Sorry about the lack of updates recently, I’m starting to get used to life in the rainforest, so the excitement level is inching back towards normal, and I have less to report on. For most of this past week though, I’ve been camping on the edge of the Outback, and I feel like there’s some things to mention about that.
We spent our time in the area of Chillagoe, a small town to our west which took four hours to reach on poorly maintained country roads. Biologically, Chillagoe was fascinating because its dry, arid environment is so different from the lush, tropical one we’ve been frolicking in for the past few weeks. For me in particular, that also meant a whole slew of new birds to watch out for, and the area did not disappoint me, bird list to be updated as soon as I’m done with this. The other two birders got many more species than me though, mostly because their van got lost and drove on through the Outback for an extra 90 kilometers, through some apparently incredible habitat that netted them stuff like Sarus Crane, for which I will forever be jealous. I mean, c’mon, Sarus Crane! Whatever, I’m relatively happy with the birds I got to see, and that’s good enough for me. I did get to be the only observer of a Black-breasted Buzzard on the way back, which I did not realize is an astonishing sighting, our Centre Director (who’s also an avid birder) has only seen three in her entire life, and two of them were sitting on a nest she was directed to. So yeah, I was pleased with that, wish I got a better look rather than just a quick drive-by glance, but I’ll take whatever I can get with that bird.
Our first night camping was pretty rough unfortunately. It was scorching hot, I was sweating buckets, and my sleeping bag could not have been more uncomfortable. The guy (not) sleeping to my left ended up abandoning his sleeping bag completely and rolled it up to use as a pillow, a strategy which I quickly stole and was subsequently also adopted by the (not) sleeper on my right. At one point during the night, the kid to my left got up to use the bathroom, and since he’s also one of my cabinmates, I know his general schedule, so I figured oh, it must be 4:30 in the morning, since that’s when he usually gets up to do this, and that means the night’s almost over! I looked at my alarm clock anyways and, no way, it’s only 12:30?! I clenched my eyes shut, cursed silently at the Chillagoe night, who didn’t respond, and tossed around some more in frustration. At some point during the night, it started raining, highly unusual for the area, and at some point after that, part of our tent collapsed from the rain. Highly amusing stuff to deal with in the rain at 5 in the morning. At least we didn’t get flooded like a few of the others. Fortunately, I was a lot more comfortable the next night, and by comfortable I actually mean that I got flooded with mosquitoes and biting flies instead of rain. But I slept through that at least!
Chillagoe is a small town, population around 250, and I learned something intriguing from my Poli Sci professor. In the big cities of Australia, like Sydney or Brisbane, people wave with their entire hand, much like we’re used to seeing in the US. But the further you move away from the population centers, the fewer fingers people use in their waves. As you head into the country, people start waving with just four of their fingers, then three, two, and finally at Chillagoe the locals were acknowledging our presence with just one finger. It was interesting to watch. People seemed to be really freaked out by this, and for some reason I wasn’t as much, and I couldn’t figure it out for a while. Then I realized something: I don’t know when I started, but for years, I’ve been waving with three fingers. That didn’t occur to me until this trip. I still do the full palm wave occasionally, but only sort of ironically and playfully to certain friends who I find especially amusing. If I’m saying hello to anyone else, from across a room or down a long hallway, it’s my default three-fingered wave, which I really didn’t realize that I used, until now. Isn’t that exciting?! Why didn’t anyone point this out to me? I wonder if it comes from North Carolina, though Raleigh seems more like four-fingered territory. Maybe I need to move further out into the country, amongst my three-fingered comrades. This three-fingered wave feels completely natural to me, and I feel really strange doing the full palm waves unironically at this point. Curious.
I wish I could post some of my photos from Chillagoe and from this entire Australian adventure in general, but like I said earlier, the internet connection here at the Centre is slower than frozen molasses, so not happenin. I finally got to try out the Internet Cafe in a nearby town today, but it was pretty amazingly slow as well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since Atherton is still just a country town, somewhere between Cairns and Chillagoe. Anyways, none of my photos were done uploading by the time I headed out to play Ultimate Frisbee with all of the guys, so we’ll have to wait a bit longer. I’ll see if I can wrangle a bit more time at that cafe, or if I can find a better connection over Spring Break, or something at some point would be good. We’ll cross our fingers and shoot for then, whenever it is.
And of course, leech update!
Leeches attached: ~65
Leeches that have feasted on my blood: 2
Got my first exams on Monday, but I’m not too worried. Hopefully I’ll get back to you guys sooner rather than later this time. Peace out.
Edit: It look like two of my photos mysteriously made it through the upload process, which is cool. So here’s the two that randomly made it through:
Lindsay, Wynnie, and Josie on the Site Walk
Cathedral Fig in the Danbulla National Park, a 4 km walk from our property