Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yanchep National Park, Cockatoos, GIANT CENTIPEDE

The Outback

Yanchep National Park

Yanchep is a national park located about 45 minutes from Perth's city center, and it's a pleasant drive through the scrublands and hills to get there. You are taken directly by the local Ikea in case you find yourself in the grips of a Swedish meatball emergency.

The park is set amid tuart and banksia forests and is not quite as new (to European civilization) as everything else in WA. The area was called Nyanyi-Yandjip by the local Yellagonga people, the word "Yandjip" referring to the reeds that grow in profusion around the wetlands and the ponds, and are thought to resemble a certain dream-time monster, the Wagyl snake. Europeans first took note of the region in 1834, when one John Butler stumbled onto the area in search of his lost cattle and noted approvingly the lake, wetlands, and forests that surrounded it. Henry White moved in in 1901 and built the Tudor style houses that still remain, although Tudor is not exactly the *most* native looking building technique for the region.

Today, the park features a couple of lakes with vaguely Scottish sounding names, a bunch of nature trails, a couple of caves (including one that may be rented out for parties), a restaurant, and a tooth-achingly twee cafe and chocolate shop. There's
plenty of wildlife here, including large grey kangaroos, swamp hens, black glove wallabies and the unnervingly large Carnaby's Black Cockatoo.

There is also a koala sanctuary. The koala sanctuary becomes considerably more odd when one realizes that koalas are not even slightly native to Western Australia, and in fact were imported here as a tourist attraction back in the sixties. The first batch of koalas up and died, and the second batch promptly did too. The latest specimens seem to be doing all right, but one questions the "sanctuary" part of the name. Shouldn't it rather be "Koala place of disease and hardship?". Isn't this more of a scene of long-term koala tragedy?


One of Yanchep's swamps. Do not know if this qualifies as a billabong.

We had lunch at aforementioned tea house/coffee shop, which goes by the name "Chocolate Drops" and is staffed by a friendly young woman cruelly forced to wear a "pioneer" get-up. There is a dizzying array of chocolate for sale - one can purchase chocolate wombats, bilbys, and kangaroos, as well as an immense chocolate molded into the shape of Australia itself, complete with animals stuck on it. Not sure how you'd mail this to anyone but it's the thought that counts.

There is indeed a kookaburra hiding in this picture. Try to find it! C'mon, I dare ya!

I decided to walk along the Ghost House Trail, so named for the abandoned homestead at the end of it. I didn't make it all the way up there due to time constraints. Also, ghosts. But what a wonderful walk it was. There was no one around whatsoever, and I could happily imagine myself far out in the wilderness, with only grass trees and black cockatoos to keep me company. The trail winds around the banks of Lake McNess and walks by a bunch of marshy swamps and ponds - or are they billabongs? I spotted wild kookaburras and heard their calls. They really do sound pathologically insane.

I love these tree bushes. Weird critters.

Yanchep is host to a healthy number of Caranaby's black cockatoos, who flock together in trees and talk avidly to one another while resting. Lyn thinks they sound like pterodactyls probably did - she is almost certainly right. There's a lot of fire in the Australian wilds, and this was obvious by the burned out shells of grass trees. Charred grass trees release lovely and hard "scales," which are quite surprising looking when found on the ground.

In a perhaps poorly advised move, I turned over rocks and fallen tree branches in an effort to encounter some of Australia's less charismatic wildlife. I was rewarded with an honest-to-god Giant Centipede (yes, that's the species name). The centipede was very large, very thick, and extremely red and shiny looking, and I admit that I gave a highly embarrassing squeal when I saw it. No one heard this, or heard me say "It's as big as a motherfucking Mack Truck!" immediately afterward. The centipede, for its part, was terrified and quickly dug itself back into the earth. I may also have been poking it (gently) with a stick.

The route back to Perth from Yanchep passed by an array of strawberry stands. The one we stopped at naturally did not have any strawberries, as the surly cafe man told us, and we really were a bit daft to even ask. Thankfully, there was a lovely vegetable and fruit stand just a little further down, wherein I procured strawberries and a gigantic bag of WA's crack-like mandarins. Lyn picked up an immense and incredibly delicious lettuce. They do a fine lettuce out here. No road-kill kangaroo sightings on the route back, either. Maybe they're smarter out here. (Kangaroos fill the ecological niche that deer do in the USA. I haven't tried stunning them with headlights, but it almost certainly works. In case you were contemplating mowing down a kangaroo or two in your free holiday time).

For dinner, Mike prepared a remarkably good seared duck breast with black cherry sauce. The sauce features, among other things, black cherry preserves and creme cassis, and is almost scandalously good. We served this with creamy and butter-infused parmesan polenta and a very large salad. The recipe is as follows. You should have made this yesterday.

No comments:

Post a Comment