(A continuation of Kev Rapley’s
Day 8 Sunday 10th We awoke to another beautiful day and
a flat tyre on one of the vehicles. Gail announced that for us, Sunday
was not to be a day of rest, so after a hearty breakfast and a wheel change
we headed off with Bill and Brodie. We did an ‘animals only’
survey on the main creek, on which our only sighting had been, from the
southern boundary of the property to the next fence in a northerly direction.
Nothing was found.
After smoko we went to another part of the property where we surveyed
another creek. Again nothing was found with the exception of fresh possum
and glider droppings. On arrival back at camp we were greeted by a pair
of Red Tailed Black Cockatoos which Terry took great delight in photographing.
After a late lunch it was decided to have a short rest and then to begin
packing for our move to Marrinnya National Park, but the day was not yet
finished, yet another surprise was in store!
Later we travelled to the homestead where Bill and his daughter in law,
Jane (Brodie’s mother), guided us to an area where they keep some
fascinating fossils. These are reportedly many millions of years old and
have been studied by a number of universities. They included almost complete
fossils of Muttaburrasaurus, platyosaurus, fish and others. The plan is
for these to be preserved in a special area for public viewing in Hughenden
in the future.
For dinner that night we were joined by Bill and Rhonda, their son (also
called Bill) and his wife Jane and, of course, Brodie along with his brother
Luke. All enjoyed a great feast. Upon completion of the main course, Bill
junior and Rhonda disappeared in one of the vehicles for a short while,
returning with a welcome surprise. Trifle, jelly and ice cream for desert!
We really had eaten well on this trip.
Final goodbyes were said to all but Bill and Rhonda. Little Brodie left
delightedly and tightly clutching his newly acquired gift of the Jews
Harp, with which his new friend Terry had completely mesmerised him.
Day 9 Monday 11th We awoke to another fine morning and
vigorously began to pack for our move to Marrinnya National Park. With
breakfast and the packing over, we headed to the homestead to say goodbye
and thank you to Bill who had been a wonderful host.
From here we left for Hughenden, with Terry and I in the lead vehicle
and the ladies trailing on behind. At Hughenden we got the puncture repaired
and restocked with fuel, water and provisions. We then visited Rhonda
at the baker’s shop where she worked to enjoy an early lunch of
pies and saying our goodbyes to our wonderful co-host. It was at this
time that Terry received a small gift in return for his kindness to Brodie.
One suspects that Terry will always treasure that gift.
After a brief visit to the information centre we were on the road again.
We headed east to Prairie and then south to Tower Hill Gorge, which we
had a little trouble finding. It should be noted that Tower Hill Gorge
was the spot at which we had intended to camp on our way to Iona, but
Gail’s memory and her navigational ability had proved to be no better
than mine. Again along the road there had been a mixture of banter, sightings
and warnings about road conditions on the radio.
On arrival at the gorge a truly beautiful sight greeted us - an oasis
(typically) in the middle of nowhere. Mary had a swim, I did some fishing
(no fish caught) numerous photographs where taken and a relaxing time
was had by all. Of course all of this was only allowed after the mandatory
survey of five trees each. All that was found was prolific possum sign.
After this brief sojourn we headed for Marrinnya National Park (Marrinnya
being aboriginal for ironbark), or Shirley Station as it was originally
known. On arrival we were greeted by one of the rangers, a fellow called
Dean. He made us feel welcome, directed us to the camping spot, many kilometers
from the homestead and promised to visit us with information on koala
sightings the next morning.
On arrival at the spot we found things slightly more ‘civilised’
than at our previous camp. Some of us set up camp in an old shearing shed,
others outside. There were toilets, old but effective, and an old broken
water tank, which supplied an excellent spot to set up a shower. We were
joined, shortly after our arrival, by a friendly couple from Victoria
who had just began their retirement and were travelling the country via
the National Parks. The highlight of the evening was when Gail, after
deciding that one of the vehicles should be moved, jumped in to the back
seat in order to drive it. Of course she then bore the brunt of a number
of jokes. We were all tired so headed off to bed quite early. Thus - the
end to another wonderful day.
Day 10 Tuesday 12th. On this day, a special day as it
was Mary’s birthday, we awoke to witness a large and colorful moon
setting over the western horizon. After a breakfast of bacon, eggs, tea
and toast we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mary and presented her
with a small gift and card. A little later the ranger, Dean and his wife,
Kim, who is also a ranger, along with their baby Lillie, arrived. Dean
gave us a quick orientation to the park by map, explaining where previous
koala sightings had been made.
Dean then took Gail, Terry, Shirley and I for a drive to familiarize us
with some of the area. This took some time as we spiked a tyre on the
Parks and Wildlife vehicle and so had to change a wheel whilst away. On
arrival back at camp we enjoyed an early lunch and then set off. Our friends
from Victoria, Ron and Marge decided to walk with us; they had proven
to be good company so we were happy for them to do so.
Very early in the afternoon we discovered that the map of tracks within
the park was quite inaccurate and soon I was christened ‘U turn
Kev’ as we drove around trying to find starting points for walks.
Later we dropped Mary, Terry, Ron and Marge at a point on the main creek
(Bullock Creek) south of the camp. They then proceeded to search that
area of the creek between that point and the camp sight.
The rest of us drove to an area called ‘Dardanelle’s’
which is on the same creek further north of the camp. We also proceeded
along the creek back towards camp. This creek was thick with river Red
Gums, Coolabahs, and Blood woods. These were in far better condition than
the trees on Iona and there were a number of waterholes along the creek
but no sign at all of koalas. The country at this park appeared to be
in better condition than that at Iona. There was a little green grass,
the trees did not appear to be as stressed and the presence of natural
water in places made us think that the park had been a little better served
with rain, although it was still very dry. The main weeds that we were
to come across were Parkinsonia, Negura Burr and Current Bush, the fruit
of which I was soon to learn from Carmen, is good bush tucker.
The first crew was back at camp in a little over an hour, with Marge having
lost a screw out of her nearly new prescription sunglasses along the way.
Our crew took around three hours to get back. Upon our return Gail and
I drove back to Dardanelle’s to retrieve our other vehicle.
That night for dinner Gail cooked wonderful spaghetti bolognaise. After
sparklers and chocolate as a final celebration of Mary’s birthday
we all wandered off to bed.
Day 11 Wednesday 13th On this day, after breakfast, we
proceeded to cover the northern area of Bullock Creek from Dardanelle’s
to the northern boundary of the park. We did this in two lots - Mary,
Shirley and I in the northern and longer leg and the rest in the other.
Nothing much of interest was reported by either crew. After returning
to camp we again headed off to the southern end of Bullock Creek and covered
quite a lot more of it. Again little to report.
Back at camp Gail, Shirley, Mary and Terry had a dip in the closest water
hole. After a fine dinner of Carmen’s corned meat fritters Gail
decided we would go for a drive around in the dark. In doing so we covered
a large area of the park using torches as spotlights, discovering little
except the lay of the land and vegetation types, until we came across
some fresh koala scats in a small creek near an area called Bells. This
sparked our interest for the next day. We returned to camp weary and looking
forward to a good night’s sleep.
Day 12 Thursday 14th We arose to another fine and mild
morning and after breakfast headed off for more searching. Gail and I
searched Bells Creek from Dardanelle’s to the area where we had
found the fresh scats the night before, whilst the others covered an area
south of Dardanelle’s on Bullock creek where some older sign had
been found a couple of day previously.
Not far into our walk (probably around one km) Gail became excited as
she began to find fresh scats in the creek bed. Shortly afterwards she
was heard to exclaim “fresh poo, so fresh that I don’t want
to put it in my pocket!” This caused me to search the canopy in
the area more diligently than I might otherwise have done and to our delight
our reward was the discovery of a koala right up the top of, and well
hidden in, a large coolabah.
The animal was so well hidden and so high in the tree that it was not
possible to decide upon gender or any other detail. After taking the relevant
measurements, recordings, etc. and congratulating ourselves on this wonderful
find, Gail and I moved on.
A little further up the creek Gail was to make yet another rather interesting
discovery. She came across no less than five echidnas in one group huddled
around the base of a single gidgee tree. This is something that neither
of us had ever witnessed before, as echidnas tend to be very solitary
animals. After photographing this interesting phenomenon we moved on.
Coolabahs and river red gums gave way to gidgee and fewer sign was found
until we met up with the others at Bells. They had little to report, but
were buoyed by our discovery and insisted on being taken to the sight
to have a look at our furry friend. We returned to camp for lunch and
then set off back to the area near Dardanelle’s to show off our
On arrival at the tree the animal was still in much the same spot, making
it very difficult to make a decision about gender, but it was decided
that it was probably a female and that it could well have had a pouch
young. This was based on the animal’s rather large abdomen, which
we could not gain a good view of.
After much discussion we headed off. Gail and I went back to the vehicle
and then drove to Dardanelle’s proper, removing all of our flagging
tape markers along the way. Meanwhile Carmen, Mary, Shirley and Terry
walked back from the sighting along the creeks to Dardanelle’s in
the hope of finding another koala. Some sign was found, but no animals
were reported. This led us to the end of our last full day at Marrinnya,
as it had been decided to move on the next day. The original plan had
been to leave in the morning and check out some creeks on the way out,
but with the advent of the koala finding this plan had to change a little.
Prior to nightfall Carmen commented on the amount of cloud forming on
the horizon. I scoffed at the suggestion that there might be rain on the
way. Little did I know that I would not be allowed to forget that comment.
After dinner Gail made a brief speech, thanking us all for our efforts
and presenting each of us with a small memento. All in good spirits we
had a good chat and then headed off to our swags.
Day 13 Friday 15th .We awoke to a heavily overcast morning
that brought with it the promise of a cooler day. Again I was told it
could rain. Again I denied it. After breakfast we headed back to the location
where we had found the koala. It came as no surprise, on arrival, to find
that the animal had moved on. A plan was formulated and executed, bringing
about a thorough search of the creek in three directions. Nothing was
We returned to camp for lunch and then hastily packed, heading off early
in the afternoon. By now it was threatening to rain. We left via the station
homestead where we left a letter of thanks to Dean, and headed out of
the National Park and on to the main road from Torrens Creek to Aramac.
As we travelled it began to rain lightly, a matter that was immediately
brought to my attention by the ladies despite it being so obvious. The
original plan was to camp at Aramac but after arriving there and fuelling
up (and after a brief look at the white bull) we decided to continue on
to Barcaldine where we would eat and then probably camp.
On arrival at Barcaldine, where it had begun to rain quite heavily sporadically,
we enjoyed a counter dinner on the verandah of one of the many hotels.
We debated what was best to do with regard to accommodation for the night
and decided to move on for a couple more hours in the hope of driving
out of the rain.
On arrival at Jericho no shelter was to be found and the rain continued,
so we decided to go on to Alpha, but that we definitely would go no further
than that, as both drivers where by now becoming quite weary. On this
last leg for the day I was most grateful to Terry for keeping up a conversation
about fishing in France, a subject that interested me greatly and so kept
me alert. When we arrived at Alpha there still seemed to be no shelter
available to sleep under so we made camp as best we could, in a small
area just outside of town.
Day 14 Saturday 16th. The next morning we arose feeling a little damp,
a little dirty and quite weary but still in good spirits. A few good laughs
were had at sights around the camp as bedraggled people began to emerge.
A pleasant breakfast in Alpha, accompanied by a good hot beverage brought
us all back to the land of the living and so we set off on the final leg
of our journey. The rest of the trip was uneventful, with a safe but soggy
arrival of all back in Rockhampton around the middle of the day.
I would like to offer my thanks to all concerned for this trip. It was
one that I will never forget. I will look back on it with very pleasant
memories and in the hope that we at least made a small contribution to
koala research in Central Queensland. I might add that, as medic on the
trip and having been in very remote areas with plenty of potential for
injury or illness due to poor hygiene, I can report that high standards
of planning and management ensured that no such thing occurred. The only
thing I treated was a small scratch from barbed wire. I did not dispense
so much as a band-aid or a panadol. Well done, Gail and all of the team
members. And finally, to Terry, thanks mate for your company. All the
very best with your studies back in France and we all hope to see you
again sometime in the future.
We found Teddy, whose mum was killed by dogs. We found the little
bear in a small tree crying for its mother who was torn to bits. This
was in the 1930s at Kungurri where we lived on a cane farm. We took
him home and kept him in a wire cage and fed him fresh gum leaves.
After two weeks we could take him out and give him nurses and play
with him. He became really tame. Our two dogs got to know he was one
of us and would chase other dogs away.
After about six weeks he stayed in the house with us and he was the
best ‘baby sitter’ we ever had. As soon as he heard the
baby cry, he would run to the cot and jump in and pat the baby with
his front paws and there was no more crying. Sometimes when we were
having lunch, Ted would start snoring and one of us would have to
wake him up.
There were a lot of blue gums growing where we lived and lots of bears
in the trees. Ted would join them and feed with them but as soon as
we called him, he would climb down and run home with us.
We took him with us wherever we went and he had a ribbon tied in a
bow around his neck. He would sit on our shoulder with one paw on
our head. At the dances he would be the main attraction of the night.
He lived with us for just over ten years and died in the 1940s. He
was the greatest pet and mate we ever had and we all missed him.