I’m such a Biology geek. I have spent this last week absolutely excited and entranced by Australia’s native wildlife, so unique and different from the rest of the world.
We’d been told about Mikkira Station near Port Lincoln way back when we were in Zimbabwe, it turned out to be a great tip. The historical farmstead has a grove of gum trees, just stuffed with koalas and the best bit was is that you can camp right next to them. Koalas are not known for their energetic activity, in fact they could vie with the sloth for the world’s most sluggish animal award, so when we pulled up to camp just before lunch we were entranced to spot one snoozing nearby. We looked around while eating, hoping to spot some more but with no luck. When returning to my chair after tidying up, I found two little poos on my seat – not too unpleasant as they were kind of dry. I looked directly up and realised we’d been eating under a sleeping mother and baby koala. Now looking more closely at blobs we had dismissed as thick foliage or dead branches, we realised there were at least 6 koalas just metres from the truck. We went off to explore the property and to find more koalas, doing what they do 20 hours a day: sleep, with the odd bit of scratching. Back at the truck, a small baby did come out of its mother’s pouch for a cuddle, we all “awwed” and “ooohhhed” appreciatively underneath.
It seems that in the 4 hours that a male koala is awake, there is one thing on his mind – love. We watched as a male came down from his perch and ambled across the forest floor to a nearby tree. He was totally unconcerned about our presence as we sat just metres away, commenting how cute and cuddly he looked. What we heard next was neither cute nor cuddly. As he climbed up a tree to say hello to one of the females, she let rip with an earsplitting noise to send him packing. We decided later it sounded like a cross between screaming and someone being dramatically sick when they couldn’t be sick anymore. This set the male going, making an extremely loud grunting, like someone pretending to snore. He wasn’t put off though and kept on going. The noise just got louder, until he eventually gave up and retreated, keeping up his racket just in front of us on the ground. A couple of hours later the same thing happened again with another male, this time we were prepared for the dry heaving/fake snoring ruckus. I jolted awake several more times during the night by the same scary noise. Who’d have thought that koalas were such frisky little critters!
Back in Port Lincoln, the tuna capital of Australia, we picked up some delicious tuna steaks that we cooked up in the national park just outside town that night. We have never had much luck cooking tuna before, it has always ending up dry and not very tasty but this time after taking some advice we just seared the outside and it was fantastic. So either the tuna was really good or it was just good work by the chef.
It was a long drive north east to Flinders Ranges National Parks, through sheep country. We spent a night near an old sheep station, beside the empty road. The next morning we hiked into Wilpena Pound, a natural mountain bowl. The views were gorgeous at the top, it was really hard to photo but the mountains were all in a circle apart from a narrow gorge we hiked in through.
The gorge was full of cockatoos, emus and wallabies all very relaxed about our presence. On a narrow section of the path we came across a flock of 8 emus: 7 young with their father. We backed off and climbed up the steep side to let them pass. Goannas, big lizards, scared us with their reptilian rustling in the dry leaves as we climbed to the viewpoint. On the way back Lucy and I paused to look at a couple of young feral goats, they are a real pain here as they eat the same foods as the native wallabies. One of them was sniffing away at something that looked like a bundle of old bark wedged under a rock, then it moved. It was an echidna! I’ve always wanted to see a Monotreme, an egg laying mammal, in the wild. Even better once the goats wandered off, it happily snuffled around the undergrowth close to us, just fabulous!
We drove through dry rocky gorges filled with eucalyptus trees and across scrubby grassy hilltops on the 4WD tracks through the park. Our campsite that night was completely deserted, as was most of the park, and perfectly placed for the light on the mountains in the early morning. Early in the morning we hiked up to a view point through scrubby pine forests. We moved to another beautiful campsite next to a dry creek bed, the more open grasslands was perfect for kangaroos and emus. We saw lots feeding on the plains, as we hiked early the following morning.
We’ve loved the Flinders, they might not be the tallest mountains in the world but they are beautiful, the hiking has been great and the animals amazing.