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On the first day (July 11th 2006) four of us, Stephanie our PhD candidate, Shirley, Gautier a visiting French student who is studying environmental economics and yours truly, set out for Idalia. The trip was fairly uneventful until we reached the Barcaldine/Blackall area where our visitors from overseas were astonished at the number of road killed macropods, as well as the number of raptors feasting upon their putrefying carcasses.

Upon reaching the park boundary a sign announced ‘drive carefully, animals on road’ and immediately as if someone had turned on a switch there was a great perfusion of Wallabies, Eastern Greys and Red Kangaroos. Stephanie and Gautier took great pleasure in spotting these creatures, and offcourse the camera shutters ran hot for a short period. A little further down the track a vehicle coming the other way proved to be the park rangers. We pulled up to meet them and were made welcome.

After the rangers left we pulled away, crossed a gully and still in first gear and travelling slowly, we received quite a fright. All of a sudden a large Wallaby bounded across from our right, straight up onto the bonnet of the vehicle, smashing the windscreen and denting the mudguard. The offending creature absconded from the scene rapidly, and seemingly unaffected. After examining the vehicle and reviving from the shock we continued on to Monk’s Tank which was where we had arranged to make camp.

We arrived shortly before dark, allowing us to set up camp before the light faded, although we were to be treated to a full moon, and so once it rose above a few light clouds on the horizon it was almost as light as day anyway. A meal was cooked and eaten and interesting campfire discussion embarked upon, but as we were all tired from the long days driving we wandered of to bed at around eight o’clock.

Day 2

Up at daylight, breakfast cooked and consumed, and we were on our way to the main camping area and Ranger Station at Idalia. Here we found around forty people from the Queensland University camped. These people were in the park studying a variety of subjects including vegetation. All was in a bit of a quandary as the power had failed at around 3 am leaving them with no showers (a facility not available at Monk’s Tank) and no equipment to complete their research work. The rangers were busy trying to set up an emergency generator so we moved on.

We drove to the old Idalia ruins and there we commenced our Koala search. This area was covered with mostly Mulga and Gidgee with very little eucalypt. A couple of hours searching failed to reveal any evidence of Koalas. We returned to camp, had an early lunch and then set off again. This time Gautier remained at camp as he had some work to do for his studies. Stephanie, Shirley and I walked for around three hours in the Monk’s Tank area, again with little to report. Here we found the Mulga and Gidgee interspersed with stands of eucalypt, mainly Morton Bay Ash. Back to camp at around 4 pm for a well earned rest.


Again, and as it seems is always the case, the campfire and an evening meal stimulated interesting and enlightening conversation before we wandered off to bed. During the night we were to experience a couple of light showers of rain, little did we realise that this would signal an abrupt ending to our trip.

Day 3

Upon our arising at dawn on the next morning, and to our great disdain, it began to rain. A quick shuffle around the camp in an effort to keep things as dry as possible, and a cold breakfast, and then the rained stopped after about three quarters of an hour. We were unsure exactly what to do as it did look like the rain might set in, so it was decided that we would go and find the ranger and see what she thought. Upon arrival at the Ranger Station we were greeted with a very definite response to our question. We were told that if we did not get out now, we may well be stuck there for ten to fourteen days. Given that we had food for about five days, and commitments to which to return, we decided that it would be wise to return to camp and pack up, and to leave the park, and the black soil before the rain set in properly.


In very little time we were packed and ready to leave. We agreed that we would visit one more spot before we left the park, as this was a spot that the ranger had spoken of, and that Stephanie particularly wanted to get a look at. The extra short trip proved to be very worth while. Emmet Pocket Lookout was indeed quite beautiful, even on a heavily overcast day, and presented more information about the park, and about areas to survey for koalas on future trips. Having spent a little time at the lookout we proceeded, as advised, out of the park. Even at this stage the black soil was beginning to pick up and we decided that we had done the right thing.


So with great disappointment we made our way home. The trip was uneventful, except that it rained most of the way. We later heard that Idalia had received around twenty five millimetres of rain after we departed, so no doubt the right decision had been reached. Gautier has since returned to France, so we did not get the opportunity to get to know him as well as we might have, had the trip not been cut short. Whilst no sign of Koalas was found the trip did give us a better idea of what has been happening with the wildlife out there, and Stephanie collected some valuable information for her PhD studies.

Kev Rapley