We wanted to see a platypus. That mythical Australian monotreme. Like most of Australia, they are duplicitous: Cute and deadly both at the same time. And rarely seen by mere mortals.
“Oh we were at the creek at 8am and there he was. He surfaced for a second or two and then disappeared. But boy it was special”
“We went down the creek at 4pm and he turned up, quite oblivious to us” another said.
We didn’t see a thing.
The creek in question was the one behind Takarraka Bush Resort at Carnarvon Gorge.
Looks like where they'd be.
And so does this.
But there are other creeks where you hear the same proud boast. Often said in low reverent whispers,:
“Early in the morning.
That’s the best time.
It’s just a gentle ripple on the water surface at first, and then they come up and look around”
In my mind’s eye I could see this glorious, gentle creature, surfacing in slow motion and smiling at my camera.
This was Splitter’s Creek behind Splitters Farm outside Bundaberg.
It's a beautiful creek, especially with a morning mist. They're in there somewhere.
Didn’t see one there either.
Not even the ripple.
But I could feel his beady little eyes mocking me.
Platypus are like all native Australian Animals and reptiles. They are either incredibly shy or deceptively sneaky. Only appearing to cause havoc or defend their territory.
Many times has it been screamed:
‘Kangaroo!”…just as one barrels into the car windscreen, nearly killing everyone on board.
Or ‘Snake!’ as a Death Adder launches itself at your fleshy vulnerable leg.
Domesticated animals both farm and suburban are boringly everywhere, easily seen and avoided.
Native ones? Not so much.
“Emu!” I yelled to my wife after lamenting we hadn’t seen much wildlife the entire trip except for a few hundred dead kangaroo carcasses on the side of the road. All had been hit by a truck. And not just the once.
He/she (who can tell?) was erratically cantering, stopping, running through a desolate farm paddock by the road side. As they always do, he/she looked in total confusion. They are one of the world’s largest birds, but have the smallest brain. We pulled over to try and get some photos. It stopped and sensed that something, somehow, was amiss.
My wife powered down her window and lifted her phone camera.
I reached for my camera on the back seat, opened the door and aimed over the car roof. But the closing car door sounded like a gun shot and the emu, startled, ran around in circles for a few seconds before standing still again. But only briefly. A couple of photos and he/she was off, erratically bouncing across the paddock away from any real or imagined threat.
Well at least we saw, one.
Another time we were driving on a busy multi lane road leading into Sydney, after a long and tiring trip. We just wanted the journey to be over. A large huntsman spider, who we think hitched a ride at our last coffee stop, thought that was the ideal time to run across our windscreen, on the inside of the car. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been told “Huntsmen are harmless, they’re your friend” you still drive at speed, across three lanes with no indicators, into a parking lot, to flee the car.
The kid in the child seat?. He can fend for himself.
(I’m secretly convinced that those great Hollywood car crash scenes are made more realistic by the stunt director releasing a Huntsmen into the hero car at just the right moment. Mayhem is guaranteed.)
All we wanted to see was a platypus, in the wild.
Isn’t that what all Australians want?
Or a wombat, or an echidna.
It’s not too much to ask is it?
As we stood on the deck above the man-made swimming pool at Malanda Falls, in Far North Qld, we looked down on the twenty or so kids enjoying the cool, fresh, creek water on a hot summer’s day.
Nonchalantly swimming amongst them was the secretive, mythical platypus. You know he that shuns humans and keeps to himself and is only ever seen when the sun and the moon are in Leo, during the equinox.
So on your next trip, keep your eye out for the native wildlife.
You’ll spot something, where and when you least expect it.