Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walkabout: Part 1

Carol fanned herself with the wide brim of her hat. How she had let Daryl con her into a vacation in Australia of all places in the world, in the middle of summer, she couldn't recall.

"Daryl! Have you seen any crocs yet?" She yelled from the sweltering shade of the trees she had taken cover under.

"No. Dear."

He had been adamant about seeing all the dangerous animals the smallest continent had to offer. Saltwater crocodiles were at the top of his list. He was a camera hunter, although he was slow on the draw and missed twice more shots than he caught. He said it was enough for him just to see the animals with his own eyes, though. Memories to carry the rest of his life. Nevermind that his memory had been fading fairly significantly the past several years.

"Oy! You can wander up the trail over here!"

Daryl had hired a guide to take them into Rinyirru National Park for the day in order to check off his list of critters. Carol, in the meantime, was simply along for the ride, trying to mete out whatever enjoyment she could out of the trip. She enjoyed a good sunny spot as much as the next lady, but over a hundred degrees was too much of a good thing.

"Carol, come on, we're heading up the river a bit further."

She groaned, standing up and looking around. She wished she'd stayed at the hotel. Her hat replaced on her head, she headed after them down a small trail.

The park was an interesting mix of mangroves, swamps, and rainforest, quickly transitioning to grasslands and hills as you went south. Carol had initially been surprised at the variety, but in the heat of the day even that little interest had evaporated.

Now she didn't bother trying to hide her irritation as she followed them down the trail which meandered alongside the river, just far enough up the bank that a croc couldn't lunge up and take someone without warning. Carol watched her steps, being careful not to brush against any of the grass which hung over the edge of the trail. Daryl had made her watch enough nature shows on Australia before announcing the trip for her to be wary of the smallest bug.

Daryl's list of animals to see included the funnel web spider, and while it didn't make the list of critters to hunt down, the documentary which covered the spider also devoted time to bull ants and other insects. As far as Carol was concerned, everything out here could be hiding some deadly bite or sting.

The idea didn't scare her, so much as it pissed her off that he had insisted on coming out here. Daryl was wearing shorts, daring for some little thing to stab, sting, or bite him.

She caught up with them at the crest of a small hill, overlooking a wide bend in the river.

"Found your croc yet?"

"No. Nothing yet."

Their guide, James, pointed out the mud on the opposite bank before speaking in the thick Australian accent Daryl had insisted their guide have, though Carol thought James was playing it up for him.

"Look there. See the lines in the mud? Those are drag marks from a saltie's tail. They're around here somewhere. Or at least they were not long ago."

"Can we keep going inland? How much farther does this trail go?" Daryl sounded worried, completely oblivious to his wife's quickly fouling mood.

"This trail? It goes on for Kays still. Common for backpackers to head up this way for a weekend camping trip. There's any salties though, they'll be in the next click. I haven't seen them much farther in than that around here."

"Well, what else might we find if we keep going? Anything else on my list, here?"

Daryl dug the piece of paper out of his pocket, handing it over to their guide. Carol shifted her weight onto her left leg, crossing her arms across her chest and letting out an indignant sigh. She had her hat, and a bag with a couple bottles of water, but they hadn't actually planned on being out here all day. James had assured them it wouldn't be hard at all to actually see a croc, or a saltie as he called them. Carol was seriously considering demanding a refund of his fee when they got back to civilization.

James looked over the list and glanced back up at Daryl with a cocked brow.

"Mate, you'll be lucky if you don't see most of these your whole trip. Seriously, you want to find an eastern brown?"

"Well, I don't want to hold it or anything. I just want to get a picture, or see one at the very least."

"Ya know, there's a world-class zoo just up in Beerwah."

"Yeah, I know, I want to see them out in the wild though. Just a quick glance if that's all I get. I don't even need to take a picture."

"Mate, you're a weird one. We can go up a bit farther though, see what we can find. You see something move though, you tell me and I'll let you know what it is. Last thing I need under my belt is a dead tourist."

James sighed, his shoulders slumped as he turned and led the way further up the trail.

Daryl folded his list up and tucked it back into his pocket. His face scrunched up in the way that Carol recognized as his expression of "Nobody understands me." It was true too as he followed up the trail and she brought up the rear. Twenty-three years of marriage and she still couldn't understand his desire to see all these animals.

The trail wound away from the river and inland into the rainforest. The two men continued tromping, while she ducked her head under every branch, and shied away from leaf and blade of grass reaching out from the shade. She expected things to be cooler, even if just a little. It certainly didn't feel like it. Probably due to it being more humid underneath the canopy. She wished she was in Ireland, or Canada, or somewhere not known for its heat. At least where it was cold, you never heard people making excuses about it being dry or wet.

She felt something plop onto the brim of her hat and she quickly pulled it off to look. A leech. Lovely. She flicked it off her hat and back off into the undergrowth before hurrying after James and Daryl.


Click here for Part 2 

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