I said last week that small town Australia reminded me somewhat of small town Ontario. This might be true within the urban centre, but one doesn’t have to go far here to be immersed in nature. It’s the trees and the birds that look most foreign to me.

This past week I walked a couple of nature trails easily accessible from the house by bicycle. Julie’s mountain bike proved to be a lot more pleasant to ride than the clunkers I rented in Thailand. It was easy riding because the roads here are well paved, and in the late morning, there is almost no traffic.

The trails

On Tuesday I rode south to the end of Ocean Drive to the 1.2 km long Tuart Trail. Tuart is the name of a species of eucalyptus tree only found on this coast, one of the rarest types of forest in the world. Other trees that grow in a Tuart forest are Banksias. These trees have weird looking cones that appear to have many little mouths. I found them fascinating, if a little creepy. (See photos below.)

On Thursday I rode north, along Ocean Drive again, to reach the Big Swamp Trail (about 3 kilometres from the house). This is a 2-kilometre trail that goes around and through well maintained wetlands, home to many birds as well as frogs and snakes. I only saw birds: blue ones with red beaks that looked like chickens, black swans, those white ones with long curvy dark beaks that I’ve seen all over town, and of course some ducks.

Big Swamp is not the way you normally imagine a swamp. This has to be the best looking swamp I’ve ever seen. It’s a pretty swamp. 🙂 There is a circular paved path, and some boardwalks that let you get closer to the water and the wildlife. Along one stretch of boardwalk grow some strange looking trees called Freshwater Paperbark (see photos).

On both excursions I cycled to the start of the trail, but explored the trail on foot. It was easier to take photos and look at the trees and birds that way.

I haven’t seen any kangaroos so far, but I have seen a road sign warning about them! For $9 I could go to the Bunbury Wildlife Park and see kangaroos, emus, koalas, and so on, but I’m not very keen on caged animals. Besides, I saw those critters during my visit to Sydney in 2009.

Food and wine

Of course all this exploration made me hungry, so I tried more cafés in town this week. I had scones with jam and cream (actually whipped cream) at Serendipity (only $5.50 for scones and a cappuccino). I tried the eggs Benedict at my old stand-by Caf-fez, but I was a little disappointed as they were served on toast (instead of English muffin) and the hollandaise sauce was a little strange.

Back on the Marlston Waterfont, I had a seafood platter at Dome Café, which could be called “seafood and chips”: two pieces of lightly breaded and fried prawns, calamari rings, scallops, and fish, plus fries, dipping sauce, coleslaw and salad greens. Yummy and very filling. Then I stopped by Taffy’s (traditional candy store) 50 metres away to buy an assortment of their most popular treats. I’m going to have to eat this fast before the chocolate melts in the 30+ temperatures we’re having. Life is tough.

I also bought another bottle of white Australian wine: a Semillion Sauvignon Blanc from The Fifth Leg. Very nice.

The wildlife in the house

Something unexpected happened this week: I was asked to baby-sit! (Do kids count as wildlife?) Melissa had a date on Friday and asked if I would mind keeping an eye on her girls and feeding them dinner. My payment: garlic bread and a nice microwave lasagna. 🙂 Since I had no plans, I said “no problem”. I mean… how hard can it be? (Don’t laugh).

Just before leaving, Melissa mentioned an ice cream truck parked nearby and left a $5 bill for us to get ice cream for dessert. Dinner went as planned and the girls loved the food. It took a while to get going, but by 6:40 we were out the door and I asked the eldest (Tayla, 7), “OK, show me where that ice cream truck is.”

What ensued what a wild goose chase for ice cream. We probably walked about 1.5 kms along the road with no sign of ice cream. But Tayla kept insisting that it was just a little bit further. Once the sun had set I suggested we give up and go back, but a 7-year old can be surprisingly insistent. Eventually, even she had to give up. By then of course the youngest (Ashley, almost 6) had started complaining that she was tired, wanted mummy, etc etc. Good grief. So we started back.

Now they wanted to walk on the beach instead of the road. We went down the stairs, slugging (and in Tayla’s case cartwheeling) through the sand, and as it was getting darker, back up to the lit road. Ashley was thirsty, she was tired, she couldn’t see. Well, there wasn’t much of a choice but to walk back to the house. I felt like I was leading an expedition up to Everest Base Camp, coaxing, encouraging, trying to get their mind on something else, pointing to the bright yellow horizon. It took 40 minutes to walk back those 1.5 kilometers. I am not kidding.

I was sure they would fall into bed from exhaustion after that, but no. They watched TV for a whole hour, and still found energy to fight over who should use the iPad. By 9:00 PM I was the one who was exhausted and left them to sort it out. Cats are far easier.

Talking of cats, Snuggles is still bringing wildlife into the house despite my admonitions: one more bird, and yesterday a big insect (still buzzing – but not for long). I also found a strange worm/lizard combo creature on the dining room floor, but since it was alive I don’t think the cat brought it in. Sheesh.

Romantic sunset beach walks

Well no, I haven’t met “someone”. I’ve just started walking along the beach at sunset listening to my favourite pop-opera album on my iPod. I bought this album in 2007 (it’s called Vittorio, from the singer of the same name) and some of those songs just drip romanticism. Listening to them with a background of crashing waves while walking in wet sand and watching the sunset enhances the listening experience tremendously. 🙂

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