Waiting For The Snake

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I almost stepped on one of these earlier. My foot was around twelve inches above it’s torso before I suddenly noticed it on the path. I flew backwards and in my shock I could barely articulate a proper swear word. On identifying it on our return to Libby’s house we discovered that not only is it endangered but according to the ‘Australian Venom Research Unit’ the ‘broad headed snake’ “may become agitated when disturbed, and strike rapidly. Its venom contains neurotoxins and procoagulants…and may cause serious illness.” I’m very glad that we didn’t attempt to get a photo, as the snake was in fact raised up into this threatening position, but it does mean that I’ve had to borrow a photo off the internet so forgive me for that!

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Merry Christmas Everyone/ Welcome To The Jungle

Christmas this year was pretty odd to say the least. I made the others mini stockings with my hiking socks and stuffed them with wrapped fruit! Exciting! We had a fairly heavy egg-nogg and pancake breakfast before loading the car with camping gear and heading off. Christmas lunch took place at Nandos, followed by a ‘golden gaytime’ ice-cream (that is actually the name of an ice-lolly here). We arrived at Spring brook rainforest at around five and, after setting up camp, went to see the view from a lookout point. It didn’t disappoint. We also spotted some paddy-melons (wallabies) on the way which was a bonus. There was also an adorably fat bandicoot scuttling around the bbq area in the evening!

On Boxing Day we trumped our usual Cornish beach walk with a 17km hike through the rainforest. At one point Hannah and I were walking along, happily chatting about Paris when I suddenly noticed a large blue and red crustacean brandishing it’s claws at me a metre ahead on the path. I swore loudly and jumped about a foot in the area much to Hannah’s amusement. It transpired to be a ‘Lamington spiny crayfish’. To be fair, who expects to see a bloody lobster in the middle of the forest! We weren’t even near a stream! We actually saw a couple more. The highlight was finding a large carpet python which I, again, almost trod on. It was coiled on the side of the path and my heart stopped for a split second before I noticed the pattern on its back. I would not be good at staying still if I got that close to a taipan (the most venomous snake in Aus)! The python was extremely lethargic. It only moved off when Melissa and I touched its tail.

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The antagonist of the story became apparent after a few km. I noticed a little blob on my arm which I eventually twigged was a leech. We then looked down and noticed that our shoes and socks were covered in the disgusting little creatures. We had to then make regular stops to ‘de-leach’. The little buggers were even swarming inside the car; we kept on finding them in our shoes even once we’d driven back to the campsite! That night we also made a fleeting visit to the Spring brook glow worm caves which were spectacular – completely covered in Asian tourists though, not quite as authentic an experience as our walk in New Zealand! We drove back today, stopping for the day at the gold coast for a sun-bathe and a swim which was fantastic after the pouring rain in the rainforest over Christmas and Boxing Day (we got completely soaked on our walk and remained damp for the duration).

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Take Me To The River

‘”I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”
“I should think so – in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” ‘

J.R.R Tolkein – The Hobbit

This morning we set off to Waitomo. The large majority had booked to take part in one of the ‘black water’ excursions through the underground caves on little rubber rings. Sounds fun, but it was extremely expensive. I’m also not a massive fan of large, organised group activities! A small group of us opted to just go for a walk instead and save around $200. The Irish guys and I noticed the area where they test the rubber rings out for size in the river…we walked down the track for around 20 minutes, hid our clothes and stuff then snuck back, nicked a few rubber rings and floated down the river – it was hilarious. Really beautiful as well. However we did keep coming across obstacles like large fallen trees across the river which were fairly challenging. I’ve come out the other side with a nice pattern of scratches over my legs and arms. We found an old overgrown track on the other side of the river and decided to go and investigate – we came across a tiny entrance to the underground cave which, clearly, people had crawled through. We didn’t have a torch unfortunately, well,  I’m pretty glad we didn’t, as we later found out that it was in fact an ancient burial ground in the Cliffside! We eventually got back to the hostel around two hours after the rest of the group had returned.

We decided, after supper, to go back to try and get a glimpse of the glow worms. We walked back through the limestone countryside in the dusk and then branched out onto a different path. By this time it was dark and the dense foliage overhead meant that without the torch it was pitch black. Very soon we started to notice the little glow worms and before long we were surrounded by them. It was absolutely incredible – like we were in a huge auditorium and the walls around us were maps of stars. At one point we were admiring a particularly beautiful patch of glow worms on the roof above us, but when we turned on the torch we noticed an enormous cave below us, larger than your average cathedral and we were right at the top. It was incredible that this was right before us and we had no idea at all! It just demonstrates how dangerous pot-holing can be. We meandered our way back along the road (by this point it was around 11 at night and the stars in the sky were, again, spectacular). A quad bike with a large lamp and a threateningly large gun strapped to the front approached us. That was fairly terrifying. Turns out they’re hunting. I’m not sure what exactly! We eventually reached the ‘kiwi paka’ hostel at around 11:30. I’m exhausted!

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Walking Barefoot

“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.”

Leonardo da Vinci

The last couple of days have been spectacular. We trekked out to a series of waterfalls. I had to take my boots off after the first hour as the mud was coming up to my knees. The disadvantage of this is that my feet are now fairly massacred (I had to drown them in savlon for the night!): we were walking through the wild jungle and sliding down practically vertical edges down to the river and so on. It was taking ‘off the beaten track’ to a whole new level. To cross rivers one of the men would cut down a tree, for example! There were the most amazing wild orchids dotted around the place! I was also lucky enough to spot a rare PNG eagle! The water was so fresh that we drank it directly from the falls…really incredible.

To make a fire one of the men rubbed some bush rope (made of bark) against some firewood. He then picked up the fire in some more sticks and carried it to the middle of the group! Snacks consisted of pandanas nuts that the men cut down from the top of the palm trees –  I have to admit, they’re pretty disgusting – all of the locals were peeling them and happily forcing them on me!

That night we stopped at a small village and the ‘big man’ offered us the use of his round hut. A fire in the middle of the dirt floor keeps the bugs out of the grass roof of the hut! We all gathered round to cook ‘Kau Kau’ (sweet potato) and tell stories. They served Phillip and I the most ridiculously enormous portions of food – easily enough for six people – no exaggeration! I tried to sneak some to the emaciated dogs (the poor things were so hungry that they were trying to eat the fire!). Unfortunately for me the people only spoke pidgin, but I’m getting the hang of it gradually! We slept on a bamboo mat on the floor soon after the sun set (no lights there, of course – you sleep with the sun!).

The next morning the local girls took me down to the river for a ‘was was’. It was a completely pointless exercise as after washing we had to climb back up the mountain in the thick mud – inevitably we arrived back much dirtier than when we left! The villagers then took us on a ‘short walk’ to their church (two hours!). I embarrassingly fell asleep – Mr Bean style – repeatedly nodding off and suddenly jerking awake with a flourish. We eventually found our way back to the road and Verena came to pick us up! What a weekend!

Point Of Disgust

I can’t believe it. I literally can’t believe it. Words cannot describe how angry I am right now.

I was planning on doing a trek over to ‘bushmando’ village this morning with Pogio so I fed Kai and took him over to Pogio’s house for his sons (Alfonso and Terry) to look after whilst we were gone. I was gone for a few hours. Ahhh! I should never have left him with them!

Pogio had a village meeting to attend, so I walked back with his two young daughters through the jungle. I explained to them that I would come up to their house first to collect my ‘cus cus’ (possum). We arrived at the house and said hello. I asked how the Possum was doing. Alfonso casually replied “Oh we jus’ about to put em in pot now”.

I thought he was joking; I even laughed for a split second before I realised that he was being serious. My poor little, hideously ironically named, Nokaikai went through all that stress and torment just to get killed, skinned and eaten. I still can’t believe that this has just happened.

I think they thought that they were doing me a favour, saving me the trouble of cooking it myself. I’m a vegetarian you fools.

Walking back from bushmando – blissfully unaware that my beloved pet was being prepped for supper.

Now I’ve just got this bloody mouse for company which is relentlessly eating what little clothing I have left.