Monday, March 14, 2011

Little furry balls of spikes

"I think I'm over earthquakes now," said the man down the road. I know how he feels. It's all right for you overseas people: I hope you noticed Christchurch, but let's be honest, it wasn't a biggie for you, was it? But we've been living with earthquake news almost daily since September 4, and constantly since February 22. So the Japanese one, though of course it's terrible and frightening and on a phenomenal scale, does feel a bit to me like an earthquake too far. Is that a bad thing to say? I'm still sending money and thoughts and hopes - but I'd like to take a break from disasters.

Today I've been writing again about Tasmania and the missing monotremes: on a wildlife-spotting day out with Craig, he was disconsolate about not being able to rustle me up an echidna or a platypus. The mystery monotremes! There are only two monotremes in the world, you know, and these are they. Monotreme? Egg-laying mammal. Echidnas look like shaggy hedgehogs, and if you don't know what a platypus looks like, shame on you! Go and Google it, because I haven't got a photo.

I did see echidnas elsewhere: in fact, the previous night I'd had to swerve around one on the road mainly, of course, because I didn't want to run it over; but also because I had a jokey driver on Kangaroo Island further north once who said "Never run one of those things over unless you want a puncture". Yeah, probably pulling my leg, you can never trust an Aussie guide - but on the other hand, ? And I saw another, a furry baby, I think, in a carpark of all places, at the edge of the tarmac pushing its nose (ouch!) through the loose gravel to find ants and such. Their hind feet are on backwards, you know. And they can drop their body temperature very quickly and stay in suspended animation for ages - NASA finds that very interesting, evidently.

And the platypus? Spotted that at Cradle Mountain Lodge near the centre of Tasmania just on dusk, lying on its back in the middle of the pond near the main building, having a leisurely scratch. Such very weird animals in Australia (says she, whose national bird has its nostrils on the tip of its beak and lays the biggest egg in the world in relation to body size) (oh, and can't fly). (And actually? Looks a little bit like a baby echidna.)

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