I shot awake in the predawn hours to laughing.
Not a giggle, or even a belly laugh, but a true cackle.
The laugh ‘that relative’ makes after too many chardonnays on Christmas.
“A kookaburra,” I thought to myself. “I’m literally being woken up by a kookaburra in an old gum tree…”
As I stumbled outside into the cold on my way to the shower, I was greeted with a foreign landscape that was hidden during the drive in. Dense forest surrounded me with a barrier of steep cliff-side just yards away from where I slept.
The rest of the natural world had come to life as well. Bird calls dominated the morning, with tropical flocks bursting from trees overhead. Seeing birds that I normally associated with cages high in the treetops was incredible.
(Galah & Sulpher Crested Cockatoos)
As the group gathered, our first short walk was to find some Kangaroos. And find them we did. After the previous night spent dodging them in the dark, it was a thrill to get up close to the animals in a more peaceful state.
Carefully creeping forward, and cautiously making sure I didn’t put my hands on any resting snakes, I was able to get up close to an Eastern Grey Kangaroo and her joey.
Soon enough, the ‘roos had enough of me and hopped off into the bush and we were on our way up the mountain.
I was again struck by how different Australia is. Every plant and tree (let alone the animals) is unlike anything I have seen before.
As we crept above the treeline, we were greeted with unparalleled vistas of the Grampains Mountains and surrounding valleys.
The cool morning quickly warmed up and I was allowed the opportunity to break away from the group and plow ahead for some solitude. I found myself grounded and grateful for such an opportunity in a year where I figured “I wouldn’t be traveling too much.”
As I walked around the edge of a cliff and down towards the waterfalls below a few things because clear. The first, my right knee had not, in fact, miraculously healed with another year of age and I should have been wearing my knee brace. Second, I am going to need some good cardio training before my 5-day trek into Indonesian Jungle in July (more on that later).
Nevertheless, the view from the bottom did not disappoint.
Though I could have easily disappeared down one of the many trails splintering off from the falls, I figured that wouldn’t be too kind to the group or necessarily good for my career and I begrudgingly made my way back up the mountain.
As is the nature with tours, we had to begin to make our way back to Melbourne, but not before I was greeted with another uniquely Australian scene — Emus.
Though they were too far and fast for a picture, let me iterate how big these birds are. Standing 6 ft. tall, emus are imposing and quick. I began to understand how the Australian Army had lost consecutive conflicts with the birds in the 1930s.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emu_War)
On the long drive back, I enjoyed more great conversation with Pete about everything from Pink Floyd albums to psychiatric hypnosis and, by the time I arrived back in Melbourne, I was exhausted but thrilled by yet another great week.