NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!

Friday

1000 words about ... CLOUDS!


Sunset at Lake Lascelles, Hopetoun, Victoria
 
 
My legendary inability to embrace the concept of brevity has meant some favourite photos don't see the light of day.  Or are lumped together with other photos that dull their impact.

They don't fit in to my longer blog posts about a destination or theme – and the idea of posting a single shot with virtually no commentary just never occurred to me.

So welcome to my new series where I let the photo speak the 1000 words a picture is generally attributed with all by itself!

Well nearly. This sunset over Lake Lascelles in Hopetoun, Victoria at one of our all time favourite campsites gave me one of those rare moments that photographers crave when several factors converge to produce a perfect moment that's captured in a shot.

Avagoodweegend*!

I used another photo of Lake Lascelles HERE but this one didn't fit the theme – so now I'm giving it the post it deserves!!


* Aussie phonetic pronounciation of 'Have a good weekend'

Monday

The Wonderful World of Western Australian Wildflowers!

Red Western Australian Wildflowers

My mother was born and bred in Western Australia, right in the heart of the fabled wildflower zone. If I had a dollar for every time I heard how wonderful the Western Australian wildflowers were compared to anywhere else in Australia – if not the world – I could have travelled round the world to find out for myself!

But despite several trips to the West, I'd never been there in spring to see the wildflowers in the wild.

Yellow Western Australian Wildflowers


Until now.

We didn't have to wait for spring for the North-western wildflowers – the warmer climate all year round means winter wildflowers! AND a wonderful escape from the cold down south!! Bonus!!!

But I digress ...

Pink Western Australian Wildflowers


Travelling down the vast bulk of Western Australia from Kununurra to Kalbarri via Karajini and further south into the wildflower we've seen a wondrous array of Western Australian wildflowers – and now they're at their peak!

So, for your viewing pleasure and visual delectation, here's a small, colour-coded taste of what I've seen so far.

Green (ish) Western Australian Wildflowers

Mum was right. They ARE magnificent!! And marvellous though they are (right?!), these photos of mostly individual blooms don't convey the utter fabulousness of seeing them all together. A field of yellow wattles interspersed with grey-white smoke-bush and … um … purple flowers accented with spectacularly brilliant pinks, reds and yes, greens is impossible to describe and too vast to photograph.

(Mostly) White Western Australian Wildflowers


SO … what's the best way to display this floral bonanza?

Call me unscientific (actually, I'd take that as a compliment) but as you can already see, I've used the magic of colour!!

Without rudimentary knowledge of taxonomics or floral naming conventions I can't use species classification groups. I don't even know the scientific, let alone the common names of many of them - around 12,000 species in all – so alphabetic order isn't possible! And as flowers seem to be unaware of shire boundaries, a regional display is also out of the question.

And yes, I MAY have gone a little overboard with the collages, but this is me. Deal with it.

Orange Western Australian Wildflowers (OK, some are Salmon)






And Mum, for all those times I've secretly suspected that maybe, just maybe the Western Australian
wildflowers aren't quite as stupendous as you've described, you can now say 'I told you so'!!

If YOU'RE loving the Western Australian wildflowers too, why not check them out for yourself?

Then let me know what I've missed!!

Purple & Mauve Western Australian Wildflowers


Wednesday

An Aussie Colour Cocktail - with a TWIST!


I'm a technophobic dinosaur. Losing my – gasp – film camera to economic rationalist anti-technological conspiracy* was a devastating blow from which I'm still recovering. Then after I'd cut my digital photographic technique teeth on partner Pilchard's 2 year 'old' camera, he gave me a new one for Xmas! Too much too soon.

So when I was nominated by both Linda of Journey Jottings and Jo of Zigazag Mag to enter the TravelSupermarket 'Capture the Colour' competition, just looking at the sample photos on the competitionwebsite was enough to make me think twice!

Of course the opportunity to promote the wonders of my native land (and maybe even a little ego) won out! So I decided to make my entry stand out by taking you on a tour through several states of OZ, with photos that show its colours in a different light. AND … I enjoyed taking them, so YOU'LL enjoy looking at them, right? RIGHT????

Luckily, we won't have to wait for long to see if Travel Supermarket 'appreciates' my entry, as their competition page states clearly they'll be re-tweeting their 'favourites'!

These photos from my travels throughout Australia were taken by my old film camera, and two different digital cameras – see if you can tell the difference!!

BLUE ... Sunset!



Blue Sunset - Lake Pamamaroo, New South Wales, Australia




















A predominantly BLUE sunset doesn't get as much press as – say – a RED one!

So this sunset over Lake Pamamaroo, in the vast waterways of the man-made Menindee Lakes system in the depths of the New South Wales Outback could have easily passed unnoticed.

Attempting to move on from losing the friendly fishing competition (is there any such thing?!?!), our campsite neighbours offered us a drink before the serious business of building a campfire and cooking dinner started.

So we had ringside seats for this Bounteous Blue Bonanza – and duelling cameras!

And now, despite my eye being more naturally attuned to red sunsets, I look out for the blue. It happens more often than you'd think!



Green ... Flowers!

Correa glabra, Mt Wycheproof, Victoria, Australi













Earlier this year, I added another notch to my 'World Exclusives' belt by climbing Mt Wycheproof, self-proclaimed 'World's Smallest Mountain'. The jury's out on whether or not this minuscule mountain really IS the world's smallest – but there's no standard international definition of 'mountain' and no one officially disputing the specious Wycheproofian claim.

So that makes MY claim legitimate – for now!! But even if at some future date this prestigious accomplishment is nullified, the other Wycheproof 'World Exclusive' I achieved is still valid.

Because Mt Wycheproof slopes are the only place in the world that the green flowers of Correa glabra (Wycheproof form) are found!!

And as green flowers are disproportionately under-represented throughout the world, the fact of its colour is an added bonus.

Want more? Read all about my Mt Wycheproof assault HERE!


Yellow ... Outback!

Between Bedourie and Birdsville, Remote Outback Queensland, Australia



Yellow flowers aren't really what the Yellow judge is looking for. According to the website, anyway! Too clichéd, perhaps??

Well, I know all about photographic clichés, thank you very much! And this photo is one of seven selected especially to showcase my world class cliché shot skills!!

Originally selected for the telegraph pole, selecting it again for the yellow flowers now ensures its full cliché potential has been realised.

So why did I select it?

The Queensland Outback has its own cliché: dry, hot and dusty – and often red. So what's a field of yellow flowers doing alongside the road from Bedourie to Birdsville in the middle of absolutely freakin' nowhere??

That's what's NOT a cliché!!


White ... Crocodile!

White Crocodile, Victoria River via Timber Creek, Northern Territory, Australia

The crocodile cruiser swung towards the bank and our first Northern Territory Victoria River crocodile sighting was under way.

Cameras clicked.

Spontaneous laughter erupted.

Well, why wouldn't it? Not only was this croc white, but it looked like a caricatured inflatable. Those teeth! That smile!! The way it was lying on the bank!!! We collectively applauded Neil Fogarty, Victoria River Cruise guide on finding such an innovative way to break the ice.

Then realisation collectively dawned. This croc was REAL!!



Red ... Ocean!

Pindan Red meets Blue in Broome, Western Australia



The absence of bodies in the water is one clue that the RED colouring this incoming tide isn't from spilled blood. Thankfully.

But the red sand gives the game away. The sea's distinctive blue, characteristic of Western Australia's Broome, is coloured by the red 'Pindan', also a feature of the area. The lapping of the waves releases the colour. And with tides amongst the highest in the Southern Hemisphere at up to 9 metres, the mangroves are often completely submerged at high tide so remain unstained.

It would never have occurred to me to combine the blue of the sea and the green of the mangroves with red – it's a startling contrast that's even better live!

Even if it does seem a little macabre ...

Want more? Well, sign up for blog updates – there's plenty more Amazing Australian Adventures to come!!

* It would be too expensive to fix – if I could find a technician willing to sully her/his hands on such 'old' technology. And that's ALMOST a quote!

Friday

7 Crocodile Hot Spots in Australia's Top End


video

Crocodiles are a weird combination of Aussie 'Big Thing' and perilous prehistoric predator. Maybe that's why Aussie ABC – C is for Crocodile my3rd most viewed post of all time*.

'Krys', the world's largest crocodile, Normanton, Queensland
Of course, the World's Biggest Crocodile replica in Normanton, Queensland isn't a 'Big Thing' ie several times larger than the real deal. It's actually a life-size replica of the biggest crocodile ever 'taken' ie 'shot' by croc hunter turned croc supporter Krystina Pawloski in 1957.

Now known as 'Krys', the8.63 metre long (28' 4") monster croc is bigger than JAWS, and it's the biggest known specimen in the world.

The golden age blood sport of crocodile hunting ended in Australia when crocodiles became protected in the early 1970's. But hunting for crocodiles still takes place downunder – as long as your weapon of choice is a camera!

Would you trust this face?  Huge Saltwater crocodile at Victoria River via Timber Creek, NT

Although that won't make any difference to the cunning saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus – or 'Saltie') who can wait for days to ensnare its prey, and once its victim is in the 'death roll', there's little chance of escape. It doesn't always hang out in salt water, either!
 
Would you swim with this little beauty?  Freshwater crocodile at Windjana Gorge, via Derby, WA
While less aggressive, Australia's only other crocodile species, the Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni – or 'Freshie') has been known to attack, although not fatally.

But hey! Who wants to be the first?!
 
So where's the best places in Australia to hunt for those elusive 'live' crocodile photos? Try my 7 Aussie Top End Crocodile Hot Spots for ALMOST guaranteed sightings!!
Marlgu Billabong, via Wyndham, Western Australia
This magnificent oasis set like a jewel amongst the stupendous scenery of the Kimberley is better known for the water birds that frequent it.

On the banks at Marlgu Billabong
But what's that lurking beneath its benign surface?

The video at the top of the post shows why it's not a good idea to stray from the boardwalk.

It's an even worse idea to venture onto the banks of this worrisome wetland when this little beauty is sunning himself!!
 
Croc Hunter Tip: Check the billabong banks on the far side regularly – crocs can appear without warning!
 
 
 
 

Yes, that speck on the sandbank IS a crocodile!!
A known crocodile hotspot, crocodile hunter wannabees can choose an assisted croc sighting via any number of river cruises. Daintree River Wild Watch was our choice for its birdwatching credentials, but we also got to see a saltwater crocodile close up.

Our first unassisted sighting came after the cruise as we drove up the road and spotted a large saltie sunning himself on a sandbank. He wasn't there when we passed that same sandbank on our cruise about 30 minutes before!

The Daintree River doesn't discriminate between salties and freshies – they're both here in abundance!

Croc Hunter Tip: So many Daintree River crocodile cruises can't be wrong! Sightings are virtually guaranteed on a river cruise, and are not uncommon elsewhere.
The jury's out on whether a sighting of a Performing croc (ie a croc jumping for its supper) actually counts as crocodile hunting.

It's the saurian equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel BUT if you can't see them any other way, then knock yourself out!!

Choose one of the many available 'Jumping Croc' cruises – and hope like hell the boat doesn't tip over as all the tourists rush to the same side whenever a crocodile appears ...
 
Croc Hunter Tip: This doesn't really count as 'hunting' – but you WILL see crocodiles!!
 
 
 
The spectacular and otherworldly landscape of Australia's largest lake will keep budding photographers busy for hours. One of the most magnificent spots in the country, the watery landscape is so panoramic, the wildlife takes second place.

Morning at Lake Argyle, Western Australia ... and not a croc in sight!


Almost!

Freshwater croc at Lake Argyle, WA
Below the dam wall, these cold-blooded (in more ways than one) freshwater crocodiles recover from the cool night temperatures by taking in some sun. And while the morning cruise isn't specifically about crocodile hunting, there are plenty around the banks and in the water.
 
Which could make the annual 10- and 20 km swimming races in the lake rather interesting ...

Croc Hunter Tip: Check the far bank below the dam wall. And take that 2 hour cruise – if you don't see a croc it's worth it just for the scenery!!
Crocodile warning sign, East Alligator River, Kakadu NP, Northern Territory
For more entertainment than is good for you, observe the anglers trying to land a big barramundi at this crocodile infested tidal river crossing into Arnhem Land. It's also fun watching vehicles crossing the causeway as the tide comes in.

And it's not called the East Alligator River for nothing!
 
Watching someone actually being taken by a crocodile would give me nightmares for a long, long time.


No, that's not a tyre ... Yellow Water dawn cruise, Kakadu National Park
So watching a tinnie** full of drunken fisherman, one precariously perched on the nose of the craft as it drifted ever closer to a large crocodile they hadn't seen, completely oblivious to the warning shouts was a mesmerizing moment I hope never to experience again.

Luckily for them, the croc slid into the water and disappeared – they never even saw it.

As the tide came in, crocs appeared downstream – not that the anglers knee-deep in water seemed to care …

But if you want your croc viewings with a bit less drama, try a Kakadu Yellow Water Cruise!!

Croc Hunter Tip: Crocodiles abound in Kakadu National Park. See them at Cahill's Crossing or on a cruise – but don't make out like crocodile bait!



No, those aren't logs in the water ... Windjana Gorge, WA
Frustrated crocodile hunters who've dipped out*** on crocs at other hot spots will not be disappointed here, unless they're on a lifelong losing streak. If that's the case (and even if it isn't), think twice about heading for Windjana unless you're keen on experiencing clouds of red dust, brain-hammering corrugated roads, tyre-shredding rocks and other generally adverse driving conditions en route to this remote spot.

THAT'S what's in the water!! Freshwater Crocs at Windjana Gorge, WA
Once there, if you can tear your eyes away from the gob-smackingly awesome scenery, you'll be reaching for the crocodile repellent – yes, there really are that many!

All freshies, of course!! But that makes getting a tad closer for those souvenir photos just that little bit easier!

Back down the road in Derby, crocs are regularly seen around the mangroves, although I have no photographic evidence of the large crocodile we spotted swimming in King Sound near the jetty ...

Croc Hunter Tip: Take the track into the gorge and keep your eyes on the water and sandbanks. Some would go so far as to dub this a 'sure thing' sighting spot!

Feeding the freshies at Timber Creek, Northern Territory
In the creek behind the Circle F Caravan Park campground, there's a daily feeding session attracting any or all of the 12 freshwater crocodiles living in the creek.

They're not always interested, but the enticement of a free snack costing virtually no energy is generally too much of a temptation to resist!
 
Careful observers may notice crocodiles resting on the banks of the creek – while they're *only* freshies, my tip for the day is to let sleeping crocs lie.
 

Lurking on the banks of Timber Creek!
But the nearby Victoria River's self-nomination as Australia's last great wild river may well be true, if the number of crocodile sightings is anything to go by.

The best way to see them is in a croc-proof purpose built river cruiser with a context-setting tour of Timber Creek at one end and sunset drinks and snacks on a float in the middle of the river at the other!

A Victoria River Cruise delivers on multiple croc-sightings as well, with local Neville Fogarty identifying the 'local' crocs by name and reputation!

Lord Lizard leaves, Victoria River, NT
As we passed the white croc, old 'Broken-jaw' and the 5+ metre long Lord Lizard who disappeared without a trace into the water beneath the cruiser, Neville told us the cattle station we were passing lost 200+ cattle to crocodiles each year.
 
Somehow, I don't think they'd mind a change in diet if anyone was foolish enough to stray  too close to the water ...

Croc Hunter Tip: So many sightings of both Saltwater and Freshwater crocodiles, you won't know where to look first. But be warned – these ones are BIG!!

White Crocodile, Victoria River, Northern Territory


Two Crocs, a Dead Cow and the Mary River, NT
Disclaimer: Wild crocodiles are unpredictable, so of course I can't guarantee you'll see them where I have! But stay 'croc-alert' and you may see them where you're least expecting it.

Like the time we watched in horrified disbelief as two crocodiles fought over a dead cow floating downstream past our campsite on the Northern Territory's Mary River – but that's another story!!

Want more information?
* OK, since you asked, the MOST viewed post of all time by MILES (to date) is Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #22, and 2nd is  Aussie ABC – I is forIslands!!
** tinnie = small aluminium fishing boat  There's no accounting for taste!
***  'Dipped Out' = Aussie expression meaning failed, or not done, or didn't happen

I was a Cane Toad Race Virgin! Kununurra, Western Australia

Yes, that's a Cane Toad in his mouth!  Thommo at Kununurra Agricultural Show

The pairing of Australians and Cane Toads works well. Almost as well the pairing of pavlova with pepperoni!  Although, come to think of it, while the Cane toad is an introduced species, so are its colonial counterparts ... but I digress!

77 years after 'experts' deliberately introduced the Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) into the wild, this alien animal has infested nearly every habitat in the country. From a gene pool of just 102 toads in first release, numbers are estimated at above 200 million. It has no natural predators.

Thommo sells a Cane Toad, Kununurra, Western Australia

So what do you do?

Panic? Call in the National Guard?? Stop watching the B-Grade Horror movie???

NO! Because the pairing of Australins and Cane Toad RACING actually DOES work!!

Toad #7 awaits the Cane Toad Race
Downunder here in OZ, the toxic toad has become an Australian 'cultural' icon. And along with the 'unique' (yes, that's a euphemism for 'tasteless') novelty gift items and a bizarre, cult-status documentary about the sad story of their arrival, they're an obvious choice for a day at the races!

Because the thrilling unpredictability of racing the arguably unintelligent, ungainly and UGLY Cane Toad is at least as logical as racing, say, horses. Or dogs. Or even camels! And for race organiser and caller 'Fats Thommo', of 'Thommo's Toad Races', it's a whole new industry!!

A chance chain of coincidence and we had ring-side seats for Thommo's virtuoso performance as Cane Toad race organiser AND caller at the July 2012 Kununurra Agricultural Show. Where, ashamed to call myself an Australian without ever having attended this most prestigious of Australian sporting events, I lost my Cane Toad Race virginity!

The Cane Toad Race Card - AND the prize!
I'm sure the high gained from bufotenin, the chemical classified as a Class 1 drug secreted by the poisonous pest, is at least partly offset by the revulsion that ingesting it via toad-licking may bring. So instances of bufotenin addiction are likely so rare, they may soon appear in TV shows featuring hospitals or emergency rooms. And I'm sure bufotenin ingestion played no part in Thommo's crowd pleasing antic AND fabulous photo opportunity (see top photo)!


Cane Toad racing isn't just about the race. Getting the venemous villains to the starting barrel is a lengthy process, starting with the auction. Auction?
With an cry of 'C'mon, you tight-a**ed tourists' (and perhaps a nod to a previous profession?), Thommo launched the crowd into a bidding frenzy. Where strangely, purchasing your very own noxious nuisance for an average of $AUD50 seemed not just normal, but highly desirable! Having thus raised over $AUD500 for the Kununurra Wildlife Rescue, the poisonous predators were ready to 'line up'.

Placing the Toads in the 'Starter' Barrel, Kununurra, Western Australia
Because the concept of racing doesn't come naturally to untrained Cane Toads, a few modifications to the standard racing format are required. There's no point setting Start and Finish lines, gates or racing lanes; and a starting pistol would be about as useful as a sandbox in the desert.

For Cane Toad racing, the 'track' becomes a well-defined circle and the 'starting gate' a bucket or barrel in its centre, into which the abject amphibians are placed. This wasn't as simple as it sounds.

As the crowd gathered around the 'track', Thommo insisted each new owner personally place his or her toad in the barrel by hand. But as the Cane Toad has taken nearly 77 years to reach Kununurra from its first release in Far North Queensland, the art of toad-wrangling is virtually unknown. Which placed the more squeamish at a disadvantage that Thommo was quick to exploit.


They're Away! Cane Toad Racing, Kununurra, Western Australia


'Give us a kiss and I'll do it for you,' he offered.

'I'd rather kiss the toad,' one feisty owner replied.

After seemingly endless rounds of dropped toads, escapees, posing for photos, toad-kissing and shrieks of revulsion, the toads were ready to race.

Almost.

With the owner of the first toad to reach the circle's perimeter after the barrel was lifted (ie the 'winner') to receive a highly desirable prize (ie a Thommo's Toad Races T-shirt and 6 bottles of wine cane toad juice), the stakes were high. So Thommo issued strict instructions that the crowd was not, under ANY circumstances, to interfere with the race outcome.

With a flourish, Thommo removed the barrel and revealed a clutch of 10 toads, blinking in the sunlight after their enforced rest in the dark.

Nothing happened.

Nothing happened some more.

Then, despite wild – and desperate – shouts of encouragement, nothing continued to happen.

The cunning cane toads weren't playing.

Thommo 'adjudicating' the Cane Toad Race, Kununurra, Western Australia

Thommo entered the ring and made threatening noises. That did the trick! Suddenly, a freedom-seeking toad saw an opening in the crowd, took off like a rocket, leapt the barrier like a seasoned Olympic hurdler and disappeared into the crowd, who obligingly parted.  Its fearsome friends followed.

Thommo declared the race – and my virgin experience – over.

I hope it was as good for you as it was for me!

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