Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Campside Lorikeet
After saying goodbye to Blade the wonder dingo-mutt, we began our journey up the coast, breaking free of the tractor beam/black hole that is the Sunshine Coast (finally!). Since our stay at Gagaju had felt a bit luxurious, we decided to take advantage of the free roadside campsites dotted along the Bruce Highway. In Yaamba, we camped behind the local pub where we had a few beers to celebrate Erin’s first legal drink as a 19 year old. I think the barkeep took pity on our vagabond appearance and general lack of personal hygiene because he gave us a pile of day old meat pies and sausage rolls on the house. We were obviously thrilled to receive such a glorious bounty.

Anyway, Marielle remembered hearing one of the Gagaju residents recommend another bush camp northwest of Mackay called Platypus, so we made it our next stop on the trip. 


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Alby and Jucy at Platypus
As we got closer to Platypus Bush Camp, located in the Finch Hatton Gorge of Eungella National Park, the landscape drastically changed from sparse scrubland with the occasional Eucalyptus forest to endless fields of sugarcane, encircled by misty mountains covered in lush rainforest vegetation. A few creek crossings later, we arrived at Platypus. The camp was set up as a half-camping area, half-jungle hut retreat. Nestled among the palm fronds were several open-air huts on 6 ft stilts. One of the coolest things at Platypus was the “jungle shower” – one-sided bamboo shower stalls open to the jungle elements. It’s a great idea if you’re comfortable being naked in the presence of a leaf-tailed gecko or 3 in. long huntsman spider.


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Inside of Rainforest Shower (other half is open air)
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Australian Whistling Tarantula
The camp was run by a small, very wrinkly, very beardy Aussie bushman in flip-flops and straw hat. He was really friendly and accommodating to us, right up until he thought we were trying to light his tiki-style dining area on fire when we were lighting a camp stove for dinner. Australians have the innate gift of profanity when the time is right, or when they’ve been drinking, or all the time.

This was our first experience with real rainforest – dense, moist air, lush Kermit-green vegetation, and freaky looking insects. Did you know there’s such a thing as a crab spider? Spider that looks like a crab. Awesome. Our first night at Platypus we encountered the biggest spider Mar and I had ever seen – the Australian Whistling Tarantula. Don’t worry; I took about 300 pictures of it. This one was about as big as a grown man’s hand. Corey discovered it when it nearly ran over his foot. Needless to say, after a semester of entymology, he was pretty stoked by the find. I was less enthused when I saw how quickly the hairy monster scuttled across the ground when poked. Heebie. Jeebies.


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Monitor Lizard (i.e. Goanna)
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Ben, Erin, and Corey at first set of Pools
2 km up the dirt road from the camp was the Wheel of Fire hiking track in Eungella National Park. The track wound through the kind of rainforest that Fern Gully and biodomes aspire to be. We passed a 3 ft monitor lizard, some kookaburras looking for handouts, some skinks, and a small brown snake with a gold band across its forehead that Mar nearly squashed. The trail frequently ran alongside a series of mini waterfalls and beautiful rock pools. We of course took full advantage. We found the water cold enough to cause unintentional girlish screams, but definitely worth the chill.


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When we said girlish screams...
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The Great White Corey Approaches

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