Saturday, July 11, 2015

And now for something different

Day 24: Let’s do something a little different. Most of you will know I am Australian, and most of you know I don’t currently live there. If you’ve followed me long enough you will know that I never felt like I ‘fit in’ there. However, I am Australian and like most Australians I have a kind of perverse fondness for it.

People from other countries like to talk about the beauty of their country, the history or the monuments. Many Australians also think ours is a magnificent country – and it is. It has deserts, mountains, beaches, rainforest, scrub land, the Great Barrier Reef, sun, snow, a sparse population for its size and vast distances to traverse to see it all. It also has more creatures which are intent on killing you than any other country, at least we like to believe that.

I come from Queensland: 

It’s the second biggest state, with not as much desert as Western Australia, which is the biggest state. Queensland has the Great Dividing Range, rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, more beaches than you could imagine, the Whitsunday Islands, and the outback. While I was brought up in the south east of the state, I have spent a lot of my life in the north, in Mackay. It’s in the tropics up there, it’s hot and humid in summer, like living in a sauna. In the wet season there is torrential rain and the threat of cyclones. But it looks pretty: 

Looks good right? You’d love to visit yeah? Ok, remember the creatures that want to kill you? I’ll begin with a snapshot of the ones in and around a house I used to live in. Let’s start with the least threatening – termites. These delightful creatures love to eat timber, like your house. We had them in our garden and had to have a termite management guy who came regularly with his treated bits of wood that he seeded in the garden.

Next, the spiders. Non venomous, but scary because they are so big and hairy are the huntsman spiders. They like to hide behind pictures on the wall and scuttle out when you least expect it, which causes you to scream and run, especially if they run over your hand. They loved our house, there were so many I almost got used to them. Almost:

Next, venomous: The redback spider. These lovely things can kill, but with the anti-venom readily available you will more likely just get very ill. They can still kill children and pets though. We had them in plague proportions on our verandah, living in shaded parts all over it. They also set up house in the wheel arches of the car.

There were all the usual spiders and bugs too, but those two are the ones I personally dislike the most.

Then there are the snakes. We had a few encounters with snakes. We had a few yellow bellied whip snakes – one in the garden, one in the pool (yes in the pool, swimming), and one in the house. The cat obligingly chased that one into the kitchen. They can make you sick, but they won’t kill you although they can potentially kill a child, and small animals.

There was a brown snake that tried to get into the downstairs room. Venomous of course, and aggressive.

We had finches at one stage, pretty little things that lived in an aviary outside. One day they disappeared, gone. There was just a slight widening of the bars of the aviary to show that a snake had gone in and eaten the poor wee things.

Oh well, you can always go to the beach right? Yes, but don’t go in the water, stingers in there, box jellyfish and irukandji jellyfish. The sting from a box jellyfish can be fatal, it can grow up to a foot in diameter and its tentacles can reach 9.8 feet in length.

The irukandji jellyfish is tiny, it’s easier to show you a picture to get an idea of the size. The sting from this jellyfish can also be fatal.

Then there are the blue ringed octopus, sharks, stone fish, and the cone snail. The blue ringed octopus can kill a person in 15 minutes and there is no anti-venom. Both the stone fish and the cone snail can kill you as well.

What other delights do we have? Oh yes, salt water crocodiles. There aren’t that many around populated areas but they are there, and people have lost pet dogs, hens etc. to them. They can jump too: 

But it’s not all dangerous, venomous creatures. We have the kangaroo: 

and the koala.

We have the cockatoo:


rainbow lorikeet:

and kookaburra.

We’ve got the brushtail possum:

and the platypus.

We’ve got giant fruit bats we call flying foxes:

And we have carpet snakes – pythons.

Which allowed for this delightful picture:

And you know where that was? That was in somebody's backyard on the Sunshine Coast, a short drive from my home town. This pic reminded me of when I was almost nine months pregnant and I was manually closing a roller door and wondering why it wouldn’t close. Eventually it moved, and as it rolled down a huge fat carpet snake fell out with a thump! onto the concrete. It moved pretty fast, which is one of the things that disconcerts me about snakes. It went up the concrete wall, along the shed ceiling and into the roof cavity.

In that house a baby brown snake once got in through the laundry and made its way into the kitchen by sliding along the grooves between the bricks. It came out from behind the kitchen cupboard and landed on the floor, where it made a beeline straight for me. When it was caught – not by me – and identified, we started putting draught catchers at the doors to stop any more coming in.

So that's Australia - huge, unique and home to beautiful, unusual and deadly creatures. Wasn’t that fun? Ready to pack your bags and go for a visit?


  1. I lived in Australia for a year as an exchange student and fell in love with the country. I laughed reading this. I went for a visit earlier this year in March, and would go back tomorrow if I could!

  2. It is a unique country, and there are a lot of good things about it :)

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  4. Australia is well-known for its huge variety of animal species, which of course means a lot of bugs as well. Of course, some are more dangerous than others, though perhaps none as ubiquitous and immediate as your typical termite, which can indeed damage an infrastructure such as a house. It really is best to contain these termites and eliminate them as soon as possible. Thanks for this post, Sheryl. It is a fascinating look at your country.

    Debra Owen @ Invader

    1. Thank you Debra, and yes, termites can destroy a house and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage

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  6. I moved from the uk to live in the Adelaide hills 4 yrs ago,but the most scary thing for me is the huntsman!!and having just endured nearly a full week of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees I wonder whether captain cook should have bypassed Australia!!but it's not all bad,if I still lived in the uk I wouldn't have a koal living on our plot or the many species of parrot flying around eating all the fruit off the trees!! And then the beaches !! Mmm

    1. I've never understood why the southern States often get hotter in summer than in the north. I hope it cools off a bit for you soon! And hope you don't see many huntsmen :)

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