Ever since we left the Grand Canyon a few days into our world-trip, A has been complaining about the countless, death-defying, but soul-scaring activities I’ve managed to organized. So, to cater to A’s everyday needs, I listened to his expressed wish to see a real-life in the wild platypus (did you know that the plural of platypus is platypuses or platypi?). Little did I know that only an hours drive from our apartment there was a national park, where platypuses were hanging out in the fresh water. Best chances and times to see these platypuses are at dawn or dusk, so between 3 and 7 in the morning as well as 4 and 7 in the evening…
The only opportunity we had to see the platypuses was New Year’s Day! But we weren’t getting up at 3 in the morning to see platypuses (we did get up at 3 am to see kangaroos the next day though, so there’s clearly something wrong with us), so instead we decided to go in the evening of New Year’s Day. So after bumming around all day, we were happy to get out of the hotel room and get out in nature.
Around 3 pm we made our way to Eungella National Park, most of the drive was pretty easy, just a straight shot through fields, that is, until we got to the bottom of the mountain. The drive was incredibly steep, with tight serpentines, no-intention-to-slow-down-traffic and a huge slope if you were to go off road. Altogether maybe not the best place to drive, even though the roads were paved (and yes, that is a huge plus!). After about twenty minutes of that, we finally made it to the camping grounds of the broken river where A was immediately attacked by a turkey-looking-bird, who I bet was just as surprised to see A, as A was surprised to see it.
After a very brief walk, we arrived at the broken river where a handful of people were already quietly sitting. The instructions of platypus watching are simple: be quiet, wait and hope you get to see one. So, we were quiet, which is very hard for both A and myself, and we waited, for a very long time. See, from experience I know to never to expect anything, when it comes to wildlife. Either it shows up, or it doesn’t. Sometimes you only wait a couple minutes, other times (which predominate) you wait for hours without ever seeing a glimpse of whatever animal you came to see. A on the other hand, much like a two-year old, is not very patient and wants to see everything, the second he arrives. This becomes very annoying after less than five minutes of sitting down…
Thirty minutes into our wait, A became very antsy, every few bubbles we saw (because that’s how you know platypuses are close by), A jumped up, thinking that he finally was about to see a platypus. But every time, he was to the core disappointed as each and every time, it was a turtle. I was thoroughly enjoying my turtle-sightings, but A’s spirit and patience were rapidly declining. I tried to remind him of the time we saw the Northern Lights, how long we had to wait for them, but that only sent him more off the deep end of disappointment and rendered him even more patience-less.
After about 2 hours (with a steady stream of people stopping by, looking for a platypus for about 15 minutes and then moving on, not having seen one), A asked me to move down the river banks a bit, where a, what we perceived to be a wildlife-photographer, kept pointing at something in the water. Having seen so many turtles, we figured, he was just happy about the turtles… But there it was, a shiny brown, small animal, surfacing briefly, making a quick turn and disappearing again. Thirty seconds later a different one showed up and within ten minutes we were sure to see a platypus every few minutes, as they have started feeding on molluscs.
And yes, that little thing that you see in the middle of the photo, that’s what we were waiting for about two hours. Now, don’t think they’re slow or stay long on the surface. There could be one right next to you and you would never know, because you are looking at something completely different. So, if you ever do get to go, make sure you stay alert and bring a lot of patience (and preferably someone who is good at sitting quietly in the heat, sweating next to you, while you examine the river…).