Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 25 October 2011 18:05

I have a week off to write up the farm surveys and also to get my life back in order after a difficult summer. It's going very well but it does mean I'm not getting out much. I have started thinking that it's about time I went on another adventure as it's been over two years since I went to Australia. I wished I had been blogging back then as it was a pretty intense time with lots to show and tell! My trip was more like Mad Max or the Proposition than Crocodile Dundee though. I did see about 230 birds I hadn't seen before, I did about 6500 km in a rented Nissan Micra but I did feel like I was about to die on two occasions, something I had never experienced before and do not want to ever again. Here is some more atmospheric music from Nick Cave and John Hillcoat's outstanding film the Proposition.
So what on Earth happened? Picture the scene. It's a very hot day in Melbourne, 7th February 2009 to be precise. So hot that the thermometer exploded when we put it outside. I wanted to go into the ranges to look for Superb Liarbird, only about 15 miles or so out of the city centre. Although I was staying with friends who lived in the city, none of us had heard the warnings about going out into the bush that day.

It was so hot that it hurt to breathe and when the breeze blew, it actually made it worse, like opening an oven door. It was the hottest day on record at 46.7 degrees. Half way round a long circular walk, ignorant to the danger we were in and where the only birds we had seen were Kookaburras in the car park and a Satin Flycatcher, we heard an air-raid siren. I cannot begin to describe how terrifying this was as it stayed on continuously for the hour it took to run back what was mostly an up hill slog. Then the wind came and trees started coming down around us. Then I saw the horizon was brown and I new this meant smoke, so the fire was not far away. For that hour, nothing but the thought of being overcome with flames passed through my mind, sheer terror.
But we got out OK and drove back down a road that two hours ago had been clear, to see it strewn with debris from the incredibly strong winds that were pushing the fires. We were amazed to drive past fires at the sides of the road and then within 30 minutes were back in Melbourne. It wasn't until we turned on the news that I realised how lucky we had been and how big this was, being Australia's highest ever loss of life from bush-fires, 173 people died that day and I had stupidly put myself and Joe right in the middle of it. It was a very sobering way to start such a trip and I will always think of the poor people who died that day. We didn't see liarbirds that day but I did stumble across them a few days later on the edge of Sydney.

I then went on to have a great time with Gee, Kirsty and Katherine in Sydney before heading out into the desert where I got more than I bargained for with some locals and I'm not talking about this Red Kangaroo but that will have to wait for another day...

2 Response to "Walkabout"

Anonymous Says:

That's the worse part of doing surveys - sitting at the computer writing them up while you'd rather be somewhere else!

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