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

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

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