There are just a couple of weeks to go now to the end of my voyage around Australia. In fact I had already completed it when I was near Cairns and travelling inland back towards Mount Isa and the Northern Territories. I briefly considered driving there for the sake of connecting the dotted lines on the map but decided against it when it got incredibly hot away from the coast and the scenery was exceptionally boring; hundreds of kilometres of cattle stations and dry scrubland. Why would I want to pollute the atmosphere with my exhaust fumes just to satisfy a whim?
Several thousand kilometres and a wedding later [not mine I hasten to add] I find myself at Lake Yarrunga in the Kangaroo Valley not far from the town of Nowra on the New South Wales coast. It is a nice place this, with a huge, free campsite run by the Water Authority, amongst hills and temperate rainforest clad escarpments. After visiting the Fitzroy Falls, which were lovely but not quite as spectacular as the Blue Mountain ones, I descended one of the longest and twistiest drops down from the escarpment I have done in the bus. Luckily it was not busy so there was only one car behind me as I reached the bottom in third gear all of the way [meaning road rage inducingly slowly].
The water of the lake is used as drinking water for the region and is wonderfully pure. I kayaked for most of the first day and still did not reach the dam; probably achieving 16 to 20 kilometres, there and back. It was one of the most scenic paddles I have had, comparable to those in Tasmania although not as remote as there were a few large houses thinly dispersed amongst the hills and forests. Some of these houses were enormous mansions for the very rich, like castles with lakeside acreages of forest and rhododendron gardens. They looked unlived in to me, probably only used by their owners when the weather got too hot to stay in the city. The nice thing about the lake was that it was narrow and twisted through the gorges like a river so often both banks were close enough to be able to see the multitudinous Roos, Wombats, Water Dragons, ducks and herons. I swam and dried out in the nude although I was surprised several times by groups of paddlers organised by “Kangaroo Valley Safaris” or “Aussie Adventures” and other such tourist agencies. The lake is busy now that the Christmas school holidays have started [that means the long summer holiday, here in the southern hemisphere].
On the second day I rose early and was out on the water at seven, heading in the other direction. It was beautifully calm and the dark reflections of the trees were perfect, the only ripple caused by the bow wave of the kayak and perhaps the odd splash of a Water Dragon plopping into the water. There was a dragon on almost every sun stroked branch, young and mature ones with iridescent green and blue scaled skin. The river became too shallow after a few kilometres and ended in a bed of water rounded stones. I sat on a rock still cold from the night, listened to the tiny sounds of forest and water and felt utterly at peace.
As I got back into the kayak I suddenly realised that there was a large Tiger Snake draped around a branch not more than five metres away. It did not ripple a rib at my commotion getting into the boat and I sat and watched for movement for many minutes. No doubt it was still cold after the night too, or perhaps, judging by its lumpy belly, it was peacefully digesting a couple of ducklings. Further along a large Wombat was digging out another entrance to its den right at the water’s edge. It was oblivious of me, scratching and heaving loose earth into the water making loud slurping and sucking sounds as its claws braced in the mud. It seemed to be thoroughly enjoying itself like a pig in the proverbial. Apparently their tunnels can be a network of 80 metres and they are very sociable, inviting relatives to visit whenever they like.
This social intercourse seems to have other consequences too for I have never seen such a large concentration of Wombats anywhere else. In the evenings they wander across the campsite and entertain the tourists with their antics. [Funny how they look as cube shaped as their poos. Do foxes have brushy tail shaped poos and Echidnas? No...Thank you mind!] Perhaps inbreeding has caused some erratic behavioural traits as several times a night I get disturbed by a Wombat that insists on scratching its back on my exhaust pipe. So vigorous are its movements that metallic rasping sounds are heard far and wide and the bus rocks from side to side...I kid you not. The neighbour had a good laugh about it and I’ve got quite fond of it myself; as I am writing the animal has returned several times to scratch its bum but runs off when I try to take a photo. I’m sure it has a sense of humour and is teasing me. Ha! Got it that time...I’ll miss it when I leave tomorrow.