching the lovely, relaxing town of Apollo Bay.

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One of the Great Ocean Road’s many bays… It probably has a name that I should remember
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The end of the world? …At least a stairway to heaven
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The Coast
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SherBrook River, which at least at this point in time never made it to the ocean (directly behind me)
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Loch Ard Gorge
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One of many black swans in a wetland next to Princetown
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The view from The Great Ocean Road
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The amazing township of Apollo Bae

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to stay when I got to Apollo. I spent some time chilling at the harbor, before driving around town and just out of town to do some editing. There aren’t really any free campsites in the area, so I decided to go and stay at a hostel which would cost me $15/night to stay in my van and use their facilities, great! While I was by the beach, a random guy decided to pull up behind me while I was parked, beep his horn and tell me that he would fine me if I stayed the night… Yeah, I think that he might need to get a job as a ranger first!

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The beach in front of where I stopped to do my editing, facing West towards Apollo Bay

Once I booked in to the hostel, I was immediately met with an amazing group of people also staying there! We chatted a little into the night, and I went for a trip to see some waterfalls with one of them (Camille) the next day.

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The track to Marriners Falls
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It was actually closed due to tree falls
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We did not see any evidence of tree falls though, so it was all good!
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The path to Beauchamp falls
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The falls at Beauchamp Falls
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The road back down the hill to Apollo Bay

 

Well, that took most of the day. So the next day I decided to try and find some bees in the town itself. I did find one species in the late morning, but it was still a bit chilly for the poor buggers. So I decided to go for a quick fish (where I once again caught nothing) and take some photos of birds, while I relaxed near the water! After that I did manage to find some more bees, but only one more species that I hadn’t already collected elsewhere. Funnily enough the native bees seemed to prefer the white, followed by the pink but not orange coloured flowering Eucalypts along the street, but the European honeybees didn’t seem to show preference.

A female Superb Fair Wren and Grey Fantail

The next day again I decided to give the bees a rest (it was too bloody cold for them to be out and about anyway). So I went for a drive with one of the other ‘residents’ Fleur, who had to drop off and pick up a friend along the great ocean walk. So we just drove around, saw a re-introduced Magpie Goose, some more cliffs, free coffee and free water for hikers!

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Apparently magpie geese were made locally extinct and subsequently re-introduced from the Northern Territories. I feel bad for the first one to come from tropical NT to freezing Victoria though, talk about cold feet!
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More awesome cliff-faced coast with Kelp forests!
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Free coffee (for some reason from Telstra) at a café that likes babies and boobies.
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A lovely resident leaves out water for the hikers going along the 103km Great Ocean Walk (the only way to do the trip without experiencing horrible tourist drivers trying to kill everyone and everything)
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We then went to the harbour at night for a quick look. I decided to go barefoot, which was all right until we got to the path along the rock wall with individually sharpened stones set into the path 😉

Next day, being too cold for bees (again) I went with a couple of people from the hostel to see the lighthouse at Cape Otway, and go to a talk by some bush-tucker guy. Obviously we saw some cool stuff along the way, such as lots of koalas (often marked by a dozen or so cars and the upward-facing eyes of tourists… Such as ourselves).

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Koala and baby
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The Cape Otway Lighthouse

I had to leave a little before the rest however, as I wanted to make it to Melbourne before dark! As such, I headed off at around 3:30 to complete the Great Ocean Road. Of course it was equally as amazing as the first half, and just as many poor drivers! I got to see some burnt-out hillsides and houses along the way, as well as a sign to declare that I had just driven along the Great Ocean Road (in case I didn’t already know by this point 😉 ).

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A burnt hillside
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The Great Ocean Road
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Ron’s home in Melbourne for the night, near a friend’s house

Today, it is off to the Victorian Museum!

Bee count: 148

Kilometres travelled: >19 000

The desert… Again?!

Last you heard from me I had been doing some very efficient fishing (while admittedly not actually catching any fish efficiently…) and visiting the SA museum and getting seduced by promises of honours projects in Fiji and the like. Oh dear! You might be happy to hear that I have indeed left Adelaide, and then managed to return (like I did in Perth and will in Melbourne) before leaving again. But Adelaide of course, being another city, isn’t really the exciting part of the journey (perhaps excluding my visits to the SA museum and Flinder’s Uni).

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Callohesma matthewsi from the SA museum

I was given some advice by the good entomology people of the SA museum that Lake Eyre was currently holding water (a fairly uncommon occurrence I am told). As such, I decided a trip there might be warranted and was advised on a route to take (which I didn’t completely take in the end). Essentially it would entail quite a bit of unsealed road, and a little bit of dodgy-windy-rocky-roady-stuff… Which naturally was quite stunning! After quite a bit of dirt roads and [often surprising] bitumen roads, I made camp at Marree, next to the pub (for free!)

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No, that is not one of the roads I took, but it is a cool path leading off to… Well your guess is as good as mine really.
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A better part of the dodgy-windy-rocky-roady-stuff through the Flinder’s ranges National Park (there were a lot of [dry] creek crossings).
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A brief escape onto sealed road along the outback highway

A few bits of salty dirt… yes I had to see what it looked like up close, who do you think I am?

Before leaving Marree the next day, I was given a bit of a warning in the shape of an advisory sign prior to the next c.a. 400km of unsealed road. Nothing says, “have fun” like a long list of ‘precautions’ under a bold ‘WARNING’ sign…

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No really, I mean it! It should be a blast

The unsealed road WAS actually quite fun and beautiful, with the added bonus of seeing oncoming vehicles (for the few that I saw) well before they got to you due to a giant cloud of dust on the horizon! The only drawback was the occasional hidden bump and bottoming-out of Ron… Ooops! Getting to Lake Eyre (South.. the dry part) was really quite amazing. With miles of white stretching almost to the horizon and a two-inch thick salty crust to walk on (after a bit of walking through vaguely salty mud), it was truly a sight to behold [and occasionally taste].

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Dirt roads out to Wazoo
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An oncoming truck and associated dust plume
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Footprints in the mud, leading out to the thicker salt (certainly not all made it)
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Naturally, there is some rubbish… I bet you wish I’d can it with the trashy pictures right? …Sorry, that joke was rubbish
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A misguided roo must have had a hard time traversing the mud!
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I know that this beetle did
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Heck so did I, but I know at least that I made it there and back (albeit saltier than before)
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Salt to the horizon
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…But only a little way under my feet. It really felt like I was walking on icy snow. If I could manage to forget the hot wind!

The question remained though as to whether or not I could see Lake Eyre filled with water! To be answered, I would need to travel to William Creek; the home of $2/L fuel, 6 people and a dog (you can’t make this up people).

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More unsealed road and flat horizons
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The William Creek fire truck (I wonder which of the 6 people operates it… or is it the dog?)

At least here my question could be answered! It was a no. Oh well, off to Coober Pedy then! A very interesting town home to some very friendly people and very pretty rocks. For $5/ night I was given a place to park and sleep in my van, have a shower and take some photos (to the curiosity of some Portuguese hitchhikers in and adjacent vehicle and a perpetually hungry [fat] dog). After this stay I went to visit one of the local underground churches, where I met the Pastor, Brian. Now I know that I have not met many pastors before (in fact Brian may be the first), but he was undoubtedly the friendliest pastor that I have ever met (or at least can remember meeting… crap). He shared with me the history of his church (half hand-dug by the people in Coober Pedy from various religions on volunteered time and half dug by machine). Followed by bringing me to a nearby larger church, entirely dug by machine (and in my eyes not as nice as Brian’s church).

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Australian engineering – an opal-digging… thing!
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Brian’s [hand dug] church
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The neighboring Serbian Orthodox church
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The inside, dug by machine with a few hand carvings (yeah, a bit bigger)

After Coober Pedy, there was nothing to it but to return to Adelaide and continue south before heading East again towards Victoria. The road south is quite long and so I stopped at Weeroona Island (near Port Pirie), which at times was overwhelming with mosquitoes, but otherwise quite beautiful (And home to a few bees). But after that, it was off to Adelaide in the morning to replace my blower fan for the aircon, which I managed with a tarago blower. Subsequently I thought that there might be some further underlying problems with the air actually getting to my face in any meaningful amount (that’s for later I guess).

Of course, before getting very far, I had a failed blinker globe that I needed to replace. Naturally the afformentioned blinker was in the least convenient place ever and I needed to spend the night in Gawler awaiting a mechanic that I was recommended at Supercheap Auto. I found a really nice (and somewhat secluded) park around the corner to camp in overnight. When I made it to the mechanic at ~8 AM, it only took 15 minutes and a bit of head scratching to have the globe replaced (by turning the wheels to one side and removing the mud guard in the wheel well!).

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Towards Port Pirie and Weeroona Island
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From Weeroona Island to the ‘mainland’ – a long causeway “subject to tidal flooding” joins the island to the mainland.

The road south of Adelaide (once I got on it) is also really quite stunning and considerably less flat and straight! It was even at points, “ALL COVERED IN BEES!” (- Eddie Izzard, thanks Jem).

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Nice corners huh?
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Check out the curves!
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Some bees for the SA Museum! (I admit the road wasn’t really “ALL COVERED IN BEES”, but there were quite a few on the adjacent Melaleucas!

Today then I have made it as far as the Cooroong, a 130km long stretch of coastal lagoons, really quite nice. I believe that I have made it to the same campsite as the one that me and some of my friends stayed at last year on our road trip south! If it is the same, it has changed a bit with the seasons – no longer covered in mossy ground and a lot drier! BUT Very close to quite a few flowering Melaleucas… Excellent!

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A free 24-hour ferry along our route!
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My campsite! …Until I discovered the giant system of ant nests directly to the left of Ron… Maybe a bit further from this spot then.
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Flowering Melaleucas and Ron’s footprints

Bee count: 139

Kilometers travelled: 18 300

West to East

Three weeks in WA, that’s quite a while. I thought that I should really high-tail it outta there in case I never leave! So I shot east with only the border in mind and a GPS slowly ticking down from a fairly large time to arrival. The landscape is actually really nice along the southern part of WA, and there is still cool wildlife along the roads. Mostly it buggers off if you stop or slow down, like wedge-tailed eagles and goannas, but apparently not blue-tongues! Anyway, I made camp once again in the middle of no-and-where (I really like that place apparently), off the road a little and in some lovely scenery!

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The campsite for that night, overlooking some cool woodlands

 

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Showers moving across the land like big curtains
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The sunset

But all good places must come to an end… or at least I have to leave them, and I hit the road again, planning to be over the border for my next camp! Again I saw more wildlife (more wedge-tails high-tailing it when I slow down), and some more interesting sights! For example an old mine shaft perhaps… I noticed it fairly quickly, but it wouldn’t have been hard not to…. I also got to drive on Australia’s longest straight bit of road! I never realized how much the odd corner added to the driving experience until now…

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This is what a lot of the roads in Australia look like… Long!
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Wedge-tail eagles
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Pulling over to look at some flowers…
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Do you see that over there?
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What about now?
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Yeah… 10-15m deep I’d guess (I threw a rock down and listened, like any self-respecting 10 year old would)
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A long, straight road essentially

Some time after the straight road I was all of a sudden driving down a hill and greeted with a view of a very different landscape! I’m guessing that the landscape below was once under the ocean, and the sudden drop may have been the cliff facing the ocean? Not long after that though, I made it into SA and got to camp on the coast on a c.a.75m high cliff facing the ocean! Amazing views, amazing sunset… amazing winds!

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This new landscape; looks almost like African savannah
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Another border sign
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The track to the coast (~30km into SA)
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A pod of dolphins from the cliffs
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Some of the cliffs’
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Lovely textures in the ocean
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Facing West (HDR)
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My camp!
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Sunset… they are always too tempting to not capture

A couple of the last WA bees that I’ll collect for awhile!

Next day was a fairly big day of driving towards Adelaide. A lot of the coast in SA and across the border in WA seems largely undeveloped and is thus really nice to drive through. Hours of wilderness, and varying degrees of coastal and arid heath! And camp for the night was once again on the coast, but this time on an actual beach! It was also the start of a three day fishing stint for me!

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Everywhere I go there is always road rubbish and one thing that I have noticed is that there always seems to be a spam tin… Why is there always spam? Who even eats spam?!
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The definitely 2wd friendly road to the beach
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Another campsite, not very level, but a great location!

After a lovely but windy night camping on the beach I set off again towards Port Augusta. Not far from my campsite (which I had chosen due to its proximity to the water for fishing), I stopped at another site to have a look. I kind of regretted this, as this site was better and I would have been able to safely drive my van right onto the beach in a better location! My campsite was very good the night before… This one was just better.

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Dayum!
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It even comes complete with a big ‘ol yellow tractor

Moving forward from my error I found a giant ant, and some cool info on it at a servo (very exciting, even though they are basically bees’ less popular cousins), as well as a giant galah. It seems that Australians really like to make big things… For example some more big mines that I passed.

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That’s a big ant
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Don’t say you never learned anything from this blog
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The big galah wasn’t as exciting for me, as I walked passed one [Tas] most days in my share house
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A hill? No, a mine.

Anyway, approaching Port Augusta was quite nice, traveling through some more awesome landscapes (again mostly arid ones). Unfortunately I shot right through to camp at a place quite highly recommended on wikicamps just south of the city itself in a conservation park called ‘Winninowie’ (yes, I know what you are thinking… And I did indeed have to look up the spelling). The reviews, like the knife never lies (…I listened to the book Cloud Street recently…). The place was great! Doug the apparent mayor of the site is a climate/marine scientist who gets to live there in a nice house and chat to all of the people who come by, being more than helpful with advice etc. So I got to chat to him, pat his dog (the thing lives for pats) and park right next to the water’s edge!

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The road to Port Augusta
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The dog that lives for pats (he’s also on a diet… not a pat diet though)
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I know I said right on the water’s edge, but….
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…Come high tide (from the step on my van door)
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The mangroves from the Jetty
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Efficient fishing (so that I could edit photos at the same time as fish… plus it was cold outside!)

After this I have failed to take any photos, but rest assured that it has been as lovely as ever, and I have had a couple of nights in Adelaide so far. I have met with some people at the SA museum to see their photography area, discussed honours options (I may well be coming down here for this… we will see) and taken some photos of the bees in their collection (using my own gear). Tomorrow  will be my last day here before I head north towards Lake Eyre for a few days!

Until then,

James

Kilometres travelled: <16,000

Bee count: ~109

A loop for Perth

It has been a little since I camped on the beach south of Geraldton now… In fact I just arrived in Perth. Seems like that took awhile huh? But maybe I am getting ahead of myself here… It has been a busy week!

After leaving the Geraldton coast, I headed towards a small town, again on the WA coast: Cervantes. Along the way, I had to tear myself away from a site where I found 11 different species of native bee for fear of the time required to photograph and edit them! I thought that maybe it would be best to rush on to Cervantes to begin the lengthy process. There wasn’t a great deal to the town itself, but that never really matters when you have a great hostel to stay in, and some great guests to talk to! They even took it in stride when I brought a big drawer full of camera equipment into the common room and began flashing and pinning insects for a 5-6 hour marathon of photography! It’s amazing what becomes normal when you stay in hostels…

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The cuckoo bee from Geraldton airport, quite common in the area it seems
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Some WA coast from the road south… lots of beach shacks!
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A field full of Xanthorrhoea (grass trees)
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Amongst the Xanthorrhoea, a happy place to be! Until it starts to rain…

After a short, relaxing stay in Cervantes, it was time to make the even shorter journey to the big smoke. Or at least a big smoke, Perth. Believe it or not, Perth is actually a very pleasant and pretty city, certainly parts of it are! I spent a bit of time exploring the CBD, which had several awesome arcades and a fair bit of cool as graffiti! I also headed down to Fremantle on Pippa’s awesome recommendation, to discover ‘WA’s best fish and chips’ (I can’t disprove them yet), and an awesome part of the city that really doesn’t feel like the rest of the city.

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Yep, certainly in the city
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One of the arcades: London Court. Home to a very helpful camera repair man!

Perth Graffiti, take that Melbourne!

 

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At the very least, some really freaking great fish and chips in Freemantle!
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This house also seems disappointed that it is deprived of its god-given right to practice parkour and freestyle BMXing!

After taking in the sites and picking up a friend form the States, I had to get my car serviced and honour a meeting with Terry Houston (previous curator of insects, native bee researcher and native bee expert) and Nikolai Tatarnic (curator of entomology) at the WA museum. The meeting went great, and I had a fantastic chat to them both (all ’round great people!) about the bees in the area, my book and many other things, before being granted access to their collection and imaging equipment! Insect researchers are awesome. The only problem is that the only available time for me to go was the following Monday. Being Wednesday, that was probably longer than I could wait in Perth. And so a loop was devised, and with a recommendation of the Sterling ranges for bee collecting, I was off!

That day we headed south only a little while out of Perth, camping at the edge of a bush fire that had burned not that long before.

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A burnt path
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Burnt branches and leaves at the campsite
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Those underground animals, however, are well prepared to survive fires and emerge safely!

Next day was a driving day through a wine and cheese-infested area of WA. So after a lunch on the beach and the purchasing of wine and cheese a campsite was decided upon in Gladstone National Park. To my surprise there was a free hut at this site, waiting for the first person to claim it! This was not me, but a lovely French/Australian family, who I spent my evening with, alongside several others at the campsite that night! It is a bloody fantastic site.

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Beach herbs in flower… But only European honey bees and wasps coming for a visit.
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The hut.
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The creek below the hut (Actually a crossing for the road past the hut)

Anyway, next day would see us to the Stirling Ranges National Park! Of course because I cannot collect there, we could not stay. So just to the north at a ‘look out’ (Actually a slightly higher part of the otherwise flat landscape), camp was made and bees were found! The next morning was back to Perth, where I stayed to catch up on some focus stacking and to be ready for a day at the museum.

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Part of the Stirling Ranges, from the road
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Part of the Stirling Ranges from the ‘look out’
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A wasp that I originally thought was a bee, from near the Stirling ranges

At the museum it took me a little while to get used to the museum’s set up, but once I did it was awesome and really a pleasure to use! I was thus warned by Nikolai that I could not have it… He was onto me! I didn’t get that many bees photographed during the day though, as I needed to take, stack and partly edit them while there (so that both the museum and I could use the photos… without making more work for them) so I only photographed 5 of their bees in 18 photos. However, I also got to take a few breaks with Terry to talk about bees, the museum and whatever else! I was further invited to come back and photograph further if I wanted, which was […is…] EXTREMELY tempting, but I have been in WA too long already I think, so tomorrow I will make a break for the border. But maybe I’ll have to come back some day in the not too distant future….

 

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Ctenocolletes smaragdinus, one of the bees that I imaged at the WA museum (unedited)… Such a good macro set up!

Bee count: 103

Kilometres travelled: >12,800

Waterhole birds and desert bees

So I left off camping next to a dry creek bed with a bunch of cows; my first day in WA. From there I did quite a bit of driving towards Broome, and found very few bees in this arid place! I did pass Wolfe Creek, but didn’t stay for the night (despite some temptation).

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The road to Wolfe Creek

The landscape has been pleasant enough, fifty shades of arid is how I’d describe it! Many different ways and places of getting thirsty and sunburnt 😉

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Some of the more prominent features in this part of WA

Anyway, after a lot of driving, and not a great deal of bee finding, I did find an awesome free campsite next to a lagoon, which was teeming with bird life! Naturally, I had to whip out the old zoom lens and see what I could see.

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Rainbow bee eater taking a break on a barbed wire fence in the afternoon
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Not sure what this little bird is

After the bird activity died down, I was greeted with an awesome sunset and amazing early evening storm. …I think that I may need to dial back the lagoon talk here, but it’s safe to say that I would love to come back one day, if nothing else but for the birds.

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Sunset over the lagoon
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An explosion in the clouds!

Next day (after an extended morning around the lagoon…), I set off for Broome. Along the way I saw some more awesome bottle trees, which made the ones growing in gardens and parks along the east coast look like sickly little things. I also stopped to have a look at some unattended back burning in the bush next to the road and watched the birds of prey circling the fire waiting for some misguided little mammal to make a runner.

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Some of the huge bottle trees
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The back burning front
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A cow’s skull just ahead of the fire… It tells a story, or at least an ending to one

I got to Broome, where I had a couple of packages waiting for me (or so I thought). I stayed a couple of nights and made a new friend and saw some sights to pass the time! I eventually received one package and moved on south towards Perth.

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The Broome coast from the caravan park
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Crab balls!
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Sunset over a western beach! Now that’s something I don’t see too often!
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And to the east a storm gathers in the light of the setting sun

Once I was off I could not help but try to find a campsite close to water in order to find some more birds to photograph. So, next to De Grey River (the dry end of the river at least) I found some shallows with bird activity! Not only did I find birds though… The constant ‘popping’ on the water surface come evening (and the next morning) made me cast in a line! Well I got to land my first ever mangrove jack (8 or 9 of them in fact!). I also saw a ~1 metre bull shark(?) swirling through the shallow reeds looking for a feed!

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Red-kneed dotterel in the shallows
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Another rainbow bee eater!
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Zebra finches
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Brown honeyeater about to take off
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Black-fronted dotterel

And then… Budgies!!!

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And all here because of the water

After another afternoon and morning taking photos of birds (not bees), I turned south again, driving to a mining town called Newman, which I camped near in another empty ‘campground’. Along the way though there was some pretty awesome scenery, some of which I could not help but climb (perhaps much to the confusion of passing motorists!). There’s not much else to say about that day, but that I stayed at a cool campsite a little off the road in some bush 😉

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One of the ledges that I climbed that day
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Atop a hill
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Slightly out of focus, with butterfly net holstered in my belt
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Not 2km down the road the landscape became flat and dry

The next morning I started out, again looking for bees along the side of the road. I wasn’t having too much luck until I stopped to look at some big orange and purple flowers. Well neither of those had bees on them either come to think of it… But they did lead me to see some much smaller flowers, getting serviced by at least two species of bees, one of which was another species of blue-banded!

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A blue banded bee species coming in to land

A few more blue-bandeds coming in for a feed!

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Of course, it’s never just bees that visit flowers, there were plenty of wasps as well, preferring often to come in sideways… probably not doing a great job of pollinating, but still…

After some excitement and sunburn from laying prone on the ground for a bit too long, I got back on the road and enjoyed the dry scenery. I particularly liked coming over a rise or just driving along and seeing a red pillar in the sky from dust devils on the ground, as well as the twisted trees in the cracked red soil.

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The bottom of a dust devil.. not the best picture but they go up quite high
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An inland ‘lake’

My next campsite was quite good as well actually. I was greeted by an apparently very judgmental brown falcon… Yet I was again impressed by the twisted dead-looking trees in the area!

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Through my back window as I knew it would bolt when I opened my door… It did.
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A twisted ‘tree’ (it’s only about 20cm tall)
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Okay, this tree is a little bigger… at least a shrub!
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They also look good in front of the milky way (unlike those damn clouds!)

Anyway, next morning involved a bit more bird watching, as they came for the little puddle of water that I had parked next to, followed by a drive to Geraltdon! The road was actually quite good, and featured goats, sheep, kangaroos, emus, goanas and god knows what else! So I had to be careful, while enjoying the ride 🙂

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I don’t know, some little grey job…
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That grey job didn’t like my lack of ability (or will) to ID it, so it left… Apparently an inland thornbill
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Western bowerbird
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Emus on the run!

Anyways, I finally made it to Geraltdon, and I also finally found some wildflowers! This was of course after passing through about 100km or more of “wildflower country”, but great! I was only able to catch one species though, although it was late in the afternoon. BUT that species was a species of cuckoo bee! 😀 Tonight, I camp by the beach, and the ocean is my shower!

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Wildflowers next to the Geraltdon airport
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Good morning, coastal frontage!

From WA with love,

James

 

Bee count: 79

Kilometers traveled: ~11,000