Down Under Day 44: On the Wallaby

Before starting my workday, I caught up with my good friend Wes back home; it has been great to keep in touch with friends and family when I won’t be seeing them for some time. After the usual business that I have become so enthralled by, I committed myself to a day trip to the outskirts of Cairns for a day of jogging and hiking in peace, with Anthony (otherwise known as Antoine) as my only companion. Far away from the city centre are a couple of walking paths called the red and blue arrow circuits that take bushwalkers through the rainforest up along the ridges of the hilltops that shield Cairns from whatever else may lay out there. Also, as what I have found to be common in NZ and Oz, a botanic garden managed to work its way into the mix. In my daypack, I loaded up my camera, 2.5 liters of water, and my swimsuit. With my iPod churning out some motivating, marathon-type music, I kicked it up a step and went for it, middle of the day be damned. Halfway into what I estimated to be an 45 or so minute jog to the head of the trail, the hostel owner of all people pulled off onto the side of the road to see where I was going and ask if I needed a lift. Sure why not, since who knows if I would have found my way or not without killing a bunch of time. However, as you may or may not know I tend to sweat a tad bit more than the norm so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put her car through all that. She dropped me off at the trail head and all I could leave her with was a car wash that only targeted the passenger seat and left a trail similar to a slug or snail. Honestly, I don’t think I could paint a clearer picture than that. Before beginning the red arrow path that eventually leads to the blue, the board warned about encounters with cassowaries, a species of bird that looks almost prehistoric. A cassowary is related to the emu and its features show the similarities but an emu might as well be a little teddy bear compared to a cassowary. A cassowary is a large flightless bird with a long blue neck, a solid clump of bone resting on its head, and sharp talons that could break through dry wall. Clearly, an animal you don’t want to mess with but a beautiful sight if you can mutually avoid confrontation. The trail rose upwards with a multitude of stairs but that was the least of my worries. The ill decision to wear a 100% cotton shirt in the muggy heat would do me in. I can’t even recall the number of times on the trail I had to ring out my shirt due to the weight I was carrying from my waterlogged t-shirt; I probably could have built my own pond with it. The hike was great; it took me past many typical ferns and into the nether regions of the forest where I could only hear my own breath and some bird calls. With some of the calls, I became growingly convinced that I may have heard a cassowary call worked in with the rest but I made the executive decision that I would leave Cairns alive and not risk veering off the path to explore further. Two thirds of the way through I saw what looked to be a groundhog dart away ruffling up some of the leaves in front of it. Not until the animal stopped and stood on its hind legs did I realize it was a wallaby. This wallaby was smaller than the ones I lucked into seeing out by the Blue Mountains but was a wallaby nonetheless in its own habitat. I wanted to take a picture but chose not to risk spooking it. This sight was for me and me alone, the two of us locking eyes through the bush, both of us curious about what was in our view. What a cute animal. I found the experience more rewarding than seeing some kangaroo in a zoo. Heck, you could find any corralled animal in the world if you really wanted to but witnessing it in the wild is a real treat. Most of the time it comes down to luck and goes in line with the randomness that nature knows so well. After leaving the trail quicker than I expected, I walked through the botanical gardens looking at the abundance of vivid flowers that I had brought in from similarly tropical climates throughout the world. A jog through the city led me to the Esplanade and from there all the way back to the hostel. I am no scientist or linguist but I believe I have discovered something new, yet unremarkable. By the end of the jog, I believe that I have literally and figuratively run across a type of perspiration that goes beyond sweat and needs a new name and definition of its own; the word ‘sweating’ on its own doesn’t remotely touch what I have got going on over here. An instance that has just popped into my head is when I was sweeping the stairs with a broom. Someone asked whether I was sweeping it or washing it. Funny yet sadly true. After dipping into the lagoon pool to cool off my boiling temperature, I whipped up another award winning dish with some seasoned fish and sautéed greens. While cleaning up I started a conversation with a Spanish girl who was cooking something of her own. Opportunities to meet people and immerse yourself in varying ideas, cultures, and personalities awaits around every corner on the road. As long as you are willing, you will be rewarded by a global degree that no university can offer and you will come away with new thoughts and strengthened opinions of your own. I have noticed some people enjoy keeping to themselves while I on the other hand (with a few exceptions of course to keep my sanity) want to soak up and absorb as much as I can because at the end of the day that is why I am here. After continuing to chat and get past the usual small talk, she offered some of her meal. We sat down for a meal as I talked about my travels through Spain and found out more about the lifestyle and culture of her homeland. At the end of the night, the two of us as well as a couple of Germans that I met the day before and the second Spaniard I had met thus far on this trip sat down for some beers. Sure we have small talk, mostly about what everyone’s travel plans are in, but this type of small talk is far more interesting than the usual fare of politics and weather. Good people, good times, good night!

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