We had no pre-determined destination when we left Strahan. We weren't planning to drive far but wanted to get a head start on the next day's visit into old growth forests. Mario Andretti at the wheel (I joke, but I am so thankful it was him and not me), we were immediately into mountains and more slow-going hairpin curves. I gingerly staggered to the back of the van and stowed the traveling gladiolas more securely; made sure the one surviving wine glass was prone. Up we climbed toward Queenstown. A former mining mecca, the entry into the city was through a red and orange moonscape. Eroded gullies and barren hills had replaced rainforest. Like the scarring I'd seen in Arizona, this abomination was due to King Copper, discovered in the 1890's. I sensed a community effort to move beyond those days; hoped they would be successful. On we went.
|Misty rainbows and winding roads|
|but wait, she's backwards!|
She had just crossed the highway. An oncoming vehicle had stopped in the road to ensure safe passage. Greg pulled over and I followed the meandering echidna (ee-kid-na). Once I got close it rolled up into a spiny ball and didn't move. There were no visible feet, ears or face. I waited, hoping it would unfold, but it had more time than I. We continued up the highway as I read that echidnas preferred to eat ants (take a look at that face). And, it laid eggs! An echidna: I was over the top, so satisfied that I told myself I'd be okay if I didn't see a Devil in the wild. The Sydney zoo might have to do. We only had two nights of wild camping to go. The possibility of a sighting was slim.
Tired and ready for showers, we turned off the highway for Lake Sinclair Visitor Center on Cynthia Bay. Home to the Lake Sinclair Lodge, we figured boondock or campground, we'd find a place to park. By the time we arrived two dry camp spaces remained. The camp spots weren't level but we were too zonked to care. We pulled between two campers, packed in like proverbial sardines. We slid the side doors open as eclipse energy took charge.
Greg and I lost all semblance of synchrony. Communication turned squirrelly. I settled in, bouquet and all, and he disappeared to the lake. He returned and announced the sunset underway. I grabbed my camera, took off for the lake and he stayed behind. I sat on the shore in sundown meditation; gazed across the stillness at distant Cradle Mountain and smiled. I finally got to see her.
|Cradle Mountain from Lake Sinclair|
I rounded up the correct change for showers and we headed for hot water. I finished sooner than Greg, only to find that he'd locked the van. A twenty minute cold, in-my-robe-with-wet-hair-sit-on-the-bumper-wait. Like I said: squirrelly. We managed to walk together to the beach to watch the moonrise. I found the spot where I wanted to photograph, he continued on to find his spot. I took a few shots and wtf??? -- the low battery light appeared. The spare battery was back at the van, a fifteen minute walk; the moonrise would be over. Momentarily devastated, I switched off the camera and came to my senses. Literally. I don't know if it was the latitude, altitude or both, but I was treated to one of the most stunning moonrises of my life, as Luna threaded her way through a train of clouds, casting silver linings hither and yon. Once into the clear, the Supermoon turned night to day. I walked down the beach to find Greg. No where in sight, I turned around.
I stopped midway to the van in a grassy clearing to soak in moon glow. The bushes began to rustle and out hopped a pademelon! Then another. Hop, hop. And another. The triple goddess of pademelons. I relished every second of my fifteen minute meeting before the night chill pushed me on. Picking my way through moon shadows, I hadn't walked but twenty-five steps ... I rounded a corner and BAM, walking toward me ... A TASMANIAN DEVIL. I (literally) could not believe my eyes as my brain chattered to confirm. It walked to within ten feet, stopped and checked me out. Her energy was sweet and curious, not at all like the popular mean caricature on signs and tourist paraphernalia. We had a minute together before she moved on. I squeezed one, poor, shot-in-the-dark out of my camera and stood spellbound, eclipsed by a full-moon Devil.
Greg and I met at the van and excitedly shared our moonrise night. Our paths had been a weaving of searches, he for me, I for him. The day was too much to grasp: the Gordon River rainforest, the Echidna, Pademelons and Tasmanian Devil. The quirky camera event was a first. And. It. Didn't. Matter.
I fell asleep exhausted and awoke at midnight, during the eclipse. I wasn't compelled to walk to the lake and observe. My awe-factor overfloweth. I fell back to sleep and dreamed Melania asked me to accompany her to Italy and we were packing. Ya, that Melania. I awoke in the morning with a Kookaburra laughing outside the van; checked email to find I had been selected to give a talk at the Tucson Festival of Books in March.
Revelations continued to pepper my mind as we headed for the Styx Valley and the loftiest trees on earth.
More Devil Shots, taken at the Sydney Taronga Zoo, a large outdoor enclosure.