Report No. 4. Friday, August 22 thru Sunday, August 24. LEAVING OUR GURU.

 

Reminder: Sharon's added comments are in {brackets}. Comments inserted after returning to San Jose are in red.

Fri, August 22, 2003. Day 9 of 118. ON OUR OWN AGAIN. THE CROCODILE HUNTER'S HOME. AND NOT HOME.

It's 814am. Here we sit in the motorhome. Greg left on his bicycle about 20 minutes ago. Karen drops Ian off at school on her way to work. They left ten minutes ago. We're aiming for the Crocodile Hunter today. Or more specifically the Australia Zoo, which is his headquarters

I learned from Karen that here the mailman delivers mail, but doesn't pick any up. Everybody has to take their own mail to the post! {She kindly takes our postcards with her to mail at a post box. We sure are being well taken care of by our Australian friends.}

We're off and quickly stop for a fillup at a BP station, with the first pay at the pump setup we've seen. They have an information center, and Sharon picks up some maps we don't have. We're off again and quickly are on the main highway headed north, through Kaboolture, for one. We're near the area of Australia called the Sunshine Coast, though we're several miles inland. A little after nine we're driving past a big mountain of a rock, part of the Glass House Mountains.

On up the road, we don't know how scared to be when we see a sign that says "Caution. Slasher Ahead." We don't see anything unusual and it seems that the Slasher is on his break. {We guess it is the large vertical mower than trims the roadsides}

Earlier we passed the turnoff to the Big Fish, but don't know what that is. Just now we have gone past The Big Mower, a display in front of a lawnmower store. Sharon picks up a sign on a church that says, "An ego trip is something that gets you nowhere."

We have both read "A Sunburned Country," by Bill Bryson, an Englishman/American. Born in America, he lived in England for twenty years, and loves to hike. In his book, he says in Australia it is popular to be the big shrimp, the big prawn, etc. So I decide I want to keep track of this.

By 9:30am we are at the Australia Zoo, and there are big advertisement photos of The Crocodile Hunter all over the place. We head in and pause outside the Dingo Information Center, where we can't decide which one ate Meryl Streep's 'bieby.' And I can no longer hear the word 'dingo' without also thinking the sentence, "A dingo ate moy bieby."

Poster Boy

During our walk through the Australia Zoo, we watch a Cassowary from an elevated walkway. Now the funny thing is, our toes are even with his beak. And you can put the toe of your foot under the bottom bar. This gets the attention of the cass, who comes straight away after your toe. Which you then pull back to safety. {If I thought it was bad to be bitten by a brush turkey, just imagine THIS guy biting you!}

We think that the Cassowary could be the Slasher we've been wondering about. We leave the big bird and cross a bridge, when Sharon notices movement to our right, on a tree at about the ten foot level. We study and discuss and argue and finally ID it as a LITTLE SHRIKE-THRUSH*, formerly called Rufous Shrike-thrush.

When we first came in, I asked the ticket lady whether Steve (Irwin, The C.H.) would be performing today. She says, "I haven't seen him (nice pause), but that doesn't mean he's not here. Try the twelve o'clock show. He might be there." I immediately have a flash of clarity and recognize this as the standard answer the staff is to give when anybody asks, if Steve is not at home. Call me realistic.

We continue our walkaround, and get a nice Scarlet Honeyeater. What a nice bird. Sharon says, "Yes, and we got it by ourselves." Like how are we going to miss that red color?

We grab seats for the noon show by about 11:30 and while Sharon saves our seats, I go up to the food level, get a couple of hot dogs, some fries {chips here} and soft drinks, then make my way back down. The show starts, it's fun learning about the salt water croc. They take their prey when that prey is down at water's edge. The croc uses its tail and can lunge out, but once he's out, he can't move forward all that fast.

But I don't aim to test what the critical speed is. I don't want Sharon to be in a movie and say, "A crocodile ate moy husband." By 100pm, we're back out, and on the road, headed north.

We turn off the highway later in the day, headed for a place with the great name of Tin Can Bay, and Rainbow Beach. It's this latter community we're headed for. Well, it's actually Inskip Point we're here to visit, but we'll camp the night at a caravan park in Rainbow Beach.

We pass a small orchard that is a kind of inverse aviary. It is totally enclosed in tight mesh fabric, but it's to keep the birds out, not in, protecting whatever fruit is the product of this orchard.

We come to the 'Y' and take the right fork, leaving Tin Can Bay to others, while we head for Rainbow Beach. It looks like this is a big forestry area. Pine trees are to our right - acres and hectares of them. In various stages of ages.

We check in, get our site, put a chair down with our electrical cord tied to it (to save the spot), pick up another Scarlet Honeyeater plus a Noisy Friarbird and another bird we can't quite ID.

By 4pm, we are out at Inskip, in the parking lot. We will take a crack at the rare Black-breasted Buttonquail, as instructed by Greg yesterday. I predict we get one life bird here this afternoon, likely a honeyeater.

We get Torresian Crow, a Caspian Tern flyover and a little white butterfly. I twist my squeaker and pick up the usual White-browed Scrubwren. We get a few RAINBOW BEE-EATERS (the only kind in Oz), a Rufous Whistler, a couple of Red-browed Firetails, then a couple of BAR-SHOULDERED DOVES*. Greg pointed them out several times when we were with him, but we were never confident of the view we had to claim them.

We get a Little Friarbird, plus another bird we can't ID before it flies away. Sharon spots another White-eared Honeyeater, but then we study it closer and make it a WHITE-THROATED HONEYEATER*. We get a Woo-do-woo bird calling, and it's a PEACEFUL DOVE*, above, in the tree over our head. As we are looking up, a beautiful BRAHMINY KITE* flies halfway over, reverses its course, and flies away again. Beautiful contrast of bright rust with a brilliant white head, and a perfectly clean interface.

We see several other birds we can't agree on, or don't have any ideas for, and let them go. {We didn't see any buttonquail but we saw lots of evidence they are here. This bird scratches on the ground in a very particular way. He spins in a circle to clear the leaves away and expose bugs, seeds, etc. This results in saucer-sized depressions on the ground and we see many of these so we know the bird has been actively feeding recently. We decide to come back the next morning to look for the buttonquail} We drive back into Rainbow Beach, to the actual beach, hoping for Mangrove Honeyeater, without success.

We get a bird that is olive all over the back, is a strong singer, looks sort of like a flycatcher, doing wren-like chatter. He's eating yellow blossoms. We think it might be Brown Honeyeater, but aren't sure.

Back 'home' as in motorhome, Sharon fixes us spaghetti, to which we add parmesan cheese we picked up at the grocery. Delicious. But during dinner, and in fact ALL NIGHT LONG, there are hisses and sputters and growls coming from the trees. We get out our big dude flashlight, but the batteries run out too fast.

After considering bats and nightjars as possibilities (hoping nightjars), we finally decide that they are Flying Foxes, another name for Fruit Bats. Although we never see them very well. If we were alone out here, I'd be spooked.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 6. (White-cheeked Honeyeater, Little Shrike-thrush, Bar-shouldered Dove, Peaceful Dove, Brahminy Kite, Tree Martin).
For the Trip: 96.

Trip Birds Today: 9 (6 Lifers plus Bee-eater, Pied Currawong - seen early, just now registered, House Sparrow - seen earlier, just now registered)
For the Trip: 133.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 2 (The Big Fish, The Big Mower)
For the Trip: 4

Sleep in: Rainbow Waters Holiday Park, Rainbow Beach, Queensland

 

Sat, August 23, 2003. Day 10 of 118. SPECIALTY BIRDING AT INSKIP POINT [Part of Stop 7]. THE FANTASTICALLY NAMED SPANGLED DRONGO.

It's 551am and we're getting ready to try for the extremely difficult Black-breasted Button-quail. The good news is that we are armed with Greg's instructions, which were based on his latest information gathering network. I feel very good about our chances. We're off, but first I have a close encounter with the local toilet dump station in the camp.

Spectacular sunrise at about 620am, and I can't wait to get out to Inskip Point. We decide to work the left side trail, and as quiet as can be, we enter the woods. We whisper when we talk, and I like to walk behind Sharon because I keep in step, so that our feet hit the ground at the same time, minimizing the rustle of our shuffle. We get near the end, and are now walking side by side, as the trail has opened up. Suddenly as we come around a bend, I see a small quail-like bird walk out of the tall grass on our left and about 15 feet ahead of us. He doesn't see us, and turns and walks away from us, in the same direction we're going. I get Sharon on it in a wink. Then with our breathing halted, we wait for the bird to turn one way or the other to see the breast color. I think, "Don't go in that grass. Don't go in that grass. Don't go in that grass. Turn around around around around."

The bird slows down, turns right, and we can see that he's going to enter the long grass on the right side. Then, right there, right there he turns a little more toward us, and we see her face and chest. BLACK BLACK BLACK!!! The BLACK-BREASTED BUTTON-QUAIL* disappears and we don't see it again. {The fact that it is quite black on the head and neck means that it is actually a female. In this bird, the female is larger and more brightly colored than the male. Since HE is more camouflaged, he is the one that sits on the eggs. Talk about "role reversal"!} We quietly do a victory dance at hitting our goal so early in the day, ending with a high five. We settle down (Well ONE of us does) and continue on the trail, intending to take it to the end.

Suddenly I stop Sharon again. The grass is now not uniform, but in clumps and in one of the clumps, I see what looks like a little mouse. We wait and watch it slowly work its way from one clump to another, pausing in each. And now we know it's not a mouse, but a small brownish quail-type bird - really small. It comes to the open trail and hurries across, entering the clumps on that side. It pauses and once looks up at our frozen stances, tilts its head like it's listening for something, then continues its journey going from clump to clump. It's incredibly tiny, and we first decide it's a King Quail because of its size. This is in spite of the fact that Greg has told us to be very careful with our ID technique, because there are Brown Quail in here too. Later I call Greg, and together we sort of decide that it must be an immature BROWN QUAIL*, immature because of its size. [We are still not certain of this bird. We thought it was a King Quail, but Greg figured Brown. In an email, responding to our urging, he conceded that it might not be Brown, and if not, then King Quail was the next most likely. The problem is that two other buttonquails are also possible.]

Amazed at our lucky beginning, we continue on. Sharon has located something and it's a kingfisher. We check the bird vs. our field guides, and it's a nice COLLARED KINGFISHER*. What a day, and it's not 7am yet. We make it to the end of the trail and check the birds on the sand spits off the end of the beach. We get an INTERMEDIATE EGRET, a medium small bird with black bill, black legs and a little yellow just in front of the eyes. It has a shallow 'S' shape for a neck. We continue working the beach, and quickly get a SACRED KINGFISHER*.

After a few more feet, we see a honeyeater working in some greenery by the beach. First we make it out to be a White-eared, but then it becomes clear that it's a MANGROVE HONEYEATER*. In the correct light angle, we can see the barring on the throat, dirty yellow side of the head, and the little spot of white behind that.

Now almost back to the motorhome, we see some fairly large waders. We get on one, and it has an unbelievably long bill. It's a female EASTERN CURLEW*, and must be very attractive to the males, who must be jealous that they don't have such long ones.

On the way back from the beach, Sharon picks us up a nice Variegated Fairy-wren. There were lots of shorebirds at the beach, but we're not very good with their identification, and we don't feel like getting into them.

Our next planned stop is to try for Ground Parrot, using information Greg gave us, but we're not sure our vehicle will make it down there and back without getting stuck or damaged. Plus there are other locations later in the trip that have this bird, and a couple of others Greg mentioned. We decide to head on down the road

On the way back off the Point, we get some dove-like birds and have trouble deciding if they are Bar-shouldered Doves or some kind of bronzewing. Again, we decide not to spend a lot of time, so we let them go.

In town (Rainbow Beach), we watch two Masked Lapwings stand about two feet apart, directly facing each other. Every once in a while, one will do a deep bow. Then the other one will do the same. It's either a pair doing a mating ritual, or two males trying to out-bow each other. Two females would never waste their time on such efforts.

We continue on our way, towards Gympie. Sharon teaches me how to use the electronic trip odometer. Finally, and hot dang. Somebody tell me to drive 2.7 km or something. I'm ready. {One of the first things I do when we get a new rental vehicle is to read the owner's manual if they include one. I learn all kinds of interesting things. But you should have seen me try to do this in Turkey, when all the instructions were in Turkish! Sometimes I could guess at it from the pictures, but mostly not.}

As we drive on, we notice a red light twinkling on and off on one of the alarm indicators on the dash. We can't recognize the symbol, and Sharon gets out the user manual and finds the light. If it's a real indication, it means the gadget that separates water from the diesel fuel has filled up its reservoir and needs to be emptied. And if you don't take care of it fairly promptly, the world will come to an end, film at 11.

We conclude that as long as its twinkling, it's probably ok. But if it turns solid, that's when we have to start wishing we had done something about it when it started twinkling.

We come to the Gympie Connection Road, and those last two words are the equivalent of our "cutoff." At 1045am, we are in Gympie proper and I have to stop for gas because at the Shell Service Station, it's only 79.9 cents per liter. This makes the price be about the same as in California right now.

We decide to go to a mechanic and see if they are familiar with the blinking light indicator. I find a place, pull in, and Sharon takes the $20 phone card I bought (in addition to our cell phone), and tries to call her mom and dad. She can't get the right combination of numbers, prefixes, country codes, area codes and pick six combos to get the call through, so she comes back and we decide to use our cell phone and call them.

Meanwhile the mechanic isn't familiar with this particular indicator and suggests turning the car on, letting it idle for several minutes, and see if it comes on. Being a test engineer in my former life, I understand the wisdom of the idea as I start the engine. The light doesn't come on or even blink, so I call the manager of the Coolobah company, Tom, and tell him what's going on. He says it is very likely a faulty connection or indicator, rather than the situation that the indicator is warning about. But if it comes on solid, then get to a mechanic right away.

Sharon in the meantime has called Ed and Gretchen and the mobile phone works its magic. I am looking forward to the time when you can stand anywhere on the planet, and for 9 cents a minute, you can call anybody else anywhere on the planet. She talked ten minutes or so, it seems, and it costs less than $5 Australian. A great bargain.

This is the first international trip we've taken where we got a mobile phone, and it's paying dividends.

Let's say we're in the outback on the Birdsville Track and daughter Tara and husband Cihan are skiing on Mt. Uludag in Turkey. Her phone rings, she answers and I describe the Hall's Babbler we're looking at. Tara laughs at the idea that I would want to telephone her to talk about a bird. Then we win the lottery and Sharon invents a cure for mean-spiritedness in big city commute traffic. Let's just say...

The highway is going through acres and miles of sugar cane patches now. Sharon's reaction to all this sugar cane is as predictable to me as tomorrow's sunrise. "That's where they have those Taipan snakes."

I say that's right, and to work there you'd have to have a good eye. Then we start comparing the phrase "good eye," as used in the previous sentence, with "Good Day," as spoken by an Aussie. Their "Good Day" sounds to me like "G'die." Which is pretty much "good eye," if you have a g'dear.

It's a little before 1pm, and it's incredibly windy, blowing us around in gusty bursts. We stop for lunch and a rest break. I was up till 215am this morning, but I was riding on Buttonquail adrenalin. We have a little rest and are back on the road about 230pm.

There's sugar cane as far as you can see to the right, all the way to a forest, to the left, and as far as you can see in front.

Sharon is always accusing me of making up answers when she asks a question, even if I don't know the answer. I've tried to explain that for a guy, it's easy to make projections about the future, using existing conditions and logical assumptions about the future. It's mostly just common sense. So lately when she asks me a question she doesn't know the answer to (a rare occasion), and I give her the answer, she'll ask, "Do you KNOW the answer, or are you just guessing again?" So I usually say something friendly to break the tension in the air, like, "Both." Or "What's it to ya?"

We are driving down the highway right now, listening to classical music on the radio. It is pretty nice weather. It's overcast, but like the overcast you get in Hawaii. Like rain showers are coming, and it's delicious.

We pass a motel that says something like Bundaburg River Hotel, "Under Old Management." We come into Bundaberg, visit the information center, and pick up maps and helpful information from the friendly, competent, knowledgable workers. Then back on the road.

We see a sign for strawberries, and turn off to get some. We meet Loraine, all dressed up in red and looking a little like a strawberry, doing business from the end of a small trailer set up permanently in her front yard, but at the road. She has just had the strawberries picked, and they are separated into Grade A and "Seconds." We decide on one kilogram ("Kilo" we say to her, all professional and Aussie) of the Grade A. Knowing her business, she lets us taste some of each grade, and we go ahead and get a kilo of Grade A.

The Strawberry Lady

Then driving in the downtown region, suddenly we get the now-recognized SPANGLED DRONGO*, one of the cooler bird names in the world, and this is a bird name that has intrigued us for a couple of years now. It's black and the long tail ends in what reminds me of a lyre. It has red eyes and little speckles, or spangles if you will.

We pass a sports field in a school, and each girl is wearing the same uniform. Well not the SAME uniform, that'd be silly. But each of their uniforms looks like all the others. It's a big netball tournament. Rectangular pole sticking up in the middle of the court, and hanging off one end is a net, like a basketball hoop. We don't know how to play netball. But if they'd show us, I bet we'd kick their butts. Heck, we're not even 60 yet.

We make our way to Apollo Gardens Caravan Park in Bundaberg about 345pm, and it feels good to get in early. We see our first Fifth Wheel in Australia. It's owned by Brian and Mary, and is pulled by a pickup truck. The hitch is under an expensive tonneau cover, with a hatch that opens to get to the hitch. A hitch hatch.

This is definitely the best camping facility we've been in yet. "Ensuite bath, shower." That turns out to mean each camper has its own little shower/toilet building, and we have the only key."

We will skip Birding Stop 8, because we have already seen the specialty bird of this location.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 7. (Black-breasted Buttonquail, Brown Quail, Collared Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Mangrove Honeyeater, Eastern Curlew, Spangled Drongo).
For the Trip: 103.

Trip Birds Today: 8 (7 Lifers plus Intermediate Egret)
For the Trip: 141.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 0
For the Trip: 4

Apollo Gardens Caravan Park, Bundeberg, Queensland

 

Sun, August 24, 2003. Day 11 of 118. BIG DRIVING DAY.

The alarm is off at twenty to six. We rig for travel and by 615am, we are looking for the road to Gin Gin, the next major town to the north. We sail by Burnett Sawmill. Sharon says Webster, Wisconsin, where her grandfather lived for most of his life, is in Wisconsin's Burnett County, and her grandfather worked as a lumberman.

We pass a Subway Shop, the same sandwich chain as in San Jose. Somebody pulled their chain all the way to Australia. Nicknames are very popular in Oz, and many signs advertise "Downtown Hotel Bundy," for example, meaning Bundaberg.

We cross the Kennedy Bridge, and looking to the right, we can see expensive boats moored on the river, with the sun just rising, producing those wonderful oranges and pinks. Too bad I couldn't get a shot, but it is beautiful. We pass Jumbuck's Baa and Grill, which has a painting of a goofy sheep on the front.

We see that ahead, there is something called The Town of 1770. What's that mean? We hope that it's on our route, but a turnoff points to the right to whatever this is. Later, Sharon does her thing with our travel books, and finds that this town honors the fact that Captain Cook came by here in the year -, well I think I'll let you guess the year. So if I wanted to tell you to go there, I'd give you directions to the town of The Town of 1770. I think there's more that could be done with this, but I'll let it go.

We pass a field of sugar cane, with the brownish tassels sticking out on top. Sharon says it's a grass and it's topping out. Now we pass "The Big Bull," which turns out to be Don Pancho's Beach Resort, and has a big bull in front.

We pass a hitchhiker, kneeling by the side of the road. He's very dirty, his thumb is out, and he's got his swag with him. As we pass, I swear I hear him chuckling. ("Once a Jolly Swagman, sat beside a Billibong..."). A sign points to the left, says Sharon Service Station.

We see two birds chasing each other over a cane field. At first I think they are probably crows, but they have long narrow wings. Sharon notices a slight fork in their tails, and we have our first BLACK KITES* of the trip. We pass Sharon Nature Park. Very nice, well kept, and you might say beautiful. Overhead, going in the same direction as we are, is another large raptor. It is dark brown and is being blown all over the place by the wind. We think by its shape and face that it might be a Brown Falcon, but then we think it's flying more like a hawk.

There's a kite for sure. There is another great big bird high above, and we pass under him. I just see big wings, with white on the front half and dark on the rear. Or was it white on the rear half and dark on the front? Maybe it was a Whistling Kite. Then for sure a dark falcon goes over us, and we peg it as a BROWN FALCON*. Man, the raptors are up today. We've been on the road 10-12 minutes and have seen 7 raptors already. {The main reason is that they are harvesting the sugar cane, a process that stirs up the bugs, small reptiles, and rodents that live in the cane. So we see many birds coming to the buffet laid out for them}

We see quite a few windmills, reminding me of my uncles' farms in central Missouri. There's one turning rapidly as we pass. Now that we've seen all these raptors, we are becoming more confident of our ability to differentiiate Black Kite from Whistling Kite. But that's about all.

The Australian states (e.g. New South Wales, Queensland) are divided into shires (like our counties). We pass a little field of date palms. The fruit clusters are already in bags, tightly closed and tied, so the flying foxes (say "FROOT bats") don't get them.

We come into the town limits of Gin Gin as a Pheasant Coucal flies off the road, upon our approach. We pass a farm on the right that has the word WANNADROP painted on its side, and it marks 700am.

As we drive, we notice that on most big semi rigs and lots of other vehicles, an extra "kangaroo catcher" grill is attached to the front, to minimize vehicle damage upon contact with the roos. We don't have one, and so we hope we don't try to occupy the same space at the same time as a kangaroo. Maybe a little Pademelon would be ok.

We come to the Granite Park Rest Area, honoring Bernie somebody or other. Maybe it's the famous Hot Thumbs Bernie. As Sharon has pointed out, this is probably only a nickname. His real name is likely Hot Thumbs Thompson. We stop for breakfast and have a nice leisurely breakfast. Sharon goes to the park's toilet, but there's no paper so she comes back to the motorhome, gets paper and goes again.

When she comes back she says that when she was there, she saw a young mother talking to her son. Son: Mom can I keep it? Mom: No, put that back down. Son: Aw mom. But Sharon picks it up on a eucalypt leaf and brings it over. Well the leaf is on her hand, and the ELEPHANT BEETLE* [actually, RHINOCEROUS BEETLE] is half on the leaf and half on her hand. Sharon wants pictures to show grandsons, so we take several. When we finally try to take it off Sharon's shoulder it starts hissing. You heard me. Or read me. Hissing! This is a serious bug.

If the Melody don't get you, the Beat 'l.

As we're fooling around (taking pictures of the bug), suddenly Sharon yells "BROLGAS*". Three fly over looking and sounding very much like Sandhill Cranes. But binoculars show them to be gray not sandy. Fantastic. Hissed off, we leave the Elephant Beetle behind and hit the road again.

We drive by a roadhouse by Coliseum Creek. A few kilometers (or k's, as the Aussies say) back, there was an ad for this roadhouse that said "Marvelous Meals and Fabulous Food." It's a neat layout with a fuel area populated with three prodigious pumps. Next to that is a restaurant, and fanned out on a higher level, behind this level are several motel rooms in a neat line. It's a nice layout and very inviting. A sign says to ring the night bell if you get there late.

Yesterday Sharon put in a call to AA, and left a message, to call our cell phone number. Later last night, Brian James called back, when we were in camp and asked our plans for tomorrow (today, now). There was no AA meeting last night, but he would be glad to come and sit and talk with Sharon, thinking she might be in a crisis, but, her husband excepted, there's no crisis. He said he'd bring over what's called a "Where-to-find" in the UK and a meeting schedule book in America. Only here, it's called a Pathfinder, and it's for all of Queensland. He said when we get to MacKay, tell them that she talked to him. Hey there goes a Wedge-tailed Eagle and I recognized him on the fly. So to speak. Fantastic.

We're doing the Sunday morning drive to classical music. It's very nice and relaxing. Sharon is over there knitting and I'm here spinning yarns. We pass through Miriam Vale now, a very tidy little town.

We fill up at the Caltex Quality Oils place. 58.1 liters, 84.9 cents/liter, for $48.75 Australian. After several tanks of diesel, I know the numbers now:

17 miles per gallon (7 kilometers per liter) 13 cents US per mile (13 cents Australian per kilometer, as it happens to work out at the current exchange rate), fuel costs between $1.90 and $2.20 US/gallon (between 80 and 95 cents Australian/liter).

Those numbers seem quite reasonable for our trip.

We come upon a sign that says 60 k/hr if it is market day. We aren't quite sure what that is, but we come around a corner and suddenly, on the left, there are lots of buildings close together, like a small county or state fair. But we're in the middle of woodland. There must be 3000 cars parked out there. Maybe 5000. There's a historical village, a huge sale barn. For cattle and horses? Also a huge giant blow up thing like a castle that kids jump up and down in at a birthday party. Only this one is about three stories high.

It's 1100am as we pass Pajool Explosive Reserve. A sign says to watch for trucks turning with explosives, next 1 kilometer. And why should I stop watching for them after only 1 k? We pass through a small town, waiting at a light to make a right turn when Sharon notices a Baskin Robbins. Are they open yet? We strain to see, but it doesn't look like it. "You Baskins!" I yell. "You killed Kenny." (More "South Park"). Then as we round the turn, we see that they're open. "Oops. Scuse me."

We cross the Fitzroy river at twenty till noon, and we start looking for a place to pull over for lunch. We finally pull off at a rest stop with one of those plaques Sharon is always trying to get me to stop at so she can read. I try to find imaginative excuses, but sometimes I come up empty.

We have sandwiches, sliced tomatoes (excellent in Oz, so far), crisps (potato chips), a coke and a diet pepsi, a couple of cookies and we're off again

Sharon's getting deep into "The Da Vinci Code" now and says to me, "You're gonna like this book. It's all about numbers and codes." She asks if I have ever heard of Fibinochi numbers and I say, "I don't know how to spell it, but it's a sequence where each number is some kind of combination of the previous ones, but I don't recall exactly." She tells me, pleased as punch to learn me something, "Each numbah is the sum of the two previous numbahs," she says in decent Aussie.

Most of the cattle here are of the Brahma variety, with the big humps over their front shoulders and ears that point down, giving them that "You want a piece o' me?" look. When I was a kid and sometimes went to the Camdenton J-Bar-H rodeo, there would be bucking broncos, calf roping and bull riding, and other events. The worst bulls were always the Brahmas. But we called them Bramer Bulls, when we'd talk about which bulls and stallions were the worst ones.

It's 200pm and the countryside is very very dry here now. We drive over lots of creeks, and I'd say 9 out of 10 are bone dry. A few have billabongs - pools of water that are left when a stream dries up, and the flow stops, but deeper sections of the river still have standing water. I just love that word. It just bounces off my tongue and your brain.

According to Tanya, who delivered us from the airport to Coolabah Motorhome Rentals, this drought has been going on seven years now. Down around Brisbane and Lamington, I couldn't tell because things seemed to be very green, but this looks like the scrubs of Needles, California in August.

We notice a sign announcing a banana stand ahead a couple of k's, and we slow down. We pull in and it's an old van, painted banana yellow, with several bags of bananas inside. There is a heavy duty place to drop your $2 per kilogram (bag), and we look at the Goldfingers, Cavendishes and Ladyfingers. We take a couple of pictures and one bag of bananas.

Banana Rama Ning Ding

About ten minutes past the banana stand, we can see blue. There's a huge sand expanse, and turquoise beyond that. The Ocean.

We come upon a cane field cutting operation. There are lots of birds all over it. Kites and other raptors are circling low overhead. A white necked heron and about a hundred crows follow the cutting, hoping for lizard-type snacks. And there are two Brolgas. We make out 2-3 Whistling Kites, one Black Kite and a Falcon flyover. We make it out to be a Brown Falcon. There is another bird with a very short, rounded tail, but I'm overwhelmed with all the birds, and we decide to move on.

We pull in for fuel again, and the Ampol Service place says they are out of diesel. We'll go on in to Serina. We locate the BP station there and I get a good calibration on my GPS. We are parked next to the pump and the GPS reads 0.0 for speed. Man, those satellites are accurate.

For the first time in Australia, an attendant comes out and actually pumps the gas. Her name is Joyce, and we thank her, telling her about our adventure when she asks. We also get a little milk, a couple of ice cream sandwiches and talk a little more with her. She says her husband is a good birder, and recently joined a group from Melbourne (say MELL-b'n, not MELL-born). Anyway, you had to have some pretty good credentials to join them. They went to some restricted property in the deep outback, and I am not jealous, because we're on a nice little adventure ourselves.

We pass a field of Magpie Geese on the right about 430pm, and the countryside has changed again. It is very lush here, and it has been raining for the last half hour. It's very wet.

Chuffed that we made such a good distance today, we are in our site in the Premier Caravan Park in MacKay and set up by 515pm.

Unbelievably, this caravan park feeds birds. And it's Rainbow Lorikeets they feed. There are, I'd estimate, 150 birds in my sight . We walk the grounds a little but don't get any lifers. This is after Sharon gets the laundry going, an act that I am extremely grateful for. Nothing like a fresh shirt and shorts. Well, wait, how about chocolate chip ice cream?

Rainbow Lorikeets

Sharon has all the information for tonight, and after dinner we back out of our spot at 730pm and locate the AA meeting in Mackay. I have a great time, updating the numbers and the next report as I wait for her in the motorhome, every single thing in the rig operating on batteries.

Sharon is out at 930pm, we head for home, and the world is good. {It was a small meeting, only 5 of us there and one was a woman there to support her boyfriend. (She really needed AlAnon from some of her statements about alcoholism and I and one of the other members talked to her after the meeting aabout AlAnon and how to find a meeting for herself.) Other than that, it was really good to get in a meeting.}

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 3. (Black Kite, Brown Falcon, Brolga).
For the Trip: 106.

Trip Birds Today: 3 (The 3 Lifers)
For the Trip: 144.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 1 (The Big Bull)
For the Trip: 5

Sleep in: Premier Caravan Park, McKay, Queensland

Asta lumbago. It's a night.

This is the end of Report No. 4


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