I was sitting quietly, reading, when from somewhere nearby I heard what seemed to be a duck quacking in synchronised time with the frogs in the trees outside. At least, it sounded very like a duck. The call was so constant I figured it had to really be a frog. Besides, there are no ducks here. I was excited. This might be another new species for me.
It was very close by. I could tell. I grabbed a torch and a camera, just in case I spotted it, and went outside. Everywhere I searched, the sound seemed to come from somewhere else. But it never stopped. The little bugger wouldn’t shut up.
No matter where I looked the call always seemed to be coming from the other side of the caravan. Then I realised it was actually inside the caravan. This was exciting. I hurried back in to search for it.
Then I realised it was a duck. Coming from my iPad. I had set the alarm to remind me to take my evening antibiotic. The alarm sound was “duck”. I had forgotten.
My mind, once as sharp as a really, really sharp thingy, is definitely slowing down.
There’s nothing I like more than being visited in the shower. Tonight, after a long telephone conversation with a friend in WA, I limped down to the ablution block for a midnight shower. I like late night showers. I have the place to my self and there’s always the chance of some interesting times watching the geckos hunting moths around the fluorescent lights.
I was really lucky . Not only did I see my favourite geckos doing their famous ceiling leaps, but I shared my shower stall with another gecko and the tiniest green tree frog I have yet met.
At first, I was not sure if they were hunting each other, in which case “aaaw, ain’t that cute”. Or had teamed up to get a moth, I watched as I soaped up and rinsed off under a cold shower. (Hot water is available, I just prefer cold).
The frog could have sat on my thumbnail. The gecko was five times bigger. They circled each other like Sumo wrestlers on the shower stall wall. It become quite apparent each thought the other was prey. It was also quite apparent the brave little frog was going to try and bite off more than he could chew.
When it comes to life and death in the jungle, I know that I should allow nature to take its course. But here were two little creatures I really like in a mismatched duel to the death. I had no illusions about who would lose. Had he been bigger I’d probably have watched the frog swallow that gecko just as I watched my frogs in my pond in Katanning eat their own relatives. Or vice versa, even. Fair is fair.
But this little blighter was totally outgunned, though he was not going to admit it. I am a sucker for supporting the underfrog. So I snatched him from the ravenous jaws of death and put him in my toilet bag. There were plenty of moths left for the gecko, as I most reasonably pointed out to him. He didn’t seem to mind, anyway.
After my shower I towelled off and put on my shorts. I carried my new charge with me when I headed home. On the way back to my caravan I explained the facts of life to my little green ward. I told him he needed to bulk up a bit before he took on something that size again. In the meantime he should practice on moths and flies, and perhaps, as a favour to me, he could do something about the ants that are constantly scurrying around my caravan.
I dropped him off in my herb garden. Tomorrow, when the ants come out, I’ll know whether the little bugger is grateful to me for saving his tiny green life.
The photos below are not the protagonists of this little story, just some previous encounters.
I am a pluviophile. I love the rain. Especially tropical rain.
Walking in the rain, getting soaking wet…
My weather app tells me there is a thirty percent chance of rain. Considering it has been raining heavily for over ten hours , I consider the app to be 70% wrong.
I went to sleep to the lovely sound of heavy rain on my roof, and woke to it this morning. The kookaburra didn’t seem to mind either. He gave a rousing burst of song at 05:40 on the dot, just as I was pouring my first coffee. The frogs are happy too. I can hear at least three species announcing their sexual availability.
My neighbour’s coughing fit was without a trace of Strauss today, though I might have caught a phrase or two of Coltrane. He was soaked on his morning pilgrimage to the ablution block and back. I cheated, I went to the rear corner of my caravan where I am screened from public view, and peed into the stream flowing past my bicycle and through the fence down into the creek. I still got wet. And I still have to go to the ablution block sooner or later.
Last night I went to the Rangla Punjab Wednesday night buffet. All you can eat for twenty dollars. I tried a little of every curry as well as the raitas and pickles. Everything, from the rice and naan to the samosas and bhaji were excellent. The mango lassi was outstanding. That was extra, but well worth four dollars. I tried very hard not to overdo it, but I blew my calorie budget for the first time since I started counting them. I don’t regret it. I shall do it again, though not regularly. Perhaps only when Wednesday coincides with a special occasion.
Yesterday’s occasion was that I now have a recreational marine drivers licence (RMDL). What the rest of the country calls a skipper’s ticket. That I’ve had a boatmaster and coastal yachtmaster ticket in NZ since 1979 did not matter to Queensland Transport. I still had to pass a local course and get certified before they’d grant me a licence. Done and dusted all in one morning yesterday.
Now I can take out the tinnie I bought on line while drunk at Christmas. Kidding. I arranged to view it on Boxing Day. I agreed to buy it. Perfect for my needs, which is code for all I can afford.
This evening, to shake off a sudden mood, I took the bicycle for a ride. A better alternative to eating something. The headlight on the bike seems bright, but it is more for being seen than for seeing by. The paths on Bribie are shared.by cyclists and pedestrians. Only the bravest, hardiest cyclists use the roads by choice. Box drivers have little consideration for cyclists. Several times on the road I have not been given the right of way that is my due.
So it is particularly gratifying that Moreton Bay Council have provided such wide, well-made paths. Better still, they are not laid out in straight lines along the roadside, but meander in sweeping curves around trees through park-like reserves. Riding them at night with what seems suddenly a very dim light, is a whole new experience. I rode south along the beach front into an area I hadn’t visited before by bike. The path took me far away from the road and any streetlights. The cool breeze from the sea blew the dull thoughts away and eased the ache pulsing in the rear of my head, just behind the right ear. Bats, frogs and night birds squabbled and called from the trees.
After a while I had no idea where I was, but I didn’t mind. Though the panel LEDs were telling me the battery was down to half charge. I had not plugged it in when I returned from the pool. I had taken an extended ride then, too, up to the mall where I bought a cake and dropped in on the way back for the pool staff. I told them it was to celebrate my twenty first. Kilogram.
I also bought myself a tiny little single serve Christmas cake, some nougat and some Turkish Delight to put aside for December 25. Christmas Day will be a calorie amnesty.
But I digress. Back to pedalling. I knew if I followed the road I’d end up somewhere I recognised. So it proved. I’d travelled further than I thought, but i was now back on the route I travel every day. It was a pleasant diverting ride. I was home again before the panel LEDs dimmed any further.
Bushfires are still raging in Australia, particularly along the east coast of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. The leader of the rural fire service told media that this could be “the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen,” and the NSW premier has declared a state of emergency. At least six million people in the region were facing extreme bushfire weather—strong winds, low humidity, high temperatures—as the week began. Fire agencies warned of “catastrophic” fire danger in the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions and in Illawarra/Shoalhaven. “Extreme” fire danger was forecast for the North Coast, Southern Ranges, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes, and North Western. Weather forecasters predicted that not a drop of rain was likely to fall on mainland Australia on November 11. Approximately 600 schools in Sydney and other cities and towns were closed due to the fire threat. At least three people have died and 150 homes have been destroyed, according to Australian media.
On November 9, 2019, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite(VIIRS) on the NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite got a nighttime view of the fires raging in Queensland and New South Wales. The image was acquired with the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, auroras, and wildfires. The natural-color image below was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on November 11, 2019. Strong westerly winds fanned the flames and carried smoke several hundred kilometers out to sea.
In late August, the Australian Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC predicted that the 2019–20 fire season had the potential to be quite active due to warm and dry across much of the nation. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), October 2019 rainfall was below to very much below average across most of Australia, continuing a long-term drought in the region. “Rainfall deficiencies have affected most of the New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australian parts of the Murray–Darling Basin since the start of 2017,” BOM reported. “The deficiencies have been most extreme in the northern Murray–Darling Basin, especially in the northern half of New South Wales and adjacent southern Queensland, where areas of lowest-on-record rainfall extend across large parts of northeastern New South Wales…The 34 months from January 2017 to October 2019 have been the driest on record…for the state of New South Wales (35 percent below average).” NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Story by Mike Carlowicz.
This morning I drove to Maroochy Botanical Gardens to enjoy a walk and a picnic with two lovely friends, Angelia and Mario. We had a delicious picnic brunch and walked around the sculpture gardens for a little communing with nature.
A couple of guests tried to join us for lunch, a scrub turkey and a currowong. Of course we fed them. The currowong even took food from my hand. I always like it when that happens. The currowong is a member of the magpie family and very intelligent. That she figured out she could trust me is cheering. The turkey on the other hand wants the food, but has no trust. Stupid bird.
The walk we took was quire a short one, and the path was concrete, so it didn’t cause me any problems except for a short cut I took over a lawn down a bit of a steep gradient. Going downhill is difficult.
I enjoyed the nature sculptures very much, but some of the more abstract works did not resonate so well. I’m no connoisseur but I know what I like.
I was well on my way home by two, and back on Bribie before three. I had my swimming kit with me, so I stopped off at the pool for a swim. I entered the water at precisely 3pm and swam solidly until 5:03 by which time I had completed 100 lengths exactly. A new personal record. 2,500 metres in two hours 3 minutes. I’d had to pile the pace on to squeeze the last laps in. I just missed my two hour target. But my goal of a 5,000 metre marathon is beginning to look achievable.
I was pretty pleased with myself until I saw I was the only person in the pool and the staff were closing everything up.
It turns out the pool closes at 5 on Saturday. It is only open until 7 on weekdays. The wonderful staff were very obliging, They brushed aside my apologies and let me shower and change without making me feel a total idiot. I’ve had nothing but friendly and cheerful support from them since I started frequenting the pool.
Back at home I had a light meal and spent the next three hours trying to transfer photos from my camera to my MacBook via WiFi. And failing. What I should have done right at the start was take the memory card out of the camera and insert it into the laptop. KIS.
Maybe I need validation after all. I’m achieving things. I’m feeling pleased with myself. I’ve lost 12 kg. On Saturday I met some friends for a walk and a picnic at Mary Cairncross nature reserve and actually managed to walk considerably further than I have been able to do in well over a year. It is a good place to walk. The gravel path is relatively even and there are seats situated conveniently along the tracks for old codgers like me to rest a bit. Best of all, the wildlife is fascinating. Lots of birds, some of which I haven’t met before. The most interesting was the green catbird, a species of bowerbird that has a cry like a wailing cat, or a baby. I encountered a couple of pademelons, which are cute miniature wallabies that live in the rainforest.
I missed a python, as about half way up a loop track I realised I’d had enough, and should conserve my last energies for the return walk. Of course, I later learned shortly after i sat down to rest and await the others’ return, they encountered a beautiful carpet python. Just my luck.
Sitting still is a great way to see birds. I saw my first yellow throated scrubwren. By twittering with pursed lips against the back of my hand, as we do in New Zealand to attract the piwakawaka, I managed to get a pair of them to come quite close. But they flitted about so much and were so tiny, I could not get a picture. I had forgotten to take my cameras, and an iPhone is useless for this kind of photography.
Today was another great day. I disintered my mask and snorkel and, once in the water, soon learned that I can swim much better with them than without. The ache in my neck and shoulders was not from swimming, but from holding up my head. Once I started swimming head down and breathing through the snorkel everything became more efficient. I swam faster, though still not as fast as my neighbours in the next lanes. It was easy to average 9 lengths per 15 minutes with a steady rhythm. I did a length of the pool in less strokes. I did 50 lengths easily in 90 minutes and set out to do another 50. I managed 76 in 140 minutes and realised that I should have had more than coffee and a mandarin for breakfast. Hunger gnawed at my vitals, and I thought of the lean beef curry waiting in the slow cooker. So I called it a day. More tomorrow.
I have been a face down swimmer for decades. Today reminded me how I like to swim. I have not used my mask and snorkel since Fiji, now ten years ago. As soon as the ocean warms up a bit, I shall get out my Scubapro Jetfins and work on strengthening my legs. They are fins that take a lot of power to use. I’ve had those fins since January 1979 in which year I won the Hawkes Bay underwater orienteering competition with them. The last time I used them was in Fiji too.
Roaming free as the breeze
What’s to stop me and why?
I can live as I please
Open road, servo pie…
My history has made me train wild animals but I’m more famed Because I’ve really trained myself to be as spry as any elf The circus life taught me a lot, now the circus is finished – but I’m not. For I’m not afraid to potter round the dark I’ll breakfast on tomorrow’s question mark Adventure is in my blood why any lion could smell it well But I always hold the whip and I’ll never let it slip Whatever comes I’ll take the good and send the rest to hell
Roaming free as the breeze What’s to stop me and why? I can live as I please Open road, open sky!
My lion taming acting was enough to create quite a buzz From Timbuctu to Samarkand I wowed them in the hinterland I was king of the king of the beasts on the stage Why, the public wouldn’t let me out of my cage They loved it when the lions licked my paws And I got the lion’s share of their applause I follow with the bold and the brave when the bold are gone Whatever I wish I’ll be when the wish appeals to me For there’s a thing worth more than gold My creed! I must go!
English words by Anne Ronell (1939)
The music for “Open Road Open Sky” was originally composed by Johann Strauss for his 1885 light opera “Der Zigeunerbaron“. The English version of this song became popular in 1939 after Ann Ronell adapted Strauss’s music and wrote new lyrics.