We were warned on arrival that it was still the back end of snake season, and so we should exercise caution as we made our way around the campsite and the surrounding area. Dawn and dusk were the times we should be most alert to the possibility of slithery visitors.
This was my final weekend in Australia. My last hurrah was to be spent at a beautiful woodland camp, invited by some very dear friends of mine, to enjoy three days of musical fun and frolics. Though music making, singing and socialising were the main goals of this jaunt, I had one other aspiration I hoped to fulfil. It was my last chance to see a wild kangaroo.
Though I had been in Australia for 5 whole weeks, and was thankful to have seen a number of wild creatures, including baby crocs, various spidery fellows (who I admit are my biggest fear), the most beautiful fishies and their seafaring friends at the Great Barrier Reef, and countless birds of every size, hue and volume, I had not seen either of the continent’s most iconic marsupials, the kangaroo and the koala. I had seen one kangaroo on my travels, but this was sadly in a cage and was not a happy sight to see. I hadn’t seen a koala bear at all (apart from one very large stuffed example in a shop window in St Kilda). I was hoping that this final journey into the wilderness might offer up some magic.
As the sun began to melt on the evening of our arrival, I paid heed to the advice given and, putting on long trousers and closed toe shoes, took myself off on a little explore of the woods surrounding our cosy cabins. Feeling cautious but excited, I tiptoed along the dusty path – away from the place where people were, toward the place where I hoped creatures might be waiting. I paid very close attention to the ground ahead of me. Every stick eyed with suspicion until its provenance could be assessed. I was very aware that I was walking away from civilisation, beyond shouting distance and with no mobile signal in case of mishap. But I had to do this. It might be my last chance.
I was nervous of the many small holes in the earth that had clearly recently had some beastie or other either entering or leaving its confines. The number of legs that these creatures may own was of some significant concern to me. Trying not to think about this too hard, I sang to myself as the path sank away from the camp and rolled underneath an upturned basket of trees.
I walked slowly and consciously, not only wishing not to disturb any late slumbering snakes, but also listening out for the various unusual calls and quick flits the air and surrounding scrub were providing. A parade of swooping Crimson Rosella called to one another as they contemplated when to declare it roost o’clock. The rustling and scuffling in all directions had me flicking my head from side to side in anticipation and nervousness. Was this little expedition wise? I wasn’t at all sure it was, but it certainly was exhilarating.
At one point, a serious kerfuffle broke out in a bush to my right. I couldn’t see into the plait of twigs too well, but there was clearly some little chap in there determined to be doing something of great import. I paused a while to see if I could make head or tail (or ear or paw) out of the commotion. It was in fact spine and a snout that gave the game away. Echidna! Well, I hadn’t seen one of these guys either. I was overjoyed that he had made himself known to me and, if I saw nobody else on this walk, I would be very satisfied with this encounter and very much looked forward to telling my friends what I had seen.
Descending the hill further, I was suddenly released into a grassy clearing. It was a very lovely spot. A ring of logs sat in the middle of the field, I assumed used sometimes by the camp for group activities. This evening not a soul was there, and it felt very special to be in that place on my own at that hour in absolute peace, apart from the flashes of feather that occasionally swept from one tree to another. I decided, if anywhere might be a good spot for a little kangaroo stakeout, this was probably it. I parked myself on one of the logs. I put down my bag, I planted my feet, I made sure I was comfortable, and then I sat, really, really, really still.
I sat still for a good 15 minutes. There were no mammals to be seen. I sat still for 20 minutes. Still nothing, but I did feel an enormous sense of gratitude for having this special space reserved just for me on this glorious evening – almost my last evening on this continent that had so amazed and seduced me in a way I hadn’t expected.
Wondering how long I could sit there before people started to wonder where I was, or before it was no longer special but a bit weird, I was making some decisions in my head about how long I would remain, when I heard some crashing about in the nearby bushes. Was that a thump? Then silence.
I thought to myself
“I’m going nowhere. That was definitely a thing!”
Over the next 5 minutes a travelling band of bush percussion moved along the undergrowth beside me until suddenly, and with no fanfare whatsoever, a small red kangaroo hopped into the clearing in front of me. I think I may have stopped breathing. Inhalation was replaced with a smile that spread to meet over the top of my head. There he was! The little bouncy pal I had been waiting for. God bless you little guy. You have made my day, made my weekend, made my entire trip.
I sat as still as terracotta and watched him lollop across the green in front of me, occasionally sitting back and smelling the air, looking this way and that to see if he had company. Eventually he saw that he had, but given that I made my intentions of not moving a hair on my body clear, he seemed willing to continue his evening’s activities.
Not long after, he was joined by a friend. They perused the ground together, for whatever kangaroos peruse for, and then, without warning, they took their heavy, thumping tails off into the bush again, and I was left alone.
“Oh boy! That was incredible!”
Walking back up to the campsite to share my excitement with my friends, I surprised another small group of much larger grey kangaroos. They didn’t seem to appreciate the surprise as much as I did. So, in fact, you couldn’t get moved for kangaroos at this campsite it turned out.
My mission was complete, and now I could leave Australia with an extra special moment that only me, and my first ever wild kangaroo, would share. There is a potent magic attached to encounters with wild creatures in their natural habitat. I have been blessed with a few of these in my time. I hope to be blessed with many more before I am done. Australia was an incredible experience for me in so many ways, and has a distinct energy and soul I hadn’t expected. I know that I will have to return to Australia one day, not least because I have unfinished business with a koala bear.
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