Author Gary Taylor ◦

…clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree

Found an awesome new spot a couple of weeks ago.

It was my last day off before work started again, and I should point out here that I tend to prefer to do our “unknown” bush runs with a day up my sleeve. Partly ‘cos, if we end up hiking miles up some river, or climbing up steep rocky cliffs… or if we’ve been on “Lupes time” (mostly it’s me saying “hey girl, lets go check THAT out…” and she happily agrees) so to be fair every now and then I let her lead the way to wherever she wants to go and I just “Ouch! Ow! Slow down girl! It’s ok for you, you can go under the spiky f***ing Hakeas! Oh not that way, I can’t fit through there…” follow 😄… or if it’s a really big day and ‘All of the above’, it’s good to have a day off after to recover. But it’s also partly ‘cos we take some pretty dodgy tracks to places where no one goes… On the not so unlikely chance we get stuck somewhere it gives me time to sort it out.

But it was a magic day… not a breath of wind, blue skies and heading for 29 degrees… it’d be a shame to waste it… it was already late morning, but Lupes would love a bush walk, I’m still into my native bee photography and I reckon I know just the spot…

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
Lupes was already there © Gary Taylor

C’mon girl lets go…

So we just hopped in the car and went. Plan was to head out on our south eastern gravel road circuit but skip our usual first stop ‘quick walk’ ‘cos that can take a couple of hours, and go straight out to the dirt road that goes to Erangy Springs. There’s a stretch of Banksias in flower (great for finding native bees on) that goes for miles, we’ll pull up and just go for a good couple of hour stroll of sniffin’ and clickin’, then pop in and see Bobby on the way back for a quick catch up and still be home by early arvo…

But it didn’t quite go to plan. I was expecting a bit of damage from the cyclone but not that much. The whole area of Banksias was completely flattened. Torn up, blown over, smashed to bits flattened. Well that sucks. Sad too.

Ok, change of plans, we’ll take the dirt road north, go somewhere else. About 40 K’s up we hit the bitumen road that goes east to Mt Magnet, but it was a bit late to be going east, or west back to Gero, but it was a bit to early to be heading home as we hadn’t had a walk yet. We’ll split the difference, go west towards Gero, but we’ll take the first gravel road we come across, north or south doesn’t matter, and just see where it takes us.

Turns out the next gravel road was one we hadn’t fully explored yet, well not the northern end, we’d done the southern end, I know if we keep following this road back south it roughly comes out near Ellendale, not far from where we started.

Anyway, we only got a couple of K’s down the winding gravel road when we saw the perfect dodgy looking track… not much more than a pair of rocky old wheel ruts leading off the gravel road down into the overgrown bush, toward a mysterious valley that we’d caught glimpses of on the road in. Not the sort of track you’d take a vehicle down that you didn’t want scratched, or looking at the rocks, were worried about punctures, or looking at what appears to be a rocky (but dry) creek crossing, right down the end around a corner you cant quite see, but your mind is warning you that there’s nowhere in sight to turn around and if you get around that corner and find you can’t go any further it might be a bastard trying to get out. So we went down that 😃 and came out at our new favourite spot 😃

First pic is looking back to where we’d parked, can’t see the car but we’d walked down onto the sand bar where the little gum trees are that Lupers ears are pointing at. This was the initial “Oh yeah, that’s nice…” moment after we’d walked into the river a bit. I’m looking at the ripples coming from Lupers heart beat, slow and steady, this is bliss for both of us.

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
Lupes looking back… © Gary Taylor

2nd pic is looking the other direction, yeah I agree Lupes, that looks awesome, let’s go that way…

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
Lupes looking the other direction… © Gary Taylor

3rd pic is down around the corner in the distance of the second pic. The water has that beautiful yellow-brown tannin colour to it that for me evokes a multitude of happy childhood memories…

It’s how I understood the word “shallow” in my earliest memories… it’s yellow, means it’s not deep.

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
The water has that beautiful yellow-brown tannin colour © Gary Taylor

So we just kept walking up the river, didn’t get much over knee deep until just past where we are in the 4th pic.

Buuuttt, right where we are in the fourth pic is a natural sonic sweet spot, just awesome… the rocky cliff off to the right of pic curves around us here bouncing all the sounds back like an amplified radar dish… the clarity of the variety of bird songs is amazing, the solid “Blonk!” of the burrowing frogs, the rustling of whatever the hell that was in the undergrowth, geckos creeking, you can even hear the “click” of dragonflies snatching things out of the air…

And that’s just what I can hear, I reckon Lupes can hear roos off in the distance, she’s focused, head’s not tilting so she can hear it clearly, tail is curved around to capture the slightest movement of air, she knows exactly where they are, so do I now but we’re not after roos Lupes, c’mon let’s keep going. So we did, about up to the end of where you can see in the fourth pic, then it got a bit deeper. Tho’ it wasn’t so much the depth that put us off (when I say “us”, I mean Lupes 😄). It was that up until now the water, although tinged with yellow, was crystal clear, and we could see the clean sandy river bed we were walking on. But there was a big dark patch in the shadows of the trees, which I knew was just dead leaves but Lupes didn’t like the look of it.

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
I reckon Lupes can hear roos off in the distance © Gary Taylor

So I went first to show her it was ok, thigh deep for me but she was swimming and to start with she followed, albeit a little reluctantly… until we got to the dark patch and something touched her foot (just guessing by the way her eyes suddenly popped out of her head) and she said “Nah, f*** that! Nup, I’m heading for the bank, I’m going around, with or without you…” 😆

Fifth pic. Should probably point out here, I usually have her on a much longer lead when we go to places like this but it got left at home. We were only going for a slow stroll amongst the Banksias… 😄 So I was with her heading for the bank, looking for a good place to exit, and this was the last pic I took before it all went a bit pear shaped… 😃

Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree © Gary Taylor
So I was with her heading for the bank © Gary Taylor

There was bit of a deeper patch in the last four feet before the riverbank, but Lupes was already there clinging to a rock like a koala on a gum tree, ‘cos her lead was too short and if I didn’t give her a bit more lead she was going to fall backward into the river, I had to follow.

I can see a good sized rock under the water right at the base of the riverbank, it’s a big stride but I might just make it… But of course as soon as Lupes got that bit of slack in the lead she stopped being a koala and went back to being a dingo and dragged me straight in.

I missed the rock by a long shot, suddenly up to my lower chest in water the mind does that high speed auto check thing… First thought is my camera hanging around my neck, still above the water, only just but that’s ok. Phone! Often in back pocket of shorts, not today, top pocket of shirt, all good, so what’s in your back pocket? My macro camera, shit! Nah hang on dickhead it’s waterproof so that’s ok… what else?.. wallet…

AAARRGHH! The thirty million dollar winning lotto ticket!!!
We don’t play lotto…
No, but if we did we’d be seriously f***ing disappointed…
Well that was lucky then!

It wasn’t until I started climbing up the bank that the heart sank a little with the lump I could now feel in my front pocket… Oh, f***… car keys. Forgot about those. I usually just leave ’em in the car with the door open and put Lupers battered old enamel water dish out where it can be seen, so if on the odd chance someone else turns up they read the picture and guess there’s a good chance that someone with some kind of dog is nearby. Anyway, keys were soaked and there wasn’t much I could do about it so we just kept hiking.

When we finally got back to the car I tried the key, but nope, nothing. Not even turning the motor over. So I took the key apart and yep it was full of water. I took the battery and that dome ended pin thing out, prised the circuit board out, soaked up what I could with a napkin that came with my lunch a few days earlier that I didn’t use but kept ‘cos it might come in handy… put it all back together and tried again…

This time the motor actually turned over, “RerrRerrRerrRerrRerrRerr..” but it wouldn’t start. Key wasn’t cancelling the immobiliser. So I took it apart again and placed it on the roof of the car. It was well into mid arvo now, cooling down a bit but warm roof, sun at the right angle, give it half an hour, might help… Nope, same thing, RerrRerrRerrRerrRerr

Maybe the key battery had gone flat from being wet, I’ve got a spare in the glovebox, dunno how good it is but it’s worth a go. So I took the key apart again, swapped the batteries, and before putting it back together properly, thought I’ll just hold it together and try it first, might be no better. And stuff me it started straight up, you ripper, right lets put it back together properly and get outta here…

In hindsight I should have just kept holding it together with my fingers and tried to get home ‘cos after putting it back together “properly” it wouldn’t start again… RerrRerrRerrRerrRerrRerrRerr rerr rer… Then the sound you don’t want to hear, Rerr rer re … Click. rer… Click Click… Flat car battery now too… we’re officially stuffed 😆 Fifty odd K’s from town, no phone connection, no food (and hadn’t eaten all day ‘cos we were only going on a three hour cruise, a threee hour cruuise…) and now we only had about an hour and a half of light left.

So we walked up the track to the gravel road and then up the nearest hill… Yes! I’ve got phone reception! But after an hour of fruitless calls and waiting “to hear back”, it was clear we were here for the night. Last call was to my boss, gave him a quick run down, sorry mate, got Buckleys chance of making it to work in the morning… “No worries, just turn up when you can…” Righto, half an hour of light left, we better get back to the car and set up camp, collect a heap of wood while it’s still light and get a fire going. No moon tonight, it’s gonna be dark as…

I can feel a grin starting to spread across my face as we’re walking back… There’s worse spots to be stuck… As for going out bush with no food, phffftt! Donk and I used to do that for fun… Hunting with a dingo is awesome. Hunting with nothing but your dingo is even better, and sitting by a campfire under a bazillion stars sharing a rabbit with your dingo that technically she’s caught, but her loving eyes sparkling in the fire light looking up at you as she crunches away on her half are saying “no, WE caught them… no different to the early days when I used to send the rabbits in your direction and you’d scare them to death with your noisy stick…” is an incredible feeling, almost too primeval to describe. The bond you already had based on trust and affection that you thought couldn’t get any stronger just has, and it’s awesome.

Well Lupes, looks like tonight’s the night you get to shine 🙂

A little earlier, while we were up the road waiting to “hear back”, we had a bit of a wander around, it’s mostly thickish bush, slow walking sort of stuff on our side, but on the other side of the road there was a flattened stubble paddock amongst the scrub. Rabbit tracks everywhere, really fresh too, Lupers senses were pinging, she wanted to go there and then. Not yet girl, we don’t want to let them know we’re here, we just want to get a lay of the land, we’ll come back later. It’s ok for you, even with no moon you can still see in the dark, I can’t, I’m gonna be running on memory…

About 15 minutes of light left as we get back to the car, part of my mind is flicking me images of where we’d seen firewood nearby on our earlier walks, so that shouldn’t take long to collect. Another part is working on knocking up a basic spit roaster out of a coil of fencing wire we’d seen hanging on a dead tree not far away, but the rest was focused on the upcoming hunt.

Although Donk and I had done this plenty of times, it was in places we knew and we always walked the area first in bright daylight to know what sort of ground we’d be on later, checking for prickle patches, broken glass, sharp rocks, anything that might bring you unstuck running barefoot and flat out in the dark. Lupes and I were just going to have to wing it and hope for the best…

Better take my keys out of my pocket now while I’m thinking about it… I was right by the drivers door so I just leant in the open window and put them in the ignition, it’s not like anyone’s gonna steal it while we’re away… Then the gut says “go on, turn the key…” The mind says “It won’t work, but it takes less than a second, just show him, then get on with your fire.” So I gave the key a quick flick, the motor gave a slow, almost empty “rrrrr…” rrrighto, I’ll set the fire behind the wagon so we can sit in the back… Then stuff me “…rrVROOM!!!” it suddenly burst into life… I couldn’t believe it. I had a bunch of thoughts running through my mind right then but the car actually starting wasn’t one of them. I was almost stumped as to what to do for a second 😆 C’mon dickhead, you’ve been given a second chance, get in the car and f***ing go!
So we did… But with mixed emotions, I gotta say there was a part of me that was a bit disappointed. Sure Lupes has caught herself a feed before but it’s been mostly opportunistic… we’ve never full on hunted the way Donk and I used to… she hasn’t had her chance to provide for the alpha that has always provided for her… as I said, magic feeling, I was kinda looking forward to it 🙂

On the other hand, if one of us had busted ourselves up in a bad high speed trip on a rock, or one leg down a rabbit hole, or got cut to bits hitting a barbed wire fence, or some random chunk of metal dropped by the cyclone (on one of the gravel roads we were on, out in the middle of nowhere, not a house as far as you can see, there was a trampoline stuck up in a tree)… I know I’d see not leaving when we could have, as being seriously f*****g stupid…

Never mind, there’s plenty more adventures to be had yet girl, you’ll get your chance…