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