Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gundabooka National Park - Mulgowan Aboriginal Site - Road trip with Danish visitors - Part 4

Back at Dry Tank campground after an eventful day, it was pretty clear that we were all up for a less stressful afternoon. Outback summer hiking is pretty demanding and we all had that good honest feeling of having had a bit of a workout. After spending a few hours leaned back in a camping chair only managing to get a photo of a curious Common Bronzewing and discussing the fine art of managing your water ration while hiking - should you drink it all in the beginning to save weight up the hill or is there a hint of sense in keeping a few milliliters for the last three hours of the walk? - Both tactics had been tested that morning with various success! :-) Finally, we were ready to explore a little again and took the car to Mulgowan Aboriginal Site, close to the entrance of Gundabooka national park. Water is life in the outback and if there is water there will be signs of life. Mulgowan is such a site, walking along the path you only slowly realize that you are brought into a very shallow gorge. Water has over time carved a strip through the rock and left a little oasis, where plants, animals and humans have been able to find shadow, shelter and reliable drinking water. It is in no way an impressive majestic gorge, but considering the dry sandy landscape surrounding it, you understand the importance of the place. The caves bordering the gorge display a good selection of Aboriginal rock art and we saw significantly more wildlife surrounding the site, than we had seen hiking across the dry plains during the scorching midday sun .. those kangaroos seems to understand water ration managing and Australian weather much better than a gang of Danish tourists! Bird life was not as good as I had hoped for. The most likely reason is that a wetter Australia allow the birds a much wider selection of places to drink, therefore they are not forced to all journey to those secure waterholes that so many birders take advantage of at sunrise and sunset in the dry outback. Abundance of water allows life to flourish and spread, but strangely enough it also makes it harder to see those hard to find species at their usual secure habitats. After a good solid day we could all sleep. Early next morning I took the macro lens for a little trip to the bush toilet. The humidity generated in those bush dunnys attracts an excellent selection of exciting creatures, and this morning was not different. Highlight was the close-up of the Mantis above. After a few days of outback loveliness the part of our little party that had the joy of sharing a tent were quite adamant that any change of a close encounter with some water and a bathroom without Mantises would be appreciated. Having seen some red dust it was time to see what else NSW had to offer and I decided, that Warrumbungle National Park was just the right place to setup camp for the remaining part of our journey.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gundabooka National Park - Road Trip with Danish Visitors - Part 3

Summit day! Not too bad using a day off climbing an outback mountain. I had done it before and I can promise that I would love to do it again. After a great nights sleep we got up, had some porridge, filled the water bottles and the fresh-of-the-plane Danes had to use some time getting their virgin skin covered in a protective layer of sunscreen. While all that rubbing was going on, I gave a little 101 on how to walk in the bush, what species of animals we were likely to encounter and that we would not see. I used quite a bit of energy explaining that we would not(!) encounter snakes and therefore we very perfectly safe walking through high grass and scrubby bush. I think, I even managed to state that seeing a snake under these conditions would be as lucky as winner the big one in Lotto .. after approximately 100 meters of walking the little fella below tried to cross the path in front of us. According to my previous statement it could obviously not be a snake - that would be too lucky - so I mentioned that there was a good chance of it being a legless lizard ... having had a bit of time looking at photos and a visit to the the website for the Atlas of NSW Wildlife, I must admit that Gundabooka is inhabited by two types of snakes with black heads, the Monk Snake and the Mallee Black-headed snake, my best guess is that our little friend is a juvenile of the latter. Crossing the scrubby flats is warm and tedious work, but the reward is well worth it, as soon as the landscape start rising the bushes and trees disappear and you start climbing Mount Gundabooka. There is no well defined path to follow and if you get to eager and try to gain high too fast, you are likely to be find yourself stuck in a dead end having to backtrack, but as long as you take it easy and just follow the flow of the landscape it is an easy climb. Taking your time on the way up gives you the possibility of observing how plants, insects and animals change as you leave the grassland below and get some rock under food. The views change as well! What a lovely way to spend time with some good friends! Sitting on a big rock in the middle of nothing, with wood swallows circling around you, skinks curiously peaking out from their small caves and a wedge-tailed eagle hovering high above trying to spot dinner or just out stretching its wings. The raw landscape of Gundabooka national park and the views from the mountain makes it one of my absolute favorite national parks in Australia. If you live in Sydney and have visitors flying in, that are willing to (and capable of) doing a good hike/climb, I think Gundabooka is their best chance of getting a feel of what the Australian outback is about .. unless you splash out and fly.