22 July 2008

Yungaburra - 'Place of Questioning'

Dorathy & Paulie

doriothius pauliosiae

Northern Leaf Tailed Gecko (Endemic)

Phyllurus cornutus

Feeding Dorathy the Female Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo

Dendrolagus lumholtzi

Female Victorias Riflebird (Endemic) a 'Bird of Paradise'

Ptiloris victoriae

Bridled Honey Eater (Endemic)

Lichenostomus frenatus

'Geoffrey' a Male Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo (11kg)

Dendrolagus lumholtzi

was raised by Margit as a young joey

now lives independently in the surrounding rain forest

Green Eyed Tree Frog (Endemic)

Litoria genimaculata

Upper Barron River ~ Dinner Falls

upperi barrionius

Grey-Headed Rob (Endemic)

Poecilodryas albispecularis

Doris the little Agile Wallaby

Macropus agilis

Macleay's Honeyeater (Endemic)

Xanthotis macleayanus

Australian King Parrot (Northern ssp.)

Alisterus scapularis ssp. minor

Long Nosed Bandicoot

Perameles nasuta


Ornithorhynchus anatinus

My favourite ancient egg-laying mammal, this little creature is found back home in the Richmond River and in most suitable freshwater habitats from North-Queensland right down to Southern Tasmania

I've discovered that Platypus are also found in man-made dams (this photo is taken in one) though you will generally not find them if cattle and other livestock frequent the banks, they are sensative to water quality aswell and need a degree of stream-side vegetation to help stabalize their burrows. I can see the dams full of our little monotreme friends in years to come when the people of Geneva (Kyogle) stop using so much phosphates and nasty chemicals, and if Rolley fences sections of the Dam off, Not to mention the dam in front of the nursery which is less than one hundred meters from prime platypus viewing.

Feral Pig @ Curtain Fig National

Sus Scrofa

25 Million in Australia ~ Epidemic!

Lake Eacham ~Volcanic Crater

Volcanius Craterae

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo (Endemic)

Dendrolagus lumholtzi

Wompoo Fruit Dove

Ptilinopus magnificus

TREAT friday volunteer day

Treatius volunterii

and so, alas ...

Yungaburra - the name given to a quaint little town on the Atherton Tablelands - originates from the indigenous Yidinyji language, meaning a place of enquiring or questioning.

how very apt, as I've been doing a lot of both lately.

questioning where I want to direct my energy and enquiring into pathways that will allow me to do this.

So a few weeks back I spent a good while grounding in and around the Yungaburra township, situated just a few kilometers from Curtain Fig and Crater Lakes National Parks, and I quite like the 'vibe' of the place.

It's home to a really awesome 'Backpackers' called 'On The Wallaby' where I would go for showers and ammenities between expeditations into the surrounding Rainforest.

A big highlight with this Backpackers lodge (besides them all being really laid-back, warm-hearted, nature-loving characters) was the night-time canoeing and spotlight on Lake Tinaroo, where we saw a nice big Python, a young Tree-Kangaroo, a Nankeen Night-Heron and heaps of
different possums (including the endemic 'Green' possum).

but now, let me share with you ...

my First WWOOFING experience

(warning; this section contains the authors judgements and opinions on people he has barely met, take it all with a grain of himalayan rock salt!)

Although it's considered to be the 'dry' season up here, about 10 days ago the 'winter drizzle' set-in, and I really felt to find a wwoof host somewhere close to Yungaburra. After ringing around, I eventually got onto Peter @ Tazali Lakes, a fish-farm near Milla-Milla.

I've done lots of informal wwoofing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) on friends of friends places around northern nsw, which generally involved a few hours work in the morning, weeding the vegie garden or mulching the fruit trees.

I think it's a great system, as your contributing to sustainable organic local food production and you get to learn new ways of sustainable living and meet the people who are ...

'WALKING the TALK' (or 'taking action' when it comes to sustainability)

anway, my first wwoofing experience up north qld has me questioning the host application process, and when I get some time I will be writing a letter of complaint to WWOOF Australia.(constructive criticism of course)

obviously, with over 1600 wwoof hosts in Australia, you are bound to get people who just don't embody the spirit of sustainability ...

Tazali Lakes is such a place.

Day 1 - I arrived to see Peter, the boss, trying to shoot and kill Cormrants, a bird that is doing what it has evolved to do best over millions of years, eat fish !

I don't intent to go too far into the experience, but just to give you an idea, I basically worked from 7A.M to 5P.M on the first day, and to make things worse, I wasn't involved in anything remotely sustainable, simply digging holes to make an ugly looking shade-cloth for his profit driven tourist operation, where he charged people $20 a head to see platypus for 5 minutes that lived in a dam on his neighbours property ! (whom I met at TREAT later in the week, she sold-up because his energy was so intense)
Generally I didn't like his vibe, Pete is a friendly enough man on the outset, but it was well obvious from the start that he joined WWOOF to exploit travellers and get cheap labour

Like all negative experiences, there is always something positive that is hidden wihtin it, often you have to dig to find it, or allow the good to expose itself over time.

a dance of light and dark.

after being totally exploited for cheap labour on the first day, I felt like leaving, but a deeper part of me was feeling to stay for a few days. I followed the deeper feeling.

Day 2 - It turned out that Pete's farm-hand & Chef, Dave, was quite an awesome man. Totally passionate about bushfoods. So after Pete heard I have a background in Trees and Bushtucker, we got to work on planting out a bushfood garden ! lots of Davidson Plums (Davidsonia pruriens) and Atherton Oaks (Athertonia diversifolia), plus heaps of 'Satinash' Trees (North queensland name for 'Lily-pily's or Sygygium species)

although we finished work around 3:30Am (way over the 4-6 hours which is stated in the WWOOF agreement) it was a much better day and Dave convinced pete to take me for a drive the next day to see a big nursery '├Łaruga' over at Mareeba, and to pop in and meet a crew called 'BioTropica' to enquire into some work for me, as the funds are in need of replenishment.

Day 3 - Dave mentioned a mob called BioTropica, who specialize in tropical ecosystem management, may have some work available, so we popped into to say g'day.

I met a few of the crew, told 'em a bit about my background, and Nigel, the director, said that he would contact me if any work came up. Fantastic ~ great vibe ~ awesome people, and from what I gather, they are leading the field in 'innovative and ethical solutions for the management of tropical ecosystems'.

We drove on, and made our way to 'Yuruga', which is THE most gigantic nursery operation I have ever seen (and i only saw part of it.)

They are a big-time ~ production nursery, employing over 50 staff, and obviously coming from a background of Nursery-ism I was very keen to get a feel for their way.

Generally, I was a little dissapointed, the service was very poor and some of the plants where so small I'd doubt the surival rate of many of them.

We were looking for bushfoods and the retail lady just didn't seem very passionate what-so-ever, it didn't make me excited about planting a bushfood garden, and after just a few mintues she did the old "Well, I'll leave you too it then" (which i must admit, I've done it before too!)

I found another employee putting plants down, and asked him about the edibility of some of the Native Tamarinds (Diploglottis smithii). His reply was "Mate, I wouldn't eat ANYTHING from the Australian bush, that stuff'll kill ya"

with over 2000 known edible plant species in Australia, and reports of early aboriginal people being among the most lean and healthy people on the planet, I beg to differ !!

anyway, it so easy to fall into the judgement trap, we all do it and the key is not so much to refrain from making any judgements (what an imposible task), but it is not to confuse the judgement with the true essence who or what you are actually observing.

but yes indeed, sometimes our minds can become clouded in judgement.

these words always seem to help me regain perspective.

"How quick we are to form an opinion of a person, to come to a conclusion about them. It is satisfying to the egoic mind to label another human being, to give them a conceptual identity, to pronounce righteous judgement upon them.

Every human being has been conditioned to think and behave in certain ways- conditioned genetically as well as by their childhood experiences and their cultural environment.

That is not who they are, but that is who they appear to be. When you pronounce judgement upon someone, you confuse those conditioned mind patterns with who they are. To do that is in itself a deeply conditioned and unconscious pattern. You give them a conceptual identity, and then afalse identity becomes a prison not only for the other person but also for yourself....

To let go of judgement does not mean that you don't see what they do. It means that you recognise their behaviour as a form of conditioning and you see it and accept it as that. You dont construct an identity out of it for that person.

If their past was your past, their pain your pain, their level of consciousness your level of consciousness, you would think and act exactly as they do. With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion, and peace."

- Eckhart Tolle, "Stillness Speaks"

So anyway, when I got back to Tazarli Lakes, I went down to the Platypus pond to hang out with my monotreme friends and spent some time to myself (Me, Myself and I).

I had missed this spaciousness over the past few days, and it was nice to just sit and rest with my thoughts and my breath.

When you enter into a wwoof hosts house, you are in fact entering into their energy field, and this can be quite challenging.

End of First WWOOF experience.

The Next morning I left and decided to head for Mossman, but on the way I received a call from Margit, up at Lumholtz Lodge, a Rainforest home-stay and habitat sanctuary for orphan Tree-Kangaroos and other Mammals.

I had met Margit a few weeks earlier at a talk in Yungaburra on 'Tree-Kangaroo conservation in Papua New Guinea'.

this was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss, and so I made my way up into the Mt Hypipamee ranges in the Atherton Tablelands 'Highlands', where Margit lives amongst the Trees on 160 Acres of private Rainforest.

I have just spent 1 week up there, and this was a completely different wwoofing experience to the first one.

Rather than arriving to my wwoof host trying to kill a native bird, this time My WWOOF host Margit and I went straight into the rainforest with a radio tracking device that was attached to a young Tree Kangaroo she had raised from 300 grams (her mother was hit by a car).

the radio 'beep beep' turned into a 'BEEP BEEP' and before my very eyes, the most beautiful little creature, an 18 month old female 'Lumholtz' Tree Kangaroo, came climbing down from the canopy to perch on Margits shoulders!

wow! I had seen them a few times high in the canopy, but never so close and personal.

Her name is Dorathy and she is absolutely gorgeous, though not fully developed yet (at 6.8kg) this little arboreal macropod is old enough to spend all day in the Rainforest by herself, eating leaves from trees such as the Bolly Gum (Neolitsea dealbata) which we also get in our Rainforests back home, in Northern NSW.

When night falls, Dorathy comes and sleeps inside, where I had the priveledge of feeding her milk from a bottle, along with cashew nuts and some sweet potato. (it's a nice feeling being a mother)

Margit is also raising 3 coppery brushtail possums, an agile wallaby and a swamp wallaby came in half-way through the week after it's mother being killed by a fossil-fuel machine (a car).

Doris, the gorgeous little agile wallaby, was my responsibility for the week, as Margit had more animals than she normally would (some having to be fed at 2AM in the morning)

Every morning at 6AM I would prepare some milk, lift her out of the artificial 'pouch' and she would suckle on the litte ártificial' nipple~ so cute that if one was to design a 'visual' dictionary, they could just put a picture of dorathy suckling on her bottle next to the word 'Cute'.

and then again at 10AM and 2PM I would repeat, but include a walk outside for her to get some excercise and experience life beyond the pouch (she's doing well, it took me 18 years! and I still kept coming back!!! lol)

In the afternoons It was my job to go and get Dorathy with the Radio Tracker, sometimes walking many kilometers deep into the Rainforest to find her high in the tree ! she would hear the 'Beep Beep' sound of the radio tracker and quickly descend from the canopy to perch on my shoulder for the return jounrney back upto Lumholtz Lodge.

such a magically surreal experience, there are locals I have met who've lived in the area for many years and still haven't even SEEN a tree kangaroo.

In my spare time, between exploring the Rainforests, I would read some of the amazing books in Margits Library.

It seemed that almost every second book had the authors hand-written thanks and appreciation for Margits work, or 'Happy Birthday Margit Love 'Dr Ecology.'

This is by far the most extensive and fascinating nature library I've ever come across ! most notablly is all the books by William and Wendy Cooper, who illustrated and wrote the Book "Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest".

Wow, this is artistic precicision at it's finest. Bill also Illustrated a book on Australian Parrots and is now working on a Pigeons of Australasia.

I've come to realise that these drawings capture an animal or a fruit or seed better than any photograph I have ever seen! simply amazing

And so, after a week up in the mountains I now find myself in Malanda with some absolutely wonderful news !

I got a Job !

It was never my intention to 'move' up to north queensland, as I absolutely love northern nsw, especially Kyogle, and working on the land and in the nursery that I grew up on has been a complete blessings.

not to mention the tree planting project down in the gully!

But so it happens that Biotropica needs someone to facilitate a project in Cardwell (right next to Hinchinbrook Island). Basically this involves planting thousands of trees and environmental management of the existing swampy woodland habitat

that is home the endangered 'Mahogany Glider', one of Australias rarest mammals, an estimate of around 1500 of these little gliding marsupials are left, found only in a 100km x 10km strip around Cardwell! (80% of it's habitat has been cleared for banana and pineapple plantations)

I feel this is a fanastic opportunity to learn some new skills and to explore Hitchinbrooke Island!

So after spending a week travelling around with Dad next week, the new job begins!

I will indeed miss home, every aspect of it. From the nursery community to the broade Kyogle community to the River and the Rainforests to my family and friends and most of all my little nephew Torin, who even said my name on the phone the other day!

But the feeling is strong to follow this one, and we shall see where it all leads.

So stay Tuned in the next few weeks for 'Greggy and Paulies' adventures (Or 'Dad & Dave' as mum calls us) where we will do the tourist thing and try to see the most amount of places in the shortest amount of time (as dad only has 6 days up here)

Peace, Blessings & Abundance

4 July 2008

'Mabi' Rainforest & Tropical Atherton Highlands

I've fallen in LOVE !

with Tree Kangaroos (Mabi's) and Double-eyed Fig Parrots

Birds of Paradise and Wompoo Fruit Doves !

these are just some of the amazing Rainforest species I've encountered so far in the 'Mabi' Forests on the Atherton tablelands in Far-north Queensland

Mabi Forest, also known as Complex Notophyll Vine Forest (or Type 5b), once covered most of the Atherton Tablelands, but due to clearing for farming, this unique eco-system has been drastically reduced.

Quite a similar scenario to the wholesale and thoughtless destruction of the 'Big Scrub' on the Alstonville plateau, in northern nsw, where the worlds largest patch of lowland sub-tropical Rainforest once occured.

I remind myself that 'progress' was the paradigm of the day, and our ancestors where doing what was expected by their society. Social conditioning still has a major influence on our current actions today, and though ecological consciousness is infiltrating every aspect of our culture, this contrasts starkly with the illusion of 'infinite' economic growth on a planet with 'finite' resources exploited from delicate eco-systems.

Unfortunately I have none of my own photo's to share as my USB connection ran away ! (apparently I smelt way too much .... we just haven't been 'connecting' lately!). Soon enough we will be re-united, along with my 'Good' Lens (17-55 2.8/f canon) which stopped focusing just before I left Kyogle over 5 weeks ago ~

Much has happened in my little micro-cosm since I last posted, including an epic week-long Winter Solstice gathering just south-west of the Wet-Tropics, where i danced myself silly and and connected with friends, old and new

My campsite included representatives from Japan, Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, 'Sveden' and maybe a few other far-off destinations.

So after the gathering, myself and some friendls stayed out there helping to saught out the rubbish (for recycling). We ended up living off the 'scraps' for a few days, which included Bio-dyanmic local yoghurt, avocado, honey, tomato, bananas, chocolate

... the list is rediculously long ! how could people throw-away such high quality nutritious food ?

every year, in Australia, we throw away over 4 billion dollars worth of edible food ? and on the other side over ONE BILLION of our brothers and sisters are not meeting their nutritional requirements ?

strange world

after the gathering, nearly everyone was heading to a place called "Davies Creek" to ground on down by the Rainforested creek, yet my feeling was to transition back into the solo travelling rythmn ~

I made for the 'Mabi' Rainforest and put my feelers out for a WWOOFer host, but so far no-one has answered the phone or are full-up with other WWOOFERS ~

so basically for the past week I've been hanging around the Yungaburra-Atherton-Malanda area where some truly beautiful Rainforest communities occur.

Only 2% of the Rainforests on the tablelands remain, which is similar in structure and composition to sub-tropical Rainforest back home, with smaller leaves (Notophyll) than typical 'Tropical' rainforest and less occurance of epiphytes and orchids.

Despite the past degradation, there is still estimated to be around 10, 000 - 20, 000 'Tree Kangaroo's' in the area

After numerous sightings of the 'Lumholtz' Tree-Kangaroo I am in no hurry to reach the Daintree, the people up here are very friendly and the tourism is much less intense than I expected.

One place that is full of wildlife is Lake Eacham, a volcanic freshwater lake surrounded by lush Tropical Rainforest, On one walk around the 3km track, I have spotted many Wompoo Fruit Doves (much smaller than the ones back home) a male Victorias Riflebird (which is a bird of paradise) that even did the little dance for me (maybe he thought I was 'available'). I also saw a Double-eyed Fig Parrot (that was a beautiful moment) and glimpsed a Musky-Rat Kangaroo.

I have realised that if I want to really connect with local Fauna and Flora, I'll have to hang out in the canopy more often~

Just up the road at Curtain Fig National Park, I have had 2 other Tree-Kangaroo sightings (one night and one day), a white-tailed Rat and many many different possums species.

I even rescued a Possum that had it's silly little head stuck in a fence !

On an anthropocentric level, the Yungaburra Markets was a lovely day out, meeting lots of friendly locals and hearing about a talk on Tree Kangaroo conservation in New Guinea (a place I really want to visit someday)

The Talk was last night and it was great to see such a strong conservation community on the tablelands. For despite the intense logging that has occured in the past, you can feel change is in the air up here, along with a bit of cold snap that has just arrived.

To my excited I discovered an organisation known as TREAT (TRees for the Evalyn and Atherton Tablelands) which basically pioneered the planting of 'habitat corridors' (planting trees between two remnant patches of habitat in an effort to link them up).

This group have been around for over 25 years ! and have planted thousands and thousands of trees in the Earth ~

very well organised nursery and so good to get my hands back into the potting mix ~

Every Friday they have a volunteer 'Nursery' day and so today I went down and got to meet many locals who are inolved with Rainforest Conservation, we tubed up together and talked about 'this and that'.

Soon I will put some photo's up on this post, so come back and I'll share some of my amateur photo's of the 'natural world'.

pleas note, the photo's on this post are sourced from the internet.

below is some video of some of the local fauna.

A 'Bird of Paradise'

this is a New Guinea relative of the 'Victorias Riflebird'

A Double-Eyed Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)