We took a wonderful drive in the country yesterday, avoiding the main highway and taking dirt roads around the hills and finally into Canberra, then out again to Yass, soaking up the wonderful sunshine, admiring the beautiful greenery of the hills – and even catching glimpses of some wildlife.
We saw a fat echidna (a spiny burrowing mammal, usually nocturnal) waddling across the road, and later a very healthy looking black snake (yes, poisonous), both of them making it safely to the other side of their perspective stretches of road.
Out on the highway again, a large kangaroo jumped out into traffic, fortunately picking gaps between the cars and making it safely across also. Being a bright day and low foliage by the roadside, he was easy to spot, and the drivers in the line of traffic had grins on their faces, even when the unpredictable roo turned around and hopped right back again. After that, he raced along the fence line, keeping pace with us for a bit, eventually hopping over the fence and away into a paddock.
It was a glorious day.
I planned to talk about fires today, both wild and controlled, with suitable pictures from what’s turning out to be a large collection - However, being Saturday here (and a long weekend), my plans have come adrift and it turns out I won’t be here at my computer but out doing Wild Things.
Nature will absorb you into its system very readily and works heartily to do so – it will absorb you right into its food chain, if it can – this is a post about nature’s strength, the soundness of it, the vitality and robustness of Life seen and witnessed firsthand, but I should also point out that it was surprising to me purely for the backdrop of misinformation I had come from, fed to me without my awareness via television and politics and fear-mongering (no, I’m not going to wander into politics, I’m merely pointing out that I was taught to be fearful for the future, for humankind, for animals and nature and all the things we’d been told humankind was “destroying” and why it was such an upbeat thing to find it wasn’t so).
When did I wake up to just how powerful nature is? After moving out into the wild, pretty bloody quickly.
We wanted to enjoy the wilderness because we love nature. That’s why we moved onto a wilderness block, so we could live there in a tiny section of it, and enjoy all the beauty and the wildlife of the rest of it with most of our 250 acres in Australia’s Top End (Northern Territory) left completely undisturbed. Which is what we did.
Well, as you know, we nudged Nature over and made a little space for ourselves. Nature nudged right back and took up her rightful wilderness-mode position – which was all over us. The seven foot python under the bed, then the bats, then the flood, then more snakes, all these things were subtle hints that Nature was in charge here and always will be. [Note: the links above are stories only and have no pictures - for snake pictures, see HERE, for others look through the pages listed under Wilderness Photos in the top menu.]
Every now and then the dingoes would put in an appearance at our camp, which bothered me if I was caught away from the caravan or any place I could duck into (like the cab of a vehicle) – generally they are wary of humans, but hunger will drive them to be more daring and people have been attacked by dingoes, after all when you are looking at wild animals, the laws of nature apply in full force (largely, eat or be eaten) - nature is not a peaceful place, despite what it seems on the surface and despite what we have been encouraged to believe via television and animal-loving movies. Those blinkers get whipped off pretty fast when you are out there and isolated.
During the Wet season there was undoubtedly plenty of rain, and our block of 250 acres had two creeks running through it – the picture above is one of them, and below is a picture of the same creek further down the road and around the corner where it got adventurous sometimes, as you can see.
Sometimes, the middle of that crossing was deep enough for the water to go over the headlights of the Land Rover.
At the time that we moved there, there were supposedly no crocodiles, but “Freshies” soon moved into the local lake, causing some concern.
Freshwater crocodiles are not as dangerous as the saltwater crocs (known as “Salties”), but they can still be quite large and they can still bite. Don’t let the two names fool you, either, you get plenty of Salties in freshwater creeks and waterholes. As Salties include Freshies in their diet, they tend to follow where the Freshies go, so we knew it was only a matter of time before the saltwater crocodiles turned up.
I know, I know, just as you thought this was a writing blog, it turned into a wilderness site – I can’t believe I showed you our primitive toilet seat (some people show pictures of their children. Me? Snakes, a toilet seat and lots of trees. Never mind, more to come) – so I suppose I should put in an appearance as a writer before everyone wanders down the wilderness trail and gets lost.
How about I give you an update?
So it came to be, on my very first day in isolation, I had to teach myself how to drive and operate a backhoe and create a track deeper into our 250 acres – to give the idea of scale, if the average size suburban block (in Australia) is 1/8 of an acre, you could fit 2000 houses onto 250 acres (leaving roads out of the equation for simplicity) – another good indicator of size is that the boundary was approximately 7 kilometres long (over four miles).
So, I looked at the backhoe and the backhoe looked at me… then I scouted out the site we were on… and I looked at the hilltop and the hilltop looked at me…
As so many of you seem to be enjoying the photos of our time in the wilderness disconnected from the grid and without a house, I will continue sharing some of our adventures next week – briefly now, I want to pop back into science fiction mode and tell you how living in the wilderness helped me to write better science fiction, and also tell you that it was there – living rough – that The Khekarian Series was born (also includes more photos – the odds and ends).
In Doing the Pioneering Thing, I spoke about being left on the side of the road to look after an open trailer of our belongings while Greg took our then only car to go and collect the caravan we would use as an office (computers being more vulnerable to the weather, they got the caravan, we got the tent).
This is the road where Greg left me (our land is to the right), and it was down there I saw the dingoes moving in as it got dusk. I had nowhere to retreat to, but fortunately, the pack sensed me and disappeared into the trees on the opposite side of the road and continued their journey by going around me.
The problem was that Greg got delayed taking a wrong turn somewhere so it wasn’t until well after dark that he turned up. What a welcome sight his car headlights were! Until that moment, though, things were just looking worse. Totally unprepared for nightfall, I had no light with me, no torch, not even any matches, and I can tell you, one of the things most easily forgotten when you live in a city, or even suburbia, is just how dark it gets in the country when the sun goes down.
…More photos – once we realized it was better not to sleep where we could drown (the story about the bats is HERE, the story about flooding is HERE), we moved the bed out of the pit, leaving our living room in there (anything electrical was above swimming pool level).
Prior to building our extension, though, we tried this (below).